Why Even Believers Should Read My Atheist Thriller “Imaginary Friend”

While doubtless most of the sales of my atheist thriller “Imaginary Friend” have been to nonbelievers, I’ve been pleased to hear from a goodly number of readers who believe in God but contacted me one way or the other to tell me how much they enjoyed reading the novel.  The reason is that while it does express an atheist viewpoint, the novel is really about how atheists are discriminated against in a way that Americans would not tolerate if such hatred was casually focused on any other minority.  All sensitive readers can appreciate why that is wrong. 

Moreover the book truly is a thriller.  It begins with an explosion at half-time at a college football game that immures our protagonist deep inside a collapsed stadium, and the action moves from one tense event to the next until it climaxes in an ending that scared me when I finally finished the book, waited a month to see what I had, and then re-read it and was much bothered by the fact that such extreme violence came from my own sappy, peace-loving brain.

Even so the book has a lot of humor and is filled with characters that readers seem to love.  Even the villains are presented as sympathetically as possible.

Here are the complete reviews on Amazon put there by actual readers, none of which I generated myself, nor are any of the reviewers close friends (at least at the time the reviews were written).  For any updates or later reviews see http://www.amazon.com/Imaginary-Friend-Douglas-Whaley-ebook/product-reviews/B0057Q1ZA6/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1.  The next-to-last review is the only negative one, and that from a reader who didn’t read the whole book, damn his hide—he missed that ending I’m so proud of.

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful

 4.0 out of 5 stars Devil in the Details, September 30, 2008

By Tim Brough "author and music buff" (Springfield, PA United States) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  Imagine if: After the horrors of 9/11, a man who bravely helped rescue some 50 odd survivors in a highly visual fashion was videoed doing this incredible feat. He'd be a proclaimed a hero, paraded around, commended by The President and promptly shoved on some news show (ala Larry King Live) and made to talk about the experience. What would happen if he decided (with a little alcoholic lubrication) to say to a caller that God was not there to give him the strength to save the survivors, but that following an "imaginary friend" was exactly why terrorists were killing people.

Thus is the premise of "Imaginary Friend." Franklin Whitestone, hero of a 9/11 styled attack on a football stadium finds his life turned upside down when he announces what he really thinks about God on a national television show. He and his family swoop from American Heroes to American Pariahs in the scope of two days, once the faithful feel threatened more by a single atheist and his family than multiple bands of terrorists. Whitestone, his son Todd and his former wife Mary now have to dodge a marauding press corps, Money Grubbing Mega-Church leaders, old girlfriends, unhappy employers and gun toting ChritsoFacists if they want to live through a quintessential American Nightmare resulting from not being very careful what you say in front of a live microphone (or post on the internet).

Inventive and well thought out characters make this a compelling read, as does the detailed writing style. The description of Nan and Dan's gun collection is alone enough to give you the creeps. Todd Whitestone, the precocious and gifted 16 year old son, is also a highlight of "Imaginary Friend" as he tries his best to help his father from a jam. Catherine, Franklin's alpha-mother, gets the best laughs as the Queen Bee of the Whitestone hive. Add the satirical bent of our instant-celebrity culture (an agent who advises Franklin just how rich he can get with a good PR man), and you get an entertaining novel about just how absurd the world of organized religion can get.


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars A Foxhole Atheist, November 3, 2008

By Joseph Mensch (New York, NY) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME)

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  The atheist movement, slowly growing in this country, has been given a sudden boost from an unknown author named Douglas Whaley whose new novel, "Imaginary Friend," combines an impassioned polemic with a sophisticated thriller. The attempt alone would have been enough, but the end result is more powerful and entertaining than anything the atheist movement (or, for the most part, the thriller movement) has come up with so far.

The story is about a lawyer, Franklin Whitestone, who rescues 53 people from a burning stadium but becomes a hunted man when he speaks candidly about his atheist views on national TV. The breathless chase across Ohio involves not just Franklin but Franklin's family, whose escape from their demented kidnappers is one of the high points of the novel. Franklin meets some colorful characters along the way, including Corbin Milk, a gay ex-C.I.A. agent who helps Franklin with his disguise, and Jonathan Harker, a PR agent who insists that Franklin can make tons of money from his ordeal. Even the God-fearing militant hunters have their virtues and sympathies. One is often pleasantly surprised, even relieved, by the humor that Whaley mines from the darkest and grisliest situations.

