Friday, July 8, 2016

I've Been Everywhere, Man

Where is the best place you’ve ever vacationed? Has that setting made its way into any of your books?

by Paul D. Marks

Like the Johnny Cash song says, I’ve been everywhere, man. Well, okay, not everywhere but a lot of wheres. Some places I like better than others, some I’d rather forget, some I wish I could move back to, and some, well, y’know, if I told you I’d have to kill ya.
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In my prose writing, novels and short stories, it doesn’t appear that I’ve used much of my travels as locations, though I have in some cases. That’s probably because I consider myself a Los Angeles writer. So, even though “I’ve been everywhere, man,” much of what I write is set in L.A. (I have, however set some screenplays in more exotic locales but that’s for another time.) My novels White Heat and Vortex, and the five previously published stories in my collection LA Late @ Night are all L.A. stories, as are others. However, I do have some things that are set in other places: I’m currently working on a novel set in New York and another that starts in L.A., moves to DC and even England. And Deserted Cities of the Heart is coming out in Akashic’s St. Louis Noir on August 2nd and that’s set in, well, you guessed it, St. Louis. My story Poison Heart, in one of the Deadly Ink collections, is set at Morey’s Piers and Wildwood, New Jersey. A story that’s currently out for consideration is set in Atlanta, all places I’ve been. But it seems that the more exotic places I’ve been to haven’t made it into anything, probably because I write mystery-thrillers, but not international thrillers, at least not yet. And because, as I say, I largely consider myself an L.A. Writer.

L.A. City Hall

Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald did pretty good hangin’ around the L.A. area. As have James Ellroy and Walter Mosley. I’m not putting myself in their ranks, just saying that L.A. ain’t a bad place to hang your gat, I mean hat.

Famous Hollywood Landmark -- can be seen in LA Confidential

Some other places I’ve set stories are, Terminal Island, a former Japanese fishing village off the coast of San Pedro, so still sort of L.A., but when the story is set, during WWII, it was a very different place than L.A.  Howling at the Moon is set in Death Valley, and though that’s still in California and not all that far from L.A., it might as well be on the moon. Graceland is set in Memphis, at Elvis Presley’s home. Out of Time is set in Miami’s hip South Beach. Unfinished Business in Lynchburg, Virginia. I have several stories or parts of them set in Venice Beach, which again is part of L.A., but with a vibe of its own. And, as I say above, I’m currently working on novels set in DC, a place I love in many ways and can’t stand in others, and New York.

Dee Dee Ramone's grave
But I’d have to say the most exotic place I’ve set something is the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for the story Continental Tilt,  largely set in the heart of Hollywood, in the heart of L.A. Lots of famous people buried there, everyone from Dee Dee Ramone, of the Ramones, to Tyrone Power and Darla Hood (Our Gang/Little Rascals). Also Rudolph Valentino and Bugsy Siegel. Lotta ghosts there.

MGM’s motto, besides ars gratia artis, was “More stars than there are in heaven,” but Hollywood Forever has even more stars than MGM in its heyday, unfortunately they’re either six feet under or encased in marble above the ground. And I’m not sure they’re all in heaven…

The thing about Hollywood Forever is that during the summer months you, well, here’s a couple graphs from Continental Tilt to give you an idea. They’re separated from each other a bit in the story:

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

In the heart of Los Angeles, in the heart of Hollywood, a vampire movie played on a humongous silver screen. This wasn’t your usual movie venue, but the crowd of seven hundred loved it. Spread out on beach chairs and blankets, with bottles of wine and beer, Boba tea, doing wheatgrass shooters and eating catered Mexasian sushi, fusion food for the Millennial-iPod generation.

And a short time later:

Did I forget to mention that the movie theatre was the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the heart of Hollyweird? That over the summer they show movies on the mausoleum wall, while people sit on their beach chairs and blankets—Beach Blanket Bloodshed—and munch their munchies amongst the graves of movie stars, rock stars and even mere mortals? The back wall of the cemetery, clearly visible from the field of graves the watchers watched the movies from, was appropriately the back wall of Paramount Studios.

Actually, I set two stories there, Continental Tilt and Endless Vacation. The latter is very different in tone (more downer) than the former.

In writing this, I was surprised to see how many places I’ve written about that aren’t set in L.A., and this isn’t even a complete list.



GBPool said...

You do capture both old and new Los Angeles, Paul. There is nothing like seeing places from all sides...and down dark alleys. I do use places I've been to. My stint on a jury turned into Media Justice. A day at Santa Anita Racetrack became Hedge Bet. My dad's Air Force career and our three years in France became the SPYGAME Trilogy. It's great to add those visuals,though I do change the names of some of the places because not every Chamber of Commerce likes to see all those dead bodies on their turf.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Gayle. And it's great to see your experiences, from the racetrack to living in France, in your stories.

AJ Wilcox said...

Paul, I have both your novels and the collection LA Late@Night, but most of your short stories I have not. Why not collect them one book? I'd snatch that In an LA minute.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, AJ! Eventually they probably all will be collected, though I'm not sure if in one book or not. I have several humorous mysteries that I'm thinking of putting into a collection. Plus another collection of more hardboiled things.