Does a mystery novel have to revolve around a detective? Even a charming amateur? Or can it focus instead on the leading suspect?
In proposing a book with the working title, Dinner to Die For, I envisioned an anonymous restaurant critic who works for an independent television station. How to handle the visuals for each review would have posed an interesting challenge, something quite unlike the so-called Phantom Gourmet who has since become a popular staple on a New England cable news channel. He’s widely recognized on the street, for one thing.
Well, the novel never moved forward. This project was predicated on two collaborators, who eventually declined, however discretely.
Still, enough remained to slip into my newest book, Along the Parallel Tracks of Yin and Yang.
As a further twist, my biggest novel on the way is also about food and restaurants. This time, from the inside. And I promise, it won’t be a mystery.
As I revisit the abandoned plans for two early novels, what I encounter feels strange and wondrous – and sometimes sophomoric. Yes, I wrote what appears here, but these days the words could be by a stranger – a youngster I wouldn’t mind meeting. In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential campaign, what had seemed outrageous in my “political science fiction” draft four decades earlier now has an air of prophecy. The other work, a detective novel, revives memories of a potential collaborator no longer among the living. Put together with a little bit more, they create a new book of fiction, one that runs Along the Parallel Tracks of Yin and Yang. As we might say in Zen, these works are what they are. Or what you, too, bring to the story. Enjoy the ride.
The limited success of politically-based fiction continues to surprise me. Shakespeare, opera, and Greek tragedy all have their fill of court intrigue and power pl0ys, but modern democracies just don’t seem to stir the same passions. The success of the West Wing television series and a few movies stands as an anomaly. And then there are the lawyers who have built on their own experiences. Still!
Years ago, as science fiction was gaining respectability, I thought I might fuse the two by creating political science fiction, which led to a draft of my Cowboy from Mars. In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential campaign, it’s not as far out as I’d thought. Take a look for yourself. It’s included in Along the Parallel Tracks of Yin and Yang, my new collection of fiction.
Rouge on lips or toenails, the glimmer of gold jewelry or a gemstone, the glossy photograph or the slick magazine, the light in a drop of costly perfume, the shimmer in a particular weave or pattern of spectacular cloth, or the haute (hoity-toity) air of a trendy boutique: each reflects eternal desires and feminine intrigue. The interplay of status-seeking, gamesmanship, the swift-changing hunt, and the theater of fashion spreads out far from its urban epicenters – and crosses nations, languages, continents, and ages. How quickly a little girl insists on her own definitive style! The poet and poetry are not immune, either, infused with their own tastes and passions. Where a dictionary observes gloss as “the luster or sheen of a polished surface,” there is also the danger of “a deceptive or superficial appearance” as well as “an effort to hide or attempt to hide (errors, defects, etc.).” Still, a gloss may also attempt to interpret or translate. The curve or the motion, the smile or the gaze, skin itself, or hair in sunlight or moonlight, each concealing while hinting of revelations. So often, awaiting next month’s editions.
These are the poems that conclude my newest collection, Foreign Exchange.