Peer into the future. Not our future (hopefully), but a future in which Michael Bloomberg's most feverish dreams about saving us from ourselves have come true. That's the premise of Bacon and Egg Man by Ken Wheaton, a novel that should be satirical, but really is just an extrapolation down the path set by smoking bans and soda restrictions. In Wheaton's mid-21st century, the northeastern United States seceded from the union under the leadership of a "King Mike" who was primarily motivated by the desire to be the biggest fish in a small pond. After years of creeping nanny-statism, the rest of the country was only too happy to tell King Mike and his Northeast Federation of States not to let the door hit them in the ass on their way out — and to insist they take California with them. This set King Mike and friends loose to mold a new nation using all of the tools available to elitist control freaks with no checks on their power.
Wheaton's hero, Wes Montgomery, is a journalist with a sideline as the leading black market dealer of banned foods on Long Island. The fun begins when he gets busted and coerced into participating in an undercover operation against his counterpart in Manhattan.
The premise of the book is similar to that of F. Paul Wilson's "Lipidleggin'," which was written when the whole idea of a diet-controlling, therapy-mandating, Big Mother-ish government seemed oh-so far-fetched. I asked Wheaton about that, and he'd never heard of the story. He's a Louisiana native though, and a few years of living under King Mike's smothering hand while working for Ad Age in New York City were likely all it took to have him pining for an America that had quarantined militant aerobicizers and haters of trans-fats.
While we're on the subject of satirical novels about the nanny-state future, let's not forget Scott Stein's Mean Martin Manning. Consistently funny and, yes, mean, the novel follows misanthropic Martin Manning, who hasn't left his apartment in years simply because he wants to be left alone. He's not neurotic, or phobic, or troubled in any way. But he is ill-tempered — and perhaps just a little more than the aggressively caring minions of the nanny state counted on when they set out to "help" those who neither want nor need anything of the sort. What's that about waking sleeping giants? How about pissing off a pit viper?
Mean Martin Manning was published in 2007 and deserves much more notice than it has received. Like Bacon and Egg Man, it captures all of the awful presumption of the nanny state, and then just sets it down its own logical road, to where the nanny staters are not only likely, but certain, to go if allowed free rein.
I'm a big believer in the value of both culture and fun. I recommend these books not just because they celebrate freedom, but because they're enjoyable to read and work in and of themselves as novels. We have to participate in the culture and contribute of ourselves if we're going to nudge it in a healthy direction, and both Bacon and Egg Man and Mean Martin Manning are worthy contributions in that direction.
So, of course, is High Desert Barbecue, the rollicking, thug-thumping novel of outdoor adventure, penned by yours truly. Thrill as conspiracy, arson and ineptitude threaten the desert West, and only a misanthropic hermit, a subversive schoolteacher and an unemployed business writer stand in the way. I may not address nanny staters to any great extent, but my book deals at great length with tree-huggers and bureaucrats. There are plenty of larfs and violence. I should have added more sex.
High Desert Barbecue was a Freedom Book Club book of the month. Like the other two novels featured here, I like to think that it stands on its own merits.