Mind Fields: Coltrane’s Dead

Mind Fields

This is an excerpt from my novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man:

The men get into the car and Zoot steers it carefully across the bridge. “Still need a Pissngas?” Zoot inquires mockingly.

“I forgot I had to pee,” says Aaron. “Now I got to pee really really bad.”

“Well shit, get out and pee, we about fifteen minutes from the Steelville turnoff.”

Aaron goes out behind a bush and relieves himself. He hears the sound of his own stream against a world that has gone supernally silent. There is no wind, no bird song. The sky is a weird shade of pink. As soon as he is finished the rain begins to fall again. The drops are huge, heavy, laden with silt. Covering his head, Aaron races back to the car.

After driving for ten minutes in silence, a black and white road sign appears. The trapezoidal shape of the state of Missouri encloses a number four. Fifteen yards past this sign there is a green board with white letters and an arrow pointing to the right. Steelville, eight miles, it indicates. At this one-sided intersection is a little gas station and a tiny grocery store skirted by a wooden plank walkway. Zoot pulls into the station. He gestures to Aaron to stay in the car. This part of Missouri isn’t explicitly segregated, but it has the taint of old rebellion. Zoot asks a black attendant to fill the tank, and Tyrone jumps through the rain towards the store, looking for another pack of cigarettes. Aaron watches the Schlitz Beer sign flicker, rolls the window down to smell the storm-soaked earth. He knows this country, too. He has come here for vacations with his family. They have gone to Bagnell Dam, Lake of the Ozarks, Wildwood Resort. In a childhood with a paucity of happy memories, this country means peace, relief, respite, jumping from a pier into the lake, riding horses, mom on her best behavior, dad relaxed and having fun.

Zoot chats with the station attendant about the twister, informs him that the Willens Creek Bridge is no longer covered.

“Be damned,” the man says, “twister blew the top the bridge away? No shit?”

“No shit, almost blew us away too, turned this here Lincoln Continental hundred eighty degrees backward but left a cigarette in the ashtray, still lit and ready to smoke.” Zoot’s dialects always reflect his circumstances. He pronounces “this here” as “thissheer”.

Hurriedly finishing the transaction to get out of the rain, the attendant takes Zoot’s money and rushes back into the shelter of the store.

A moment later, Tyrone comes walking out, holding a newspaper limply in his hand. His mouth is hanging open, his eyes have a staring and shocked quality, as if he has just survived a terrible battle. He opens the passenger’s door , throws the newspaper towards Aaron in the back seat and slumps abruptly on the plush leather, one leg hanging out the side.

“You look like you just got terrible news,” Zoot observes with concern.

Tyrone nods and points towards the newspaper.

“Coltrane’s dead,” he says mournfully. “It’s in the paper. He died yesterday.”

There is a stunned silence. Aaron feels as if he has just taken the first plunge on a roller coaster ride, his stomach goes up through his chest.

“No,” Zoot says. “No.”

Tyrone has the paper folded out to the entertainment section. It is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. There is a big article about Barbara Streisand, a review of the new James Bond movie, a review of the Led Zeppelin Concert at Kiel Auditorium. Down in the far right corner of the page is a two-paragraph squib. ‘Jazz Musician John Coltrane Dies,” it says. There is sketchy information about the jazz giant succumbing suddenly to liver cancer.

Aaron puts his face in the paper and squeezes himself with it, crumbling it around his cheeks. “He is forty years old!” He wails. “Forty years old! What is happening? Why are jazz musicians dying? Why Coltrane, of all people, Trane? “

Desperately, he claws at Zoot’s shoulder. “We’re all professional jazz musicians, Zoot. Is this my future? Is this Tyrone’s? Are you going to die on us, too? Why can’t we survive? What are we doing to ourselves?”

Zoot stares straight ahead, seeing nothing. He reaches across his shoulder and pats Aaron’s hand, squeezing it.

“You’re just beginning to see what it’s like,” the old musician says. “It’s dangerous to be a genius. That’s why I stay in this chitlin circuit groove, play the college campuses, keep my mid-stream profile. And this is hard enough. You think Coltrane can be inspired every night? You think he can get up there and reach down into his guts and deliver a brilliant set five nights a week, be a genius?”

A core of bitter reflection stains Zoot’s voice. These are things he generally keeps to himself. As he speaks, his anger grows and his voice scrapes with frustration and old pain.

“You have to use something, like Bird, like Lester, you have to use something to get to that place where you even feel like playing at all, let alone be great. Then you raise the standard, people turn out and expect to be transformed, to hear an oracular performance, night after night. I smoke my weed, that’s how I do it. And I don’t ask too much of myself. That’s why I’m sixty-three and still playing. I know how much I can give. Men like Coltrane, they don’t know moderation, they can’t know moderation, they have to keep pushing the limits or the critics jump on their ass, the fickle fans get restless, the talk on the street starts goin’ ‘round, ‘Trane’s lost it, Bird’s lost it, Jackie’s lost it, Prez’s lost it, Bud’s lost it! You have a couple bad nights and all these assholes who can’t play a note go talking, he’s lost it, lost it, getting’ tired, man, runnin’ out of steam, his great days are behind him, what a shame, used to be a great musician.”

