Professor Nick Hoffman (Hot Rocks, 2007, etc.) learns that even tenure can’t guarantee real security.
Fortune has finally smiled at Nick. He’s now a full professor, thanks in no small part to a gift from a former student to Nick’s employer, the State University of Michigan. The bequest, establishing a prestigious speaker’s series, has named Nick the sole administrator of a $25,000 annual grant. While other faculty members are crammed into cubicles, Nick has his own office suite, complete with administrative assistant. He and his partner, SUM’s writer-in-residence Stefan Borowski, along with their West Highland terrier, Marco, live in a splendid center-hall colonial in Michiganapolis, purchased in part with the proceeds from Stefan’s best-selling book about his conversion from Judaism to Catholicism. Stefan’s now at work on a second memoir, Fieldwork in the Land of Grief, about the trauma he sustained when a student he’d accused of plagiarism hanged himself outside Stefan’s office. That trauma, however, is small potatoes compared to Stefan and Nick’s current nightmare. First, their home is invaded by a SWAT team in armed personnel carriers, acting on a vague tip that the pair may be holding someone hostage. Stefan is arrested, strip-searched and jailed. Their boss, Dean Bullerschmidt, threatens to fire them for creating bad publicity. Someone smashes their laptop and leaves road kill on their bed. Their neighbor, whip-smart defense attorney Vanessa Liberati, a New York transplant, offers her help. But their true salvation comes from Stefan’s mentor, Father Ryan Burke, who provides a solution that would gladden the heart of any NRA member.
What looks at first like a sensitive exploration into competing values ends as an exercise in might-is-right. Raphael, co-author of Stick Up for Yourself: Every Kid's Guide to Personal Power & Positive Self-Esteem (1999), should know better.