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Birth of a Book

Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinnie

Two movies that I enjoyed immensely were Gran Torino, starring Clint Eastwood, and my all-time favorite comedy, My Cousin Vinnie, with Joe Pesci knocking it out of the park as Vinnie.

In 2008, the year Gran Torino  was released, a computer specialist at a well-known office supply store came to my condo to solve a problem with my computer without charging me. That was against policy of the store, which of course wanted to make money for helping with computer issues. But Eric, who hailed from some Caribbean country, was of modest means, and just wanted to help a person who, he could divine from my digs, was on a similar financial level.

In the course of our conversation, the soft-spoken Eric disclosed that police had recently stopped him for some defect to his car, and roughed him up. Their actions and remarks made it clear to him that their displeasure derived from the Obama bumper sticker on his vehicle.

Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino

President Barack Obama

That story incubated in the recesses of my mind for several years – and then, while discussing My Cousin Vinnie with a friend, an idea hit me. I knew an attorney who was about the same size as actor Joe Pesci, and had a severe alcohol problem. He also was penurious and a racist. That made me think of Gran Torino, whose character, Walt Kowalski, was a beer-swilling Korean War veteran who bore animosity toward Asians. After he retired from work at a Ford plant in Detroit, a family of ethnic Southeast Asians moved next door to him. Despite his hostility toward them, they treated him with an abundance of kindness, and he ended up more than reciprocating.

Over the years, a story gelled in my mind. I could combine elements from both movies into a novel of redemption, heart-rending romance, and humor.

James Patterson

Novelists are divided into two camps of how they plot their books. One is those who outline. Perhaps the quintessential example of that type is James Patterson, who has said that he spends two weeks writing a detailed outline of 2,500 words, and then fills in the story or, more likely, turns it over to a ghost writer.

I am of the other camp. In fact, I can’t comprehend how anyone can figure out in advance everything that will transpire as the story unfolds. I’m in good company. I read some time ago that Edna Buchanan (who praised me highly for a magazine feature story I once wrote about her) is of the same camp. Buchanan, lauded author of 20 books, mostly crime novels, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for her police reporting at the Miami Herald. She said that, in her fiction writing, the characters led her, and the story evolved.

Edna Buchanan

For my roman a clef MURDER IN PALM BEACH: The Homicide That Never Died, a mystery, “winging it” was less my modus operandi than in my legal thriller Blood on Their Hands, due for release soon.  Murder is closely based on a real crime, and the structure was largely dictated by events that actually transpired, although I did allow my imagination to guide me along the way. With Blood, I had the rudiments of a plot in mind before I set out to write, but ideas popped into my head as I was writing. Occasionally, I had to back-pedal, and at times was stumped about how to solve a problem, until a eureka moment hit me, much like what occurs in the process of solving a crossword puzzle.

I signed a contract in early January 2019 with TouchPoint Press for publication of Blood on Their Hands, and an editor finally was assigned in December, after an earlier one had abandoned ship. The new editor and I just finished ironing out the edits, and she volunteered that she liked the story and thought the book would do “really well.”

The publisher informed me that a release date late this month was planned. I’m not sure it will happen that quickly; I still don’t have the cover design. But it surely won’t be long now.

I will provide updates as the time approaches. Please stay tuned.

#EdnaBuchanan #ClintEastwood #SoutheastAsia #KoreanWar #GranTorino #JoePesci #MiamiHerald #MyCousinVinnie #Obama

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