For many years the atheists' cause has rested on the shoulders of writers like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and most recently, Christopher Hitchens, whose logical arguments, while unassailable on their own terms, often fail to take the fight where it would really count, namely, the psychological realm. Religious fanatics will not be swayed by any number of scientific arguments that disprove the possibility of talking snakes; they hold the trump card of "The Lord works in mysterious ways." But if you can tap into their basic sympathies for their fellow man and demonstrate how destructive religion has been to innocent people (including all the deaths at the football stadium, bombed by an Islamic terrorist), you might be able to turn some heads. This is where "Imaginary Friend" succeeds so well.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars frightenly feasible outcome, February 13, 2012

By V. Sandy "V" (Prescott,AZ)  See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Kindle Edition)  and unfortunately in this post 9-11 world, with all the christian religous militancy tossed about by politicians... everything that befalls the unlikely hero of this tale is frightenly feasible


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful

4.0 out of 5 stars Friend to Foe, December 9, 2012

By Biodork (Minneapolis, MN) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  Perhaps no character in literary history has gone as quickly from cherished hero to reviled villain as Franklin Whitestone of Douglas Whaley's novel, Imaginary Friend.

Franklin Whitestone finds himself an unwitting hero after surviving a terrorist bomb attack in a crowded stadium. After television crews film him playing a critical role in the safe escape of himself and other victims, he is instantly transformed into a national celebrity. Franklin is is flown in high style to New York to appear on a live call in-show to recount his experience. The interview starts out well, but when a caller ask if he was praying to God for strength during his ordeal, he scoffs and proudly boasts about not having an "imaginary friend". He goes on to ask the caller why God should be credited for getting him out of the mess, but not blamed for the terrorist attack happening in the first place. The studio erupts in shock and outrage.

Before he understands what has happened, Franklin finds him the subject of hatred, anger, reproach and pity. Everything he holds dear is threatened by his new notoriety, and a dangerous religious extremist - one of the same men who helped free the Franklin from the stadium - sets out to "save him" a second time.

If you have ever suffered social rejection or for your non-belief, Imaginary Friend will haunt you. Franklin's detractors spout familiar religious criticisms of atheism, but Whaley's characters are complex; they have minds and flaws of their own, and don't always respond in the way we wish they would. The story is thrilling, heartbreaking, at times infuriating,and always hard to set down.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Do you believe?, May 28, 2012

By MMB - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  When I read the title of this book, I imagined a well-written, simple story about a young boy and his all too troublesome imaginary friend. After reading the book's back cover description, I understood that indeed the story is about an imaginary friend who is troublesome but it would not be a simple story.

Can America accept a man who saved 53 lives in a bomb-ravaged football stadium but didn't do it in the name of God? Can an atheist be a hero?

Douglas Whaley answers these questions in this chilling novel. He skillfully handles a suspenseful, can't-put-this-book-down, plot while bringing America's religious intolerance out into the light. His characters are frighteningly real and their development is superb.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

4.0 out of 5 stars A good thriller, August 9, 2013

By BeerWill - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Kindle Edition)  To me Imaginary Friend has a few flaws in writing style - (I believe this is the author's first fiction book) - but the book is nevertheless a good thriller.

I was concerned that it would be too atheist-preachy, and while it does certainly put atheism in a positive light, the characters are realistically flawed which allows the story to be a good read, while still making some good counter-apologetics points.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars You get what you axe for, February 7, 2013

By Richard Schwartz (Hawthorne, California) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME)

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback) Good story about a commonly persecuted religion. The believer confesses his faith and then must deal with a series of hate crimes. It is better to keep your faith to yourself and pretend to conform to whatever is around you. Very well done. Now lets team this author with Matt Bracken and Wesley ,Rawles for the ultimate action movie script!


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Great atheist thriller and all around great book, December 9, 2012

By Carl (BLOOMINGTON, MN, United States) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME)

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  Douglas does a wonderful job of bringing these characters to life and making you feel for them even the ones who tend to be blinded by religion. This book is something that would make anyone who questions religion and it's implications of what it is to be an atheist in America. There are questions you will have to ask yourself of when it is the right time to come out as an atheist and the book addresses that. Hopefully this will reach a broad audience and will help them come out as proud atheists.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good thriller, April 29, 2012

By David L. Murray (Phoenix, Arizona USA) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME)

