Andrew Klavan isn’t content to complain about the dearth of faith in popular culture.
The veteran novelist, screenwriter and Daily Wire podcaster pens brisk tales that share his values. Take “A Strange Habit of Mind,” the second Cameron Winter mystery (“When Christmas Comes” kicked off the saga).
The novel follows Cameron as he crosses intellectual swords with a Big Tech tycoon while coming to grips with the horrors of his own past.
HiT reached out to Klavan to learn more about his new “Habit,” why critics won’t go near his work and how conservatives are finally fighting back in the Culture Wars.
Full Disclosure: Andrew Klavan penned the foreword for this reporter’s 2022 book “Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost Its Soul.”
HiT: Many literary heroes save the day, but few are as conflicted, and steeped in melancholy, as Cameron Winter. Yet he’s strong, capable and endlessly resourceful. Can you tell us more about Cameron and why you bring his darkness so close to the surface?
Klavan: Like all of us, Winter is a product of his time and culture and his time and culture have grown pretty dark. As we learn in Strange Habit of Mind, he went out in his youth to find an adventure worthy of his young manhood and instead found himself doing some very questionable work for his country.
He’s got blood on his hands and on his conscience and at the same time — and this is what I love about the guy — he has a deep, natural yearning for love and beauty. I think something in that combination of elements is what attracts him to certain criminal events, that makes him want to set things right when the authorities can’t or won’t.
He’s always walking the razor’s edge: is he going to redeem himself by bringing justice or add to the weight of blood he’s already carrying on his back?
HiT: Big Tech couldn’t be a juicier target these days, but “Mind’s’ Gerald Byrne isn’t a Mark Zuckerberg clone. Can you share the thought process behind this character and how you both embrace and explode reader expectations?
Klavan: Yes, Byrne is a complex man. He’s a product of his time too and of his own biography which is tragic in some ways. But he happens to have a talent that is perfectly suited to the moment and he builds a social media site that rockets him to success and wealth beyond most of our dreams.
Now the billion dollar question becomes: If you have the wherewithal to fill every emptiness inside yourself, how do you go about doing that? To me, the most riveting part of the answer is Byrne’s wife Molly — the Cinderella Girl — a so-called ordinary church girl who is swept into a world of luxury.
Womanly, wifely, loving, faithful – she’s everything in life Winter longs for, which makes his relationship with Byrne very complicated. Why exactly is he hounding the guy?
HiT: You’ve written many intriguing characters across your career, but you seem particularly open to making Cameron Winter part of a long-running series. What is it about Cameron that made you so eager to explore his work, his arc?
Klavan: The philosopher Rene Girard said that when a culture is in its tragic phase, it can’t produce heroes, only anti-heroes. Think The Sopranos or Breaking Bad or The Shield. Winter is an anti-hero trying to become a hero, and I find that incredibly poignant and compelling. How the hell do you become a good man?
Men tend to think of The Good as something that’s opposed to The Bad: the cop who fights crime, the doctor who cures disease, the fireman and so on. Winter takes that battle on with all its shadows but he’s also looking for something else: love, beauty, creation, redemption.
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That makes the women in the stories central: Jennifer in “When Christmas Comes,” Molly in “Strange Habit,” Charlotte, Winter’s first love, and Margaret Whitaker, his therapist and mother figure.
In some ways, the books really are about the women and where they fit in with Winter’s quest. Winter and his situation both seem so multi-faceted to me that a series seems to arise naturally from them.
HiT: Faith plays an intriguing role in the novel … our hero isn’t a Christian, but Christianity does emerge in fascinating ways… can you share more about this?
Klavan: Yes, we’re all familiar with the phrase “God is dead.” There’s one way in which that’s undoubtedly true. He’s dead in the culture, for sure.
Listen to the way we talk. I got a dopamine high instead of I’m happy. I had an adrenalin rush instead of I’m excited. I have depression instead of I am depressed. We don’t even believe in our own spiritual selves let alone the overarching spirit who created us in His image.
But what if God is just as real as He’s ever been and the culture is simply wrong? For a man trying to go from anti-hero to hero, that’s a big question, maybe the question. As a man of his times, Winter’s default setting is unbelief. But I myself will be interested to see if he can solve his dilemma and hold that position.
HiT: Critics have turned on you, to a degree, since the earlier stages of your career for ideological reasons. And Daily Wire projects like “What Is a Woman?” are often shunned by the press. Is this a problem, and if so how should it be addressed?
Klavan: Sure it’s a problem. It means we’re no longer in a cultural dialogue, we’re in a bullying monologue where one side wants to use its considerable cultural power to hammer the other into silence.
It’s a central part of what is making our culture so dysfunctional and dark. One of the things I love about Winter is — in part because of his own experiences and in part because, as a lover of English poetry, he tends to live in the past — he has no politics.
He wants to right wrongs and make himself worthy of a woman who is worthy to be loved and whatever political or cultural fad is passing through can pound sand. It’s a cool attitude and speaks to something I think we all feel: the revolution against our cultural insect overlords begins with the inner man.
HiT: You were sounding the alarm about pop culture’s influence on politics before most conservatives. Has the Right been making progress on this front? If so, what steps need to happen to continue that momentum?
Klavan: No question there’s been progress. When I started talking about this twenty years ago, it was me and Andrew Breitbart and no one else. That’s how Breitbart and I became friends.
He called me out of the blue after I wrote a piece about David Mamet and said: “You get it!” But when I started talking to other conservatives, they looked at me, like, “Yes, yes, culture, sure, but what about the seventh congressional district in Ohio?” or whatever.
Now they know: we lost the country at the movies. We can’t win it back through politics alone. I’m proud to say the Daily Wire has made some inroads, but we need so much more.
A parallel creative industry that competes not just in the pop field but in high art as well. In a way, that’s what makes this series so important to me. Because of my outlook, I’ll never win another literary award and I’ll certainly never get a rave review in the Times, but I know how good these books are and if I can get them to enough readers who love them, I’ll take that as my prize.
HiT: We’re seeing some backpedaling on the woke front. Netflix stood up for Dave Chappelle and nixed some woke projects. Warner Bros. Discovery is similarly cutting back on wokeness. Is Capitalism partly to blame, or is there a cultural expiration date on Identity Politics?
Klavan: Great question. Historically in America, witch hunt periods of cultural hysteria like this tend to pass and good old-fashioned Yankee common sense rises up again.
Sometimes a crisis does the trick. The Roaring Twenties died in Depression and World War and one of America’s greatest eras followed. That era is over now and we’re in transition but transitions don’t last forever.
At the same time, we’re facing what I like to call a conspiracy of interests. The trans activist may not know he’s a tool of corporate globalism but the globalist knows you’ve got to destroy the male-female heart of the family if you want to remove the nation so bring out the rainbow flags and let Disney weave radical sexual messages into its cartoons and anyone who disagrees will be summoned to HR and canceled.
I’d love it if just once the so-called Resistance would ask itself: If I’m the radical Resistance how come the biggest corporations, the deep state, the academy and Hollywood studios all agree with me?
What they’re resisting is the Ordinary Man. Historically, that fight can turn very ugly. I’m still praying to God that won’t happen. In fact, I have Him on speed dial.