Friday, September 30, 2011


Frankie here. Sorry for being a little late.

I'm finally home after being on the road for six days (airports, rental cars, pouring rain, a board meeting, the Writer's Police Academy, a conference on crime, media, and popular culture, eating too much junk food, trying to remember my room number in each new hotel). Each time I find myself doing one of these trips (thankfully, not often), I have greater respect for writers who do weeks-long book tours and all the other "road warriors." I came to this last trip on the heels of Bouchercon the week before, so I'm feeling pretty exhausted. I'm looking forward to having this weekend to catch up and get back to editing my manuscript.

As I was thinking about my post today, I realized my brain was not functioning. No topic came to mind, only the several bits and pieces that happened to be rattling around, inspired by my travels and my reading on planes. Actually, something else came to mind as I was turning on my computer -- and waiting five minutes for it to warm up and growling at it. My computer -- let's call it "Stan" -- is getting old. Five years or so, nothing in people time, but ancient in computer technology. Stan has reached the point where he starts up slowly in spite of my high-speed internet. He comes on, creaks, groans, and eventually gets to the place where I would like him to go. After that he's fine. But it's those first five minutes. . . I also have a laptop. We'll call him "Zake." Zake is the flashy young sports car to Stan's aging family sedan. But except when I'm in my easy chair working, I would rather be at my desk using Stan. . .if not for the fact that he is now so slow that I end up yelling at him before we get started.

That brings me to the insight I had this morning. Maybe I yell at him not only because I have been brainwashed into expecting everything in seconds but because Stan reminds me too much of me. Yesterday evening I was in line at the supermarket. Behind me, in the next line, the check-out clerk and her bagger had a free moment. The bagger (a young woman with multi-colored hair) was telling the checkout clerk, that she (the bagger) had stopped celebrating birthdays. She was dreading the one coming up in three months because she was going to be 30! The clerk giggled and agreed that was definitely "really old". She (the checkout clerk) had another ten years before she would be that old. The bagger told her with the solemn wisdom of age to enjoy her 20s while she could. I almost turned around and made a comment about enjoying their 30s and 40s. But I managed to keep my laughter to myself and retreat with my dignity almost intact. Which brings me to what occurred to me about Stan this morning. I haven't bought a newer, faster, flashier desk top computer because it would feel like putting poor Stan out to pasture. I imagine him sitting there somewhere in a pile of junk where computers, too old to be recycled, are tossed. I am going to have to learn to be patient with Stan until I can convince myself that I have not somehow betrayed a fellow baby boomer by shutting him down and turning him over to my computer tech for a replacement. I'll have my tea while he's warming up. . .at least for a little while longer.

I've also been thinking about High Noon. At the conference I just attended, I presented an academic paper about honor, duty, and the lawmen in High Noon, a western, and Donnie Brasco, a crime drama based on the true story of a former FBI agent who spent six years deep undercover with the mob. I've been thinking a lot about Will Kane, the marshal in High Noon. I've seen the movie at least a couple of dozen times. Each time I'm caught up again in the narrative of the lawman, who, as Tex Ritter sings, is torn between "love and duty." As a protagonist, Will Kane (played by Gary Cooper) is one of my models for a character who is both vulnerable and heroic. Watching him struggle with his fear -- torn between grabbing his new wife and getting the heck out of Dodge (or rather Hadleyville) or proving he is "a man" by staying around until Frank Miller arrives on the noon train -- is a fascinating character study.

Vertical farming and hope. I'm reading a book titled The Vertical Farm by a scientist named Dickson Despommier. My editor gave it to me because I'm working on a book set in 2019. The theme of the book is that we can reduce our environmental footprint as a species, help the planet to heal, and ensure a steady food supply by moving from rural farming on depleted land using pesticides that pollute our water supply to vertical farming inside buildings in our cities. It's a fascinating book. I mention it here not only because it's worth reading but because it reminded me of something about myself as a writer. I need hope. Even though my book is set in a future that will undoubtedly be filled with more natural and man-made disasters, I don't want to spend time in a world without hope. So my book -- my parallel universe -- will have crime and murder and all the dark things we love in our mystery novels. But it will also have a city that is building vertical farms. Luckily, I do have a wealthy industrialist in the book who can generously offer to invest in the project. The question is what does he expect to get for his investment in the city. . . Oh, well, even hope has costs attached in crime novels.


Donis Casey said...

I had lunch with Earlene Fowler when she was through town a couple of months ago. As we were walking toward the restaurant, two gorgeous young things in five inch heels, tall and pouty-lipped, gave a disdainful glance as they passed to our slightly dumpy party of not-so-tall, not-so-young women. Earlene murmured, "Just you wait, my beauties. Just you wait."

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Exactly! If they live long enough, they too will get there.

Anonymous said...

Allow me to recommend a different book: What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism, by Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster, Monthly Review Press. Gives all the reasons for dispair, yet indicates possibilities, hope, but not from a silver bullet technology or reform.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I'll look for it.

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