Some people who know me well may be worried by the title. In this case, I am restricting it to my first attempt at a novel, “Escape from Playa Del Carmen” and is a side story to the story. I wonder have you ever read Clancy novels and wonder what Jack Ryan’s family thought about his exploits? I have.
My mind tends to think like that. Or how about the close friends of the family that may have known Jack since childhood and may have lived those pre-teen and teenage adventures with him? To me, I think about that sort of thing. Our insights of the great men and women of history are often garnered from the diaries or nowadays, postings of their friends and children rather than the close inner circle that we get in history books or from made up people in novels.
In my story Don Sackett is known to his police associates as a good cop, not exceptional except in one way, his magnetism to draw trouble without any effort of his own. Although they see Don as a good cop, he was also deemed by his co-workers as a “Shit Magnet” a name also given to anyone else who just attracted more than their fair share of difficult cases. Sackett was not unique, but he also may have been one of the better known, of the SM on the force.
News articles and clips are a lot like history books or novels that are well edited and are known to the reporter as much for what was missing from the report as what was published. A reporter’s impression of an event or a person is developed over the course of their reporting and their career. Reporters that followed Reagan from his days as an actor probably never saw the potential he had to become president, but if they did, it was either left out of the story or if they didn’t, how different would they have written it forty years later?
I took that thinking, my kind of thinking and applied to my story. In my story, the involvement of Sackett’s comrades in arms on the police department is shared as part of the story. Don grew up in the sticks in Alaska in the fifties and sixties, and his closest friends were neighbor kids, cousins, and eventually High School Classmates.
Later, his military accountancies, his wife, and his in-laws. You get a good deal of insight from his current wife but both his first in-laws and second have passed on and the short military career of three years had minimized the potential for longtime friendship but some guys still communicated and many would recognize the name and spark memories once the story hit the news.
Speaking of news, Don has had contact with the news folks as a policeman, as friends and some cases as family over the years and they each have differing points of view, and not all are good. In the story, Alejandro is a newsman with no knowledge of Sackett, and in the book, you see him through research and personal discovery develop his views on my intrepid hero.
The idea about how his children view him and grandkids intrigued me the most. Kids tend to view us the harshest of all our accountancies since as parents we are the people they have known all their lives and seen us at our best and worse. Kids tend to start acting as parents to their parents when they start to worry if dad or mom is still all together with it. Much like when they were teens and felt that they were way better at knowing everything around the time of retirement they begin to worry about the “Old Folks.” Grandkids are not that way, and step grandkids especially are good at just accepting Grandpa or Grandma as just interesting people. Some are feared as grumpy and others as pushovers that give you everything Mom and Dad say no to but in either case they play a big role in the lives of the grandkids.
In my book, Don thinks about his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. The kids he has a feel for and sure, he knows how they will handle his situation. He, of course, knows them even better than they know him. The
grandkids he hasn’t spent as much time with as he would have liked and wonders about their reaction and assumes his wife Vicki will try to keep it from the younger grandkids but, the older ones are in their late twenties and have kids of their own. Two of the older grandchildren have worked in the family business with the guy they know as Gramps. The rest of them have had their own experiences with Gramps and Grammy and find Grammy lots more fun because Gramps tends to busy at something all the time but still finds some time to spoil them and tell stories.
My curiosity made me wonder what would the teenaged, and younger grandkids think about the news that Gramps was missing in Mexico and accused of murdering a bunch of people on a bus. The police were trying to find him and based on Grammy’s report he was being framed by bad cops and working for the drug cartels. What would the consensus be among them?
The older boys who have worked with Gramps I could see them kind of shrug it off, say something like, “Gramps wouldn’t kill anyone, well unless they needed it and even then, he would have not had any other choice. Gramps was patient with people, but if it was a piece of equipment that didn’t work right, he might beat it to pieces with a sledgehammer. It would probably be best if they just left him alone, he may be old, but he is much stronger and determined than he looked and smarter too.”
“Teenager who might question their parents every thought would be thinking, “Better leave Gramps alone, he would never hurt anyone, but I would sooner corner a rattlesnake than Gramps. Not sure how he will do it but he will come home, and I would feel sorry for anyone who got in his way.”
The two girl, grandkids Princes’s one and two, “Gramps is coming home to see me, he isn’t going to let anything stop him from getting home. No way did he hurt anyone. Well unless they try to hurt me or stop him from coming home to see me. There isn’t any doubt he will get out of Mexico.”
The littlest or the great grandkids that are old enough to talk and born with an attitude would like to think along the lines, “Nobody better hurt my gramps or I will hunt them down and shoot them with my deer gun.” And they would mean it too.
I find it fun to think about things like this because it gives me a better feel for the character than whether he knows the name of the flower he sees or has more ways to describe the color yellow in one paragraph than he has fingers.
I suffer as a writer from the fact that before I started college in my mid-forties, about all of my writing was done for the Anchorage Police Department. Most of that writing was done as clearly and concisely as possible for two reasons. One, it makes a good police report, and two I had dyslexia but didn’t know it. The way to get by was with short, simple, direct sentences with little words I could spell. The hot PC at the time I joined the police department was a Mac Plus, and ten years later it was the Apple II E.
It wasn’t until I entered college that I discovered spell check and it was years later when half way good grammar checkers came along. Without that my writing might have been writing school books for first graders and still I would have needed a good editor.
My tendency is to put the story first, establish the facts get to the conclusion. I have to go back in and fill in the things I see in my mind that didn’t make it to the paper. After that, I go back and take out all the stuff that didn’t need to be there to make the story.
My mind wanders frequently, and therefore my characters tend to get lost in their heads from time to time too. I read books where it appears that the only thing(s) they think about is salient to the story. It would be like expecting a ten-year-old to spend all of fourth grade thinking about his studies and not about things like, Do girls really have cooties? How do airplanes fly? Or If that bully tries to pick on me I am going to flatten his nose. That was only a small sampling of the narrative running in my head in fourth grade and may explain in part why it took two tries to get to fifth grade.
I continue my search for an agent and continue to write and rewrite. I think I have reached about half way through “Patent for Murder” where Gramps is caught in a mystery staged in the labyrinth of deceit and corruption known as the seat of government or Washington DC. Several characters from the first two novels assist in solving the mystery of who and why someone would commit one mass murder and attempt another murder, and the thing that links them is a patent application for an invention that seemingly disappears from the government record. If you love to distrust the government and may believe that sometimes there really is a conspiracy, then you will love helping Don Sackett and his team get to the rest of the story. (Line shamelessly stole from Paul Harvey for those of us old enough to remember that.)