She was impetuous, passionate and a bit on the wild side, a shady past behind her. He was sensitive, introverted, a bit shy, with very little “past” behind him. Like night and day, their lives intersected briefly. Like many star-crossed lovers, they forged a relationship despite obstacles that obstructed their paths. It wasn’t religion, race, class or family feuds that thwarted intimacy. It was their disabilities. And their struggles anchor the plot of a new novel by Vienna author Robert “Bob” Rudney.
“Someone in a wheelchair walks into a room and everyone focuses on the wheelchair, not the person,” said Rudney, author of “Lovers Lame,” a romance novel that addresses the roadblocks that disabled people frequently face when trying to build personal and professional relationships.
“It’s critical to focus on people’s personalities, not just their disability, and the issues they face.”
RUDNEY, defense and intelligence analyst and co-author of four books on international security, stepped out of his comfort zone when he wrote “Lovers Lame.” In the 90s, Rudney worked with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent with a strong commitment to social issues. While living in Vermont, he worked with disability activists there. The experiences inspired him.
Back in the Washington area in 1995, Rudney worked as a private consultant and at the Pentagon. As a volunteer, he led a disability employment self-help program, EXCEL!, for 15 years before closing it out in 2010. Fifty-seven million Americans have a disability, Rudney said. They face prejudice in the workplace and in their personal lives. “Lovers Lame” was conceived shortly after the dissolution of EXCEL! Toasting at a farewell party in Vienna, Rudney suggested—after several glasses of wine—someone write a novel based on people with disabilities. He turned out to be that person.
"Robert Rudney's book is labeled as a disability novel, but I forgot about that by the time I had finished the first chapter.”
—Friend Kay Menchel
The narrative of “Lovers Lame” comes mostly from his experiences with Excel! “My audience is the disabled community,” said Rudney. Just about everyone knows a disabled person, someone in the family, a relative, Rudney said.
"Robert Rudney's book is labeled as a disability novel, but I forgot about that by the time I had finished the first chapter,” said friend Kay Menchel. “This is just a human story. It is, of course, about people who have different challenges from those of us who are temporarily-abled, but they have the same emotions, complications and issues as everyone else. The characters are well drawn, and the dialogue flows naturally, particularly when it's enlivened by Robert's deliciously dark humor."
THE PROTAGONIST’S DISABILITY mirrors Rudney’s own, a left-side paralytic condition. Unlike protagonist David Levin, however, Dartmouth-educated Rudney married, raised a family of three children and worked steadily in professional roles, retiring from the Pentagon in 2012. He received the 2008 Kennedy Foundation Congressional Fellowship. In 2011 he won the Defense Department award as the “Outstanding Employee with a Disability.”
In “Lovers Lame” Rudney draws from his life experiences to create a love story set against the backdrop of people with disabilities fighting for acceptance. He was, as he described himself, “historically, a wallflower,” self-conscious of his disability.
“The novel is focused on the relationship between two people with completely different psychological make-ups. She’s looking for an anchor in her life. Even with the lesser characters, I deal with issues of isolation. They’re trying to form intimate relationships.
“Disabilities are central to the plot but I wanted to focus on the characters as human beings,“ Rudney said.
TO BUY ROBERT RUDNEY’S NOVEL “Lovers Lame,” go to www.booklocker.com/books/6101.html.