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West Michigan author releases second political satire The Great American Boogaloo

Paul Flower Facebook Page

We live in an era when social media dominates as an information platform. A mix of facts, disinformation, misinformation and conspiracy theories. Enter satire into the mix and one might wonder, is it really fiction?

West Michigan author Paul Flower has released his latest book with a fictitious storyline encroaching on socio-political reality.

Patrick Center: The book is The Great American Boogaloo. Paul Flower, you've written The Great American Cheese War. These are books that are based on right wing conspiracy theories that spiral out of control, it's political satire. And yet, you discover so many nuggets that live in reality, at least in today's reality.

Paul Flower: Yes, you know what, the thing is with satire as a writer is you see things that make you gasp with horror, and because you have a warped sense of humor you decide to make it funny because it’s the way I can cope with it. But this book was inspired by the idea that the conspiracy theorists on the right continue to fan the flames of stories that aren’t true or possible things that could happen involving the government. And this one I decided to use the idea that the president of the United States was going to outlaw beef for climate reasons because climate change is being impacted by methane emitted by millions of cows all over the world and in this is country in particular. So if the idea that they were going to ban beef, the president's going to ban beef inspires militia members to rise up want to start a boogaloo, which is a civil war and kind of anarchy. But the thing I didn't expect when I started this story was that almost a month or so after I started writing it, Kevin McCarthy or somebody else was on the floor of the Senate railing against pressure to stop beef sales because of climate change. So that was the first moment I thought, well, maybe I'm on to something. And from there, the news coming out of the January 6 insurrection hearings have detailed the coup attempt against a sitting president -and that's kind of the story here; where the militia and the paramilitary company that's a private military company that formally started in West Michigan but is now in this book in South Carolina, they're banning with the militia to launch an event that will lead to the downfall of the president and the installation of their own candidate as president.

PC: The current times, you're living in a treasure trove right now of potential tweets and Facebook posts that provide you with fodder for more storytelling. Is it more fun to come up with your own or do you say there's a good one, I can pull from that?

PF: I don't use reality. I can't because of if I use reality for the plot line I'm at the mercy of whatever happens. And as we know, we now live in whatever happens day every day. We don't know what can happen today. So what I do is I try to take the idea of conspiracies and these are outrageous ideas, you know, whether it's a pedophile ring in pizza restaurants in Washington or any of the numerous of the things that are coming now, I use the idea of the conspiracies to sort of inspire me and go from there.

PC: Are there common threads, though, that you're finding that are useful in the story telling?

PF: Yes, couple of things. First of all, when it comes to the militia members who are at the core of both books, as we've seen in the January 6 here in the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys are real organizations- my militia organization is based in Michigan, it’s fictitious, but it's inspired by real people. And the idea that they can sit around and think of concepts like the plot against governor Whitmer here, now this very serious reality is that the militia groups were plotting to be part of this insurrection on January 6. What I’m inspired by, in a strange way, is also the militia people who were arrested and charged for the governor Whitmer plot, and the details I hear from these stories sort of inspire parts of the books. For example, one thing that struck me is quite often militia members stew over an issue, and think through an issue, and get so worked up about it. They decide they're going to do something. But the planning isn't always the best and that leads to comedy, of course, for me, because then you can make outrageous events happen that are totally plausible, given what you've heard, and I’ll give you one example; in the governor Whitmer trials one of the people charged with the attempted kidnap her said they were going to take around in the middle of Lake Michigan and leave her there, and they figured I wouldn't commit murder that way because somebody would eventually find her and they asked him in cross examination…they said they had gotten a boat. They said, well, wouldn’t you need two boats? and they hadn’t thought of that. They have a boat ready to take her on in the middle of the lake, but they didn't have two boats ready so they could get back. They were going to leave her there. That's perfect for me.

PC: Do you consider yourself a political junkie?

PF: Yeah. I've always been a political junkie and I've also been an information junkie, news always fascinates me because…and I started out life as a journalist and broadcaster. But no, I'm a definitely a political junkie.

PC: When you're writing these books, how many story lines do you like to have going to bring it all together for the ending, the surprise ending?

PF: Well, that's funny you should ask; in this new book, The Great American Boogaloo the main thrust of the plot is this attempt to launch a coup against the president over cows and that I worked in some sub plots that harken back to the first book but again, you don't necessarily have to have read the first book to get this. And as I'm working through those plots I’m often falling down some kind of rabbit hole into another world where I’m following new plot lines and story lines, I have to cut it back because I like a lot of characters and a lot of action, a lot of things happening but you have to sort of reduce the number of plot lines you have to go through and wrap them up at the end. So, it's a fine line.

PC: So how do you begin? What's the concept when you start writing these books?

PF: You know, you asked a million-dollar question. If I knew where it came from I would be a rich man, but I don’t. The first book The Great American Cheese War was literally…I just started writing this story about these militia guys because I've grown up and lived all my life in Michigan and West Michigan and the sound like people like I’ve been around my whole life - and this second one, this new book, The Great American Boogaloo, this is more intentional, I started around the idea that one of these crazy conspiracy theories actually was believed to be true by the militia and that they believe they need to do something because of it, that cows were going to be banned- that sounded funny and it sounded like it fit the current world situation. And so I just started it.

PC: You mentioned the beef ban in The Great American Boogaloo, are there other coincidences that turn up in your story and then in real life?

PF: When I started I didn't realize the magnitude of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys as national organizations. So that was one thing that happened after I wrote the book or during the time I wrote the book - it became more obvious that those militia groups, those national militia groups, are deeply involved in a lot of things political and violent. And so that was a coincidence -I didn't expect that. The book centers a lot on climate and climate change and climate disaster, obviously, because that's why she wants to ban cows, supposedly - the president. And a lot of the climate disasters that have happened have come to light as I was writing or just before I was finished. And then some side issues like student being shot at schools - the private military company in the book looks to tap a revenue stream involving school shootings. You know, sounds sick – but what’s sicker? The world at large or my book? That's what I ask. So, the idea of school shootings being a prominent part of life that isn't new, but the level that they that they’ve seized in American culture right now and horrified us, that’s certainly wasn't expected when I started the book, I didn't realize just how deeply I was tapping into that.

PC: Without giving the ending away what do you hope readers take away when they finally do read the end?

PF: I am a political junkie and I’m a socially aware person and I also like writing stuff that's funny. I won’t give away the ending, I will say there are cows, cows are involved with the ending. So, if you have a thing against cows you shouldn’t read the ending. But the bigger thing, joking aside, is I really, really hope that people begin to see what's happening around us in a serious way after reading a funny book.

PC: The Great American Boogaloo. Where can we find it?

PF: It is available online on Amazon.

PC: Paul Flower, author of The Great American Boogaloo also, The Great American Cheese War. Thank you so much.

PF: Thank you, Patrick.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.