After what seems like ages, I’ve started on the novel again. It wasn’t easy building up the required head of steam. As regular readers know, the discovery of the Leslie Van Gelder letters led me into a fairly long digression — attempting to recreate the evening we spent together in December, 1961 that led to our epistolary friendship.
So it was quite wonderful to open my mental door to the story again and find my characters waiting patiently for more fun to begin.
Writing the novel is really the most entertaining thing I do. I sit down at my desk and pretty soon it turns out I’m in New York City in 1923, waiting for Eddie Cantor to breeze through the speakeasy’s door with his entourage of flashy furcoat diamond girls and suffering sycophantic toadies. In the world of the Syndicate of Eternal Friendship anything can happen at any moment as long as it hangs together and is fun to read at the end.
The novel’s plot swirls around the colliding fortunes of three young freaks living in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury in the mid-1960s, and a family who live around the corner from them in 1927, nearly forty years before. It features a radio that may change the course of history; hippies sneaking around an old dark house on a wet and rainy night; the Girl In The Yellow Suede Coat, who some believe to be the most beautiful girl who ever lived, but whose looks disguise a brilliant mind, and Wilson C. Cooke, the ruthless millionaire determined to wrest his glittering prize from fate, no matter at what cost. It features Golden Gate Park on a glorious Sunday afternoon; the Jersey Palisades in freezing November rain, Union Square and Times Square. It stars Walrus Pemmican, Paulie Ratskiwatsky and Sylvie Potemkin, three young freaks destined for greatness in spite of themselves, and co-stars Cal Hancock, a brilliant engineer from Post Falls, Idaho trying to make it in a city that chews up farm kid idealists. And leave us never forget Cal’s irrepressible, irreplaceable, daughter Margaret, the teenaged reigning princess of Haight-Ashbury radio.
John Le Carre the Pondering Pig is not. He’s more like P.G. Wodehouse on acid.
I should stop talking about the novel and start writing the novel. Just wanted you all to know what I’m up to.