A storm rages outside. Wind rattles the windows of the 150-year-old inn. Ominous rolling thunder, lightning flashes, horizontal rain whips through the trees. The lights dim for a second. (Should I unplug my laptop? Yes.) Atop Mt. Washington, not far away, conditions must be terrifying. The worst weather in the world is recorded there. The power fails. Darkness. I light a candle. A few minutes ago I was reading a book called The Demonologist. Now I am afraid.
“It’s always best to start at the beginning,” advised Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. The day before the storm on the summit of Mt. Washington, a cold wind swept clouds across my face in the colorless landscape above the tree line. Like Kansas, I thought. Dorothy battling the wind in black-and-white before the arrival of the cyclone that will whisk her away to a Technicolor land of make-believe. The Wizard of Oz was on my mind because this week marks the 75th anniversary of its premiere.
I follow a lot of crime fiction blogs, groups, and websites. So, of course, it came to my attention that Raymond Chandler’s birthday was this past week. Might have thought of it myself if I hadn’t been busy juggling a dozen literary balls at the same time. And in some way they all seem to relate to Chandler.
A couple years back I referenced his essay The Simple Art of Murder (1950) in a review of a terrific debut thriller (The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris, available now in paperback.) I’d written my own first novel, and was looking forward to attending ThrillerFest that summer to see if I might generate some interest. I wasn’t sure what to expect. My book wasn’t like the classic detective fiction of Raymond Chandler. But my protagonist did have some of the qualities he discussed.
Early Morning Rain
Awake early, like a child on Christmas morning. Rain patters on trees outside the open screened window. Twelve hours ago I put finishing touches on my first guest blog post, almost ready to send. Somewhat distracted by the overwhelmingly positive response all day to the first book trailer, which had gone live that morning. Phone vibrated on the desk, noting arrival of email. Copy edits of first novel Calvin’s Head. I wanted to tear into the task of perusal immediately. But the day had been long, busy, dinner with friends already planned. I was tired, screen weary, brain dead. Best to wait until tomorrow.
New day, fresh start. I am here, ready, manuscript beside me, Word document beneath this one, waiting for the starter pistol to fire.
In the Netherlands and Europe on May 4th the victims of World War II are commemorated with a Day of Remembrance. At the Amsterdam Homomonument a special ceremony is held to pay tribute to gay and lesbian victims of Nazi persecution, as well as those who have suffered discrimination in any form, worldwide, since the war.
In April 2000 I took a train to Sachsenhausen, a Holocaust memorial site just north of Berlin, to view an exhibition by the Schwules Museum about the persecution of homosexuals during the Nazi regime. The program I made for the Radio Netherlands series Aural Tapestry was honored with the 2001 Seigenthaler Excellence in Audio Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association in Washington DC.
I couldn’t help but smile at year’s end when the Arts section of the New York Times published an essay by James Franco called The Meanings of the Selfie. It followed a November announcement by Oxford Dictionaries that selfie was their international Word of the Year 2013. Old news now, with the lightning speed of the information highway. But together the stories had a full-circle resonance for me. I began the year with a determination to pave new paths in social media. And almost everywhere I turned, James Franco popped up waving a checkered flag.