People often suggest that I write a book. They think I know stuff or something that should be shared. I disagree. Not only has my career been pretty unremarkable, but I’m not really that good a writer. And that is no false modesty. I know how to string words together…but I’m not so good at the imagery; I’m just not that creative. I'm okay with the mechanics of writing. I could be a pretty decent book editor.
On the other hand, my friend, poet and fellow cabdriver, Terry – he is actually writing a book! It’s a fun process to watch.
Terry is an incredible guy. He’s about my age and twice divorced. Like me, he should exercise more and has already spent decades pursuing a career in his field – in his case the automotive service industry. When cutbacks forced him out he bought a taxi. Now he’s his own boss, and loves it. So we have a lot in common. He is also a very spiritual, church-going man whose faith and convictions are strong. He takes the Bible a little too literally for me, but that’s a small quibble, I suppose.
Terry’s book is tentatively titled, “Broken Earth.” It is a historical novel set at the very end of The Civil War, using real places and events. A Yankee, Thomas who is an emissary of President Lincoln meets up with John, a Confederate soldier left for dead under a pile of bodies after a vicious battle – one of the last of the war.
The two young men who normally would be enemies for reasons they did not fully comprehend meet up and hit it off. They form an unlikely alliance as Thomas heads north to deliver a message to the president. They arrive in Washington D.C. on April 14, 1865 and check-in to the National Hotel where they bump into an actor named John Booth who happens to be appearing in a play later that night. Booth gives them two tickets…
Terry has written over 100 pages so far. He has expanded the story greatly in the manner of his literary heroes, Louis L’amour and Larry McMurtry. Obviously, Terry loves those old west sagas. And when I read his words they reflect the same style of writing, with the same level of character development and scene-setting as the established pros. I’m interested to see where the story will go. Terry hints that his characters will cross paths with Evangeline, she of Longfellow’s famous poem.
Terry has most of this already planned-out. When he talks to me about the direction the book will take it is as if the characters are real people; he knows them that well. And indeed, to him they are alive.
That’s the difference between Terry and me. I can write about inanimate objects like helicopters, airplanes, cars and motorcycles. I could write a pretty decent technical manual! But I’m just not that good with people – either in person or in print, real or imagined. I’m not that good at capturing moods, creating characters and their dialogue, and describing scenes that are easily visualized. Those abilities are the mark of a real writer. And Terry seems to have the knack, that gift of communication that transcends time and language. I admit that I’m more than a little envious.
Terry thinks I’ve “got a book” in me and constantly urges me to start writing it – just start! But honest to God I don’t think I do. I have no story burning inside of me waiting to be told. They say that if you sat a monkey down at a typewriter for an infinite amount of time he’d eventually come up with “War and Peace.” And those are the same odds as me writing a whole book. I’m better at little blogposts and magazine articles.
I call myself a raconteur but I’m not, not really. Not compared to guys like Terry, and Hal, and “other” Bob, and Debby who are really good writers who see things from a writer’s point of view and can easily translate that into words. Me, I’m just a damn monkey flinging feces at a blank page in the misguided hope it results in something Tolstoyish. I may never be him, just as I may never be Eric Clapton no matter how long I play and practice my guitar. And I’m okay with that.
I will let you know how Terry’s book turns out.