The whole story began while I read Doctor Zhivago and caught myself envying writers whose times were as loaded with drama as the Russian revolution or the Napoleanic wars that inspired Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Or it began even earlier, with my grandma telling classic epic tales in versions fit for a little guy, which may have led me to, in college, major in literature and minor in history.
No matter the reasons, my favorite books are epic spellbinders that also help us contemporary folks understand why we live in the world of today.
So, one spring weekend in the village of San Felipe, Baja California, around a campfire high on a dune above the Sea of Cortez, while entranced by accounts and revelations from my friends Clifford Hickey and Otis Otterbach, I discovered what I’ve been writing ever since.
My story is about Clifford’s remarkable family, especially his father, Detective Tom Hickey; about Otis and the mission forced upon him, to rescue the world from immanent desolation; and about the mad vision of Cynthia Jones, where the Otis and Hickey stories intersect.
Over the years, life and art have taught me that neither Dr. Zhivago nor any character of Homer, Tolstoy, Dickens, Austen, Bronte, Hardy or Hemingway inhabited a place and time more dramatic than my time and place, 20th century California.
Stories that live are begotten in passion and nurtured with attitude. Let’s call my attitude Beat Noir. Noir because the darkness we live in and the darkness inside us is often my subject matter. Beat because even before I started writing, I found an affinity for the writers labeled Beats. In hindsight I see that it wasn’t their iconoclasm, wild enthusiasm, or intellectual vigor that intrigued me so much as their quest.
Here’s a clip from Wikipedia about Jack Kerouac, the prime instigator of the Beat movement”.
“On May 17, 1928, while six years old, Kerouac had his first Sacrament of Confession. For penance he was told to say a rosary, during the meditation of which he could hear God tell him that he had a good soul, that he would suffer in his life and die in pain and horror, but would in the end have salvation. This experience, along with his dying brother’s vision of the Virgin Mary combined with a later discovery of Buddhism and ongoing commitment to Christ, solidified his worldview.”
According to Kerouac, his novel On the Road, which is commonly misinterpreted as a tale of companions out looking for kicks is in truth “about two Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God.”
My fascination with Cynthia Jones and Kerouac may rest upon a deep belief the three of us share: that the end of this age began in 1945, when a crew of Dr. Strangeloves and their bomb not only annihilated cities, but unleashed a legion of physical and spiritual demons.
Kerouac proposed that those of us who live with the threat of sudden obliteration ought to experience and respond with hearts and minds to everything while we can, before nuclear Armageddon.
That belief was the cornerstone for the attitudes of the Beats, the hippies, and the Jesus people of the 1960s and ’70s. Most of my generation has, in the words of Jackson Browne, traded their wings for resignation “and exchanged love’s bright and fragile glow for the glitter and the rouge.” Yet that fear and urgency still own us. We recognize that things continue to fall apart. We fear, like Yeats, that the center cannot hold, and we too wonder what strange beast is slouching toward Bethlehem.
My Hickey and Otis stories first connect when a Cynthia Jones vendetta incites the action of The Venus Deal. Then a Tom Hickey rescue gives birth to Cynthia’s apocalyptic vision. And that vision drives the entire story, in four or five volumes, of Otis Otterbach.
I dream my books will acquaint many readers with Otis, Cynthia, the Hickey family, their times and their California, which like all true stories deserve to live in memory.
Seven Hickey books are available. The Gas Crisis, first volume of the Otis saga, was scheduled to appear in October 2014 from Stark Raving Press, but stuff happens. As Master Jeong was fond of saying, “Number one is patience. Number two is patience. Number three . . .”
I fondly hope you will read the whole story.