Author Ron Hutchison graduated from the University of Missouri in 1967 with a degree in journalism. He has worked as a reporter, editor, and columnist at newspapers in Texas, California, and Missouri. He was employed by Sun Oil Company as a public relations executive, and later operated his own advertising and public relations agency. He created the board game ‘Sixth Sense’ in 2003. The game was sold at independent bookstores nationwide. Since moving to Joplin in 2007 from New Mexico to care for her elderly mother, he has written dozens of Op-Ed pieces for the Joplin Globe on social issues ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage. He lives in Joplin, Missouri.
Q: You’ve had a long career in journalism and public relations. What made you take the plunge and write your first novel?
A: Actually, this is my second novel. Santa Fe Crazy was published in 1999. I became sidetracked for the next seven or so years with a board game I created and marketed called Sixth Sense. I didn’t really begin writing full time until 2007.
Q: Please tell us about your novel, Latitude 38.
A: Latitude 38 is a love story set in the future. It plays out against a backdrop of swirling social and political change, and tells the story of Diego Sanchez and his wife Adriana, a couple deeply in love. Their world is shattered when Adriana is diagnosed with terminal cancer. After gut-wrenching deliberation, they opt for doctor-assisted suicide. Wee problem. Crippled by decades of blistering partisan debate over the questions of euthanasia, gun control, capital punishment, school prayer, and same-sex marriages—and fearing total anarchy after the bloody Pro-Choice riots a year earlier—the United States is now two separate republics and the border between them is closed. Because Diego and Adriana live south of the border, where doctor-assisted suicide is illegal, they must flee north, across the 38th latitude, where euthanasia is not only legal, but mercifully encouraged for people with terminal illnesses. Any doubt they had about making the perilous trip is removed when they learn the government south of the 38th latitude secretly mandates that terminal cancer patients be given placebos to fight the pain.
Q: How did you come up with the title?
A: The 38th latitude divides the United States into halves. It seemed a natural title. A country being carved up is not new. European countries have been sliced and diced many times over the past 100 years, as have Middle East and Far East nations. The January 2007 issue of National Geographic Magazine reported that in the preceding two years more than 600 changes had been made to the borders that define the world. Remember the Soviet Union? What was once the second most powerful nation on the planet is today 15 separate countries. To think the United States is immune from such geographic restructuring is arrogant and naïve. The breakup of the Soviet Union was caused in large part by economic factors — the Soviet Union went broke. Given our mounting debt, the same thing could happen here. However, it is not debt that will be our undoing; we have the means to fix that. No, it is the uncompromising ideological division that will cause our demise. At first glance, one might see this disintegration as a Republican vs. Democrat tug-of-war. Closer scrutiny, however, reveals the division to run deeper than mere political affiliations. It is polarization at the gut level, one that trumps party loyalties.