Kamas, Utah. 2024. In the totalitarian dystopia that America has become after the Unionist Party’s rise to power, the American West contains vast Restricted Zones dotted with ghost towns, scattered military garrisons and corrective labor camps where the regime disposes of its real and suspected enemies. Kamas is one such camp.
On a frigid March night, a former businessman from Pittsburgh, Paul Wagner, arrives at a labor camp in Utah’s Kamas Valley, a dozen miles east of the deserted resort town of Park City, which prisoners are dismantling as part of a massive recycling project.
When Wagner arrives, he is unaware that his eleven-year-old daughter, Claire, has set off to Utah to find him after becoming separated from her mother at the Philadelphia Airport. By an odd quirk of fate, Claire has traveled on the same train that carried her father into internal exile.
Only after Wagner has renounced all hope of survival, cast his lot with anti-regime hard-liners and joined them in an unprecedented and suicidal revolt does he discover that Claire has become a servant in the home of the camp’s Deputy Warden. Wagner is torn between his devotion to family and loyalty to his fellow rebels until, on the eve of an armored assault intended to crush the revolt, he faces an agonizing choice between a hero’s death and a coward’s freedom.
In FORTY DAYS AT KAMAS, author Preston Fleming offers a stirring portrait of a man determined to survive under the bleakest of conditions and against formidable odds. Fleming’s gift for evocative prose brings the characters and events to life in a way that arouses emotional tension while also engaging the reader’s intellect with fundamental questions about the future of American society.
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The hardest part used to be sending out all those query letters to agents and getting “nice but no cigar” responses, if I got a response at all. Several years ago I self-published all my novels as eBooks. Now I wish I’d done it earlier. The satisfaction of reading my reader reviews on Amazon.com is worth the price alone. And I also enjoy the challenge of marketing my novels in the many innovative ways that independent authors have come to adopt.
2. What inspired you to write this book?
At the time I developed the idea for FORTY DAYS AT KAMAS, I was living in a place I loved and doing work I enjoyed, yet I felt a gnawing anxiety that troubled times were ahead. I had a persistent vision of a future America that looked a lot like some of the Third World countries where I had lived, particularly Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. Because of that vision, I wrote KAMAS to show what a failed America might look like so that people could see it coming.
As it happened, I had recently read Solzhenitsyn’s GULAG ARCHIPELAGO and came across the story of a prisoner revolt at a camp in Kengir, Kazakhstan, in 1953, about a year after Stalin’s death. Having traveled to Russia on business many times during the early ’90’s, my sense was that the way the Russian prisoners behaved in Stalinist times would not have been unlike how Americans might behave under similar circumstances today. So I took the basic premise of the Kengir story and brought it forward into a dystopic twenty-first century America with a focus on American themes.
3. How many hours per day do you spend writing?
As many as I can spare, considering that I have a day job, a family and a desire to remain healthy. On weekends, I try for at least six hours a day, particularly if I am writing a first draft.
4. Is this your first book?
KAMAS was the third of five, and I am currently halfway through the first draft of my sixth novel.
5. Name your top five favorite books.
A few that come to mind are THE GORMENGHAST TRILOGY by Mervyn Peake, one of the great English prose stylists of the 20th century. Another is UNDER THE VOLCANO, by Malcolm Lowry, one of the most original and insightful novels written I have come across in recent years. I admire all of Mika Waltari’s historical novels, although he is long out of fashion. THE EGYPTIAN and THE ROMAN come to mind. And I enjoy the novels of mid-20th century American novelists like John O’Hara, whose APPOINTMENT AT SAMARRA left a strong impression on me years ago.