COLLATERAL DAMAGE is an erotic thriller that examines the themes of innocence lost and redemption. It does so against a backdrop of incest and corruption with a protagonist disillusioned enough to survive in a modern world but still capable of believing in, and acting on, a traditional concept of honor.

Late one night, Richard Garcia, a writer for the Los Angeles tabloid, Weekly Purge, discovers the body of a young woman washed ashore on Venice Beach. The former literature professor from Los Angeles University lost his job two years ago after being accused, justly, of having an affair with a student. In the intervening years, Garcia has sunk into self-pity and cynicism to make up for the disappointing turn in his life. But Garcia still retains some moral idealism; it is rekindled when he decides to investigate the woman's death.

Research is nothing new to a Ph.D. and Garcia plunges into the case with the fervor of a man in search of redemption. Hassled by the police who are not interested in solving the case, Garcia meets a series of people connected to the dead girl, Sally Van Meter. They include Collier, a lawyer; a morgue doctor, Michael Bernsen; Horace Dodge, septuagenarian real estate mogul; Kristen Bowren, his former student and lover; Kristen's mother; and Laura Bernsen.

Garcia follows clues to Seattle where he meets, and falls for, Sara Good, director of a homeless shelter. Through Sara, Garcia reveals his true aptitude for goodness and signals his instinctive choice of the right side of the struggle that engages him. With Sara's help, Garcia is able to untangle the mystery surrounding the short life of Sally Van Meter.

Not by coincidence, Horace Dodge is the father of Sally, the product of an incestuous relationship the pedophile has forced upon his teenaged children. The archetype of dysfunctional families, all of Dodge's off-spring have banded together to gather information and blackmail Dodge on a litany of illegal activities. Back in L.A., Assistant D.A. Dan Stokes enlists Garcia's aid in gathering the information to be used in prosecuting Dodge and the corrupt city officials on his payroll.

In the end, Garcia is surprised to learn that Sally's death was an accident. Nevertheless he is galled by the immorality of Collier, Laura, and others who concealed the truth because it interfered with their own plans. This event signals the complete reversion in character of Garcia from manipulative misogynist to hero, in the classical Greek sense.

In reflecting upon his own loss of integrity, the sacrifice of any dignity in Sally's death, and the corrupting influence of politics and money, Garcia learns that he, and all of Dodge's children, have been victims of COLLATERAL DAMAGE: the inadvertent and unavoidable death of innocents in battle.

Sample Chapters



Copyright 2009 by Peter Stekel, all rights reserved.

updated on 04/07/2009

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