Thursday, November 6, 2014
Back to the Beginnings: A Throwback Thursday Piece
Maybe looking back to the beginning of the itch will refresh the rash.
I was twelve, just. It was the summer of 1953 and I had recently finished the sixth grade. I was sitting
"You're too old to be playing with dolls," he said at some point. I never thought of the little toy people most we boys played with as dolls.
"I'm not playing," I said. "I'm writing."
He gave me a hopeless look and left me alone.
"I'm writing" was something that simply popped into my mind and out of my mouth, but it wasn't completely a lie. I had a vivid imagination and my little games were always elaborate plotted plays. Still, having said it, I figured I better write something.
At any rate, I picked up a lined pad left over from school and began to write my first novel; that's what I called it - a novel.
The novel was titled, "It".
Some of you may be familiar with a bestselling novel titled, "It".
This wasn't that one. Stephen King wrote that one. Stephen King has a habit of stealing my titles. My wife and I wrote a book in the 1960s called, "Danse Macabre". Stephen King wrote a book in the
1980s called, "Danse Macabre". He's had better success with his titles than I had with mine.
King's "It" was about a group of kids (sometimes adults just to confuse the issue), who join together against an evil clown that becomes a monster. My novel was about a group of grownups (never children), who join together against an evil monster that was never a clown. He could have been a clown, but I didn't have a little clown top person. All the characters in my novel were based on my toy men, so the group was a tall cowboy, a shorter cowboy, a tin soldier and a one-armed cowboy, because one of my toy cowboys was broken.
The basic plot went like this. An explorer named Tom Reiser is found dead beneath a tree with his unfinished diary in his hands. Thus we are introduced to the tale by Reiser's diary entries. (This was the devise used often in the 19th century and I coped the form from Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" (which is quite different from the Universal film version as I found out when I read the Classics Illustrated Comic book version) and Bram Stoker's, "Dracula" (which I am not sure was ever a Classics Illustrated Comic.)
By the way, as a caution, you can't always trust Illustrated Classics Comics as a shortcut to your high school book reports. Sometimes the comic book doesn't follow the classic exactly as I discovered when I used this trick in eighth grade. My assigned book report was "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". Somewhere through the first chapter I decided there must be an easier way and, aha! Classics
I have a Les Miserables Coffee Cup, too, which I bought when the play was popular on Broadway. I can't drink coffee anymore because of a medication I take, so I use the cup to take my medications, a cruel irony. Not being able to drink coffee is indeed les miserables.
Want to guess my favorite Broadway show?
But I digress, let us get back to It, the subject at hand; that is, my first novel at age twelve entitled "It".
We had poor dead Tom Reiser's diary and authorities trying to figure out how he became poor dead Tom. The clue was in his last entry and the mention of a mad scientist and monster (a bit of stealing from "Frankenstein" here) hiding out on a mysterious island (I also took some ideas from Robert Lewis Stevenson's "Treasure Island") surround by quicksand (a bit stolen from many episodes of "Ramar of the Jungle").
Eventually the authorities call on a group of sleuths (a mix of specialists in the mode of "Doc Savage"). They fly by helicopter to Quicksand Island, where the mad scientist lives in a castle, guarded by his monster. Here they join forces with a one-legged giant hermit, who lives in a cave upon the island, to destroy they creature and blow up the castle.
I don't have any original copies of this manuscript. I had first wrote a short version on a lined pad, but then expanded it into chapters, but I wrote these on onionskin paper and this long ago faded away and was lost.
As to "It", I rewrote the original idea over and over again as I grew up until in retained little of the story I outlined above. It eventually became a story of a teenager spending the summer on an island caring for his aged uncle. It is a tale of greed and the boy comes to a bad end.
The title also went through changes from "It" to "Quicksand Island" to "It, The Horror of Quicksand Island" to "Dream of Horror" to just plain, "Dream".
I groupd it with two other novellas I wrote in a collection called, "Smoke Dream Road".
There we have a Throwback Thursday look at how I decided to be a writer way back in 1953.