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The Chain by Robin Lamont book excerpt + interview

Broadway actress to private investigator to Assistant District Attorney – and now novelist, Robin Lamont has recently released The Chain - the first book in The Kinship SeriesThe Chain follows the story of Jude Brannock, a seasoned and passionate animal rights investigator, who is drawn into the lives of a damaged family in a small town that depends on a meat packing plant for its survival.

She took some time out to answer some of my questions below.

The_Chain_book_Cover

See the excerpt at the end of the interview below.
Book Blurb:
Jude has been summoned to Bragg Falls to meet with a whistleblower who has documented the dangerous conditions for workers and the brutal treatment of pigs about to be slaughtered at D&M Processing. But when she arrives, she finds that her contact has committed suicide and the video he made is gone. The deeper she probes, the more the town’s residents turn against her – afraid that an exposé will shut down the plant. But beyond the local resistance, there is a more sinister force that will do anything to hide what is happening behind the secretive doors of the slaughterhouse.

Why did you decide to write your book?
When I first read Gail Eisnitz’s book Slaughterhouse, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that we treated animals so cruelly and that it was something that most people knew nothing about (myself included). As I began to educate myself about the myriad ways that animals are abused in our society, from factory farming to fur farming to laboratory testing, I knew that I wanted to make a contribution.
 
I decided that as a suspense novelist, the best way I could contribute was through my writing. My previous novels, although not about animals, each revolve around social justice issues -- and animal protection is truly one of the most important social justice issues facing our world today. Thus was born the idea to create a suspense series that features an animal rights investigator who makes it her mission to expose industrialized cruelty to animals. The first book The Chain is set in a small town that depends on a slaughterhouse for its survival. I think the subject actually chose me, rather than the other way around -- probably because “seeing” inside a slaughterhouse was my first awakening.   

What do you hope to achieve with the release?
I certainly hope the book will resonate with animal advocates and activists. But I also hope to bring the message about animals to readers who would not otherwise pick up a book or look at a video about animal cruelty. Everyone likes a good story. And if I can create some awareness in the context of a suspense novel, that’s great.  

What has the response been like so far?
I’m getting terrific response. I’m pleased that some early reviews from leaders in the animal protection world have been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve also received a few comments from readers who tell me that they not only enjoyed the book but are rethinking their relationship to meat. That’s particularly gratifying. I don’t expect my novel will change anyone’s dietary choices overnight, but it might plant a seed, so that perhaps next time a video about factory farms comes on the TV, they won’t turn away, but will see it to the end, knowing that there are both human and animal stories behind the facts.
Robin_LamontRobin Lamont

What’s the message you want people and activists to take from your book?
I hope that readers finish the book, saying, “Wow, that was a great story and I really learned something!” And while many animal activists are putting their individual talents to work spreading the message, I hope the book can inspire advocates to use other art forms to spread the message. So much can be communicated not just with fiction, but through art, music, dance, theater … wherever your imagination takes you.

What are your future plans?
I’m currently working on the second book of The Kinship Series. While researching the fur industry, I read an article about a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture called Wildlife Services. Their stated mission is “to solve problems that occur when human activity and wildlife are in conflict with one another.” In reality, out west they have become an extermination service for ranchers who feel that natural predators such as wolves, coyotes, and bears are interfering with their livestock. The government agency is indiscriminately trapping and killing all kinds of animals (including domestic pets) without any oversight or public scrutiny. I would like to expose that in the second book.    

I welcome everyone to visit my Animal Suspense website as well as my Animal Suspense Facebook page. Always happy to hear comments and ideas - and other people’s stories about their relationship with animals and veganism!

A bit about Me (from Robin):
I live in New York with my husband. We are both vegans, as is our rescue dog Kaley - the sweetest girl in the world. When we’re not busy writing, working to pay the bills, or volunteering for animal protection organizations, we like to play tennis and take walks in the woods nearby, where Kaley finds particular joy in locating deer poop and rolling in it.
Rescue_Dog_KaleyRescue Dog Kaley

THE CHAIN EXCERPT: Chapter 1

Frank Marino tightened his hands around the old laptop computer, wondering if his arthritic fingers had the will to part with it. The plastic casing was battered and scratched, but the hard drive held something invaluable. It held the truth – hours of secret recordings for which he’d risked everything. In a few minutes it would be lost forever.

Someone must have seen him and gone straight to Warshauer, who hadn’t made a straight out threat. He only said, “You have to think about Verna and Sophie.” Funny thing was when Frank first strapped on the hidden camera he was thinking about them. They deserved a better husband and father – a man who had principles. He’d tried to go through channels. After years of management giving him the brush-off, he’d written letters to the USDA, to OSHA, and the State Attorney General’s office … no response. Nothing. Not even acknowledge receipt of your letter. Screw them. He went on the internet and bought the spy camera. Just maybe he could do something that would reduce the suffering of the animals and the workers. Just maybe he could get his dignity back.

At least that’s what he was thinking until they found out.

