No Good Deed was written as a retrospection of many of my life experiences, but through the kaleidoscope of the imagination. By “my life experiences” I also mean the experiences of other people’s lives which intersected with mine. In addition, the book was written at a distance from where the actions took place, as I was living in England at the time of writing. It is no secret that many writers have found it easier to take a critical, artist’s eye view of their native land from a distant country. The distance, somehow and ironically, helps bring things into clearer focus.
The novel takes a personal and deep dive into America’s twin and contradictory passions: war and religion. The marriage of the two leads to the perversion of each. Religion—and in particular I mean the form of Christianity accepted by many—becomes the moral patina for America’s military interventionism throughout the world. It is a 20th and 21st century version of “manifest destiny”.
The two main characters, Kyle and Jon, are typical of the youth of the 1960s: one goes to Vietnam, the other to Canada. Yet their friendship, however, manages to transcend their vastly different—and life changing choices. As a prison chaplain in various US prisons during the 1970s and 80s, I met various iterations of both characters: those who paid penalties for ‘dodging the draft’ and those who paid penalties for rash acts committed under the influence of PTSD. Both ‘types’ wrestled with their faith and the morality of their actions. I have attempted not to take sides, but simply to represent how that period of time impacted the youth, the adults they became, and their families. America is still coming to terms with the political and moral choices of those days.