"THIS BOOK STARTED as the story of a city councilwoman’s fight against public corruption. It would have been completed a couple of years ago, but for one thing. On April 8, 2006, the public corruption killed a woman.
Until that gray and rainy spring day, the book I’m working on was about the secret government of an American city. And it was about the efforts of an unusual woman, “The Girl from Hot Springs,” Cherie Rodgers, to expose it and halt its abuses. I thought of it as a wonderfully American story, because Spokane, Washington, my adoptive home, is an All American City. And Cherie Rodgers is an even more American woman. A Blackfeet Indian, she was the first Native American elected to Spokane’s city council.
Rodgers’s colorful background, added to her exceptional intelligence (she has a photographic memory) and personal integrity, made her an ideal character, I thought, through whom to tell the story of the heist of millions of public dollars.
But then a defective wall in the River Park Square parking garage collapsed. That sent Jo Ellen Savage to her death as her car tumbled five stories.
Suddenly the moral of the story changed: public corruption isn’t just a robber; it can be a killer, too. With Savage’s death, the tale was no longer merely about stolen money. Now it was also about stolen life.
And then legendary former sheriff Tony Bamonte changed it again, when he filed a first-degree manslaughter complaint regarding Savage’s death. Just when I thought the story of River Park Square couldn’t get any more interesting, it did. This was because public officials tried to bury Bamonte’s complaint. Tony Bamonte has always been a hard man around whom to bury a victim’s body. Something about it just rubs him the wrong way.
And now as my story has metamorphosed around me, so has the story of our whole country. Today we find ourselves facing the deadliest enemy in our history, and the enemy, public corruption, as Pogo tried to warn us, is us.