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.
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.