Holy sacred cows! The PI genre has been used like a literary shiv more than once to cut deep into the guts of an issue, but rarely has it been used with such cunning, wit and--believe it or not--diplomacy and fair-mindedness. In Salvation Boulevard, Larry Beinhart, the Edgar-winning author, best known for American Hero (filmed as Wag the Dog), sets sight on one of the most divisive issues of our time: faith.
Former boozer and cop turned private eye Carl Van Wagener is a born-again Christian, a member of the Cathedral of the Third Millennium, which is a huge fundamentalist church in an unnamed southwestern state; a clean-living man who's survived a gauntlet of addictions and broken marriages to finally find peace and happiness through Christ. He has a loving wife, a loving daughter and makes a decent living. And he attends church every Sunday. In other words--he's a believer. But what makes him so compelling--and so rare for this genre--is that he's not just a believer, but a believable believer. He's no slack-jawed drooler or squeaky-clean Bible thumper, but a fully-rounded character whose beliefs are as human as he is.
But then Ahmad Nazami, a young Muslim student, is arrested and charged with the murder of Nathaniel MacLeod, a professor at the local university and an avowed atheist. There's a signed confession, and things look decidedly bleak for Ahmad, until Manny Goldfarb, a high-flying Jewish defense lawyer comes riding to the rescue. And when the going gets tough, he hires his old friend Carl to look into things. It's just another case, Carl figures. This is what he does for a living.
But in post-9/11 America, the culture wars, both real and imagined, are raging. The bonds between Church and State have never been more passionately attacked or defended. In this increasingly polarized world, Carl and Manny's attempt to make a stand, to do the honorable and right thing and to see that justice is done, is both brave and heroic--and tragically na?