Dangerous Pilgrims by Lawrence Swaim | New Release Spotlight

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Dangerous Pilgrims

by Lawrence Swaim

Publisher: Roundfire Books
Published: October 28, 2016
Page count: 344
Genre: Fiction

Maitland Sutterfield is a San Francisco journalist who has just been through an exhausting divorce.

He takes a writer's holiday, accepting an assignment as a reporter in Guatemala. In full flight from his personal demons, Sutterfield seeks peace in a beautiful land unlike his own - but this is Guatemala of the 1980s, and there is a brutal civil war underway. Instead of peace, Sutterfield finds the perils of love in a time of revolution, not to mention the moral quandaries of a country that is descending into madness.

Maitland's main contact in Guatemala is Sofia Mendez, who takes him to a small Catholic mission in the highlands run by a Spanish-trained Jesuit priest. Maitland volunteers at the mission, convinced that the priest's ministry is a vivid example of the Liberation Theology movement about which he hopes to write the definitive book-length analysis. But complications abound when Sofia becomes Maitland's lover, before either he or Sofia have a chance to discuss the real nature of her previous vocation. Maitland is oppressively aware of the subtle but inevitable exploitation of third-world sources by first-world media, but the tables are turned as he finds himself trapped in a dangerous dilemma in which Sofia's needs dictate both their futures.

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About the author

I’ve been the vice-president of a postal union, a college professor, a journalist, a musician, an author of many books, and for twenty years a counselor in a residential crisis program. For eight years I wrote a column on religious liberty for a Muslim newspaper. I am concerned about the rise of Islamophobia in the US (oddly reminiscent of the rise of antisemitism a hundred years ago) and the sometimes toxic influence of the Israel/Palestine conflict on American culture, politics and religion. I am also concerned about the sinister transformation of the American economy into an ATM for the corporate upper class, and the repression of economic opportunity for everybody else.

I am the executive director of the Interfaith Freedom Foundation, a small public-interest nonprofit I helped to organize after 9/11, created to deal with early manifestations of violence and religious bigotry against Muslims, but also against Sikhs, who are often attacked by people who mistake them for Muslims. The Foundation protested and sometimes stopped unfair deportations in San Francisco, argued against unconstitutional provisions of the Patriot Act, and were AMICI to an important Supreme Court case. 

Because I am concerned about the problem of evil in human behavior (and the fact that modernism seems to have very little to say about it) I wrote three books on the subject, called the ‘Genesis Trilogy.’ I maintain that victims of aggression tend to internalize the violence they endure, in order to survive it psychologically. The aggression becomes an unconscious emotional orientation which victims act out against others, or against themselves. If this scenario is true, it follows that there should be ways to manage the internalized violence without acting it out. 

I am a great fan of the long-form essay, in which one takes a knotty social problem and examines it from every possible angle, arriving at some kind of conclusion, however tentative, that can guide behavior. George Orwell and his generation of British writers were particularly good at this form of literary journalism, and their methods are still instructive. I’ve also written three novels. (All of my books can be purchased on Amazon.com.) My latest novel, DANGEROUS PILGRIMS, is about a journalist who gets caught up in the genocide of the Mayan Indians in the highlands of Guatemala in 1982-83. 

To write is to struggle with the three important recurring questions facing humankind: the problem of good and evil, the nature of the world we live in, and the pursuit of the good life.

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