To The Promised Land

Author: Michael Boylan

Genre: Literary Fiction / Mystery

Every student leaving the protected grounds of school wonders: must I now throw away my ideals, or can they guide me through the rough-and-tumble city? The philosopher Socrates’s descent into the bloodsports of business and politics was called “ketabasis.” But for the old college friends Moses and Peter, it is betrayal and murder found in Michael Boylan’s fast-paced and gripping novel, To the Promised Land. Can their friendship, and their morals, survive in the Washington world of corporate crime, backstabbing bosses, floundering do-gooder groups, and a media ravenous for scandal? The old adage, “Do no harm,” is pulverized in Washington’s internecine power-struggles: for nearly every action brings an unexpected harm, and several enemies. Moses leaves the law, seeking atonement for shielding a company that poisoned a town; Peter leaves the small world of the campus, and takes up a controversial campaign to alter affirmative action, seemingly to bring about “the greater good.” Their threads of ethics must do battle against lawyers, private detectives, secretive lobbyists and, looming over all, the charge of first-degree murder. Boylan sets philosophical passions, and an engaged dialogue about forgiveness, inside a film-noir world, where affection, family loyalty, and trust come under threat. Propulsive and witty, To the Promised Land is smart about ideas, and smart about people negotiating justice and power in public life.

—David Gewanter. Professor of English, Georgetown University.

Michael Boylan’s thought-provoking novel, “To the Promised Land,” is a gem. Read it for its suspense-filled, fast-paced action, for the philosophic insights its characters raise as easily as they breathe, or for probing its main mysteries: why did Moses Levi disappear; why did he send his journal to his college roommate; and, more profoundly, how can one heal a guilty conscience or live without harming others?

—Virginia L. Warren, Professor of Philosophy, Chapman University


The Journal of Moses Levi: June 7, 1987

I haven’t slept much since the verdict. I think that I will have to proceed backwards and sort things out for myself or else I will go mad. Everything that I pretended to believe in is now being called into question. Waste Disposal Systems, Inc. A huge client. What more could I have wished for at this point in my career? A way to make a big splash. An almost impossible case so that any progress that I made would be seen as a success.

The facts: 1. Waste Disposal Systems, Inc. was formed in 1965 to be a contractor to handle industry’s waste products. These included toxic and non-toxic substances. 2. Waste Disposal Systems, Inc. aggressively sought clients who had toxic waste problems (since they perceived that they might have a problem in light of the growing environmental movement and would pay the most). 3. Waste Disposal Systems, Inc. acquired a lucrative contract with Wod Chemical (one of the largest chemical companies in the world). 4. Waste Disposal Systems, Inc. set up three disposal sites for Wod: one in upstate New York, one in South Carolina, and one in Utah.

None of the sites were contrary to U.S. Government regulations. Each involved the creation of a large pit (generally eight stories deep). Each pit was lined with a layer of clay that was then hardened with a chemical substance so that (it was thought) an impenetrable seal was formed.

But the clay and the seal proved to be porous. . . .

The facts: The clay seals did not hold. The chemical waste broke through the seal and into the surrounding land at all angles. In New York State the surrounding area was heavily populated. The toxic chemicals invaded the ground water and formed toxic “channels”that under houses such that fumes penetrated the very foundations of houses as they moved upward. This meant that families, especially those living at home – children and their mothers – were most at risk.

The net effect in New York State was that twenty-four hundred and forty-nine people in the affected area developed cancer—100 times the amount that would have been statistically expected from such a sample space.

Waste Disposal killed these people. I successfully defended Waste Disposal. Quod Erat Demonstratum, I am an accessory to murder.


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Author Bio

Michael Boylan is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Marymount University. He is the author of 26 books and over 120 articles in Philosophy and Literature. Details can be found at






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