And so I put Charlie in that same position.  Here’s a guy who basically just goes to bed one night, living this ordinary life.  He has his church and he has his school and he has his dreams and ambitions and he has his girlfriend.  And he wakes up captured in a cinderblock room.  Everything he has is gone.  And he has to do some of the same things.  He has to ask himself some of the same questions.  Am I a good guy or a bad guy?  Why do I believe these things?  When people told me such and such about God or such and such about America were they lying or were they telling the truth?  Who do I trust?  Who do I believe?  So, it’s kind of in thriller form a reflection of the things I’ve gone through in my own life. 

Speaking of “thrills,” in one chapter, there is a karate demonstration that Charlie must do in front of an assembly at his high school.  The moves are very intricately described.  So does that mean you know a little bit about karate?

Well, I am in fact a black belt.  I love it, and it’s a wonderful discipline.  And obviously when I put this innocent kid into the depths of being chased by terrorists, I had to give him something.  He’s basically unarmed, he’s alone and he has no one he can turn to for help.  And so I had to give him that skill, and I was able to draw on my own experience.  Karate does intersect with a lot of faith wisdom.  It’s a way that you can kind of put faith into motion.  It’s almost a kind of moving prayer, and so it’s very much in keeping with the values of the book. 

There’s another chapter that has such intricate description that I also have to ask how you wrote it.  It’s when Charlie has crawled through a sink hole and gone underground to hide from his captors.  I felt like I was right there with him while reading.  How did you research for this?

Unfortunately, I am very curious and I’m always doing different things.  I’ve been spelunking about four times, and I have to tell you I didn’t like it very much.  But I kept going back, thinking maybe I was doing it wrong.  But, in fact, it’s just something I find really, really difficult to do.  And I was in close, underground caves where the walls were pressing in on my shoulders very tightly.  There’s no light.  You can literally hold your finger an inch from your face, and you cannot see it.  It’s unbelievable.  And it’s always struck me as a kind of basic fear, so it fit in very well with this kid who’s been stripped down to the basics. 

Besides dark places, what are some of the most important themes that readers will encounter in The Last Thing I Remember?

For one thing, there’s the element of patriotism.  It’s different than some of the patriotism you may have heard of, because I don’t believe in jingoism.  I don’t believe in loving your country simply because you happen to be standing on the ground beneath your feet.  I lived overseas for seven years.  I lived in England which is a wonderful, free country, and when I came back I had been transformed into a patriot.  And the reason had to do with this idea of liberty—individual liberty. 

Liberty so informs, I think, the biblical worldview that it’s almost never mentioned.  It’s just assumed.  It comes up in moments when the Hebrews come to Samuel and ask for a king, and it’s almost a tragic moment in the Old Testament because they’re leaving behind the world in which each man is simply governed by God.  And in America we’ve kind of come back to that idea that each man can be governed by God.  And it’s so important because only in liberty can you find the things that matter.  You can’t be forced to have faith.  You can’t be forced to love your neighbor.  You can’t be forced to love God.  Those are things you have to choose, and they have no meaning unless you choose them.  And so Charlie’s patriotism, which is very deep, is a patriotism for liberty.  It’s a love of liberty.  And that’s one theme that’s really important.  The people who he fights and who are after him have a range of philosophies, but all of them negate liberty.  And so that is what Charlie’s looking for and what he’s trying to recover—not just his own liberty, but the ideas that lead him to liberty; they’re constantly being challenged.