Bicentennial Day for America is going to be a long one for Larry. There’s a fifth of Southern Comfort to kill before noon. There’s all the memory other people won’t let the fifth kill off. The woman who’s divorced him three times wants to talk. His older son wants to publish Granddad’s Civil War Journal. Everyone wants to talk war history with a World War II vet. The mayor wants Larry’s crane to lift the statue of a fictional hero into place in time for the fireworks. The only person not bothering him is his younger son shipped home from Nam and resting for five years under a plain flat stone on the edge of town. This day will resonate with history – of one person, of one family, of one nation shaped by war– and all Larry wants is a little peace.
Jack London lamented that he had spent his life as a working class intellectual rubbing shoulders with the underprivileged on tramp steamers, in gold mining camps, on wharves and in warehouses while reading extensively and writing books of serious social and philosophical merit only to be renowned for writing about dogs. It irked him yet inspired me decades later. Eighteen-wheelers, psych wards, factory floors and the halls of academia and corporate America may not be perfect matches to London’s, but they have all been part of my own working class adventures. I have lived in numerous careers the fiction that each was intrinsically important while in fact each was merely research for the role of Carl Stevens, Writer.
Professor-in-training (in three fields so far, philosophy, history and psychology), nurse in a psychiatric facility, long-haul truck driver, security guard, waiter, bartender, clerical worker, manual laborer, engineer - they were all facades I presented while my true life’s work went on behind the scenes, reading and writing and incorporating life experience with the scholarly to create the self-identity that is now creating novels.
I conceived of The Charging Bull of Terry County as my own literary reflection on Tolstoy’s War and Peace via the saga of an American family with a proud military history dealing with loss on various levels; loss of life, innocence, etc. Thoroughly embroiled in the fictional struggles of my characters two years ago, I found the writing took on new dimensions when a friend died in a car crash. I doubt this changed a single word I wrote but it gave to each word nuances of a greater intensity. The pathos of the writing deepened for me to the point that I was later astonished to see the Kirkus reviewer calling the book hilarious.
I have learned that my most serious work contains a sting of wit, a spoonful of sugar to help the philosophical go down whether I consciously intend it or not. I find it funny in the sense of odd or interesting that I never meant Charging Bull to be funny in the sense of hilarious. The words just came out that way as I dealt with the serious issue of loss in its manifold manifestation. I think if Bill were still with us, he would be laughing his ass off.
The Charging Bull of Terry County
The Charging Bull of Terry County: A Meditation on War and Peace