Matthew Warner

Write a Novel and Go to Jail

. . . At least that’s how it’s looking for Patrick McLaw, the eighth-grade school teacher in Maryland being punished for authoring The Insurrectionist, a novel whose synopsis begins as follows: “On 18 March 2902, a massacre transpired on the campus of Ocean Park High School, claiming the lives of nine hundred forty-seven individuals–the largest school massacre in the nation’s history.”

A read of its Amazon page shows The Insurrectionist, authored three years ago under McLaw’s pseudonym of K.S. Voltaer, to be a Hardy Boys-style thriller that pits the sleuthing skills of three high school students against an at-large serial mass murderer. The book’s sequel, Lilith’s Heir, deals with the psychological aftermath of the shooting.

Is the series any good? I intend to start reading it and find out.

Except that’s not the attitude of McLaw’s employer, the Dorchester County Board of Education, and the local sheriff’s office. As The Atlantic reports, the following reactions have ensued:

  • the author has been placed on leave from his job
  • a K-9 unit searched the school he teaches at for bombs and guns
  • the police searched his residence
  • the author’s background has been investigated
  • and the author has possibly been arrested and forced to undergo a psychological evaluation

Were any weapons found? Was any specific threat made against Dorchester schools? Does the author have a criminal record? No, no, and no.

What exactly was the probable cause for this treatment?

I and other writers find this behavior troubling and a complete overreaction. No one directly involved in this investigation appears to have even uttered the phrase “First Amendment.”

The only upside I can see to this is his books have received some terrific free press. I hope his sales pick up enough for him to hire a great attorney through the ACLU and take these people to the cleaners.