Ever wonder where your life would have headed if you’d had the big breakthrough back then? Landed the job at the top? Been accepted at that Ivy League college or tony prep school? Married the seemingly perfectly glamorous spouse? (The one who got away, of course – or the one you only gaped at across the classroom with never more than a sentence at a time ever being exchanged?) Started your own business and thrived? Had the weed-free garden or the problem-free children?
I can look back on a life with a lot of near misses that way, or so I’d hope, but the reality is that is one advance that way would have precluded many, many down-to-earth life lessons.
Once past the early dreams of literary success, I’ve wondered what would have happened had one work or another taken off as a bestseller. More along that vein would have been expected, even demanded. And then? Where would the growth have occurred?
In my experience, the practice has been to keep exploring. Often it felt like looking for a crack in the wall, whatever the resistance was, but I kept probing.
Instead of continuing along that opening, had it happened, I’ve kept investigating a wider range and recording that. I could say it’s been exhausting as well as prolific.
Revisiting the notes and drafts and thoughts that underpin my newest release, Parallel Tracks of Yin and Yang, resurrects so much of that turmoil and openness.
For me, this volume is a celebration of the creative process, more than any “finished” product.
It’s an honest acknowledgement of so much that got away or might have been. Wish you’d had a chance to meet me back then.
Two early novels that were left unfinished are now resurrected and joined in this fertile volume. One, a venture into “political science fiction,” seems prescient in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential campaign. The other, in a mystery genre, enters its own time warp with an invitation to dine out.
Take a trip Along the Parallel Tracks of Yin and Yang.
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.