“It was pouring out when R.T. Robeson jumped on the bus that would carry him from downtown Orlando to the building in an older, somewhat less fashionable section of the city. He had never visited the building before, but a Miss Gardenia was expecting him …”
ORLANDO — So begins “Bloody Rabbit,” a novel that explores the explosive anger that erupts following an economic crash, and the subsequent rise in nationalism and political scapegoating as more and more people lose their jobs.
The book sounds like a harbinger of the Trump Era that started during the presidential campaign in 2016, and continues today with Donald Trump holding the nation’s highest office — a situation that has horrified the president’s critics and thrilled and excited his supporters.
Surprisingly, though, this fiction novel by author Michael W. Freeman was written early in 2013, long before Trump had even become a presidential candidate, let alone one taken seriously by the pundits.
In many ways, “Bloody Rabbit” offers a glimpse into the roots of Trump’s historic victory at the polls — and at the blue collar workers who watched their jobs, livelihood, and sense of optimism get shattered by the lingering impact of the Great Recession.
They began looking for someone who would listen to them, and champion their needs and concerns. Many of them felt like they found that in Trump.
How Did The Book Predict Today’s Political Struggles?
The Trump presidency has been notable for a series of contradictions: supporters who are part of the president’s “base” and fiercely support and defend him; and critics who refuse to acknowledge any accomplishments or achievements on Trump’s part and oppose his every move. Few presidents seem to have divided the nation as sharply as Trump has, and rarely has the nation seemed so deeply polarized.
Critics have attacked the president as being a bigot, a nationalist and the face of corruption; supporters blame the media for hostile coverage. Few people are on the sidelines.
When Freeman wrote the novel in 2013, it seemed like a different world in many ways. The economy is strong today, but in January 2013 the recovery still felt sluggish and weak. And nobody back then was talking about a figure like Trump succeeding President Barack Obama, who had been re-elected just two months before Freeman wrote the first lines of “Bloody Rabbit.”
“In January 2013, when I wrote the book, the notion that New York businessman Donald Trump would run for the Republican presidential nomination, win, and then go on to victory in November wasn’t even on the radar,” Freeman noted.
“But at the same time, the painfully slow recovery from the Great Recession had taken a real toll,” he added. “A lot of people were growing pessimistic that their own economic fortunes were going to turn around. And the voices looking for scapegoats – immigrants, the establishment in Washington, and others – were getting louder.”
In “Bloody Rabbit,” the weeds in the grass that would grow into the Trump revolution are starkly present.
Freeman based the fiction novel on his own struggles coping with the recession in Florida, a state hard-hit by the collapse of the housing market. Freeman’s job as a newspaper editor had been eliminated due to budget cuts in January 2011, and two years later he was still working as a freelance writer, with few openings in his chosen field of journalism. He admits to waging a long battle with intense feelings of rock-bottom low self-esteem and self-guilt.
“The lowest point was in October 2013,” he said. “I was making a pleasantly minuscule existence as a freelance writer when, on the exact same day, all my contracts got cancelled. The very next day, a Friday, I got three rejection emails for jobs I had applied to. I can’t accurately describe the emotional baggage I was carrying around that Christmas season.”
Writing the book became a therapeutic exercise for him, even though he would find full employment within a matter of weeks of completing the book. Still, Freeman noted that he wasn’t the only one who got scarred psychically by the often agonizingly slow pace of the recovery.
“Bloody Rabbit” starts in a world familiar to us all: the struggle to cope during an economic downturn. The book slow builds to an even more terrifying situation: the persecution of those who become the scapegoats in that grim economic environment.
Set in the author’s home city of Orlando, “Bloody Rabbit” is a tense, haunting and sometimes grotesquely funny look at how quickly social norms crumble when times get tough.
What is “Bloody Rabbit” About?
This eerie tale sends readers into a surreal world where people are desperately struggling to find stability. “Bloody Rabbit” simultaneously mixes the horrific and the comical.
The book follows R.T. Robeson, a middle-aged man who had it all — a good job, a home, a car — then loses everything. He finally finds a new, much lower-paying job, then happily discovers a tiny apartment he can afford and quickly agrees to rent the cramped unit — even though it has a violent and unsavory history.
Just when it seems like Robeson has finally landed back on his feet, he’s startled when complete strangers repeatedly and angrily confront him, insisting he just did something crude and offensive. Robeson is baffled and can’t figure out who these people are mistaking him for. An air of dread begins to suffocate the hapless Robeson.
Robeson increasingly feels isolated, like he’s gone into hiding. But his life is about to get much worse.
At the time Freeman first started writing this book in January 2013, President Obama had just been re-elected to a second term with 51 percent of the vote, and there were few if any hints that a political earthquake of a radically different kind was brewing.
Or was there?
Published by Freeline Productions, the book is one distinctly about and for the Trump Era, that documents the rise of the new nationalism. It’s available by visiting Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble online, or through the Freeline online bookstore.
The book is 262 pages long.
Michael Freeman, a resident of Orlando, has been a journalist since 1988. Throughout his career, he’s worked at some of the Sunshine State’s largest newspapers, including The Orlando Sentinel, The Lakeland Ledger, The Sun-Sentinel and The Jewish Journal.
Michael is also a playwright, active in Central Florida’s fast-growing theater community. He wrote and produced the original plays “Hooked,” “Copping a Craigie” and “Murder Sleep,” which premiered at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival.
A passionate lover of theater and the arts, Michael is a guild member at The Orlando Shakespeare Theater and a member of the Playwrights Round Table in Orlando.
Michael is also the founder of Freeline Productions, a writing and editing service that distributes his fiction novels, including “Koby’s New Home,” “Waking In The Dark,” and “Of Cats And Wolves.”
Michael was born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts, and has lived in Orlando since 2002. He enjoys reading, traveling, the music of The Monkees, the films of Roman Polanski, catching re-runs of the 1970s series “Kolchak The Night Stalker,” and the great art of comic books.
Michael is also the proud papa of his cats Fluffy and Midnight.
Contact Freeline Media at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..