In my latest novel I introduce a real person into a world of fictitious characters. The real person is the writer Jack Butler who, incidentally, makes a habit of introducing real people into his fictitious populace. In Return to Freedom the actor David Lawrence (from The Backside of Nowhere) is making a film of Jack’s Living in Little Rock With Miss Little Rock and Jack shows up at a couple of parties at David’s house.
In addition to Miss Little Rock, Jack has written two volumes of poetry, West of Hollywood and The Kid Who Wanted to Be a Spaceman and Other Poems, he has published a collection of short fiction, Hawk Gumbo and Other Stories, a cookbook, Jack's Skillet: Plain Talk and Some Recipes from a Guy in the Kitchen, and three other novels — Jujitsu for Christ, Nightshade and Dreamer. He’s now working on a new novel, The Illumination of Elijah Lee Roswell.
Jack was kind enough to read my manuscript, and he had these wonderfully flattering things to say about it:
“What I really like about your novels is the depth of memory, the way the whole detailed texture of life is there, the people who are exactly what people are and not the preposterous stereotypes with which the puppet-masters of tv and film attempt to imitate life.” And, “It's a grand book, and I am impressed with your ability to create and keep in mind a whole town full of real humans, and to bring them to life. Not even Faulkner was so plugged in.”
Wow! Thank you, Jack.
I’ll not quote his more critical comments but will keep them in mind as I tackle the final edit of Return to Freedom.
The story takes place after the hurricane that destroyed the town of Freedom in Backside. David Lawrence and Tashee Rogers invest in a new low-income condo for survivors of the storm. Three families move in, and the loves, hates and conflicts between these three families are as stormy as the hurricane they recently survived.
Sonny Staples was one of the kids who looted the town after the flash flood early on in Backside. He’s now a reformed criminal and an evangelical preacher married to Bonnie Valentine (he’s her sixth or seventh husband — even I can’t keep up, and I invented them).
His former partner in crime, Malcolm Ashton, is another of the new residents of the condo. He works long hours at the Piggly Wiggly while his wife, Bitsey, does a lousy job of taking care of their hot-to-trot teenage daughters, Molly and Jamie Lew.
The third new resident is Beulah Booker Taylor and her infant son, Donny. Beulah doesn’t yet know that she’s a lesbian, but a traveling street performer named Marcia will help her discover who she is.
Watch for the publication of Return to Freedom later this summer.