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Kindle Edition)  Douglas Whaley is a very skilled author. This was a wonderful thriller. At times the stereotyping seemed a bit much and I wondered if it would be just another atheist rant. It turns out that it was more that that, it was a very good story.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Coming out, April 11, 2012

By WILLIAM EVERS (W LAFAYETTE, IN United States) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Kindle Edition)  This is a scary great book. The fear and hatred of atheists is stronger and has more support than most other animosities aimed at specific groups. Douglas Whaley's matter-of-fact presentation of the malice shown to those who see no evidence for anything supernatural was uplifting. The main character takes his outlook on life as a sensible way to live and sees no reason to be "in the closet" about it. The ignorance and cowardly actions of those whose mental processes have been destroyed by a lifetime of religious brainwashing are depressingly and truthfully laid out. This is a book that should be on all required high school reading lists.   


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

 5.0 out of 5 stars Life with Religious Differences Brought to Life, February 18, 2012

By Humanist Living - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  Exciting! Doug Whaley has opened new territory with his engaging novel "Imaginary Friend." Although much has already been written debating questions raised by religion, Whaley is one of the first to use fiction to bring to life the experiences of people living with those religious differences. "Imaginary Friend" should be read by anyone who cares about religious freedom.


2.0 out of 5 stars Intent, writing, characters just OK; story implausible and plodding, October 16, 2013

By KM Thiesmeyer (Pasadena, CA, US) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Kindle Edition)  Whaley is a lawyer and gets those parts right. But the writing is very ordinary, little imagery, no dramatic flourishes, not much to engage the reader except the theology, which is simplistic, and the story, which is far-fetched. It has been almost 20 years since famed school-prayer dissident Madelyn Murray O'Hair disappeared, then turned up murdered at the hands of characters like Whaley's. And notable public atheists like Penn Gillette, Daniel Radcliffe, Brad Pitt, Woody Allen, Bill Maher, James Randi and George Carlin -- not to mention Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Isaac Asimov, Daniel Dennet, Bill Gates and thousands more -- all seem to do fine (OK, perhaps with money and bodyguards). In any case, the simmering hate in this case seems unlikely for today. The escape from the kidnappers using Pig Latin is ridiculous, although Whaley does manage to make them sympathetic. There are a couple of Biblical quotations that suffer the same interpretive, out-of-context arrogance as any religious tome. The sub-plot love triangle is sparse and unaffecting. I quit at 67% read; didn't think I'd like the dénouement. Save this one for an afternoon at the beach, and then leave it in the sand.


5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and surprising, September 14, 2013

By Carolie Park - See all my reviews

This review is from: Imaginary Friend (Paperback)  I got this book as a gift from someone who knew I was an atheist. From the title, I expected something more like the hundreds of books that have been written to dispute or disprove the existence of god. Ho-hum . . . I'm already convinced. I was delighted to find that it was a real-life thriller of post 9/11 America whose story line includes believers and non-believers of every stripe. Each of the characters are plausibly flawed and well developed individuals. Some are heroic and others are villainous, and all feel authentic.

The ghastly and harrowing situations depicted are so incredibly detailed as to make one certain that the author is describing personal experiences, and doing an excellent job of it. The unnerving ending is a shocker, but follows inevitably from the nature of the protagonists.
This is a book that everyone can enjoy-regardless of religious stance. And, it will make every reader think about the America we live in and the dilemmas that face us in a fast-changing world.

“Imaginary Friend” is available on Amazon.com for $9.84 (Paperback) or $2.99 (Kindle).  The prequel to “Imaginary Friend” tells the backstory of Corbin Milk, one of the characters in “Imaginary Friend,” and it will be published next month.  It is simply called “Corbin Milk.”   See Related Posts below for a detailed description of it.

Related Posts:
"Frightening the Horses," April 7, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010 (Excerpt from "Corbin Milk")
Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter 1 of "Imaginary Friend")
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter 2)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter 3)
"My Atheist Thriller: Another Book Reading," May 17, 2012
“Listen to Me Reading My Novel on the Radio,” December 11, 2012
“‘Imaginary Friend’ Goes International: A Bookreading of My Atheist Thriller in Nottingham,      England, Via Skype,” March 19, 2013 
“Speaking at Atheist Conventions, Directing a Play, and that Move to Florida,” July 5, 2013
“The Thunderbolt,” September 9, 2010 (Explaining "Corbin Milk")
Fifty Shades of Leather: Corbin Milk in the BDSM World,” December 26, 2012 
"A Guide to the Best of My Blog," April 29, 2013


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