The Great Disruption

Photo of me looking authorial

My novel, The Great Disruption, is now available from Amazon. You can find it on Amazon by Searching on the title, or my full name, Steven Kenneth Smith. Or you could try the link below:

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, current events caught up with the story before the book saw print. The novel is about the aftermath of a world-wide plague, one far more deadly than the corona-virus pandemic. It was universally fatal to everyone who contracted it, though it had no symptoms for five or six days. During the asymptomatic phase the virus was transmissible. People who gathered in crowds spread the virus among themselves, and later died.

Not to make myself sound like Nostradamus, but gee, that sounds similar to the corona-virus currently afflicting us, except for it being universally fatal. Well, I started writing The Great Disruption in 2015, and the first draft was complete around 2018. Laurie Garrett, in her non-fiction book, The Coming Plague, described this sort of behavior for pandemics back in 1994. The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 behaved in much the same way. In my novel I didn’t invent those characteristics as convenient plot devices. They’re well known as the way diseases can act.

In my novel the pandemic has burned itself out by the start of the story, though the characters are still wary of it. “My” plague does have convenient-for-the-plot characteristics in that there are no animal reservoirs for the virus, and it cannot survive outside a living body for more that a few minutes. Once the number of hosts becomes too small, the virus becomes extinct.

Here’s an excerpt from the novel. In it, several members of a community of survivors are cleaning up the house where a traveler to the community had been quarantined. He didn’t survive the quarantine period, but he didn’t die of the plague. It’s from Chapter 12 — Burial Detail. Hope you enjoy it and check out the book.

A week following Thanksgiving Jonathan volunteered to join the crew to remove Erik’s body and clean up the guest house. After seven days following Erik’s death, cleanup would be a grim job, but any plague virus would be gone by that time. There were four of them, all dressed in plastic coveralls, masks and latex gloves. It was a relatively warm day for early December, above freezing at least, and the sky was clear.

Three of them entered the house and fanned out, looking for the body and opening windows as they went, while the fourth, Bill Stevenson, built a fire in the yard to heat wash water. After less than a minute, while Jonathan was in the bedroom, Dan Kiner shouted. “Found him. He’s in the bathroom.”

The rest of them crowded into the small room. Erik’s remains lay curled up on the floor of the shower, fully clothed, badly decayed. Concentrated in the little bathroom, the stink caused them to gag and their eyes to water.

Jamal brushed a dreadlock from his face as he bent to peer at the body. “Well, dead is dead, I guess, but it doesn’t look like he died of the plague. There’d be blood stains around his mouth and nose in that case.”

“The hair loss and the nausea he reported are characteristic of radiation poisoning, according to the research I did recently,” Jonathan said.

Dan nodded. “I’m glad he came to the bathroom to die, at least. That’ll simplify the cleanup. Remember the one who didn’t make it a year ago last August? We had to burn the mattress.”

Jonathan tasted bile trying to come up in his throat. He swallowed hard. “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to get some fresh air.” He hurried out of the house, then walked across the yard to stand by the fire, where Bill Stevenson stood with a couple of jerry cans of water nearby. Bill poured one into a cauldron hanging from a tripod over the fire as Jonathan walked over to the fire-pit. Some plastic buckets, a pile of rags, a couple of mops, and some scrub-brushes lay on the sidewalk near by.

“How bad is it?” he asked as Jonathan approached.

“Jamal says he didn’t die of the plague. The stink was getting to me, but I guess it’s not as bad as it could be. He died in the bathroom, lying in the shower.”

Bill nodded. “Nice of him.” He poured another jerry can of water into the cauldron.

Jonathan only nodded in response. Just the sight of the corpse had made him squeamish. This rather surprised him. He’d seen many dead bodies before, two of which he’d killed himself. Those were ones who’d been threatening him and Sara, though. At least, he’d had every reason to believe that at the time.

Seeing Erik’s body was different. He’d spent time talking to him on the radio, getting what information he could about the dirty bomb attacks so he could research the extent of the contamination. He’d come to like Erik, at least a little, and he felt guilty that he’d made no attempt of help him. He knew that there was nothing he could have done without endangering himself, but that didn’t make him feel much better.

Bill put another log on the fire and straightened up, dusting his hands on his coveralls. “What’d you think of Allen?”

Jonathan turned back to Bill. “What? Oh, Allen Jacobs? He seemed okay. Why?”

“Oh, he’s a good enough guy. Folks seem to be put off by him, sometimes. Won’t join in any of the group functions, unless there’s food. Been a great help with his work at the farm, though. Saw you all sitting with him at Thanksgiving, and I wondered.”

Jonathan warmed his hands by the fire. “He seems, I don’t know, angry, or bitter, or something.”

“He’s got a right. He killed his wife.”

Jonathan’s face snapped up towards Bill’s. “What? Killed his own wife?”

Bill gave a single, grave nod. “She had sugar bad. When the plague hit they hid out in his hunting shack, but they didn’t have enough insulin. She went blind, then her foot started to rot. He tried to cut it off, but it didn’t help. Just got infected worse.”

“Oh God, what a terrible way to die. That wasn’t his fault, though. Sounds like he did his best to save her.”

“He shot her.”


“Couldn’t stand for her to suffer, I reckon. She was twenty-eight.”

Jonathan stared down at the fire, and Bill stuck a couple more logs under the pot. After a moment he straightened up and continued. “Jim and Dan saw him digging the grave when they were out hunting, as I heard it. That was before I got here, back a year ago last July. Persuaded him to come back and mind the livestock. He doesn’t want to live in the village.”

“That’s—informative.” Jonathan tried and failed to imagine a scenario where he’d commit a mercy killing on Sara and then not turn the gun on himself afterwards.