Monday, January 11, 2010


by Michelle Gagnon

CJ asked:

Tell us about your new novel, Gatekeeper, and the real life stories that inspired it.

So here's how it all began...
A little over a year ago, I was having dinner with a friend who is a veteran FBI agent. We were discussing how his job has changed in the aftermath of 9/11. Somehow the conversation turned to domestic terror groups, like the one that spawned Timothy McVeigh.

Through mouthfuls of pasta, he said, “You know what’s scary? Those groups have doubled in size in the past decade, but after 9-11 all the resources allocated to monitoring them were diverted to foreign terrorism. So there are twice as many of these guys out there, and no one is watching them. And now all these groups share the same agenda: they’re all anti-immigration. My biggest fear is that someone will manage to galvanize them.”

THE GATEKEEPER has its origins in that discussion. I started digging (and probably got myself on a watch list somewhere by constantly googling "hate groups" and "dirty bombs") and the more research I did, the more apparent it was that his fear was justified. While recent attempts by the "Jockstrap Jihadist" are terrifying, we've lost sight of the fact that there are plenty of people already within our borders who are deeply unhappy with the American government. And with our resources already strained, it's simply impossible to monitor every threat.


Unknown said...

Thanks for this post, Michelle! Can't wait to read Gatekeeper!!!!

I tried to tell my family about the white power groups in Walnut Creek and Concord, they looked at me like I was crazy. Turns out the active Walnut Creek guys have mostly stopped being active, probably driven out by yuppy invasion, but there's so much hate running around this state. And San Francisco has two hate groups! Color me shocked!!!

I agree with your FBI friend, until we find a way to dissipate the hate, a lightning rod in the form of a charismatic leader is a very real danger.

The SPLC publishes a map of hate groups in the US:

and a periodical Intelligence Report.....

Joshua Corin said...

Insights offered through mouthfuls of pasta are often the ones which carry the most weight. It may be the carbs.

Unknown said...

Sadly, if there are people to hate, there will be people to hate them. If there are no people to hate, some of us will make them up. They're pathetic and need to be slapped down hard.

Michael Wiley said...

Great to have you here, Michelle, and a great post. In some respects, the enemy is always within, isn't it? -- even when it's outside.

I hadn't heard the epithet "Jockstrap Jihadist" before, but it opens all kinds of alliterative possibilities. The Underwear Unabomber. Nigerian Knickers. Bomber Boxers.

Michelle Gagnon said...

Thanks, everyone. Great to be here.
It's funny, recently they showed a Daily Show clip from 2006 where Calvin Trillin was saying that the "shoe bomber" proved to him that there was a terrorist leader out there with a sense of humor. He joked that if we ever have an "Underwear Bomber," we'll know that he was on to something (not that this is a joking matter, but still- perhaps he should be put in charge of setting up those models for where future attacks might come from.) Link to the clip:

Mysti-Yes, I've seen that hate group map- it was actually part of my powerpoint presentation during the Gatekeeper book tour. California is far and away the winner (beating out Texas, even), while my home state (RI) and Alaska are apparently hate group free.

Kelli Stanley said...

Thanks for hanging with us this week, Michelle!:)
Fascinating--and terrifying.

The thing that strikes me is how little things have actually changed ... I'm writing the sequel to CoD, and one of the plot points concerns the huge proliferation of hate groups in the late '30s. And the same principle applied--everyone was worried about the charismatic leader.

Charles Coughlin? William Pelley? Or that heroic aviator, Charles Lindbergh ...

Anyway, I imagine things are even scarier now that the racists have a president to target.

Great post!!


Kelli Stanley said...

Josh, I think I'm going to follow your advice and make spaghetti this weekend. ;)


Jen Forbus said...

Hey Michelle! I'm a little behind on my posts this week, so sorry for the late welcome to CM. Glad to see you here.

I was actually talking about this topic and your book with my book club at our last meeting. It's both scary and fascinating.