Just when we thought it was safe to go out again, the execution of Osama Bin Laden has reopened the debate about torture. It’s a highly charged issue, and my own feelings about it have swung back and forth over time. We can all agree that torture is inhumane and awful. But when we get down from our soapboxes, the real issues seem to be whether it’s effective and how much is at stake.

In real life we rarely find ourselves in clear cut situations in which answers are demonstrably black or white. But in fiction, we have the opportunity to pose questions hypothetically and force both ourselves and the reader to make judgments. In Wednesday’s Child, I inadvertently backed myself into just such a position.

Writers have long known that their characters sometimes do and say things that surprise them. My protagonist, Dylan, considered himself a moral individual who was fighting the good fight against evil. Of course he did. He was thinking the thoughts I gave him. But at a critical moment he had to ask himself what he would do if he captured someone who he was absolutely certain possessed information that would save thousands of innocent lives. As the clock ticked down, how far would he go to get the prisoner to talk?

If you want to know the answer, you’ll have to read the book. But I’m willing to admit that Dylan taught me some things about myself that I wouldn’t have believed were true.

(Alan Zendell)

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