Of Ashes and Dust is a riveting story about the American apocalypse from the perspective of a professor who, a combat vet, is a member of a militia in a small New England town. Thoughtful and eye-opening.
Dr. George Guthridge
Winner, Bram Stoker Award for Children of the Dusk
Author, The Kids from Nowhere – Amazon bestseller
Of Ashes and Dust by Ron Roman is a gripping tale of post-apocalyptic survival set against a backdrop of a world spiraling into chaos, disaster, and ultimate survival. Though taking place at the time of the Millennium, it's a novel dangerously close to these times.
Best-selling author of 29 books, including eight novels of horror and terror
OF ASHES AND DUST
After serving in the Vietnam War, WILL WATSON attends an Ivy League grad school, gets married, and becomes adjunct professor of the humanities. But he struggles to find a full-time job in academe. When his marriage collapses in early 1999, he struggles with wartime flashbacks. One, in particular, terrifies him: a nightmare of having a needle inserted behind his ear while lying half-conscious in an Army medic’s field tent. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he sees a UFO hovering outside, and he hears a voice say, “Project Sixty-Seven.”
He “accidentally” encounters fellow Vietnam War vet MARK MERCOTTI, now a computer salesman. Mercotti is haunted by the war as well. They become good friends, but Watson is suspicious of why and how Mercotti knows so much about him. Mercotti regales Watson with tales of UFOs, secret paranormal government projects, and cover-ups. Watson can’t get enough of it.
Watson’s hope is renewed when he is offered a tenure-track professorship at a college in Springvale, New Hampshire for the 1999 Fall Semester. There he meets his department’s attractive teaching assistant (TA): KIMIKO TANIMOTO, who is from Japan, and they become romantically involved despite the rules against it. Everything seems to be falling into place, but Watson’s relationship with Kimiko doesn’t sit well with Mercotti, who keeps trying to come between them.
Meanwhile, Watson and Mercotti get sucked into the increasingly secretive activities of the New Hampshire Liberty Militia. Militias are sprouting up everywhere as political and military tensions mount throughout the U.S. and the world. Watson’s illicit involvement with his TA arches eyebrows of college administrators and colleagues, as does his open involvement with the Liberty Militia. As the nation slides deeper into political turmoil and teeters on collapse, militias come under increasing State Police and FBI surveillance. Riots erupt in cities and emergency broadcasts populate the airwaves.
As the government tightens the noose around Second Amendment rights, the militia begins to cache weapons and ammo. One of Watson’s militia comrades, LEROY MORTON, joins the militia co-founder in this effort. Unfortunately, the co-founder has become a paid informant for the State Police and FBI and turns over Morton. He is interrogated at State Police headquarters, then secretly tortured and killed, though it is made to look like suicide by hanging. But Watson divines the truth and is hell-bent on revenge. In a calculated rage, Watson murders the deputy state trooper who killed Morton, garroting the officer with a unique knot he learned from American Army commandos in Vietnam.
Mercotti is called in by the police for his known experience in forensics and immediately recognizes the signature Prusik knots Watson used, but reveals nothing to the officers. He does, however, tell Watson he knows he’s the killer. Watson does not confess, though he knows he’s trapped; all he can do is trust Mercotti will not expose him. And thankfully, Mercotti doesn’t. Instead, he continues to equip the survivalist shelter he has built for Watson and Kimiko in Watson’s apartment basement as the international scene worsens.
Watson learns Kimiko is pregnant with his child and he feels guilty over his indifference. He is torn between adjusting to the idea of becoming a father and fleeing from wartime ghosts. He buries himself in teaching and militia duties to anesthetize himself. He teeters on the edge—as does the world.
Watson fears he will become a suspect in the deputy trooper’s killing, causing him to distance himself more from Mercotti. Kimiko senses something has come between the two men and realizes Watson is holding something back from her as well. Watson tries to deflect suspicion and gets even more enmeshed in the militia, which has now split into two factions over how to confront exploding lawlessness on Springvale’s streets. Watson witnesses an aborted gang rape, does nothing, and agonizes over his reluctance to intervene. The governor declares martial law and accuses Washington of downplaying the crisis. Kimiko laments not being able to help her family in Japan, while Watson feels near-helpless to provide for and protect the baby.
Police presence on the streets diminishes; they are overwhelmed. Watson witnesses an assault on the town mascot, a white swan; a man with a machete is about to decapitate it. This time Watson steps in, incapacitating the perpetrator and drags him inside a shed. There, Watson has a spiritual epiphany as he and the swan stare at each other. He dispatches the thug with a hidden martial arts device he always carries.
The State Police regional commander calls Watson to request he come in for questioning concerning his deputy trooper’s murder. Also, he has uncovered the fact that Mercotti was thrown out of the Army for homosexuality and has been involved in military black ops so secret he can’t find out anything about it.
