Number one New York Times best-selling author Richard North Patterson, author of more than twenty novels, including Degree of Guilt and Silent Witness, returns with a sweeping family drama of dark secrets and individual awakenings.
Loss of Innocence, the second book in the Blaine trilogy, “in one life of the 1960s, symbolizes a movement that keeps changing all our lives” (Gloria Steinem) in “a richly-layered look at the loss of innocence not only among his characters but that which America lost as a nation." (Martha’s Vineyard Times) “An extraordinary novel—profound, emotionally involving and totally addictive,” said actor and author Stephen Fry, “this may be Richard North Patterson’s best work.”
In 1968 America is in turmoil, engulfed in civil unrest and in the midst of an unpopular war. Yet for Whitney Dane—spending the summer of her twenty-first year on Martha’s Vineyard, planning a September wedding to her handsome and equally privileged fiancé—life could not be safer, nor the future more certain.
Educated at Wheaton, soon to be married, and the youngest daughter of the patrician Dane family, Whitney has everything she has ever wanted, and is everything her doting father, Wall Street titan Charles Dane, wants her to be: smart, sensible, predictable. Nonetheless, Whitney’s nascent disquiet about society and her potential role in it is powerfully stimulated by the forces transforming the nation.
The Vineyard’s still waters are disturbed by the appearance of Benjamin Blaine, an underprivileged, yet fiercely ambitious and charismatic figure who worked as an aide to the recently slain Bobby Kennedy. Ben’s presence accelerates Whitney’s growing intellectual independence, inspires her to question long-held truths about her family, and stirs her sexual curiosity. It also brings deep-rooted tensions within the Dane clan to a dangerous head. Soon, Whitney’s future seems far less secure, and her ideal family far more human, than she ever could have suspected.
An acknowledged master of the courtroom thriller, Patterson’s Blaine trilogy, a bold and surprising departure from his past novels, is a complex family drama pulsing with the tumult of the time and “dripping with summer diversions, youthful passion and ideals, class tensions, and familial disruptions.” (Library Journal)
The day was bright and clear, and a headwind stirred his curly hair; absorbed in sailing, Ben barely seemed aware of Whitney sitting near the stern. While she did not mind the quiet, it felt as though he was playing the role of her indifferent crew. Then he finally spoke. “I wonder how many more times I’ll get to do this.”
“Because of the draft?”
Ben kept scanning the water. “Because of the war,” he said harshly. “What a pointless death that would be.”
Uneasy, Whitney thought of Peter’s safe haven in the National Guard. “You don’t believe we’re the firewall against Communism?”
His derisive smile came and went. “If you were some Vietnamese peasant, would you want to be ruled by a bunch of crooks and toadies? To win this war, we’d have to pave the entire country, then stay there for fifty years. And if we lose, what does that mean to us? That the Vietnamese are going to paddle thousand of miles across the Pacific to occupy San Francisco?”
Whitney had wondered, too. She chose to say nothing more.
The day grew muggy. Running before the wind, Ben headed toward Tarpaulin Cove, the shelter on an island little more than a sand spit. Hand on the tiller, he seemed more relaxed, his brain and sinews attuned to each shift in the breeze. It was not until they eased into the cove that Ben spoke to her again. “I brought an igloo filled with sandwiches and drinks. Think the two of us can swim it to the beach?”
Stripping down to her swimsuit, Whitney climbed down the rope ladder and began dogpaddling in the cool, invigorating water. Ben peeled off his T-shirt and dove in with the cooler, his sinewy torso glistening in the sun and water. Together, they floated it toward the shore, each paddling with one arm. At length, somewhat winded, they sat on the beach as the surf lapped at their feet. The Vineyard was barely visible; they had come a fair distance, Whitney realized, and yet the trip seemed to have swallowed time. This must be what sailing did for him.
For a time Whitney contented herself, as he did, with eating sandwiches and sipping a cool beer. Curious, she asked, “Is the war why you worked for Bobby?”
Excerpted from Loss of Innocence by Richard North Patterson. Copyright © 2013 by Richard North Patterson. Excerpted by permission of Quercus, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About Richard North Patterson
Richard North Patterson graduated in 1968 from Ohio Wesleyan University and has been awarded that school’s Distinguished Achievement Citation and his national fraternity’s Alumni Achievement Award. He is a 1971 graduate of the Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law, and a recipient of that University’s President’s Award for Distinguished Alumni and its President’s Award for Excellence. He has served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Ohio; a trial attorney for the Securities & Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C.; and was the SEC’s liaison to the Watergate Special Prosecutor. More recently, Mr. Patterson was a partner in the San Francisco office of McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, now Bingham McCutchen LLP, before retiring from practice in 1993. He has served on the boards of his undergraduate and law schools, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, PEN Center West, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and was Chairman of Common Cause, the grassroots citizens lobby founded by John Gardner. He now serves on the Advisory Council of J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group.
