Slam Dunking the Chinatown Bitch Slap--by Reb MacRath
I ended up having three visits in one in a trip to San Francisco, a town that I had lived in twice for a grand total of seven years.
1) The trip should have been a reunion. But a sudden cancellation--something I might have foreseen--left me with nonrefundable bus fare, nowhere to stay and no reason to go. Then again...
2) I began to hunt for cheap hotels, prepared to stay only one night if need be. And so the trip became an act of independence. From this point forward I'd never surrender control of my comings or goings to anyone whose friendship I might have cause to question. (I ended up staying for the three nights as planned, by eating once only a day.)
3) The trip evolved into one one my life's best adventures.. In an unplanned walk through Chinatown with a friend I'd met for lunch, I nearly fell to the ground--bitch-slapped in the most beautiful way by something he'd just said.
The friend, Rob Carino, said that he enjoyed my rough-and-tumble Boss MacTavin mysteries but the books he loved best were in the series called The Fast and The Furies. These are short and stylish thrillers with a literary slant, about men and women on the run from karma and seeking their redemption. The books all have another trait in common: they were written from the heart and each came about from a sort of creative seizure. First, an idea that I could not shake...then passionate joy in the writing, with fanatical attention to phrasing and little plays on words...then carrying on and carrying on, with no notion of whether the project would sell or even 'take' with readers--till the book had had its way with me and I had set it free.
Now, before that talk in Chinatown, I'd been counting the days till I started writing the next Boss MacTavin mystery. And after months of research and outlining, I felt ready to start on March 1. It had been a year since the last book in that series and I felt I had an exceptionally strong commercial hook: a subject that hadn't been handled, not the way I'd handle it. I was also making progress toward a re-release of Mastery, one of the horror novels I wrote as Kelley Wilde. No plans for the next entry in The Fast and The Furies series. Not till the Chinatown Bitch Slap.
Rob's kind remark had called into question why I write the books I write--and what I get from writing. Here I was, ready to start another noirish mystery--on the heels of Mastery, a very bloody horror tale. But I didn't want to be known for only violent novels. And I didn't want to be driven only by thoughts of sales. I wanted the passion and playfulness I'd found in The Fast and The Furies. And I didn't want to wait a year and a half to, maybe, start in on the next one.
No, no. I couldn't abandon the months that I'd spent getting ready for Boss. I-I-I-I....
Another slap. Still harder. A terrific concept had just slugged me in the kisser. It was outrageous, controversial, wild--and I had no idea if I could actually pull it off. A contemporary thriller set in ancient Rome and Egypt? But...
I knew I had to try. Furthermore, I knew I had to start that day, not wait till the end of my visit. The hell with an outline. The hell with a Moleskine notebook I couldn't afford till next week. The hell with 500 words a day, my usual finicky limit. 1000 words a day or bust. And not just any thousand words. I'd write a thousand that spun heads and lowered jaws at least once every page. I'd try to conquer this small book as Caesar conquered Gaul, And my own Gaul was also split into three parts: lack of self-confidence, faithlessness, sloth.
Here's an image of Caesar that shows us the warrior, not the elegant Hollywood hand-down:
And this is the spirit I called on for help in transforming the Chinatown Bitch Slap into a joyous Slam Dunk. Every day with this new book's an adventure. Every day affords the chance for ballsier decisions. Boss MacTavin will be back...after the palm prints are gone from my face.