Thursday, June 13, 2013

New Books: Get Hit, Hit Back by John Kenyon

From John Kenyon on his New Book:

The character of Griffin McCann popped into my head years ago. Seven, to be exact. I wrote a page of notes in a notebook that, in looking back for the first time in a long time, is still a pretty accurate summary of the story.

Come in as a bank robbery is unfolding. Gang of three is leaving with a bag of money, pursued by the security guard, who shoots two, including the one with the money. The third gets to a getaway car and leaves. The guard realizes he's in an alley with no witnesses, so he grabs the money and throws it in the trunk of his nearby car. He radios back to the bank that the third man got away with the money.

A paragraph later, I note that the bank guard is an amateur boxer, who will ultimately use his fists to get out of the hole he has dug for himself.

At some point, I fleshed out the idea with all kinds of complicating details, filling the next page in the notebook with ideas about alternating chapters from different points of view, and adding characters like the destitute father of the guard who could use the money.

I went so far as to type out a couple thousand words and saved it as "Hard Case story," thinking that it was the kind of story that would fit well with Charles Ardai's then relatively new imprint.

And then... nothing. Other ideas came and went, Hard Case took off, and the story of my bank guard-boxer languished. But he was never forgotten. I knew there was a good story there, and thought about it regularly.

The missing piece came when I learned about the Fight Card Series, edited by Paul Bishop and Mel Odom. I learned about it from Eric Beetner, a great crime writer I'm lucky enough to call a friend, who had his own early entry in the series. The series is an homage to the great boxing novels of the 1950s, with a handful of authors writing novellas all published under the pen name of Jack Tunney (think Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney).

I read the first few and loved them, and realized this was the forum my story needed. I had played around with different eras, but the 1950s was where the story belonged. And while I had cooked up enough bells and whistles to fill a novel, I knew the story would hit hardest if streamlined, something the constraints of the novella would allow.

The last thing I needed was a title. Credit Warren Zevon for that. I took liberties with a lyric from his song, "Boom Boom Mancini" from his great album, Sentimental Hygiene: "The name of the game is be hit and hit back," to come up with Get Hit, Hit Back .

The result is a tough little novella, true to the books that inspired it by suggesting more than it shows. As much as anything, it's a reminder to writers to never throw anything away.

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