Mr. Patterson studied fiction writing with Jesse Hill Ford at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; his first short story was published in The Atlantic Monthly; and his first novel, The Lasko Tangent, won an Edgar Allen Poe Award in 1979. Between 1981 and 1985, he published The Outside Man, Escape the Night, and Private Screening, which made the New York Times bestseller list in 1994. His first novel in eight years, Degree of Guilt (1993), and Eyes of A Child (1995), were combined into a mini-series by NBC TV.
Both were international bestsellers, and Degree of Guilt was awarded the French Grand Prix de Litterateur Policiere in 1995. The Final Judgment (1995), Silent Witness (1997), No Safe Place (1998), and Dark Lady (1999) all became immediate international bestsellers, and in 2011 Silent Witness became a feature film on TNT. Protect and Defend (2000), about the controversial nomination of the first woman to be Chief Justice, and her entanglement in an incendiary lawsuit regarding late-term abortion and parental consent, received a Maggie Award from Planned Parenthood for its treatment of issues regarding reproductive rights. In 2013, the London Guardian Literary Review named No Safe Place one of the 10 best works of fiction, nonfiction , or biography inspired by John F. Kennedy and the Kennedy assassination in the 50 years since his death.
Balance of Power (2003) confronted one of America’s most divisive issues—gun violence—and was chosen by USA Today as its book of the month selection for November. Conviction (2005) focused on the law and politics of capital punishment. Exile (2007) dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was nominated for South Africa’s leading literary award. The Race (2007) concerned a dramatic campaign for President, and Eclipse (2009) dealt with human rights, Africa, and the geopolitics of oil. The Spire (2009) was a novel of psychological suspense, and In The Name of Honor (2010) portrays a military court martial for murder, and a legal defense based on PTSD. The Devil’s Light (2011) is an exhaustively researched depiction of the world of espionage and the potential for nuclear terrorism, focused on an Al Qaeda plot to steal a nuclear bomb from Pakistan in order to destroy a major western city.
Mr. Patterson’s twentieth novel, Fall From Grace (2012), a family drama set on Martha’s Vineyard, became his sixteenth New York Times bestseller. Its prequel, Loss of Innocence (2013), is a coming-of-age novel is set in a tumultuous year of 1968. Its sequel, to appear in 2014, is titled Eden In Winter.
Mr. Patterson has appeared on such shows as “Today,” “Good Morning America,” “The CBS Morning Show,” "Morning Joe, " “Inside Politics,” “Washington Journal,” “Buchanan and Press,” “Greta Van Susteren,” “Fox and Friends,” and “Hardball.” His articles on politics, society, literature, law, and foreign policy have been published in the London Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, FoxNews.com, Medium, and the San Jose Mercury News. A frequent speaker on political, geopolitical, legal, and social issues, in 2004 Mr. Patterson spoke at Washington, D.C. rallies in support of reproductive rights, and against gun violence, and has spoken about the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma at such forums as the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. and the World Affairs Council in Dallas. Mr. Patterson is a member of the Cosmos Club of Washington DC, and his papers are collected by Boston University. In 2012, Mr. Patterson received the Silver Bullet Award from the International Thriller Writers Association for his contributions to the wider community. Overall, the worldwide sales of Mr. Patterson's novels exceeds 25 million copies.
Mr. Patterson lives on Martha’s Vineyard, San Francisco, and Cabo San Lucas with his wife, Dr. Nancy Clair.
Q. Where were you and what were you doing in 1968? How would you sum up how America changed during that pivotal year?
A. In 1968, I was a senior in college. The world outside an Ohio college town had been roiling for several years – the civil rights crusade, anti-War fervor, revolt on urban campuses. But 1968 was the year it all cracked open, a spectacle at once so shocking, horrifying, hopeful and enthralling that one could not turn away. The Tet offensive tore the lid off the official lying about Vietnam. Gene McCarthy came from nowhere to challenge Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic nomination. Bobby Kennedy jumped into the race, and Johnson dropped out. A white racist murdered Martin Luther King; American inner cities exploded in violence. A second shattering murder – the assassination of Robert Kennedy – felt like the death of hope. The Russians smashed Czechoslovakia's move toward autonomy and free expression. The Democratic convention turned to Hubert Humphrey amidst massive police violence against anti-establishment protesters. And then Richard Nixon rose like a phoenix from the ashes to grasp the presidency.
