Releasing My Second Novel, THE LEK

Available on Amazon Kindle.

I’ve just released my second novel, The Lek, on Amazon Kindle. For now, it’s available as an ebook, but I’ll release the softcover version in the near future.

Here’s the summary:

THE LEK. An irreverent, X-Rated, dystopian satire.

In a post-apocalyptic future where procreation is strictly regulated, twelve males, known as Potential Seeders, pre-selected by a female, known as a Queen Bee, must compete in a deadly competition known as the Lek, a gauntlet comprised of twelve challenges. The winner earns not only reproductive rights with the female, but a place in a utopian society called Haven, built for the New Humanity. 

“X,” a charismatic and cunning cripple, and eleven other males, are competing for Jezschwick Klump, the most beautiful Queen Bee in the Lek’s history. But Jez, a rebellious and clever girl, having escaped her handlers, has determined to destroy the Lek by any means possible.

While the males are eliminated one by one over the course of the gauntlet, Jez’s fledgling rebellion gradually unites the districts against the Lek.

But can the Lek really be toppled? Can true freedom be obtained? Jez will have to join forces with X to find out the truth.

I’ve usually referred to it as an X-Rated Hunger Games.

Writing The Lek is, without a doubt, the most fun I’ve ever had on a novel. It combines my dark, irreverent sense of humor with a lot of sex and violence, all streamlined into a pretty tight, well-structured, and fast-paced action/adventure.

It’s also a bit of a mix of various post-apocalytpic/dystopian type novels and movies I love. Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and His Dog is a big influence. As are other classic works like Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Stephen King’s The Running Man and The Long Walk.

I was inspired to write it out a desire to lampoon the rash of Young Adult dystopian novels and movies that started with the massive popularity of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner. For awhile, it seemed like every weekend there was a new movie or book about plucky teenagers somehow managing to overthrow an autocratic militarized regime. Always set in the same run-down dystopian world where there’s a severe class divison between the unwashed masses and the thin sliver of political elite, people wear burlap sacks for clothes, government officials lecture from jumbo TV screens, and all of society is at the tipping point for a revolution, needing only a handful of attractive teenagers to light the way. I remember watching the previews for Hunger Games and thinking of the absurdity of a teenaged girl with a bow and arrow somehow taking out a Nazi-level government.

Obviously, these are young adult power fantasy books about sticking it the Man, confounding the adult world, trying to find your place in society, upending the established order with your own beliefs, asserting your own independence, and, of course, struggling with a hot love triangle all the while. I get it. They have a certain appeal. They’re not bad books, per se. They’re obviously popular as hell, and still selling. I think there’s actually a fourth Hunger Games movie in production. They’re going to the well again. I guess people are already nostalgic for 2012-16.

But like any good trend that runs its course, themes start to get recycled, plot points repeated, characters cloned. And pretty soon the whole thing begins to invite mockery and parody.

I’m not sure where the exact idea came from for The Lek. But one day it dawned on me that so many of these YA dystopian books were really more romantic soap operas dressed up as action thrillers. Throw in a slightly unique location/set-piece/premise, rinse wash repeat, and there you go. I still don’t know what the hell Divergent is even supposed to be about, and I’ve read the premise like ten times.

So why not just get right to the point of what a lot of these books are subtextually all about: mate competititon.

The idea of males having to compete in a deadly gauntlet for the right to reproduce with a female struck me as hilariously subversive. Always a key thing I look for when deciding on which novel to start next. It also felt metaphorically reflective of how mate selection feels sometimes in the modern world, where there’s endless dating apps, OnlyFans, empowered man-hating feminists, simps, chads, incels, femcels, and a widespread societal disregard for marriage and commitment. Both sexes suffer under these conditions. But I wanted to write a story that articulated what it feels like, as a man, to battle against the pressures of male competition, to hurl endless messages into the Great Unrequited Void, the struggles to meet someone in a new place, or to meet anyone at all. A book that captured the uncanny sense of hopelessness one feels trying to achieve the Holy Grail of oneness, and the oftentimes boring emptiness that follows after achieving supposed “success” in that pursuit.

At its core, The Lek is also about the lengths men will go to fuck a hot chick. Even to the point of risking life and limb.

But what is a “lek” anyway?

“Lek mating” is a scientific term that refers, according to Wikipedia, to an “aggregation of male animals gathered to engage in competitive displays and courtship rituals, known as lekking, to entice visiting females which are surveying prospective partners with which to mate.”

In the post-apocalyptic world of The Lek, procreation is regulated by a centralized government authority, which oversees a number of districts organized by labor specialty. Due to radioactive fallout and toxicity from rampant pollution, the global population has collapsed. As has man’s reproductive abilities. Sterility is widespread. This puts a high premium on healthy women capable of delivering successful births. And a value, though by no means a substantial one, on verile males able to play their role in the game. But just as in biology, where sperm is cheap and eggs are expensive, it is the fertile “Queen Bees” who are given the greatest status, and exercise the right to choose their own pool of male suitors. They hold all the gatekeeping cards to the next generation. Though to be clear, it’s expected they perform prodigiously once a mate has won his Lek gauntlet. The New Humanity ain’t gonna birth itself.

