The Story Behind The Fringe Candidate & An Excerpt – W Bradford Swift

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Prior to 2016, if someone asked me what my political leanings were, I probably would have said, “I’m an inactive independent and other than voting for major elections, I don’t get involved with politics. It’s just not my thing.” Then the 2016 election happened and I was shocked by the results as were many people. And still my own view was, “But what can I do about it? I’m really not interested in politics.”

Yet, I found myself watching more news shows and becoming increasingly curious and upset by what I read and heard. I began to realize how much political decisions can affect our lives and shape our future, not only for me but for my daughter and for my future grandkids.

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Image: Wikipedia

So, I continued to watch and listen as authors tend to do, and what I saw and heard did not excite me in the least. I continued to be cynical and resigned by it all…until this past year when a woman I had interviewed in 1997 as a freelance writer threw her name in the hat to become the next President of the United States. What? Really? How can that be? It was true. Marianne Williamson, author and activist became the twenty-second Democratic candidate running for President. Interesting, I thought, and that was about it. No big deal, or at least that was my conclusion at the time. After all, I wasn’t really into politics. Just not my thing. Oh boy, was I ever wrong.

Enter MyMu, my name for the creative energy and higher power guidance that flows through us all. MyMu presented me with a story idea that quickly became an ‘offer I couldn’t refuse,’ at least not if I wanted to get a decent night sleep. Oh, I resisted it mightily at first.

“I don’t write political fiction,” I told MyMu. “I’m strictly a science fiction or fantasy author.”

“But this is science fiction,” she answered back. “Rather than alternate history, think of it as alternate future.”

I had to admit that caught my attention, but I still wasn’t convinced. MyMu then pointed out that I’d made a commitment to write more visionary fiction in 2020, “And this would certainly be the most visionary fiction story you’ve written yet.”

But once again I stubbornly refused even though I felt myself weakening. After all, I was in the midst of writing book two of the Cosmic Conspiracy series, Rabble.

“And that’s visionary fiction too,” I countered.

Still, MyMu wouldn’t leave me alone. Then she started visiting me late at night. I’ve joked a couple of times that MyMu showed me that sleep deprivation can be a powerful tool of persuasion, but that’s not what really happened during those late night visits. It was during one of those sleepless nights that, with MyMu’s help, I realized my resignation, cynicism, and apathy wasn’t serving anyone and especially not me.

You see, this is one thing I know about myself: I’m wired up to make a difference in the world. An integral part of my life purpose is to be of service, and these negative emotions were simply getting in the way of that commitment. So I started to formulated a plan. What if I could replace those negative feelings with some positive one, like inspiration, hope, and a new possibility. That’s when I finally gave in and accepted the offer to write the story, if for no other reason than to maintain some semblance of sanity.

Now, the funny thing is that once I started, I found it was some of the most fun I’d had in years as a writer. The scenes all just came together and the characters took on lives of their own. Thankfully, MyMu stayed with me each step along the way. I felt her guidance throughout the process.

An Excerpt from The Fringe Candidate

Part One – The Gathering Storm

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor and an appreciation of irony? Why else would She have arranged for the Saturday before Election Day 2020 to be Halloween? Of all elections, why this one?

It was a warm, sunny day in Costa Mesa, California. The candidate had returned home for one final opportunity to share her vision for Amberica in a place she knew would get it. She hoped and prayed it wasn’t the only such place out of the hundreds she’d visited over the past sixteen months.

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The venue for her appearance had been changed at the last minute when the facilities supervisor had called to notify her campaign manager that there’d been a terrible mixup in the scheduling. The indoor arena had already been booked, and no, they could not change it. So sorry. The campaign manager ranted and raved but with no results except to become increasingly upset.

“Have you tried the Pacific Amphitheatre?” the woman on the other end of the line had asked. “They may be able to accommodate you.”

“How many will it seat?” the fuming manager asked.

“Oh, supposedly around eight thousand, but you might get them to open up the hillside, in which case you’re probably talking about something like eighteen thousand.”

“But we’re expecting closer to thirty thousand.”

“Yeah, well, you might ask some of them to stay home,” the woman had replied, then hung up.

So, there we were on Halloween afternoon with a still irate campaign manager, a candidate who was far calmer than she had any right to be, and me sweating through my shirt and jacket, wishing I had a drink to fortify my nerves. And suddenly, it was time to go on. Our little clan of family and supporters came together for one last group hug, then we walked on stage to be greeted by an over capacity crowd who cheered uproariously and waved their banners and signs in the air.

