May 1, 2012

Larry talks about...historical fiction set in the recent past

When I was knee-deep into the writing of The Priest and The Peaches I never considered that it might be considered historical fiction. I was of the mindset that I was simply writing a book at the YA level. In my mind “historical” dealt with things that had taken place way before I was but a twinkle in my parents’ eyes. Then the reality of the concept sunk in. The story was taking place during my early years on this planet. I was alive and experiencing those days that I was writing about. I suddenly felt old because I had become “historical” also. I realized that the time frame I was dealing with was almost 50 years ago. I was here and still reeling (as were so many others) over the Kennedy assassination. The Vietnam War was escalating and a close friend I had gone to school with, Stevie O’Shea, had just been killed in action bringing the war home to our neighbourhood. Medicare had just been signed into law. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 had been passed. A year earlier, the Civil Rights Act had also been enacted. There were riots in the Watts section of Los Angeles and The Sound of Music was released. I could go on but it is obvious why this work is classified as historical fiction.

I discovered that the advantage for me, as a writer and having actually experienced those days, was that they are part of who I am. The result is, when writing about the time frame, you can “feel” it. You were there and the sounds and sights and people are indelibly embedded in your mind. I did not realize that until I started jarring memories loose, memories that must have been stuck deep down in a hidden cave somewhere in my brain. So many things began popping up. It was like I had stuck a shovel in the ground, dug down and hit a hidden reservoir which contained my past. I was amazed that I was seeing “Joe the Bungalow Guy” driving his ice-cream truck down the street. Or “Little Louie,” the UPS man, and Gus, who had a merry-go-round on the back of a pick-up truck and for ten cents a kid could get on it and Gus would pull the thing around by hand. The subways, the candy stores, the movie theaters and so much more once again became vivid sights.

I guess I should end by saying that unexpectedly revisiting all of these memories became a part of the journey. It enabled me to see not only myself but my family and friends and so many things from days gone by. It was almost as if I were watching an old Super * movie reel. Talk about “perks” of the job. WOW!