Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Number 3

The third book that influenced East Garrison is Tom Wolfe's novel, A Man in Full. This humongous 742-page satire is about sixty-year-old real estate mogul, “Cap’m” Charles Croker whose world is collapsing amidst racial tension in Atlanta, Georgia. In the end, “Cap’m” Charlie is saved from a moral dilemma by Stoicism, a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of a handful of characters, primarily “Cap’m” Charlie, young idealist Conrad Hensley, and up and coming African American attorney Roger White II.

Basically, I loved the structure of A Man in Full and used it as a model for East Garrison. Wolfe's story goes completely full circle with “Cap’m” Charlie and Conrad Hensley, who are not just chronologically and geographically miles apart, but also portray extremes of rich and poor. Eventually, through a looong series of coincidences the two meet, and young Hensley, a recent believer in Stoicism, teaches “Cap’m” Charlie its basic tenets. The characters, setting, story, and particularly the dialog in A Man in Full are all spot on, hilarious, and unique. Wolfe is a master with dialog, which is something most writers admire. The implausibility of “Cap’m” Charlie and Hensley finally connecting is one interesting, fun ride. Although East Garrison isn't an epic like Wolfe's novel, not even close, I tried to follow the basic structure of having characters in a setting where they’re unaware of the other’s presence, yet seemingly their lives are revolving around each other, and eventually all end up together.

In my story, I had the father Jack, the antagonist, become the hero of the story in a most unlikely turn of events. There’s also a convoluted philosophy which isn't Stoicism, but a unique blend of the Theosophical society, numerology, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and an ancient symbol, the swastika. “Cap’m” Charlie goes from riches to rags, and so does Jack. That’s about where the similarity ends. Wolfe’s novel is a satire. I consider East Garrison a modern horror story. But it helped to have a structure that I liked and seemed to work well while writing my first novel. If you haven’t read A Man in Full, I highly recommend it.

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