In early 2006 I decided to write a novel entitled LUREEN'S LAW. It had been awhile since I'd written anything of any length, five years at least, and my initial approach was hesitant. "Do I really want to go through with this?" I kept asking myself, the two novels I'd attempted prior nothing more than well-intentioned disaster areas. Even worse was the question "Why bother?"
As Barbara Ehrenreich told this year's J-School grads in her commencement speech at UC Berkeley "The publishing industry was in tatters by 2005," and I think we can all assume conditions haven't improved. As a result risk is virtually non-existent. It's strictly business as usual. And it is a business; short term profits the order of the day. Rather than nurture publishers literally need to dine out of the garbage can to make a buck. And in a strict "business paradigm" it makes an awful kind of sense.
This is hardly good news, especially for the budding writer who charts a different course than prescribed. More intimidating still is actually charting that course, putting the words on paper. Anyone who tells you "Oh, writing a novel isn't hard," has obviously never tried. In truth the gift of writing can be a real curse. It's like being a film director with nobody to push around. You, the author, are everything; the be-all, end-all word wizard strung out on stale coffee, crusted pastry and enough nicotine to kill a good-sized horse as you create worlds only you can weave and hope like hell a couple of other people get the point.
My own experiences are atypical. After a spotty career as a kind of "journalist" ("erotica", self-important book reviews, some "aren't-I-cool" fashion columns and a few snotty takes on the human condition) I'd made more enemies than I could count. And the hatred was, in many ways, well deserved, my behavior every bit as bad as the vodka brewed trash I was turning out. But some of us eventually get in the groove and move on, friendless but still alive. Noting that my media reputation was now shot I then made a regrettable decision. "I know! I'll write novels!"
My first attempt, "Possessed", was a kind of Philip Marlow meets The Three Stooges genre piece which soon "possessed" me to delete the whole thing one awful night. The second was a crazy 600 page screed entitled "The Deluge" which was primarily, though not necessarily, about an ex-girlfriend named Georgeann, (Yes, Georgeann only in Texas as they say). I killed her off in the end (something about an unhinged evangelist) much to my protagonist's regret (and my own considering how I'd "murdered" our real-time relationship long before). Of course it went nowhere.
But, for me at any rate, the third time proved the charm. When I sat down at my rapidly decaying OS-10 something funny happened. The words, the ideas, the very composition of my characters suddenly came alive on paper. It was if I couldn't stop myself, powering through the first twenty pages in little more than a day and a half. I knew I was on to something.
Quickly resigning from my less than edifying day job I settled in for a twelve-month pow-wow with my alleged literary bent, a year of exaltation, exasperation and my spouse's murderous glances when monthly mortgage payments came due. Finally, it was done.
Much to my surprise it made narrative sense. Whacking away at the first four hundred and sixteen page version until it was a lean, mean three hundred and five, I thought it was the best work I'd ever committed to print and I was as confident of publication as a Republican candidate in a gerrymandered rural congressional district come election year.
Lureen's law is a socio/political satire revolving around a fictional Terri Schiavo-like controversy in the American South. Over the course of the novel five individuals -- Rev. Dr. Dobson Reede, Ben Stallings, Lucy Armanjani, Priss Timberlake and Sen. Charles R.E.L. (Chuck) Butts -- become embroiled in the affair, changing their lives as a result.
Lureen Biggs, in a diabetic coma for the past eight years, is about to be cut off her feeding tubes at her husband's request. Mrs. Bigg's estranged son Wayne, left out of the insurance settlement, sells himself to the highest bidder in order to realize a profit from his mother's imminent demise.
That bidder, Rev. Dr. Dobson Reede, intends to use Wayne as a prop to get the conservative U.S. senator Charles R.E.L. (Chuck) Butts re-elected. Butts, on his way to the top, still needs an issue that will enflame the base for that final push and Mrs. Biggs plight seems tailor-made. Dubbing his effort "The Let Me Live Project" Dr. Reede proceeds to gather together a team to "nationalize" the affair, thus propelling the senator into a second term while positioning him for an eventual presidential run.
Butts himself is a disillusioned man. He's disgusted with his party's agenda but can still taste the Oval Office and is prepared to do just about anything to get there. With Reede by his side he's literally invincible. But the senator has got something to hide as well, a secret that would ruin him if it known.
One of Butts more affluent supporters, Priss Timberlake, is also in love with him. Has been since high school. Consequently she pines for him while despising her own over-privileged existence. Then she's made liaison to the Butts re-election committee representing a local Republican woman's organization. Sparks begin to fly as her dreams slowly become a reality.
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