As their candidate walked out, the cheering turned into laughter as they recognized that she was dressed in a deep purple witch’s outfit, complete with pointed hat, and absolutely no make-up of any kind. The order had gone out from the Secret Service that masks of any type were banned, including any facial makeup.

The candidate stood before the adoring crowd of well wishers, waving and smiling for several minutes as the cheering continued. Finally, the crowd settled down enough for her to speak.

“I’ve been called many things during this campaign, including a witch and a bitch, so I figured it was time for me to embrace them both.”

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The crowd roared and cheered for another few minutes. And that’s when it happened. One lone crack. I watched the candidate stumble back, as if in slow motion, momentarily losing her balance. I saw her campaign manager, dressed in one of her husband’s football jerseys with his number 31 on the front and back, step in front to catch her, then heard two more rifle cracks ring out. I saw two crimson circles, one in the center of the 3 and the second a few inches to its right, blossom on this lovely lady’s body as both women fell into a heap of humanity. Several people screamed and I heard a man’s voice yell, “The candidate has been shot!”, and then realized it was me yelling. Pandemonium broke out as people realized what had happened and they began to run, some towards the stage, many more away.

I remember that day as clearly as though it were yesterday, not years ago, for I stood on that platform. While I’ve done many things in my life of which I am not proud, I can say I stood my ground on that fateful day that changed the course of history for this country of Amberica forever. I even played a small role in helping the authorities locate the shooter by pointing to the glint of sunlight from the scope of the rifle. This is my account of everything that led up to that day when it looked like, for one excruciating moment, fear and hate had won over love.

It Starts

Will someone with some smarts buy the Fake News and failing New York Times and either run it right or shut it down? Tweet by President Oscar Wellian

“What? Are you kidding me?“ I asked as I put down my coffee mug and picked up the sheet of paper outlining possible topics to cover in the next twenty-four hours. “Another Democratic candidate running for president? How many does that make?”

“It’s twenty-five by my count,” Cynthia, my all too perky for a Monday morning assistant replied. “Take a closer look.”

I did as instructed and read on. “Angeline Tarkington?” I asked, realizing I’m filled with nothing but questions this morning. “Really? I thought she had died.”

“No, pretty sure she’s alive,” Cynthia replied. “If she’s dead this is a much bigger story than first reported. Take a look at this editorial written in the New York Times this morning.” She tossed a copy of the paper on my desk almost knocking over my cup of coffee.

“Hey watch it. Don’t mess with my java .” I snatched up the paper and read the headline:

Angeline Tarkington Knows How to Defeat President Wellian

“What? You’re not serious! Is this an infomercial?” I read to the bottom and recognized the byline. No, it was legit. I read it again more carefully. “Are you kidding me?”

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Little did I know at the time how often I would end up asking that rhetorical question over the next sixteen months. Some entrepreneurial kid eventually put it on a T-shirt and sold thousands of them. Then the Angeline Tarkington campaign picked it up and sold millions. Long before the T-shirts appeared, I started using it as my sign-off followed with “ Watch this space,” which I borrowed from my good friend and colleague, Roberta Meadows, who claims I stole it not borrowed it. That part never made it to the T-shirt even though Roberto privately threatened to sue me for copyright infringement. Yep, those were the days when two old friends could kid around like that…before the shit hit the fan.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. That was the first I heard that Angeline Tarkington had joined the other two dozen candidates to run against President Oscar Wellian, but that wasn’t the first time our paths had crossed. A few days after the New York Times piece caused enough of a ping to show up on my cynical radar screen, I remembered I had interviewed her during the early days of my journalism career. I had even sold a Q&A article to a regional magazine, The Sun & Moon. Someone at MSNBC saw it, loved it, and hired me.

Okay, that last statement isn’t true. MSNBC didn’t even exist back then and wouldn’t for another ten years. By then, I’d moved on from scrounging around as a freelancer selling whatever I could to put food on the table to working for the Washington Post and later the very same New York Times which is why I knew the editorial was legit. Melissa Guffy, who wrote the piece, had been one of the women I’d slept with when Dottie and I went through one of our rough periods. While she wasn’t all that good in the sack, she knew how to write a kickass editorial. Sorry, I digress again.

