In some ways, the cover and ridiculously long title say everything. Steven Seagal stares at the reader from behind orange sunglasses, wearing a fringe jacket and turquoise pendant. He's overlaid on a ghostly image of a wolf with glowing orange eyes. Get it? In this book, Steven Seagal is the shadow wolf.
Open the book, and it only gets worse after a foreword by Seagal's old law-enforcement posse pal Joe Arpaio.
Set in Arizona, the book is a painful slog: page after page of wooden action-thriller dialogue stirred up with hardline, conspiracist "Deep State" nonsense. From an early chapter, where a co-conspirator conveniently lays out the novel's throughline:
"[T]his trafficking of human jihadists is approved by the president himself and being protected by rogue elements of the CIA, FBI, and DEA — the same rogue elements that have been smuggling drugs, guns, gold, cash, and small children for the American elite ever since Allen Dulles and J. Edgar Hoover first created the secret state within a state.”Or this fight scene featuring protagonist John Gode, a Native American lawman in Arizona. Gode possesses supernatural combat and stealth abilities from his "spirit power" as a "Shadow Wolf" warrior.
Rounds were immediately fired at where John had been when he shouted his warning. His gut took him to another part of the parking lot. It was then that he picked up the image of a shooter’s head bobbing up and down behind a car only a few feet from him. He threw a stone at the tire of a car parked next to the shooter, who immediately raised up and fired a spray at the sound. That was all John needed. He pumped two rounds into the shooter’s head.Gripping stuff. Embarrassingly bad paperback-thriller writing is excusable. What's not is a feverish plot that's also extremely offensive and Islamophobic. To give you an idea, at one point, Gode takes care to dip his bullets and knife in pigs' blood. He asks of Obama, "Who was raised Muslim? … Who bows to Muslim kings? Who has a history no one can know?"
In the novel, Gode and his partners within Arizona law enforcement must subvert a terror plot that goes all the way to the top of the federal government (read: Obama). "Deep state" forces are shepherding jihadist militants over the U.S.-Mexico border en route to stage attacks in major cities. The book feels like it was written by an Arizona bureau chief for Infowars who's decided to moonlight as an thriller writer.
As it happens, the actual authors are only slightly less outrageous. The book is co-authored by actor/director Seagal and former Arizona Republican Party chairman Tom Morrissey. Morrissey even got former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to pen the book's foreword before it was published in October.
When reached via email, Morrissey explained that he met Steven Seagal while working as the state party chairman. The two of them are planning to write a sequel in the John Gode saga.
"Steven and I are friends, fellow martial artists (he was friends with my late martial arts teacher of 20 years), fellow musicians and fellow former law enforcement officers," Morrissey wrote. "He is what I consider a creative genius. My approach to writing this book was as a novelist and Steven's was as a film producer, screen writer and actor."
Arpaio has known both Morrissey and Seagal for years. Morrissey stepped down from the Republican Party chairmanship after raising the Obama birther conspiracy theory in 2012. He now teaches Shing Yi, a martial art, in Arizona and says Seagal is assisting him in a pro bono effort to teach these skills to women who have been abused.
These days, Seagal professes admiration for Vladimir Putin and was granted Russian citizenship. But he was once a member of an Arpaio Posse — only after resigning from a similar volunteer position in Louisiana rather than face an internal affairs investigation into sexual harassment.
"[Seagal] was always pro-law enforcement, so he joined my volunteer Posse," Arpaio told Phoenix New Times. "I believe in other areas of the country he worked with law enforcement, too. So that’s how we built that relationship up."
"As far as the book, I haven’t read it," Arpaio added. "But they asked me if I would make a comment in the book."
Arpaio declined to elaborate on his allegations in the foreword of “powers known today as the Deep State" working to undermine President Trump. From Arpaio's preamble:
The activities of the "Deep State" operatives are a grave danger to our country because they are working against the effort to secure our borders. It is my belief that books such as this, bring a better understanding through fiction. This will help to bring an awakening which has been smothered by the entrenched leftist mindset that dominates the creative media in this country today.As for what he means by the "Deep State," Arpaio wouldn't say. “Well, there’s a lot of connotations on that," Arpaio told New Times. "I think when you’re dealing with the federal government in the U.S., there’s a lot of conspiracy theories, and all that. So once I get to read the book, I’ll get more insight.”
In spite of the novel's Trumpian tone, Morrissey emphasized that the book is meant to be entertaining. He said the novel's plot nor its protagonist should be seen as expressing any of his or Seagal's beliefs — with a huge caveat.
"No need to panic," Morrissey wrote in an email. "Unless some of the scenarios written into the book more than a year ago are actually coming to pass. Like the massacre on the Vegas Strip. The rogue FBI agent plotting to undo an election. The ongoing violence brought us by the drug cartels with some indication they may be in league with Islamic terrorists."
Likewise, the book features a winking epigraph that says the events and characters are fiction, but at the same time tells the reader to "always remember that the truth comes in many forms.”
And Arpaio writes in the foreword that the novel “is less than a hair’s breadth from the frightening truth of what is actually happening today in America.”
As for the former sheriff? He says he's working on a new book of his own. And, surprise! He's still making noise about a run for the Senate. Arpaio said that the clock is ticking and we can look forward to an announcement that could come as soon as next month.
"I’m pretty well leaning toward — haven’t decided yet — but I’m leaning toward running for Flake’s seat," Arpaio said. "So you may be hearing a lot more from that sheriff."
We'll have to wait to see if truth really is stranger than fiction.