This novel is inspired by a real-life New York City hate crime. Three thugs used a baseball bat to chase three African-American teens from their nearly all-white neighborhood. In actuality, the teens were there to steal a car, but the thugs didn’t know that. Ironically, the bat that was used said RESPONSE across it—a brand name. That’s what initially struck home to me, using a bat with that message imprinted on it. I could just imagine Freud rolling over in his grave, screaming “That was no accident. The attackers were drawn to that particular bat.”
Like the real-life victim, our protagonist works hard not to fall into the caldron of hatred bubbling around him, and eventually shows us how he and his family, especially his infant child, will be better off for that. Just before I began to write this novel, I saw a special on James Baldwin (Go Tell It on the Mountain), who spoke the lyrics of an old spiritual—“God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water, the fire next time.” I thought how the real-life victim side-stepped his hated and escaped the next potential inferno in his life. So I gave our protagonist the name Noah. I also wanted to give the reader a look into the mind of someone who would commit such a hate crime, and I did a lot of groundwork to fashion the inner-monologues and speech of Charlie Scat, our bat wielding thug. Most of it isn’t pleasant. But hearing it, and acknowledging it still exists, is probably the best way to ultimately defeat this kind of backwards thinking.