ASTORIA, N.Y. - In a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world, a slew of bio-terrorism thrillers have popped up at bookstores nationwide.
But what sets ''Native Intelligence'' apart from other novels are the characters - a Native protagonist and a Japanese antagonist, as opposed to the now-stereotypical Middle Eastern terrorist masterminds.
''I don't know where that came from, except to get away from the obvious,'' said author Lorna Rainey.
Rainey, Choctaw, and the owner of the successful talent agency the Talent Express, finished writing her novel prior to 9/11 and had to shelve it until some healing had taken place in her hometown. When she reviewed her manuscript in 2006, she decided to incorporate Sept. 11 into the setting.
The heroine of the story, Nita Denson, works at a car rental agency and by chance discovers a suspicious substance in a vehicle left behind by a Japanese man by the name of ''Ant.'' Thanks to Denson's intuition, she follows her instincts, scrapes up the substance and puts it away to examine it at the end of her work day.
But tragedy ensues after a co-worker friend gets ahold of the substance, sending Denson on the run from the law and terrorists. Ant's slipup eventually unlocks his part in a scheme to sabotage the American people. ''One person can make the difference between tragedy and normalcy,'' Rainey said of her protagonist.
Through the tragedy, Denson eventually reunites with her childhood sweetheart, a traditional Choctaw man named Philip ''Darkeyes'' Thames.
Rainey said she kept the two from delving into a romance early in the novel for a good reason. ''It would be artificial and out of place,'' she said. ''If you are running for your life, it would be hard to have a tender moment.''
The chapters within the 253-page novel are fairly short and make for an easy read; and the many twists and turns in the plot make it easier for the reader to keep turning those pages. Reviews of the book have been mostly upbeat, definitely encouraging for a budding author.
Rainey is Choctaw on her mother's side. She said that even though her mother was not traditional, her mother instilled values in her that differed from her childhood friends. ''Living in New York, there are lots of ethnic groups to mingle with and no matter where I was, and whom I was with, I always felt that I didn't quite fit in,'' she said. ''While most children were just having fun, I always felt like I was looking beyond the game for its meaning.''
On her father's side she is French and black, and the great-granddaughter of the first black member of the House of Representatives, South Carolina Rep. Joseph Hayne Rainey. She is currently writing a novel about his life and plans on wrapping it up this summer, along with the sequel to ''Native Intelligence.''
Even with a busy schedule, Rainey finds time to practice Native spirituality. She is an active member of the Nuyagi Keetoowah Society of Barryville. ''We are a small and strong community where Native traditions, culture and language are taught, encouraged and nurtured,'' she said. ''It is a wonderful intertribal community.''
In retrospect, when Rainey wrapped up her novel and screenplay in the summer of 2001, she thought it was her big break. She said a friend with ties to Steven Spielberg's screenwriting team reviewed the script, and she was told the words that every screenwriter wants to hear - ''we love your script.''
As she prepared herself for more good news on her screenplay, the events of Sept. 11 unfolded. Hollywood yanked the carpet from under her feet in fear of supporting a film that reminded people of that tragic day. Rainey said she was disappointed, but not devastated, and she soon filed the novel in her basement.
For more than five years, her novel waited while Rainey continued to run her successful talent agency. Even with it out of sight, the novel was not out of mind. By the time 2006 rolled around, she knew it was time to dust off the manuscript, make her final edits, then self-publish. The novel is self-published through Author House and available online at amazon.com.
Her motion picture aspirations for ''Native Intelligence'' have similarly risen from the ashes. As the executive producer of the project, she plans to start filming the interior scenes in the summer of 2008 and the outdoor scenes in September.