Zoot pauses for a moment, looking at his sidemen, at his disciples in the mystic art of music. Then he spits a long gobbet out the window and says, with a lengthy and contemptuous drawl, “Sheee-it! Son of a fucking bitch!”

He turns backward to look at Aaron. Cobra-like, he shifts his body, glancing at Tyrone beside him. He is seething, indignant. “That’s why genius musicians die. They have to die! Ain’t no choice! Once they get a reputation as a genius, they have to be a genius every night. They use it up! Then they’re gone!”

He turns on the engine and drives about a hundred yards down the road. He pulls onto the shoulder and scrunches the emergency brake with his foot. He puts his large hands in front of his face, then leans into them and begins to weep.

It is contagious. These three friends, of different ages, races, different backgrounds, are not afraid to show their feelings to one another. The three jazz musicians, on their way to a gig, taking a short cut through the back roads of Missouri, pull onto the side of the country lane and weap for John Coltrane.

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Honest-Man-Arthur-Rosch-ebook/dp/B01C3J0NK2

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Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

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February: Taking a look at nonfiction

Nonfiction

Our monthly theme for February on Writing to be Read was, you guessed it – nonfiction. So, what tipped you off? Was it the great interview I did with nature author Susan J. Tweit? Or maybe the nonfiction revues of  How to become a Published Author and Letters of May? Or perhaps it was the “Chatting with the Pros” interview of nonfiction author Mark Shaw? Whatever it was that gave it away, I’m here to tell you that these few posts on nonfiction don’t even scratch the surface of what the genre of nonfiction encompasses.

There are many subgenres of nonfiction, just as there are many subgenres under each of the genres of fiction. When someone asks what type of book your fiction novel is, we are quick to catetgorize it as a paranormal mystery, a historical romance, or a science fiction thriller. For some reason, we don’t seem to think about nonfiction the same way we do fiction and when someone asks what type of book your memoir is, or your travel diary, or your self-help book, we tend to lump it in with all the rest in nonfiction. Why this is, I don’t know, but I find that it is the case, time and time again.

The fact is, not all nonfiction books are alike and there are many categories or subgenres that fall within the nonfiction realm. Mark Shaw writes biographies and creative nonfiction tales that are very different from the memoirs, illustrated travel books and nature guides of Susan J. Tweit. Other types of nonfiction that are hard to define are books like Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd’s Wild West Ghosts, which chronicles their ghost hunting experiences and offers advice on how you can be a ghost hunter too. Or Hollywood Game Plan by Carole Kirshner, which is a how-to guide for anyone wanting to break into the screenwriting world. These books are all nonfiction, but they are all very different types of books.

According to wikipedia the genres of nonfiction are biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, commentaries, creative nonfiction, critiques, essays, owners manuals, journalism, personal narratives, reference books, self-help books, speeches, and text books. I would add to that spiritual texts, encyclopedias, documentaries, how-to books, cookbooks, diaries and anthologies such as the one found in Letters of May, which is a collection of writings and artwork illustrating the world of those afflicted with mental illness. I’m sure there are others, but as you can see the list is quite extensive.

Nonfiction books may or may not be aimed to entertain, but the primary purpose, no matter the type of nonfiction book, is to inform. This may account for the fact that my reviews of nonfiction books receive more views in general, than most of my fiction reviews. A fact that I found to be surprising when I uncovered it while looking over the data for this blog. My theory is that readers turn more quickly to books they may find useful than they do to those with entertainment as their sole purpose.

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My reasons for interest in nonfiction and all it’s many forms stems from preparation for my journey to write my own memoir, telling the story of my son’s death and my life without him, His Name Was Michael. My bi-monthly blog series which will chronicle that writing process, “The Making of a Memoir“, came out with the first segment in February, too. It was a good month for it to come out, as it also fits in with the nonfiction theme. I hope you’ll join us again next month, when the theme will be science fiction and fantasy.

Be sure to join me next month when we will explore science fiction and fantasy, with guest author Kevin J. Anderson on “Chatting with the Pros” on March 18th, as well as a review of his Selected Stories: Science Fiction Volume 2, and Jordan Elizabeth’s Rogue Crystal.

Update: In Friday’s post I talked about the changes coming for Writing to be Read.  One more change that I just recieved confirmation of, and I’m pleased to announce: Art Rosch will also be posting one movie review a month, on the forth Friday of the month, in “Art’s Visual Media Review”.

