Wednesday, June 28, 2006

How To Pad Your Thesis With Bullshit

This is a piece from the preface of my creative thesis. We were required to come up with something that explained our influences, blah blah blah. I'm pretty proud of this, even if it is poorly written, because it is some of the finest bullshit I've ever had the priviledge to write. Enjoy.


I became interested in nor fiction when I discovered the films of Humphrey Bogart. I remember renting Casablanca and The African Queen from the local video store when VCRs first became an entertainment phenomenon. My folks would get whatever new movie Burt Reynolds was in, while I, for some unknown reason, headed for the classics section. And it was there that I found the films that would spur my love of storytelling. It was the tough guys, like Jimmy Cagney and Bogart that grabbed my attention. As a young boy I found something in their on-screen personas, something I wish I had.

It was during this period that I discovered two of my all-time favorite films: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Maltese Falcon. To this day, I’ll watch them at least once a year. And while Paul Newman and Robert Redford were terrific, it was Bogie and his quest for the black bird that captured my imagination. There was something adult about the film, themes of greed and lust that were taboo to a young kid. Themes that I didn’t quite understand, but they were something I sure wanted to know more about.

At this time in my life I was also discovering a love for reading adult fiction. Growing up around the Bangor, Maine area, it was difficult to avoid the local phenomenon of Stephen King. By the time I was old enough to carry one of his books out of the Bucksport Public Library (somewhere around the fourth grade), King had been a success for about eight years and was already an international sensation.

So, my first step into adult fiction was horror. Taking suggestions from this adult author, I soon read stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury and Robert Bloch. All of whom appealed to a young boy’s sometimes gruesome imagination; a trait that continued as he turned into an adult. But as satisfying as these stories were, I was always concentrating on the premise, the gore or the scare; never on the interaction, or internal struggle of the characters; until I discovered the more complex dramas at the video store.

Love, lust and greed were waiting for me within those videocassettes. Bogart taking on Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, while bedding Lauren Becall and Mary Astor. There was a natural curiosity as to why Fred McMurray would kill someone for a woman. As a boy growing up playing soldier with toy guns with my friends, murder was easy enough to understand; but it was the motive that pricked my attention. One may say that I was going through an early transformation out of that Freudian latency period, discovering females for the first time. But these weren’t the girls on the playground you secretly wanted to kiss; these were different creatures all together. I had graduated from a crush on little fifth grade Heather Parsons to discovering an aching desire for these sexy and seductive women. It would be another five years before I officially lost my virginity, but my cherry was popped long before that.

But along with the attraction, came the wanting of being a man like these tough guys. These women found them attractive and I wanted to be one of them. They fascinated me and I wanted to learn more about them and what they did. So, as I watched all the tough guy movies available at the video store, I went to my other entertainment love: reading. I went from Stephen King’s Carrie to Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe. This was a man. He wasn’t like Superman, all-powerful, able to accomplish anything. This was an everyman, yet also extraordinary at the same time. He had faults; he wasn’t the typical good guy. He’d just as easily punch another guy to get what he wanted.

From Chandler, I went to Hammett, then on to Gregory MacDonald and John D. MacDonald. But it was more than the mysteries I was after. I read other books in the genre, Agatha Christie, for one, but I found the stories weren’t that interesting. Sure, the puzzles were neat and the solutions of the typical locked room mysteries were entertaining; but they did not compare to the darker side of the genre.

Like any childhood interest, reading these mysteries subsided as adolescence took over. There was little time for reading, as other interests demanded my time. The general malaise of the teenage years descended upon me like it did for many of Generation X. Granted, I was still reading, but not as much. And nothing will kill the reading bug like English Lit classes. Between the excruciating experience of high school English and then university literature classes, it is a wonder that I ever picked up another book. Then somewhere in that primordial muck I call my twenties, I rediscovered my love of books and remembered my desire to one day become a writer. I went back and re-read the classics of the genre: The Postman Always Rings Twice, Red Harvest, The Big Sleep, The Grifters. Soon, I branched out to the newer writers: Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos. Settling into these books re-captured my imagination with the world. It re-invigorated my curiosity with the darker side of human character. So once I received some encouragement from a former writing teacher, I realized that my psuedo-goal of going to law school was only a blurry suggestion and that my true calling was to become what I have always wanted to be since I first grabbed Stephen King’s books off the high shelves at the library: a writer.

The outcome of my efforts is this book. The idea of its plot and characters may have come to me only a couple of years ago, but its true beginning was nearly twenty-five years ago. This is the product of a young boy who was fascinated with the dark side of the world and hasn't lost that fascination.

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