For me, as for others, that year was vivid and visceral, turning our expectations – indeed, our lives – upside down. Guys I knew died in Vietnam – for nothing, I realized. I worried about the draft. I fell in love, not knowing where I'd be next year, or the year after that. My friends and I got sick of being lied to: if the patriotic eyewash used to sell Vietnam was murderous blather, perhaps the broader received wisdom we'd grown up with was toxic, too. My parents and I regarded each other across a chasm of mutual incomprehension. The fault line that was 1968 had separated us from certainty.
But, in this maelstrom, one of the most remarkable developments was the women's movement, which burgeoned from a pioneering effort to a force propelling millions of young women toward a different life, with few examples to guide them. I've always wanted to write about this moment in our history and, as I reflected, I focused on this year as a tipping point for American women, and hence the women who came after. That is why I chose to write a coming of age novel focused on the change in the life of one young woman, against the backdrop of these tumultuous times. Hence Loss Of Innocence.
Q. What made you decide to transition from the legal thrillers that brought you such a early success to more character–driven dramas like Fall From Grace and Loss Of Innocence?
A. In my mind, there really was no such transition. Even the handful of books which took place in or around the courtroom were, to me, narratives driven by a deep concern with character, and how dimensional humans react under the pressure of events.
Beyond that, I explored many other settings – political novels at the presidential level; geopolitical novels involving the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma, exploitation of African oil, the threat of nuclear terrorism by non state actors; psychological novels; expirations of issues like gun violence in America, the death penalty, PTSD and other challenging subjects . Whatever the subject, the novel was focused on the impact of characters who were as fully dimensional as I could make them.
So, to me, Loss Of Innocence reflects my concerns with society, family, and the inner lives of dimensional human beings, set in a vivid context – a year of explosive change. The most distinctive element is I chose to explore this – successfully, I hope – exclusively from the point of view of a 21-year-old young woman.
Q. As a male author, what is your method for ensuring authenticity in your female characters?
A. First, like many men and my generation, I benefited from the women's movement. Beginning at the end of college, the new freedom reclaimed by cutting – edge women had the not – so – paradoxical effect of freeing men. For the first time, most of the women in my life are simply friends, whom I could talk with about anything from politics to careers to sex the expectations within marriage – quit of the assumption that we were slipping into roles defined by someone else. And I suddenly realized that the experience was an enormous relief – the difference between Kabuki Theater and relationships which seemed a natural and organic to the individuals involved.
There's more, of course. I'm the dad of two daughters to whom I feel very close, and whom I've encouraged to realize their individual potential. I'm a novelist, of course, whose job it is to imagine lives outside my own. And I'm not afraid to ask for help – in this case, by interviewing a number of women who came of age in that same era era, conversations which – because of the women's movement – were rich, candid, and encompassing, full of an ease and honesty and humor largely impossible for our parents. In some way or another, we had all been there, and there was much to say. Without them, the texture of this book would not be the same.
Q. As a longtime resident of Martha's Vineyard, what have you seen change and what have you seen stay the same on that iconic American island?
A. The island remains a haven for intellectuals, artists, and a range of interesting people who, while generally quite privilege, bring with them a variety of viewpoints and experiences. And in its natural beauty, it remains one of the loveliest spots on earth.
But some things have changed, and not for the better. Economics continue to make life harder for full-time Islanders to buy homes and live a life here. The social life seems more divided between year-round residents and the generally more affluent summer people. And, like other places, we are touched by the influence of the newly wealthy, many from the financial services industry, who build homes which are unnecessarily large, environmentally insensitive and, all in all, monuments to ego divorced from their physical and social context. To me, this is a melancholy development that reflects a larger coarseness in our society.
Q. Among other things, you dedicate this book to the memory of Ted Kennedy. Were/are you close to the Kennedys? Are any characters in this book based in part on any of them?
A. In the last decade or so of his life, Ted Kennedy became a good friend, and I remain very close to his wife Vicki. As I remarked in the afterward, wholly aside from his remarkable contributions to our civic life, I could not have asked for a more generous spirit or considerate friend than Ted Kennedy– as to which I could cite numerous examples. And Vicki is among the most inspiring leaders I know, who continues her own discerning and compelling advocacy on a host of issues from health care to protecting Americans against violence to promoting a more expansive sense of our obligations to each other.
But none of the fictional characters in Loss Of Innocence are in any way based on the Kennedys or any other public figure. Instead, the very real figure of Robert Kennedy appears at two points in the novel, as recalled by one of the young characters, Benjamin Blaine, whose life was profoundly influenced by RFK. To portray this remarkable and complicated historic figure, I not only did extensive reading, but relied on my friend Jeff Greenfield, a close advisor and speechwriter for RFK throughout his final campaign. I'm reasonably confident that, overall, I got Robert Kennedy right.
