02/21/2011 03:01 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Taking Flight

Three books, three years in a row. What does that mean? That means that a weary author must once again heft his two miserable shoulder bags stuffed with underwear and submit himself to the ministrations of the TSA and the howling inadequacy of air travel. Which, of course, becomes a necessity when one is on a book tour. (Though I've joked with my editor that we ought to do a whistle-stop tour through all the contiguous states, I doing my thing from the caboose while he hands out books to the amassed crowds. Either that or walk from here to New York.)

Anyway, the latest is When the Killing's Done, a novel set on the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara, the foggy little burg I call home. For eighteen years I've been driving Highway 1 along the coast during my commute to USC, and all that time, while listening to audio books and gazing out on the big dun humps of the islands, I was wondering, What goes on out there? Now I know. In the last decade there was a big imbroglio between animal rights groups on the one hand and the Park Service and the Nature Conservancy on the other as to the disposition of invasive species on the islands. The animal rights people were opposed to the elimination of any species whatever and the biologists wanted to remove them (i.e., kill, hence the title) and restore the ecosystem.

Here's what really caught my attention: a local animal rights activist took action against the Park Service's plan to bombard Anacapa Island with rat poison ten years back, said action involving boating out to the island and spreading the antidote, Vitamin K, in the hope that the rats would be spared. Interesting, no? Here we had a rat savior up against the biologists who sought to remove the invasive rats because they posed a threat to the ground-nesting birds that evolved there sans predators. Even better: how did the rats get there? From the wreck of the paddlewheel steamer, the Winfield Scott, which ran aground on the island in 1853, while making the San Francisco to Panama run with a load of gold prospectors (and rats) aboard.
I did some investigating. Even got to visit Anacapa and Santa Cruz (an island four times bigger than Manhattan and, blissfully, uninhabited) and cruise the gullies with the biologists responsible for monitoring the then-endangered population of dwarf Santa Cruz Island foxes. Then I did what I am accustomed to doing: spin it all into a tale full of sex, death, misery, heartbreak, joy and biological necessity. That process was very rewarding. But now, as a dimly foreseen result, I must deliver myself up to the TSA.

Have you been through the new radiation machines? I have. And not only do I get irradiated, but then I get a genital fondling to boot. Now, I'm not shy. I wouldn't care if they broadcast my scrawny image throughout the airport, but I do object to being irradiated for nothing. Do I want to be felt-up publicly in the airport? Not really. But what's the alternative? Yes, I could walk to New York, but it'd take a while. Here's my suggestion to the TSA for promoting better customer relations--as of now we have males feeling up males and females feeling up females. How about just reversing that?

Check out the trailer for the book.

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