It's been nearly a quarter of a century since foreign correspondent David Aikman wrote a novel about a second American Civil War, with a government led by urban socialists going to war with heartland conservatives.
Alas, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
About a year ago, the bitter events unfolding on cable-TV political news made it rather clear that it was time for a new edition of that post-Cold War thriller, "When the Almond Tree Blossoms."
"No matter who wins … there are people out there who think we are headed toward some kind of civil war," said Aikman, in an interview just before Election Day.
"It's disappointing that our nation really hasn't come to terms with all of its internal problems. Right now, it feels like it would take a miracle -- some kind of divine intervention -- to heal the divisions we see in American life today."
Aikman was born in Surrey, England, and came to America in the 1960s to do a doctorate in Russian and Chinese history, after his studies at Oxford's Worcester College. After contemplating a career in diplomacy -- he speaks German, French, Chinese and Russian -- he moved into journalism and became senior foreign correspondent at Time magazine. Among his many adventures, Aikman witnessed the 1989 massacre in China's Tiananmen Square and introduced readers to a Russian politico named Boris Yeltsin.
Ironically, Aikman wrote "When the Almond Tree Blossoms" -- the title is rebel code drawn from Ecclesiastes -- while preparing to become a naturalized United States citizen in 1993. In the novel, the liberal "People's Movement" -- backed by Russia -- rules the East and West coast power centers, as well as the industrial Midwest. The "Constitutionalists" control most of the Bible Belt and have dug into the Rocky Mountain West. But who will the pragmatic Chinese support?
Aikman said he wouldn't "change one iota" of his vision of Russia evolving into a totalitarian regime run by a strongman. On the other hand, "China has actually become much nastier in recent months, especially on religious issues," he said.
Aikman built his fictional civil war primarily on political and economic trends, along with a dash of conflict about morality and culture. Decades later, it's clear that cultural tensions -- often linked to religion and sexuality -- are creating deep cracks in American life.
Rather than violent conflict, "I think we're going to see an OK Corral shootout between state courts and legislatures over decisions by the Supreme Court and executive orders from the White House," he said. "It seems that Congress has lost the ability to find compromises on our most divisive issues."
For example, what happens if other states join Massachusetts in declaring religious sanctuaries "public spaces" under that state's new transgender anti-discrimination law? At some point, clergy may need to start adding "trigger warnings" to their sermons, offering outsiders an opportunity to leave their services if they do not believe ancient doctrines affirmed in that body of believers.
Obviously, said Aikman, the U.S. Supreme Court is not through dealing with hot-button cases involving religious liberty and the Sexual Revolution.
In the new edition, Aikman also added a postscript highlighting themes in the novel that have, if anything, become more relevant through the years.
For example, he wrote: "A major component of the book -- the People's Movement's hostility toward Israel and indeed toward American Jews -- has been expressed so far only by fairly far left elements of the American political scene. There nevertheless remains a serious danger that anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments within the United States itself could at some point develop into a major internal ethnic squabble in which Jews are blamed for many things wrong with American life."
Over the years, readers have asked Aikman why he ended the book at a crucial turning point, as an action by China created a new dynamic in the war.
The short answer is that he wanted was prepared to produce a sequel, but turned to writing a number of nonfiction projects, such as his books "Jesus in Beijing" and "One Nation Without God?"
"I have an outline and I know the rest of the story," he said. "I have to admit that I find it surprising, and rather sad, that the topic remains so relevant."