Q. There are some links between the characters in Loss Of Innocence and the characters in your previous novel Fall From Grace. Will you continue to develop these families and the Martha's Vineyard setting in your future work?
A. Definitely. Loss Of Innocence is the second novel in a trilogy – a prequel to Fall From Grace. The sequel to Fall From Grace, Eden In Winter, It will appear in 2014, and concludes the story of the characters in the prior novel, very much in suspension at its end.
Q. Well Whitney is the clear protagonist, is there an antagonist or "villain" in Loss Of Innocence?
A. There is no one antagonist, although the narrative reveals imperfections , or much worse, in a number of the characters surrounding Whitney – which, in turn, influences not only her perception of her life but the course it takes. This includes virtually everyone around her – her patrician mother; her domineering father; her beautiful but damaged sister; her best friend Clarice; her fiancé Peter and, of course, Benjamin Blaine, whose entry in her life helps catalyze feelings of independence, emotional freedom and sexual curiosity. Several of these characters do things which shake Whitney to the core. So that the narrative, rather than focused on any one or two characters around her, represents what I hope is a very involving narrative in which complex and interesting characters influence each other, Whitney most of all.
“Loss of Innocence, second of a projected trilogy, is the compelling account of a family’s collapse amid multiple betrayals in the bloody year 1968. The book moves at high velocity, is grandly plotted with a crescendo of an ending. This is Richard North Patterson at the top of his game.” —Ward Just, author of An Unfinished Season and Rodin’s Debutante
“Like male novelists of the Nineteenth century, Richard North Patterson actually looks at the world through a woman's eyes. He tells us the story of a girl born into a derived identity, and her path toward who she is and what she wants. In one life of the 1960s, he symbolizes a movement that keeps changing all our lives.” —Gloria Steinem, author of Revolution from Within
“Wealthy, WASPY and protected, Whitney Dane lives a life of privilege under the seemingly benevolent patriarchy of her powerful father. At the family summer home on Martha's Vineyard, political violence and anti-war protests seem far away. But in the course of the season, cracks open in her closest relationships, exposing rot and darkness within and linking Whitney to the larger issues of race, class and corruption that roil the country. Richard North Patterson has created a richly textured romance, deftly set amid the seismic social shifts of 1968.” —Geraldine Brooks, author of Caleb’s Crossing
"At a time when the '60s are often vilified, Richard North Patterson revisits that era in this terrific new novel and reminds us that it was a time of moral awakening. Set in 1968, Loss of Innocence tells the story of a young woman's discovery of the true meaning of freedom. Moving into new territory with this coming-of-age novel, Patterson is a great storyteller." —Carol Gilligan, author of Kyra and In Other Voices
“Loss of Innocence is a stunning tour de force by one of my favorite novelists. This coming-of-age story electrifies with the authenticity of the Sixties—the sex, politics, language, mores and music. And Martha's Vineyard, with its heartbreaking beauty, is the ideal setting for an engrossing drama of a so-called perfect family riven by its secrets. Richard North Patterson, always brilliant, is better than ever.” —Linda Fairstein, author of The Deadhouse
“Loss of Innocence is an extraordinary novel—profound, emotionally involving and totally addictive. This may be Richard North Patterson's best work: surprising and different, yet with the same ability to penetrate the minds of others—especially women, which is a rare gift.” —Stephen Fry, The Fry Chronicles
"Loss of Innocence will tell you more about the turbulent summer of 1968 than most history books will."—Providence Journal
“A snapshot of America at a pivotal moment in history, and a beautifully written coming-of-age novel.” —Lady Antonia Fraser, author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Must You Go?
"A title that is dripping with summer diversions, youthful passion and ideals, class tensions, and familial disruptions makes for wonderful reading whatever the season." —Library Journal (starred)
“Set in the summer and fall of a pivotal year in American history, 1968 . . . Patterson’s latest offers up an appealing family drama set against the backdrop of a radically tumultuous and influential time.” —Kristine Huntley, Booklist
“Patterson's family drama thrives on the expected . . . Patterson writes a family saga of class and money, power and pretense, love and loyalty. Think The Thorn Birds or Rich Man, Poor Man among the Martha’s Vineyard moneyed set.” —Kirkus Reviews
"Mr. Patterson has crafted a richly-layered look at the loss of innocence not only among his characters but that which America lost as a nation." -Jack Shea, The Martha's Vineyard Times