When people who believe in God talk about looking for evidence of his mysterious hand in the events of life they will sometimes say, “No such thing as coincidences.” In Larry Miles’s novel Second Trumpet, a Christian thriller about a terrorist attack on Washington, D.C., coincidence–or is it?—plays a pivotal role and only the reader, none of the characters, gets in on God’s view of what happens
The novel is Miles’s second book and it draws on Crozet settings—the vacant Acme Visible Records plant, Mint Springs Valley Park, Starr Hill Brewery—not far from his home in Western Ridge to be the scenes of action. The descriptions of most of these spots might only be suspected by Crozet locals for whom they will provoke a familiar feel. Other descriptions are more explicit. But the geography of the story has a palpable Crozet locus.
Miles’s day job is as an area sales manager for Abbott Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company. His turf is central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. He supervises a sales force of seven.
Miles enlisted in the army when he graduated from high school at age 18 and served in the Rangers. He earned the rare distinction of being an enlisted man chosen to go to West Point. After he received his commission in 1992, he rose to the rank of captain, first in the Rangers and later in the 3rd Infantry Division. His wife Michelle thought his career would be in the military but he announced one day that he thought it was time to get out while he was still enjoying it. He wanted to get out, he said, because duty was constantly separating him from Michelle. He didn’t think it was good for a marriage.
He took a job as a manager in a factory that made jet engine parts near where they were living in Columbus, Georgia. That experience inspired his first novel, a 140,000-word story that a literary agent took on, but so far no publisher has accepted the book. Miles had written about 15 short stories while in college and a few magazine articles. “I got one published,” he said cheerfully.
“My Dad said my first book was ‘Southern literature.’ It’s semi-Tom Wolfe style, similar to A Man in Full, and it has an interracial couple in it.”
Miles was not raised as a churchgoer. But after his parents divorced while he was still a boy, his father was saved. “In the army I felt an attraction to go to church. At a Baptist church I heard a Navy SEAL who had been wounded in Vietnam and later became an evangelist.” Miles was saved on that occasion.
Michelle was raised on farm in Galax and the couple wanted to get settled in Virginia. Through army friends who had gotten civilian jobs, he learned of an Abbott sales job in central Virginia and when he landed it they moved to Crozet.
“It was a blessing,” Miles said. For the first five years he was constantly on the road, calling on doctors and hospitals. While he was driving, he would listen to the Calvary Satellite Network, which is no longer heard in the area. “I called it the rolling seminary. I listened and learned a lot.” He bought a Bible he had heard President George W. Bush mention that divided the whole text into 365 daily readings. Eventually he felt confident enough to teach adult Sunday school.
The family attends First Baptist Church on Park Street in Charlottesville. They had been driving around looking for Baptist church when they first moved into the area and, feeling a little frustrated at not finding any, pulled into a parking lot to turn around and discovered they were in the church’s lot. They’ve been happy there for eight years and have not seriously investigated Crozet-area churches.
“I think of myself as Christian. I feel comfortable with any denomination. I try to line up my views with what’s in the Bible,” Miles said. He went to a Catholic high school and he has subsequently developed an extensive and accurate knowledge of Bible verses. “People worship differently, I found out.” Politically speaking, he held hard core law and order views to start out, he said, and he remains generally conservative, but life has taught him that a lot of what he thought ought to work when he was younger turns out not to.
His sister is a public prosecutor in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and one day she suggested that he sit in on a trial involving a gang murder in which the victim had been killed by hammer blows to the head. The accused was “a 17-year-old boy. I felt compassion for him and I thought someone needed tell him about Jesus and how his life is not really over.” Michelle told him God seemed to want him in a prison ministry. Miles became involved in The Bridge, a prison ministry at the Charlottesville/Albemarle/Nelson Regional Jail. The Bridge operates a camp in Buckingham County where released offenders spend their first 12 months and two houses in Charlottesville where those who have learned self-discipline can stay while they complete their reintegration into society, Miles said. “It’s mainly an outreach ministry to people with drug and alcohol addictions,” he explained. The program gave Miles his first real exposure to Black spirituality, which plays a decisive role in the novel. The jail also figures prominently as a setting in the life of a major character, Colin Calhoun, a land developer who is arrested for tax evasion.
Miles was present for a mysterious healing of a young girl at U.Va. hospital in the summer of 2005 and about that time also heard a prophecy that New Orleans would be flooded, as it was by Hurricane Katrina a couple of months later. He went back to that prophecy and discovered that it also included a description of Washington, D.C., in flames. An image of the Capitol burning is on the cover of the novel. “Some people think this prophet is a quack,” Miles admitted.
One day when he was sitting in a parking lot after making a call at a doctor’s office in Dayton, the inspiration for the story came to him. “God gave me the idea for the Second Trumpet, the whole plot, in about 45 minutes. I knew I needed to write it.”
Prophecy pops up in the story, which is launched by recurring nightmares the protagonist, Sam Morgan, experiences. The hinge of action is predicated on the rumor that the Soviets hid suitcase nuclear bombs in the U.S. during the Cold War. What if a terrorist could get possession of one? Black pastors play decisive roles in facing the danger and a black jail inmate, Jamal, possesses an advanced spiritual awareness. He reappears unexpectedly as the story’s final pages return to Crozet.
“No character is modeled on a real person,” Miles explained. “I write from my experience, but it’s not me.” In the story, Sam Morgan has two daughters, just as Miles does, and Morgan likes coffee a lot, as Miles does. But that’s as much as they have in common, Miles said.
Tate Publishing and Enterprises, a Christian publishing house in Oklahoma, picked up the book and issued it in June. Miles liked Tate’s emphasis on marketing and their willingness to give him authority over the story. They wondered about Jamal’s speaking with a dialect, but when Miles insisted on it, Tate’s editors demurred. “They found a lot of mistakes for me and they designed the cover.” Miles has gotten one check from them, for less than a dollar, but at least he can say he got paid something, he joked. The deal says Miles is not eligible for royalties until 5,000 copies have been sold. The book is available at the major book retailers and from Amazon.com. Miles has had book signing events arranged for him, but he said he thinks those will be worth the effort only if the audience is mainly Christian.
He is nearly done with his third novel, which he called “Christian Tom Clancey on the international level.”
“I would like people to take a bigger view of God than they may have,” he said. “We need to invite him to be part of our lives every day, not just Sunday mornings.”