Though I’ve never met Jeff Schnader, we are both fellow alumni of Columbia University and fellow authors whose work has been excerpted at The Write Launch, where I learned he had set a novel on campus during the riotous years of Vietnam War protests. I remember those days well, though not as well as him. Of course, I had to seek him out. That wasn’t hard, as he has a website that runs down his career as a physician, journal editor, published science writer, and now fiction writer, and found him welcoming. Aside from being a thoracic surgeon, I have a lot in common with Jeff (besides first names), and now we have both published subversive novels. So, let’s hear it for:
A Novel by Jeff Schnader
Set on the tumultuous 1972 Columbia University campus during the time of nationwide demonstrations against the Vietnam War, The Serpent Papers is the first book of any kind written about the protests and is based on the real-life experiences of a participant and witness to the events of the era.
It is the story of J-Bee, raised in the violent world of the 1960s, who chooses to matriculate at Columbia in 1971 rather than join the military. A Southern boy who comes from a conservative Catholic military family, J-Bee exemplifies the struggles of his generation and the challenges they faced balancing patriotism with a rejection of the war.
When he arrives at university, he is immediately thrust into the anti-war atmosphere and becomes ideologically trapped between supporting his best friend, who is fighting overseas in Vietnam, and the anti-war cauldron of culture and protest at Columbia. When the moral quandary of an escalating war comes to a head and with his own conscience and the conscience of the nation on his mind, ratcheting tensions and bullhorns incite students to protest, and pro-war and anti-war factions collide in campus riots forcing J-Bee to make the decision that defines his life.
Abruptly, something deep inside me—a ragged hairy beast locked away, chained for a lifetime to dungeon walls—was roaring, his sound percolating from the depths of my subconscious into my waking state. I felt him shake off his chains, stretch his arms and legs and burst forth from his shadowy cell. Stupefied, I felt life renewed. As cars and people danced down the street, I sat spellbound at the spectacular parade, consumed by love. I had magic within me, and though the people I saw were grotesque—striped, angular, dogfaced—they were magnificent, and I was the gifted witness. Enraptured, I feasted on beauty, grateful to be alive in such a vibrant, colorful painting. So abject yet so privileged amongst all living things, I sobbed to be gifted such sensual wonder.
Read two chapters at The Write Launch:
- The Serpent Papers: The Serpent of the Apocalypse
- The Serpent Papers: Nietzsche, Supermen & the Death of God
“SCHNADER’S WRITING IS MULTI-SENSUAL & POWERFUL” — NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS
“Worlds collide at the climax to a tale rendered with intensity of purpose, vigor of prose, authenticity of time and place, and depth of characterization. Schnader engages the reader with telling detail and emotional impact.” — RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH
For more information and reviews, visit https://jschnaderauthor.com
Find an in-depth interview with Jeff at BooksCover2Cover.