I, Wyatt Earp--Hell's Angel by Reb MacRath

Life was a ride on the wild side when I was just a Hell's Angel. But the morning I found myself as Wyatt Earp approaching the OK Corral....life grew confusing and scary.

While we gear up for the thirty-second gunfight, let me check on my Harley and try to explain.

It all began, you see, with a WIP that I thought would be a cakewalk. Easy-peasy. For the fifth entry in my Seattle BOP mystery series, I wanted something simple after mountains of research that I'd had to climb for the fourth novel. Bingo: I'd send the two lead characters, Chief and Ammy off on a two week vacation. And on the way, to make this a mystery, they'd solve a simple pro bono.

I couldn't stop thinking that a two-week motorcycle vacation would be perfect for the couple--though neither they nor I had ever set butt on a chopper. That didn't daunt me any more than my never having been to Arizona, where I thought to send them to deliver a pair of bikes while exploring the Southwest.

Day by day, my first hopes of a cakewalk flew further from sight. Research on Arizona wouldn't pose any real problem. I've had to research new settings for scores of my past books. But I'd begun to play with the idea of my young investigators having to pass themselves off as real bikers. They'd need to learn more about motorcycles and the lives of those who rode them.

I couldn't have found a much better teacher than the man in the top photo: the legendary rider/Hell's Angel/mechanic Sonny Barger. One of his books, Let's Ride became my bible quickly. It's filled with biking lore and the sort of arcane info any serious biker would know...ignorance of which could spell disaster for my leads. To improve my leads' riding skills, I invented a new riding school offering more than a simple crash course--modeling the instructor on Sonny Barger.

So okay, then, you'd think: I was really off and rolling now. But not so fast. The Muse insisted on Tombstone as the destination for those bikes.

What did I know about Tombstone? Less than I knew about bikes. But maybe if I learned enough I'd know why I had to get two cycles there and what that crazy gunfight has to do with the first half of my story.

It's been a hell of a ride. But Wyatt Earp's good company and and has the Hell's Angels' backs. Somehow, together, we'll bring it all home, though it has been one hell of a ride.

This is my report.



Peter Leyland said…
Great Reb. This prompted all sorts of memories - Easy Rider of course; two friends of mine travelling across America on a bike, selling it and flying back to England from California. How I envied them. But I did have my own bike, a modest 250cc for a few years and entered 'bike lore'. In the end I swapped it for a car - couldn't get any girls to cling on to me!

Thanks for the post. I now have your email and am planning to read your great work or 'the wee Roman spring surprise' in whatever spaces I can find.
Bill Kirton said…
Knowing you, Reb, it'll all be worth it. Mind you, being in a similar sort of situation while preparing for the final book in my Figurehead trilogy, I'm beginning to suspect that the research may really be a delaying tactic. Bon courage, my friend.
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Reb!
Research is usually my nemesis because of all the possible rabbit holes. It's so easy to get lost in one or more of them, but ... it's also the path of serendipitous discovery. As a pantser, I love this aspect of writing. You will learn plenty about Tombstone, bikes, and gunfights, and your readers will be all the more entertained for the research you've done.

Reb MacRath said…
Thanks, Peter.

Actually, the Easy Rider connection was what got me going. I kept thinking of these two somewhat straight-laced professionals taking riding lessons so they could see the country Rider-style...forgetting the nightmarish ending. From here, the book went its own course...leading me to Tombstone.
Reb MacRath said…
Thanks, Bill.

It is indeed possible to use research for avoidance. Rather than allow that to happen, after I'd done enough to jump in, I relied on my old strategy of writing and leaving blanks for what I needed to turn.

Let each day's work be sufficient unto itself, eh?
Reb MacRath said…
Thanks, Eden. I'm a half-and-halfer, myself. I outline in detail for, usually, the first half of a book. Then, in the grip of the story, I learn something new every day!

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