I wasn’t at The Times very long before the new fledgling cable news channel came calling. They had noticed that, not only could I connect words into intelligible sentences and passable paragraphs, but I also wasn’t as much of an introvert as most other writers. In fact, I had a loud mouth and, in my finer moments, managed to speak truth to power. The execs at MSNBC didn’t care about that latter point, but they loved the idea of a loudmouth political pundit heading up one of their talk shows.

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So, they hired me. Over the next fifteen years, they moved me from one time slot to another. Those were the days when I was part of a dedicated and committed journalistic team where integrity mattered. I collected a lot of favors by never refusing an assignment and filling in whenever someone needed their slot covered.

I will not lie. It was tough, tough on me and even tougher on my marriage. After all that hard work and dedication the SOB exec who hired me eventually fired me. The network told the public I was on an extended leave of absence for health reasons, and that was partly true. I spent a luxurious six weeks in a private and exclusive rehab center drying out. Unfortunately, the rehab didn’t stick, but at least it lasted long enough for me to talk another of the execs into giving me back my show. During my stay in rehab, I collected a lot of great one-liners which I started sprinkling into my shows and my ratings slowly came back to an acceptable level, and I learned a lot from my time in rehab. Most importantly, I learned to keep my excess drinking private and mostly on the weekends.


A couple of weeks after Angeline Tarkington entered the race and the New York Times editorial made a splash, Angeline’s name came up again. Well, it wasn’t really Angeline who I became aware of first, but her buxom campaign manager. My god, what a figure! The thing that caught my attention most, besides her gorgeous breasts, was what a smart and savvy political operative she was. She knew how to use all her tools and talents to benefit her candidate of choice.

I was standing in the newsroom discussing with Edward Stenson, my producer, which of the twenty-five candidates we should invite on the show next, when I glanced up to see this stately blonde, wearing a brilliant emerald green dress, fixing to leave. I leaned over closer to Ed, who hardly came up to my shoulder and was almost as wide as he was tall.

“Who the hell is that?” I asked, nodding in the woman’s direction.

“Oh, that’s Stella Romaine, Angeline Tarkington’s campaign manager. Quite a looker, isn’t she?”

“I’ll say,” I replied, trying unsuccessfully to take my eyes off her and place them back on the desk full of the candidates’ pictures. “Angeline Tarkington? She’s the self-help author that announced she was running a couple weeks ago, right?”

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“Yep, that’s the one.” Edward tapped one of the photos — an attractive woman who looked to be in her late forties, though I found out later she was just about to celebrate her fifty-ninth birthday. “That’s her. We have her tagged simply as ‘Author.’ We weren’t sure what else to use. She’s kind of a New Age evangelist, though she specifically asked that we not use ‘New Age’ or ‘evangelist.’ So, it’s ‘Author’ for now.” He tossed her photo to one side and picked up the photo of a gray-haired man who had already started making the rounds on the talk show circuit.

“I think we better go ahead and book Senator O’Hare if we can get him. What do you say?”

I shook my head and retrieved Angeline’s photo from the pile. “No, let’s color outside the lines on this one. How about giving her office a call? On second thought, never mind. I’ll take care of the matter myself.” Still holding Angeline’s picture in my hand, I walked over to Stella and introduced myself.

End of excerpt

The Fringe Candidate is now on sale on Amazon at:

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3 thoughts on “The Story Behind The Fringe Candidate & An Excerpt – W Bradford Swift

  1. Victor Smith says:

    Heard you read the first chapter at your launch, Brad. Intriguing. I once heard Marianne Williamson live at Unity in NYC; impressive although I could not figure out why she threw her hat in that ring! Will be curious how the book goes as it is an obvious parallel to current events with some options (like the Marianne candidate staying in until the end) already ruled out. Keep us posted on that. Best wishes with it.

  2. Robin Gregory says:

    Oh, those pesky little creative nudgers! Like wedgies, they’ll persist till you can no longer endure them. Very interesting post, Brad. I have to wonder if Marianne Williamson doesn’t have her own brand of nudgers, and is in the race for reasons we don’t understand. Perhaps, she’s merely opening the way for someone else in the next elections, who knows? I have friends in Asheville and Chapel Hill, NC. Beautiful state. Thank you for sharing your excerpt. Look forward to reading your book! All the best, Robin


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