The Lek contest is held in a massive, labyrinthine skyscraper-sized structure built into the side of a mountain, and is comprised of twelve deadly challenges. Whoever manages to survive until the end is the winner.

Incidentally, and this was something I picked up mainly via osmosis while writing The Lek, but there is a global declining birthrate, in addition to worldwide declining sperm count and male fertility. When you combine those two factors with increasing industrialization, economic disparities and systemic collapses, and the fact that more and more women put off marriage and pregnancy until later in life, and you have a vicious cocktail for a population collapse. This is something Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been warning about for years, and become more vocal about recently.

I tend to be drawn toward stories that give me the opportunity to explore social issues or cultural phenomenon with a darkly humorous narrative vehicle. Like many writers, I’m constantly amused by humanity, and all its quirks. Especially my own.

That’s not to say I tried to make The Lek some great intellectual work. I’m not an academic in the strict sense. I don’t write to educate or preach. I write to provoke. I write to to entertain. To share my voice. I write because I thoroughly enjoy getting into the flow of a story.

Hopefully, I’ve written an engaging, relatable, and relevant book in The Lek. I wrote this story in the spring of 2019. Technically, it’s my third novel, but the second that I’ve self-published. I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to leave reviews or offer feedback.

Finally, a special thanks to Handpedia, a freelance artist on Fiverr, who designed the cover art for my book. I wanted something with a trippy, retro design. Something that was reminiscent of sci-fi book covers from the 1970’s, such as those seen on Kurt Vonnegut or Philip K. Dick novels. I think Handpedia did a great job bringing my concept to life.

Book Review – Apt Pupil

Apt Pupil is a novella by Stephen King that comes from the short story collection Different Seasons.

It was published in 1982, and tells the story of a young Southern California teenager named Todd Bowden who discovers that his elderly neighbor, a supposed German immigrant, is actually a wanted Nazi war criminal named Kurt Dussander, who was personally responsible for committing horrible atrocities in the Holocaust.    

However, rather than reporting Dussander’s whereabouts to the authorities, Todd instead blackmails the Nazi into becoming sort of like his own personal historian. Todd is a bit of a strange kid. He’s obsessed with WWII history, in particular the Holocaust, and instead iof being repulsed by Dussander’s past actions, the kid is instead enthralled. Even inspired, to a degree. 

However, the blackmail goes both ways, as the Nazi Dussander turns the tables on the kid later. See, the longer the kid has known Dussander, the more complicit he has become in keeping him from being brought to justice. Furthermore, as an “all-American” kid, with potential and college prospects, Todd risks having his future and reputation destroyed forever due to his association with an older Nazi. 

With their hands on each other’s throats in a sense, Dussander and Todd are forced into an uncomfortable alliance of secrecy over a period of four years. Ultimately, Dussander’s real identity is found out through a coincidence, and Todd, now age 17, is forced to reconcile with not only how he protected a war criminal, but his own very twisted dark side.

It’s nice to every once in a while be able to read an old Stephen King story. Because, when you ignore all the films, especially the newer ones that have been made of his works, and how slick and clean they all look, you can really appreciate just how good of a writer Classic King really was. 

King is at his best when he’s exploring the darkness of the human heart. He may be categorized as a horror writer, but really, his best work looks into human nature itself. But he’s also a great plotter, always ratcheting up the tension like an ever-turning corkscrew.

When Todd’s grades begin to slip at school, the boy forces Dusaander to act as his grandfather for a meeting with the guidance counselor. 

Apt Pupil is unusual. A story about a young kid associating with a Nazi war criminal on its own would probably be enough. But King throws in the wild card that both Todd and Dussander start murdering homeless vagrants and bums around town. For me, it was sort of like smashing two concepts into one. And I was never entirely sure exactly what precipitated both of them to start killing. I never got the sense of Dussander being a serial killer. For sure, he was a brutal Nazi war criminal. But his crimes were state-directed, not necessarily ones he set out to do in order to satisfy his own desire for bloodshed. 

For Todd, his turn toward killing felt like it came out of left field. I was expecting something more along the lines of Dussander influencing the boy into killing, mirroring how the Nazi war machine, and Hitler’s propganda, tranformed Germany into a genocidal state. King, however, doesn’t go for subleties here. So essentially, what we have here is the story of two psychopaths meeting each other, and more or less provoking one another’s propensity for murder and violence. All while ironically occuring in an idyllic Southern California suburb.   

Apt Pupil is a worthwhile King novella to check out if you haven’t already. A few interesting facts: King started writing Apt Pupil immediately after The Shining. And the novella is placed right before another King classic, The Body, which of course became the film Stand By Me