Affirmative Action

A novel, by Thomas Docheri

Both the Italians (the Toscas) and the Russians (the Polyakovs), narcotics-trade allies except when they’re not, are looking for Jonathan Tyne and they’ll kill him if they find him. The Italians because they think he can identify one of theirs, Frank Tosca Jr., Mr. Big’s only son, and the Russians because if he does, Frank Jr. just might give them up to get a better deal for himself. He can’t but that’s beside the point and the Fibbies won’t help; they think Tyne makes a good decoy in their game of playing one off against another.

A cop friend’s best advice is to run. Tyne could run — he has the wherewithal but he also has friends he cherishes, a business on the verge of success and he’s just met a woman he can’t forget, Catherine Duvall, an aspiring cabaret singer who likes the way Jonathan plays the piano. To stay close to Catherine, Tyne exposes himself, and Catherine too, to some rather nasty people.

Both antagonists — Valerian Sergeyevich Polyakov and Francesco and Joseph Tosca — try to kill him, first the Russians and then the Italians, and when Tyne finally gets a belly full of being prey, he switches roles and becomes the hunter. Set in the San Francisco Bay Area and Oregon, Affirmative Action and its successors The Seventh Circle and Rogue Elephants tell this story.

Thomas’ view

Affirmative action does not mean what you think it means. The story is not in any way about discrimination. Nor is it about any attempts, techniques, programs or arrangements to ameliorate instances of past or present discrimination. I use it as a metaphor for asserting a fundamental truth; to take action to confront the existential elements of one’s life as opposed to waiting for circumstances or events to arrive and perhaps overwhelm one’s ability to act in one’s own best interests. Jonathan Tyne, the protagonist in Affirmative Action faces a series of life altering crises. In each, the traditional institutional and societal mechanisms we take for granted fail him. He must act, to save himself, and he does, affirming his humanity, but in so doing, he is changed, and perhaps we too as interested observers, in unpredictable ways.


Read the first chapter

1 thought on “Affirmative Action

  1. Hello Mr. Docheri,

    I’ve been remiss contacting you. We have a mutual friend… Kathleen B… I don’t want to write her full name on the Internet, for obvious reasons. Kathleen teaches math to nerdy undergrads while I teach undergraduate English, English Lit and a graduate creative writing course at what she calls that “hoity-toity place across the river.” I’m sure you know which one, you lived there for quite a few years, so she tells me.

    Anyhow… she steered me to your website hoping I would read your writing and steer my grad students to it and use it in my CR workshops. Unfortunately I can’t, or at least, I can’t with the limited material you’ve posted online. At a minimum, I need at least the first three chapters. You posted chapter one of both novels and I like them both, or I like your hooks. That’s indeed what a good first chapter must have, a hook to grab the reader. However, the second, third and subsequent early chapters in act one are just as important. That’s what agents look for too. I understand from K you’re looking for a literary agent. Is that right?

    As you’ve probably discovered many agents won’t get past chapter one. If they don’t like the hook or there isn’t one, your submission winds up on the slush pile. If they like your hook then they want to see character development of your protagonist in chapter two. They also want to see either plot development or character development of your antagonist in chapter three, or if not in three, then soon. That, by the way is very important, that you develop your antagonist as well as you do your protagonist. Most unpublished authors don’t, which is one of the reasons they remain unpublished. What good does it do for your protagonist to triumph over a cardboard antagonist? The better developed he is the more satisfying it is when the hero defeats him. Right?

    Anyway, post the first three chapters of Affirmative Action and I’ll take another look. If it has what I outlined above I’ll consider it for an upcoming CR workshop. Be forewarned; my CR workshop participants pick apart every sentence, sometimes every word. It can get a little tense since they all think they’re the next Norman Mailer. If you aren’t up to that level of scrutiny and you haven’t got the skin of a rhinoceros, better back away now.


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