Evanston writer releases revision of dystopian thriller “Body Mortgage” on Halloween

The cover of Richard Engling’s novel, “Body Mortgage.” Although the story was originally released nearly 30 years ago, a revision of the Evanstonian’s novel was recently published on Halloween.

Source: Richard Engling

The cover of Richard Engling’s novel, “Body Mortgage.” Although the story was originally released nearly 30 years ago, a revision of the Evanstonian’s novel was recently published on Halloween.

Crystal Wall, Assistant A&E Editor


A&E


People claim they would give an arm and a leg for what they want, but in Evanston resident Richard Engling’s novel “Body Mortgage,” many literally put their central organs on the line.

Though a revision of “Body Mortgage” was released this Halloween, the story has sat on shelves for almost 30 years. Originally released in 1989, the novel follows the path of a private eye navigating his way through a dystopian society. Things have become so bleak in futuristic Chicago that citizens have begun offering their organs as loan collateral, a devastating reality for the lower classes. Should a loan foreclose, the collateral body parts will be shut down and become property of the city — giving a new meaning to the term “organ donor.”

Engling said his writing was inspired by his years of reading and watching futuristic science fiction. While he gleaned many ideas from his exposure to the sci-fi genre, it was ultimately real-life events that helped him shape a new world in his novel.

“I had read something about people being abducted and waking up and discovering one of their kidneys had been removed,” Engling said. “That was the spark of it—getting robbed of your money is one thing, but getting robbed of your kidneys is really horrific.”

The terrifying premise of the book has lived on the memories of readers for years, including Al Gabor. Gabor, a Northwestern prospect consultant, met Engling through a writing group. Gabor said he read “Body Mortgage” when came out shortly after he had joined the club. Even though he had read it several decades ago, he said he still remembers it well.

Gabor said Engling is a disciplined writer — once he makes an outline, he commits to sitting down and fleshing out the entire story. Gabor also said Engling’s writing style finds an effective balance between the plot and the characters.

“(His style) has a good mix of character-driven action and a good story arc,” Gabor said. “It isn’t one of those things where it’s one person ruminating on performing an action, but at the same time, it isn’t just action-driven where the characters are one-dimensional and pushed.”

Gabor noted that published revisions aren’t very common and are frequently met with mixed receptions.

Irving Gorman, Engling’s publisher, echoed this sentiment, but assured the revision is better than the original, riddled with crisp dialogue, clear observations and the right amount of humor.

The revision is coming in timely fashion. Gorman said it seems society is heading in a dystopian direction: environmental regulations have been stripped, corporations continue to grow, unions and courts are breaking and the wealth gap is growing.

Though driven by a decidedly dark plot and setting, the message of “Body Mortgage” is ultimately a hopeful one and Gorman said it is a reminder to fight for the causes you believe in, even against all odds.

“The protagonist in ‘Body Mortgage’ faces long odds, but persists,” Gorman said in an email to The Daily. “Even in a world of dirt and slime and corruption, and against long odds he maintains a sense of decency and fairness. He knows right from wrong, and, more importantly, cares about it.”

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