By David Higginbotham
This sounds like an April fools gag, but it isn’t. It is May. After agreeing to sponsor Santa Barbara City College’s Annual Scramble, a golf tournament that raises funds for the college’s athletic department, Maloney asked if he could set up a table and sign a few books. An author who is helping to sponsor a college fundraiser wants to sign some books? Seems like business as usual. And it was, until the college judged the book Breakfast Ball by its cover. Someone at the college got cold feet, and Maloney’s book was banned from the tournament.
Though I don’t agree with any violations of the Second Amendment, I would not be surprised if a California college decided to turn down a request to carry a concealed handgun at the golf tournament. I could even imagine a public college opposing the contents of a hypothetical book. Yet this whole debacle would seem to have very little to do with the right to bear actual arms, or the contents of Breakfast Ball. Instead it has more to do with the First Amendment. Breakfast Ball is a murder mystery, and there is a murder in the book, so the cover included an image of a gun. Some left-handed character is hiding under the green and has managed to stick his hand, and what appears to be a Beretta M9, out of the 18th hole. It is an absurd, almost comical image coupled with a laughable administrative decision.
Before the tournament began, a representative from the college’s athletic department called and told Maloney that he couldn’t sell or sign copies of his book at the golf tournament. The murder part, that was fine with the SBCC—it was the gun on the cover. That was simply too dangerous. Impressionable golfers might get the wrong idea.
Breakfast Ball is primarily about golf. Maloney is an acknowledged expert in mortgage origination, too, so there’s a healthy dose of the housing collapse thrown in as well. Write what you know, as the old cliché goes.
Maloney knows housing, and he knows golf, but he isn’t as dialed in to gun culture as this controversy might suggest. In fact, when I asked him about the gun on the cover, he replied, “It is a standard pistol (not a Colt or Ak-47 or anything exotic). But that’s all I know.”
I find this last part to be ironic. If I get caught up in a political debate about guns, I can hold my own. As someone who’s taught numerous writing classes (I was a college writing professor in a previous professional life), I advised Maloney that little details like these matter. I doubt there’s a single flaw in any of Maloney’s references to golf or mortgage finance, yet when he couldn’t tell me the make of the pistol on the cover of his book, I knew he needed our help.
Breakfast Ball is already in print. Maloney’s second in the series, Death at the High End (which has a knife and a gun on its cover), has just been released. It is too late to overhaul any gun-related factual errors in either of those, but this is a series, and there are two more books in the works. Maloney’s absurd experience with SBCC has made him one-of-us. Let’s help him make sure his characters’ use of firearms is correct. Click here for part two in this series, Novelist Needs Advice on Gun Details, Care to Help?.
If you like murder mysteries that are saturated in golf and housing chaos, Maloney’s books should speak to you. Show him some support. http://jamaloney.com/books.html