It’s a typical Friday evening in Jewish Baltimore. Observant Jews are preparing for Shabbat dinner and walking to evening services. The scene is commonplace to those who live in or around Northwest Baltimore.
All at once, something horrifying occurs, dramatically altering the peaceful neighborhood milieu. Gunshots, police cars, ambulances, screams of terror. There’s been a murder attempt on a young rabbi and his family.
But wait, don’t panic. The violence is not really happening. Instead, it’s the opening pages of Stephen J. Gordon’s new thriller, “Confluence,” the second book in his Gidon
Readers first met Gidon Aronson, the protagonist and hero of the series, when Gordon’s thriller “In the Name of God” debuted in 2011. Gordon, 58, a husband, father and middle school social studies department chair at Krieger Schechter Day School, said he first decided to write “In the Name of God” as a reaction to the “bad press” he felt Israel was receiving after the second Intifada. Although the book was completed shortly thereafter, it took 10 years of “shopping it around” before it was published.
“I wanted to create a character who was unabashedly pro-Israel,” said Gordon. “The book moves between the U.S. and Israel because I wanted readers to see the beauty of Israel and learn about life there.”
Although he lives in Baltimore and teaches at a school almost identical to Krieger Schechter Middle School, the character of Gidon Aronson, Gordon said, is for the most part not based on himself.
“He’s really a mix. Probably he’s got my sense of humor,” he admitted.
“The back story [of Gidon] is that he grew up in the U.S. and was as a star pupil in martial arts. He wanted to go to Israel to serve his country, and he ends up in the elite special operations unit. When he comes back to the U.S., his life has fallen apart. He has self-defense training, so he opens a martial arts studio and gets a part-time teaching gig,” explained Gordon. “Serving was his passion, and he has a strong sense of right and wrong. In the second book, the weight of his past deeds brings him to synagogue; he needs to be someplace holy. He’s adrift and soul searching; he’s in pain.”
“Confluence” is not all crime and punishment though. There is also romance, and as Gordon puts it, “a few racy scenes.”
Katie, Gidon’s love interest in the book, also helps readers develop a more nuanced view of the Israel they may hear about in the news.
“Katie says she wants to go to Israel with Gidon. She wants to see what he sees and what he loves. She wants to fall in love with the country he’s fallen in love with,” Gordon said.
“As a character, Katie voices questions about such things as Israel’s security wall. Gidon from his perspective is able to express the realities of life there, that the wall has virtually stopped terrorist infiltration.”
Gordon, who’s been writing since his early teens, finds the process “fascinating.” The positive feedback he received on his first thriller — and is beginning to receive for the new book — makes it all the more rewarding.
“There’s nothing like having someone say, ‘I missed my subway stop because I was reading your book,’ or ‘I was late for work because I couldn’t stop reading your book,’ or ‘When is the next one coming out?’” said Gordon.
Gordon said he is already toying with ideas for the next Gidon Aronson book. At this point, the writer will only say that he may focus more on some of the series’ other characters. “I’d like to maintain the Baltimore-Israel connection. But that’s my summer work. I can’t do it while the school year is on. I get lost in the stories,” he said.
“Confluence” is available at the Ivy Bookshop in Mount Washington, theivybookshop.com.