My first novel Violent Spring of many years ago was influenced by a current event. It was the ’92 Rodney King riots here in L.A. Having been a community organizer and at the time was the outreach person for the Liberty Hill Foundation, a lefty philanthropic entity then, and now, that granted monies to community organizing efforts. “Change not Charity” being its tagline.
I wasn’t at the barricades throwing Molotov cocktails. But as the embers cooled and the hard task of introspection and rebuilding began, I knew some of the players in the suites and in the streets, and just knew this would make a great way into the private eye story I wanted to tell. Still, it was nearly two years after that conflagration that the book came out. I’d also consciously set it to be after the civil unrest, to allow for the inner reflections of my protagonist Ivan Monk as he delved into the case of a Korean liquor store owner killed two week before the fire and fury.
Flash forward to the fire this time at a cabin in the snows of Big Bear, a ski area nearly two hours drive east of Los Angeles. It was there that rogue ex-LAPD cop Chris Dorner apparently took his own life after his kill spree. Despite him being a cold blooded murderer, in some quarters he’s gained a folk status due in part to the so-called manifesto he posted on his Facebook page. No doubt there will be an e book forthcoming about the life and death of Dorner, and my friend Steve Ivory over at the Electronic Urban report site, speculates that the likes of L.L. Cool J and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for the role in a movie.
If the original Law and Order was still around, as they often used stories ripped from the headlines as it were, perhaps their season opener would be about a manhunt for an ex-cop gone bad whose allegations about possible misconduct among his fellow officers, resonated with members of the public.
Former cycle hero Lance Armstrong finally admitted doping and was stripped of his Tour de France awards. The largest asteroid in a century slams into Chelyabinsk, Russia with the force of a nuclear explosion (always a good incident for such a body releasing strange invisible rays turning humble villagers into zombies). The “blade runner,” a disabled Olympic athlete says he mistook his girlfriend for a burglar and shot her four times through his bathroom door. HSBC Bank busted for laundering billions of cartel illicit monies, while the bones of Richard the 3rd are unearthed in a parking structure.
There’s no shortage of current events that titillate and spark our imaginations. I catalog them along with incomplete plot ideas, text sketches of odd characters and a few orphan titles. There they gestate. Then very so often something else happens or I’m talking to someone, and in the story menu in my head, I start to pick aspects of these unrelated incidents and put them through the grinder. Making the sausage ain’t pretty, but hopefully the end product is satisfying and makes you want to come back for more.