Before Watson has to report in, Mercotti calls to finally confess the truth. During the war he had Watson placed in an ultra-secret CIA-initiated project to mold a new super soldier, Project Sixty-Seven. It comprised administering mind-altering drugs (psychotropics) with needles and enhanced electromagnetic frequencies to the brain via cranial implants, all while the subject lay unconscious. These special implants were designed after similar ones found in extraterrestrial abductees. Now Watson knew why the VA had suddenly stopped treating his unexplained headaches.
Mercotti is guilt-ridden and implores Watson’s forgiveness, admitting Watson had been recommended for the Medal of Honor while in combat, yet it had been quashed because of Project Sixty-Seven. Also, his contact with Mercotti was being monitored by the Pentagon and CIA until Mercotti had the implant deactivated. Watson also learns that his hazy memory of the UFO is real—and it is believed he had some kind of contact with it. The government has known extraterrestrials have been monitoring humans for a long time. The extraterrestrials have been attempting to hybridize a cross-fertilized alien species—half human—half other--with the intention of inheriting the Earth and creating a new civilization after Armageddon—which is now underway. Mercotti begs him to go to the sealed shelter he has built, saying, “That we’re human is an illusion.”
Watson inquires as to the ultimate essence of who and what humans are. To which Mercotti replies that humans are but “OF ASHES AND DUST....”
Order the book in the fall of 2022 and be witness to the explosive ending!
What is your book about?
What if Y2K happened but not as we know it? OF ASHES AND DUST is an 88,500-word thriller of three people who struggle for survival in a small New Hampshire town as the world spins into chaos, not completely realizing that each harbors secrets that will eventually pit them against one another. Two government classified secret projects--the USAF's revelation about UFOs and Project Sixty-Seven--come together at the story's explosive conclusion.
The narrative unfolds at the time of the Millennium in a parallel universe; it's an alternate history unraveling in a different dimensional setting, manifesting itself in an interchangeable timeline. It's the ultimate Alternate Truth.
Who do you feel would enjoy this story?
Anybody with a solid interest in suspense and mystery, especially those inclined to lean toward a plot bubbling with a military and apocalyptic undercurrent, would enjoy this tale of mesmerizing and gut-retching intrigue: PTSD, betrayal of fellow militia comrades, combat veteran alienation, government conspiracy, secret vigilantism—Of Ashes and Dust has it all.
How do you describe the genre and why?
The genre is thriller; the subgenre is alternate-history dystopia. Why? The plot revolves around happenings during the Millennium, happenings that instill fear and dehumanize the story’s characters forcing them to lash out in ways that in ordinary times they never would.
Where did you draw inspiration for your story?
The storyline came to me from various world events unfolding at the time of the Millennium: the Y2K crisis, where humans woke up to the reality that perhaps we’re not in total control of our destiny, computers and runaway technology could someday overtake the world, hurtle us pell-mell into doomsday and ultimate annihilation, all the while leading to more alienation and angst everywhere. Also, I always had a deeply ingrained interest in UFOs, and the US Government’s conspiracy of silence about them, though this is only obliquely interwoven into the fabric of the story arc,
Who is your favorite character and why?
Prof. Watson, protagonist, is my favorite character. He is a composite of so many of the war vets I counsel and work with: seemingly sane, socially adjusted on the surface, lost and confused on a more heartfelt subterranean (“deeper”) level.
What do you feel is unique about the story?
While perhaps not everything is “unique” within the story confines, I think readers will discover a “unique” story blending in the way the major characters interact with one another, leading them to play off each other’s weaknesses, yet also strengths as well, often resulting in unpredictable and surprising, even tragic, outcomes.
What is unique about your writing style?
My writing style? I wouldn’t go so far as to specify “unique” inasmuch as it could be described as somewhat unorthodox by contemporary popular standards. To wit: I’m fond, perhaps overly so, of still using semi-colons; this has a tendency to slow down reading, I know, and perhaps I exhibit an overreliance on adjectives. This, too, is thought to be outdated; however, that’s part and parcel of my style. I do show a strong flair for sensory descriptions of setting, also. All told, you could say this pushes the “style” toward that exhibited in literary fiction. Let the reader decide. On the negative side, some readers may feel there needs to be more dialogue. Can’t please everybody, eh?
How long did it take you to write this book?
Too damned long!
In terms of your writing process, did you plan out your story and outline or did you let the story come to you as you wrote?
Definitely let the story arc evolve as I wrote.
If you were to draw a comparison of your book to two well-known movies, what would you say your book is a cross between?
I Am Legend (2007) and The Book of Eli (2010)
What is next in terms of your writing career?
Finish the sequel to Of Ashes and Dust, tentatively to be titled Dust Be My Destiny.