AK: So, tell us a little how you came upon this unusual story you told in the groundbreaking Prayers for the Assassin.Read the entire interview at The Rap Sheet.
RF: I started it shortly after 9/11, when everyone was torqued and angry and certain that victory was easy. I started wondering, as authors with rather bleak points of view are wont to do, what would happen if the West lost? This was actually a radical position to take, the U.S. having the greatest and most sophisticated war capability on the planet. So I tried to imagine how it could happen, and that led me to the belief that while we couldn’t be defeated militarily, we could lose on a very different battlefield. We could lose because of an internal weakness, a failure of vision, a failure to see beyond the next television show, the next launch of some crap product designed to make our lives shiny and bright and fun-fun-fun. In a generation-long struggle, don’t count on technology to win the war; it’s going to take tenacity and strong belief. Most of us in the West have very short-term event horizons. Muslims fight to the death over theological differences that happened over 1,000 years ago. Americans can’t remember who won the Academy Award for Best Picture last year.
So that was the impetus: the potential for losing the war and the effect losing would have. I also wanted to write about a protagonist who has lost his faith and feels that loss acutely. A tough guy that has to continue on, making it up as he goes along, choosing right from wrong without any guidance other than his own morality. I had always wanted to write about this kind of character, and it’s kind of ironic that when I finally did it, the faith he had lost was Islam. My protagonist is Rakkim Epps, an elite Fedayeen warrior who aches when he hears the call to prayer, knowing he is no longer part of the faithful.