In a matter of weeks the editing process for my current novel will be finished and I’ll try to get it published, but you can’t sit still and bank on that one-shot possibility, so I’m weighing options on my next big project.
First, of course, there are other novels in various stages of completion that could be polished and primed, some of which have never been offered, kind of a ready reserve in case one of the books I’ve tried to publish breaks past the gateways and on into print.
Then there is an anthology of published and unpublished shorter works that could probably find its way into print if I pushed hard enough. I’ve been reworking some of them in my off time… after dark and into the early silences of mid-watch at my desk. Some of the stories are, I believe, damned good, stand the test of storage and re-reading. So good, I have to ask myself, “Damn, did I really write that?” At least to my taste. But anthologies are never a break-out book for any relatively unknown writer.
Then… and this is something my wife, MaryAnne Kolton, suggested… that I could write a memoir, a series of related essays from a personal history, some of which I’ve already written and have been successful, printed or published online either as fiction or in essay form. I’ve always thought, however, that a memoir is… a bit vain. I would consider a book of reminiscence about the many years I spent working in the shipyards, something I’ve written about before and, quite recently, as a column in Rabble Lit, an online literary magazine, a series that was titled Rust and Remembrance. Here’s a brief excerpt from a two part segment, describing some of the men I worked with and their nicknames:
There were a lot of Tonys: Little Tony, Big Tony, BS Tony; all Italian guys, all big men, even Little Tony. BS Tony was tall, thin-waisted, broad-shouldered, a bit of a bully and a look-alike for some famous line backer from the Cleveland Browns back then.
Poser that he was, BS Tony even trimmed his beard to enhance the resemblance.
He could load you up, tell you a story so outrageous, you would not believe.
Literally. You could not believe it… hence the prefix, BS Tony.
Now, Big Tony was the exact opposite. A serious man, one of many men the shipyard hired through a prison work release program. Big Tony was from Cleveland and it was rumored he was connected to the same Licavoli crime family that had recently blown up a guy named Danny Green who was somebody I knew through an ex-wife… blew him up with dynamite.
Maybe another time.
Anyway, if Big Tony was really connected, he would never say so. He never did, so… we took it for granted. He was all bulked up from the weight room in the prison. Kind of guy you never cross. You gave him respect. When he was working as a welder, he was no-nonsense: direct, terse, focused on the job, even questioned your work ethic if you tried to distract him. But when he loosened up with the guys, hanging out around the kerosene hotpots in the winter, he would tell these amazing stories about prison and about his life “in the game” as he called it, stories that would make you shiver or make you laugh, but whatever he told you? You knew it was true.
One of the stories he told us went like this… “I was leaving a club on Short Vincent, downtown Cleveland… and there’s this little parking lot off the street, surrounded by buildings, kind of dark. I go to my car, and this little guy, some punk with a knife, comes up out of nowhere, says, ‘Gimme your effen wallet.’ I’m a little surprised, but I step back, look around, see that nobody’s looking, reach back like I’m going for the wallet. Then I pull out a revolver instead, a nice little, nickle plated 38 Special, hammerless piece, fits nice in your pocket. I pull out this pistol, stick it in his face and I say, ‘I don’t think so.’ Guy drops the knife, backs up, and looks like he’s about t’lose his water… so I say, ‘Come to think of it, gimme your effen wallet.’”
Big Tony. You could believe he did that. You could.
He also told us the story about his lawyer and how he paid the guy two thousand dollars to pay off a judge during his last trial. Because the lawyer assured him of a guaranteed outcome, Big Tony opted out of a jury trial and instead told his lawyer to plead his case to the judge. Apparently the guy, his lawyer, put the money in his pocket… didn’t pay the judge.
End result? Big Tony did hard time for a felony.
He wasn’t smiling when he said, “I’d really like to find that guy. When I got out, they said he packed himself a bag, took off running… ran harder when he heard I was looking for him. He knows damn well what’s gonna happen when I find him. Last I heard, he was in Houston.”
He didn’t say, but you pretty much knew what Big Tony would do when he found him. And you could believe he would do it, whatever it was.
You thought about it long enough, you could almost hear the screams.
Much to think about and so little time in which to get published. At my age, there are no guarantees about time. I don’t want to wind up like the Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa, whose literary fame came into prominence quite remarkably quick, but unfortunately, quite posthumously as well when a friend discovered a trunkful of manuscripts in Fernando’s flat sometime after the funeral.
I’d like to know… before I go… if I’m a writer of note… or just another hack.