What would you do if faced with injustice—if it meant putting your life, and the lives of your loved ones, in danger?  That’s the question author Richard Doster asks in his poignant, well-written historical novel, Crossing the Lines.

In his first book, Safe at Home, Doster gave us the story of Percy Jackson, an African-American baseball player who becomes the “white knight” of a minor league team.  The story is told through the eyes of journalist Jack Hall, a Caucasian sports journalist who becomes deeply involved with Walker’s struggle.

In Crossing the Lines, Doster once again revisits the Deep South of the ‘50s, taking us to Atlanta and then Montgomery, Alabama, where the fight for Civil Rights is raging.

Crossing the Lines picks up where Safe at Home left off.  After surviving a trauma that most could only imagine, Hall takes a job at the daily newspaper, the Atlanta Constitution, where the legendary Ralph McGill begins mentoring him.  A staunch proponent of Civil Rights, McGill sends Hall to Montgomery to cover a bus boycott. 

There, Hall meets the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders of the movement, including John Lewis.  Their interaction causes Hall to once again reflect on his own fears and prejudices.  Before long, the sports journalist has become a war correspondent.  Reporting from the front lines, he faces the same evil holding captive his fellow Americans.

During a recent interview with Crosswalk, Doster said that he writes about the Civil Rights because he believes it’s a time that we don’t want to revisit—but need to.

“I think it’s neglect and indifference,” he explained.  “I hope people will read this book and engage in conversation about where we’ve been and where we need to go and what we need to do to get there.”

Here, Doster shares his perspective, as a writer and as someone who witnessed the integration of schools in the South, post Brown v. Board of Education. …

Why do you write fiction?

I write fiction because I can.  At least I think I can!  If you have the ability to do it, then you have the responsibility to use that gift, and use it for the broadest possible good. Fiction is an incarnational art.  It brings things alive that we haven’t understood or seen, and it does so within the context of the flesh-and-blood world of what is real and concrete and here.  And it helps us make sense of that. 

I have a friend who doesn’t read any fiction except mine.  He says, “Why would I read something that isn’t true when I can read something that is?”  I point out that when Jesus is asked who is my neighbor, he told a story.  He told the story of the good Samaritan.  He didn’t write an article on propositional truth then give an illustration of that propositional truth.  He told a story.

Jesus told fiction in order to convey truth.  And the reason I write fiction is to convey truth.  My favorite quotes in Flannery O’Connery is the one about how fiction is a plunge into reality and a shock to the system.  I think those who have read my two books would see that I have written to plunge them into reality and shock them in their system.

What do you mean exactly?

I wanted to take people back to a time (the Civil Rights) that I have discovered that—even though it wasn’t that long ago—is largely forgotten.