I’ve always thought of the characters in CommWealth as an ensemble cast in a movie, where accomplished actors divide the plot between them and no one actor has the lead role. I didn’t intend this approach from the beginning, but as the novel progressed I saw that distributing the focus between six major actors, each with reasons for hiding his or her deepest self, made the story flow easily. The ensemble concept is apt for this novel, in which these characters form the core of the Forensic Squad theatrical troupe. The Cup of Fog coffeehouse in the fictional coastal Texas town of Linstar is their home base and forms the stage upon which the forces of the novel collide.
The insanity of the six-month-old CommWealth system, in which all private property has been outlawed and citizens are required to share everything, finds its expression in our lead-off batter Allan Larson as he glibly procures electronics and a Porsche in the first scene. Allan is a narcissistic playwright and actor who forces Forensic Squad to stage his mediocre play Cabaret. Supercilious, clueless, and manipulative, he’s claimed a mansion in Linstar Heights, surrounding himself with expensive cars and gadgets. He both needs friends and is quick to betray them. As a writer he thinks he should express his buried truths, but he’s too fearful to find out what they really are, and when crime tempts him, he sees it as just another avenue to fulfilling his needs. He considers himself too creative to be bothered making backup copies of his writing, and it’s only by luck that he gets a digital copy of Cabaret back after his laptop is claimed by another citizen along with all his wide screen TVs, sports cars, and motorcycles. Continue reading →