Comments from Larry Beinhart regarding forthcoming novel (including film deal).

A Jew, Christian, Atheist and a Muslim become involved in a murder investigation.

Sound like the start of a joke? It is the meeting of these different faiths that is at the center of the forthcoming Larry Beinhart novel.

Salvation Boulevard tells the story of a P.I. (who is Christian) that is brought in to investigate the murder of a college professor (an Athiest). The D.A. is Jewish and the accused is an Islamic student.

The film rights to SB were recently sold to Mandalay Independent Pictures, with George Ratliff directing and handling screenplay duties.

Larry is no stranger to films, his novel American Hero was made into the critically acclaimed Wag The Dog (1997), a satirical look at Hollywood and American politics.

The process of writing Salvation Boulevard was not easy for Larry; he describes it as the hardest of his life.

The original inspiration for SB came over twenty years ago when he was working on a television pilot bout a psychic detective. Larry felt he needed to do some research into psychic phenomenon.

What he found surprised him:

“I discovered, much to my surprise, that there was no single case ever solved by a psychic. Never. Not a single one.

“At the same time I discovered, also to my surprise, that there had never been a single, verifiable demonstration of psychic ability.

“Saying there is no such thing as psychic phenomenon is very difficult, intellectually because it requires proving a negative, experientially because so many people have experienced or have people closed to them who have experienced such things, and socially because many people I knew believed and would get really offended.”

So how does this relate to religion and faith?

“The interesting thing about it is that it is exactly the same as arguing against religion and that God doesn’t exist. Many serious Christians, who regard psychic stuff as witchcraft and devil worship will be doubly offended by that. But intellectually it’s precisely the same argument. It encounters the very fascinating paradox of maintaining that a thing that is often directly experienced, seen, and felt, does not exist. It raises the very peculiar question – if religion (like believing psychics and astrology and the like) is delusional, how come my delusional friends are richer, happier and more successful and than I, who sees it all so clearly? It is, of course, even more personally and socially explosive.”

While religion certainly provides fulfillment for many, it has also been at the core of many disputes and even wars, something that Larry is very aware of:

“There is a long, long history of war, violence and oppression based on religion.

“I am not one of those who thing that religion is greatest cause of such things. That’s obvious on the face of it. Or that abolishing religion will abolish war, violence and oppression. That’s demonstrably ridiculous.

“The classical liberal solution to the problem of religion was to guarantee religious freedom. Full religious freedom, as a practical and realistic matter, requires separation of religion and the power of the state. After World War II this became the official, and very real position of the Western countries. The Communist bloc, which stretched from the middle of Europe to the Pacific was officially atheist and anti-clerical. Much of the rest of non-Communist Asia followed non-theistic religions and spiritual paths.

“For about forty years religion lay quiet.

“Then, almost simultaneously, Islam arose as a political force in the Middle East and Central Asia and the religious right entered the public sphere in the United States.

“The two defining events of the start of the 21st Century became the attack on 9/11 by Islamic extremists and the response by a president of the United States who says that God told him to invade Afghanistan and that God was happy with that, He then said to invade Iraq.

“Religion re-emerged as the number cause of war, violence and oppression in the world.”

Knowing all of this, I was a bit surprised to find the novel’s protagonist to be a man of faith.
This was not an accident. Larry attempted to write the novel five years ago, but had limited success. The key, he found, was putting a believer in the center of the story.

“It was necessary to put someone who believed, who experienced the strength, even the salvation, that came from faith, at the center of the book.

“Then to make the actions of the book come out of belief, disbelief, and differing beliefs and make the conflicts come from those places. Which may not be typical of crime fiction but as one of the characters says, ‘Were you absent the day they taught the Crusades in high school? Did you miss that we’re in a war against Islamic fascism, and we killed two hundred or four hundred or six hundred thousand in Iraq? Come out of your box, people kill for ideas. Do you remember Vietnam? World War II? All those wars all over the place during the Cold War? People kill each other over ideas.'”

Before anyone jumps up, saying that the author is anti-religion, he does see good in it.

“There is much good in religion.

“Just as, for that matter, there is much good in drinking alcohol. In the proper amounts it promotes physical health, mental balance, and social interaction. Also, trying to ban it is expensive, leads to violence and is doomed to failure. Religion is much the same. In the proper amounts it promotes physical and mental well being, social interaction and social stability. Banning it is expensive, requires violence and is doomed to failure. So we must keep it. But just as we don’t want a drunk to get behind the wheel of a car, we don’t want someone tanked up on God to get their hands on a hi-jacked jet or make decisions about war and peace from the White House.”

The book is strong, with complex characters and the subject matter is clearly challenging. I look forward to seeing what Mr. Ratliff can do with it.

Personally, I know little about George; but his last film, Joshua, garnered a fair amount of praise and was nominated for the Grand Jury prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

No word on a timetable for the film, but I will post more as I hear it.

Salvation Boulevard (the novel) comes out on September 8th.