The second story in The Compleat Winter sprang from my year-and-a-half flirtation with standup comedy. Standup is a strange and bizarre thing that actually terrifies world champion public speakers. Not to mention it has a culture of its own that gives performers in other fields pause. One of the underlying currents in the world of standup is jealousy. Why did the audience laugh at one comic while the other bombed horribly? There is no rhyme or reason to it.
It was during my aborted standup career that I met and married a woman, Nita, who worked in radio. That field has its own culture, jealousies, and pitfalls. Also around this time, I somehow had gained an “mortal nemesis” in a writer who was, quite frankly, far more successful than I ever hoped to be. For some reason, he decided to heckle me on the back blogs under another writer’s name (whose lawyers, I assumed, did not find him as hilarious as he found himself.) A story started to form combining this incident, standup, and radio. It would be a piece of revenge fic, since I was ticked that the guy would not contact me directly (I’d only had the same public email address since the Wilson administration).
But revenge fic is a dicey thing. You often have to toss out the revenge piece to make a story work. Thus, Chris Logan was born. A popular sports radio host in this unnamed city, Logan wants to be a standup comic. One has to ask why. If you have a mortgage, a day job, and a booming career, why would you ever want to go into standup? You work for free for years, then make a pittance until you can score a gig doing corporate functions, cruises, and the college circuit. And radio hosts get to stay put for the duration of their job. Get paid more to live in one city? Sign me up! But Logan wants to be a standup. When he sees a new comer named Andy Carr, Logan can’t, for the life of him, figure out why people find Carr funny. Meanwhile, Logan is relegated to being an emcee. Now, from a business standpoint, emcee is actually a better gig than the opening act. If you’re on a three-act bill, the headliner and the feature act, either a buddy or partner of the headliner or a highly touted local, make all the money. The opener gets beer money to try and not lose the crowd the emcee just warmed up. Emcee gigs tend to be steadier and much easier. Short monologue, a couple of jokes between sets, and introduce the next act. But Logan, like so many comics, see the emcee gig as a slap.
So he starts stalking Carr. I personally have never been stalked, but I know people who have. I’ve also known a few stalkers in my day. The perfectly logical and natural reaction to stalking is fear. But what if someone does not respond with fear, nor do they appreciate the attention? What if the stalker goes too far and learns their target has a really bad temper when messed with? That’s what Chris Logan finds out by the end of the story.
I have to thank Steve Weddle at Needle for suggesting the shorter ending to this. With just a few words, Andy Carr sums up what he thinks of being Chris Logan’s mortal nemesis.
Anne Ripley existed in another form in my earlier days, before I started writing for market. However, I did not want to leave her behind. I also wanted a strong female character to anchor a new series. (One cannot write Nick Kepler forever, and I don’t plan to.) So Anne’s past was adjusted to the present day (2001), and transplanted to Cincinnati, Ohio, where I’d lived for a decade at that point. In the 1990’s, I delivered pizza while contracting and frequently delivered in the East End neighborhood. East End was sometimes referred to derisively as “Little Appalachia.” And why not? The Appalachian foothills being in Cincinnati proper. But the neighborhood had color, history, and a kind of faded look I found interesting.
So Anne’s first story would take her to this neighborhood, looking for a girl who had come to her for help. The story has a Congressman as the main villain, but were I to write it today, I’d probably have a politician at a lower level of government, a judge or a state legislator.
When I put the collection together, I reread the final scene where Ripley talks to a reporter from the Cincinnati Post. When I moved to town, I always preferred the city’s afternoon newspaper to The Enquirer, which was always so slanted in its coverage. (Nowadays, it would look apathetic next to Fox News or MSNBC.) The Post disappeared in 2008. The Enquirer, which now does a thriving business online, has been reduced to little more than the local Weekly Shopper in print.
And Ripley? The series I planned for her never came together. So I moved her into another series that may or may not find life in the future.
In Road Rules, Miami drug lord Julian Franco has a cold, merciless right-hand man known only as Loman. Late in the novel, Loman dies when Stan Yarazelski drives Franco’s Escalade off Savannah’s Tallmadge Bridge.
Or did he die?
A few years ago, I tried to write a sequel to Road Rules that started with Loman, appropriately banged up and looking almost like a zombie, coming out of the Savannah River. He scares the hell out of a group of college boys drinking beer along the river, then proceeds to lie low to see what happens with Franco.
That novel died. But the idea of Loman stayed with me. What if Loman stayed dead in the eyes of the law? What could a legally dead criminal get away with?
Lots. He could become a professional hit man. After all, he’s dead. Who would suspect him?
This story was my first attempt at a Loman story. I somehow hit on the idea of telling it backwards, where it becomes obvious what happens if you try to stiff the hit man on payment after a job well done. The character of Isabella also came about and was likely to be his partner had I managed a novel about him. (Still may write it. You never know.) I had plans. Isabella would use her position at a presitgious law firm to launder his money, screen clients, and seed the US and Canada with false identities. Loman would hide in, of all places, Cuba. The Cubans don’t care. As long as he doesn’t get his Yankee cooties all over their nice, clean revolutionary island, they pretty much ignore him.
The last scene takes place in a Lake Erie city called “Monticello.” What’s Monticello? I’ll get to that when I talk about a later story.
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