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Attorney’s New Novel Asks: Should a Marin Town Secede?

Looking to challenge the status quo of our democracy, a former Mill Valley and Ross resident creates a story steeped in the surveillance state.

Ray Bourhis. Courtesy photo.
Ray Bourhis. Courtesy photo.

Earlier this month, 500 flyers were placed on car windshields and in stores and restaurants throughout Mill Valley. The leaflets seemed to presage the coming Nov. 5 election.

But instead of focusing on the Mill Valley City Council race or theMeasure F Marin General Hospital bond, the flyers, which closely resembled an election ballot, posited a much more dramatic question, in the form of “Proposition A”:

"Shall Mill Valley declare its independence from any and all governmental entities of any kind or description, establish itself as a separate, sovereign jurisdiction and authorize the Committee for an Independent Mill Valley, a non-profit corporation, to take whatever non-violent steps it may deem necessary to secure its independence?"

Rather than an actual cry for secession, the flyers were part of a promotional effort for Revolt: The Secession of Mill Valley, a new novel by former Mill Valley resident Ray Bourhis, an attorney who specializes in “disability cases for microsurgeons.”

The book sends its protagonist on a wild journey steeped in the issues that have taken hold in the age of bank bailouts, the revelation of massive government surveillance programs and the Internal Revenue Service conducting audits that have been tied to politics.

We spoke with Bourhis, a self-described independent who used to live in Ross and now splits his time between San Francisco and Montecito, Calif., about the story and his choice of settings.

Mill Valley Patch: How did the concept for this book originate?
Ray Bourhis: Interestingly enough, I started writing it during the waning years of the George W. Bush administration. What triggered it was that there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot of anybody could do about the policies of the administration on things like WMDs in Iraq, the budget deficit, torturing prisoners or throwing away concepts of protection that were established hundreds of years ago. I was upset with a lot of those things were going on.

MVP: And presumably the inability to produce major reform?
RB: Yes. No reform efforts could have any effect. There is simply too much money on either side. In the middle of writing the book, Obama got elected, and there was going to be a sea change. Some things changed, but most of it didn’t. People have just come to accept some of the most outrageous aspects of life in America – multimillion-dollar campaigns and ballot initiatives, people in Congress who have to raise an inordinate amount of money to run a plausible campaign.

MVP: And the lack of bipartisanship that results from it?
RB: The era of Bob Dole and George Bush Sr. were dominated by people with strong beliefs, but they were not crazy. The politics of divisiveness today has completely changed the government.

MVP: So how did this translate into a novel set in Mill Valley, of all places?
RB: I used to live in Mill Valley over on Cascade Drive. The place has always struck me as interesting place to hatch something like this. It’s not Dallas, it’s not Bolinas and it’s not Berkeley – it’s not a slam dunk for either side of the political spectrum.

MVP: Your protagonist proposes the secession of Mill Valley, and he opens a massive can of worms in the process.
RB: Yeah he decides to put up a ballot initiative to secede from the country, and he easily gets enough petition signatures to do that. He first peddles the idea at a cocktail party in Blithedale Canyon for the National Union for Saving Squirrels. People get really excited about it and they put together a group that meets at the Book Depot. AS the campaign gets serious, the FBI, Homeland Security and private corporations become involved and it gets crazy from there.

MVP: What do you hope people take from this book?
RB: I hope it will wake people up and encourage them to feel that they have more power than they feel they have right now. And I hope for there to be enough of a question raised in people’s minds about the surveillance and telephone taps and the use of the IRS and those sorts of things.

Revolt: The Secession of Mill Valley is available as an e-book through Amazon.com.

Jonathan Frieman September 30, 2013 at 10:52 AM
Not a bad idea. My suggestion is that San Rafael de-incorporate as a city in order to let the county solve its homeless problem.

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