He squinted through his car windshield into the darkness, expecting headlights at any moment. Bring everything, wait here, they said. Some computer geek from corporate wanted to see the footage. Probably delete it right then and there. Frank ran his tongue over his dry lips, dying for a drink. Then he closed his eyes while failure washed over him and worked its way into his bones.

A knock on the window startled him. A man motioned for Frank to unlock the passenger door, then slid in. He wore shiny leather gloves and carried an attaché case. Dark blond hair, clean shaven and well-dressed down to his Gucci loafers, he looked too sharp to be a tech nerd, Frank thought. Guys like this always made him feel stubby and dark-skinned, the way he remembered his Italian grandfather.

“You’re making the right decision, Frank,” the man said in an oddly collegial fashion. “You bring it?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, let me see.”

 Frank unclenched his fingers and handed over the laptop. “What’s your name?” he asked as the man powered it up.

“Bloom,” was all he said. Bloom – first name, last name? Just before getting started, Bloom reached into an inside pocket of his jacket, took out a silver flask and drew a gentlemanly pull. As he re-corked it, Frank’s eyes locked onto the flask then flickered to the glove compartment.

Bloom noticed and said, “You don’t need an invitation from me.”

And because Frank wanted the alcohol more than he resented the stranger’s ability to see through him, he reached over and retrieved the pint of Jim Beam he kept for emergencies – that’s what he called it anyway. His wife took a dim view of the habit, accusing him of having emergencies every day based on the number of empty bottles she found in the trash. He was trying to cut back … but now was not the time. A little hair of the dog would settle his nerves. Frank unscrewed the cap, breaking the seal, and took a long drink. He felt the reassuring burn and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“This it?” asked Bloom, as the first shaky images came up on the computer screen.

“Yeah.” Frank looked away to avoid seeing the file deleted and with it a part of his soul, both about to be dispatched to an indifferent, black universe from which they could not be retrieved.

“Camera?” asked Bloom curtly.

Frank fumbled in his jacket pocket and removed the miniature video recorder. He gave it over to Bloom, who packed it in his attaché case crisply, matter-of-factly, like an exec wrapping up a business meeting.

“Okay, how about copies?” Bloom asked. “Surely you made a copy.”

“Nope.” Frank took another slug from the bottle.

“No?” Bloom pressed amiably.

“I said no, goddammit.”

“Okay, then. Any questions?”

“Damn straight,” said Frank. “No one goes near my wife and daughter, right?”

“Of course not. Not if you’re giving me everything.”

Frank screwed up as much bravado as he could. “If anything happens to either of them, I’ll kill you,” he said flatly.

Bloom glanced at him with a mixture of curiosity and pity, and Frank curled his fist into a ball. But suddenly feeling weak, he covered his anger the only way he knew – by taking another drink.

“How did they find out I was taping?” he asked.

“Someone saw you with the camera inside,” replied Bloom coolly. “We were curious what you planned to do with it, so we got your cell phone from your locker and put in a piece of spyware.”

Frank shook his head in disbelief. “Shit. So you know about the girl? You listened to all our conversations?”

“We did.”

A chill went down the back of Frank’s neck. “I’m supposed to meet with her tomorrow.” It must have been the bourbon on an empty stomach, but an overwhelming sleepiness was trying to lock down his brain. He shook the fog from his head and tried to reassure the man. “Look, I’m not going to risk … I’ll make something up, tell her I changed my mind … I won’t say a word.” The sound of his own voice seemed to be coming from far away.

“Of course not,” Bloom replied. “Listen Frank, I’ve got a question for you. How did you get the conversation on tape?”

“What?” It was so close in the car, Frank struggled for air. He tried to take a deep breath, but his chest felt constrained by a slowly tightening band.

“I said how did you get Bannerman and your boss Warshauer on tape?”

“Crawl space. Sent me down there. Rats. Too many rats, gotta put … poison … in the ducts.”

Bloom nodded in understanding. Sure, there must be air ducts running through the offices that ended in the crawl space below the building. A ten or twelve inch duct would probably magnify the sound of people speaking in the office upstairs – and there was Frank recorder-ready. Incredible. A perfect shit-storm.

Frank wanted to impress on Bloom that neither his wife nor daughter knew anything about it. But something had gone terribly wrong and he couldn’t think of the words. So tired. The bottle slipped out of his hand and fell between his legs, spilling out the last two inches of whiskey on the floor mat. He gripped the steering wheel and managed to fire off a final salvo. “You people are ... scumbags. All of you, Warshauer, Bann’man, and fuckin’ Seldon Marsh…”

“That’s not my area,” said Bloom, watching him carefully.

“Whuss your area?”

Frank’s heart slowed to a death march beat, his skin was cold and clammy, he could barely breathe. Unable to fight anymore, he rested his forehead on the steering wheel and let himself be pulled into the black.

“This,” said Bloom. He waited a few more moments until he knew that Frank wasn’t coming back. “This is my area.”

And then he got to work.

+++


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