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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with nonfiction author Mark Shaw

chatting with the pros
In February, Writing to be Read is taking at look at nonfiction authors and their works. I’m pleased to say that my guest on Chatting with the Pros this month is nonfiction author Mark Shaw. Mark has been a traditionally published author for many years, following a successful career in journalism. He’s written biographies on sports greats, priests, accused criminals in high profile cases, as well as books about golf and pilots, and writing instruction. Today, he champions those for whom justice has not been served, his most recent book being Denial of Justice, which outlines the events surrounding the  and deaths of J.F.K., Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby and Dorothy Kilgallen, which is a sequel to The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, which is Kilgallen’s story, and both books have been optioned for visual media and a script is currently being developed. Let’s welcome him and see what he has to say.
MarkAtSFTS (1)
Kaye: Could you share a brief history of your author’s journey for those who are not familiar with you or your work? How did you get to where you are today? 
Mark: It’s difficult for me to even believe that Denial of Justice was my 27th book. I never had any experience with writing, no classes, no workshops, etc. when I first wrote a book about Mike Tyson’s rape trial in 1992. What I fell in love with was the research, the writing process, and the chance to make people stop and think about important historical issues. That’s what keeps me going, looking for subjects now that deal with justice and injustice.
Kaye: In your books, you use your investigative reporting skills to dig deep and reveal little or unknown facts until you can tell the whole tale. Many of your books have brought some surprising details to the public eye. How do you choose the subjects for your books? 
Mark: I like to say the book ideas come to me. Most of the time, I get an idea for a book at 3 a.m. and quickly write down a thought about it on some note cards I keep by my bed. All of my book titles have come that way as well. Writers need to keep their eyes open, many book ideas float right in front of us if we pay attention.
Kaye: After the story of Dorothy Kilgallen, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, had a great reception and is now being prepared to be told through visual media. Was any of this a surprise to you, or did you think this story might be a best seller as you were writing it? 
Mark: I had no idea Dorothy’s name was still magic, that a book about her would touch so many reader’s emotions and become a bestseller. I’ve heard from people around the world about the book, still do today, two-plus years after the book was published. It’s been amazing experience for sure.
Kaye: You recently released Denial of Justice, which digs even deeper into Dorothy’s story. How did you know there was more to be found regarding her story?
Mark: Those readers I mention sent me tips about new information about Dorothy’s life and times and her death and a file I kept just kept getting thicker until I realized there was a second book for those who read the first one and did not. Now I feel as if I have told the complete story about her although some new information still comes my way.

 

 

Kaye: As mentioned above, the Dorothy Kilgallen story in The Reporter Who Knew Too Much is going to be portrayed on the screen. Are there plans to include Denial of Justice to be portrayed visually or perhaps be included in the screen version already planned? 
Mark: Both books were optioned for the big or little screen.
Kaye: How is that going so far?
Mark: There is no filming yet of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. It is still in the development phase with a script being completed. I am quite excited about Dorothy’s story being on the big or small screen since if that happens, more and more people will know about this remarkable woman. I like to say a book is like a written megaphone to the world but a film or TV series reaches even more people.
Kaye: In addition to several books which revolve around J.F.K. and his circles, you’ve also written about sports icons such as Larry Bird, Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye and Don Larson. You’ve told the tales of suffering and discrimination during the holocaust, and you’ve written the biography of a priest, books on golfing and a how-to book on writing. What motivates you to write the stories that you write?
how to become a published authorMark: Again, the chance to make people stop and think, although some books have been more for entertainment purposes. Regardless, my books have a controversial slant to them, and that is important, something aspiring authors should seek to achieve. In my book about the publishing process that I use when aspiring authors hire me as a consultant, How to Become a Published Author: Idea to Publication, this is the type of practical advice I provide based on all of my
experience.
Kaye: Have you ever written a book of fiction? 
courage in the face of evil cover final nov 10 2017Mark: Yes, Courage in the Face of Evil is based on a true story, a Holocaust diary that is both disturbing and inspirational in nature, but I had to add certain elements that cause it to enter the world of fiction. I have also created a crime series called Vicker Punch: Lawyer on the Brink that is fiction, but based on my years as a criminal defense lawyer handling murder cases, and a book that is a sequel to a famous work of fiction.
Kaye: How do you see writing nonfiction differing from fiction in the publishing arena?
Mark: Fiction is much more fun, let the imagination loose without worrying about footnotes, etc. Just let it go and let the characters tell whatever the story is they want to tell. This said, for a first time author, getting fiction published these days is much more difficult that non-fiction since with fiction the star of the book is the author while with non-fiction the star of the book is the story.
Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing nonfiction for you?
Mark: How to tell the story once I have done all of my research.
road to a miracleKaye: Tell me a little about Road to a Miracle? The book is listed on Amazon for $57.73. I have to wonder what type of book rates a price like that? 
Mark: That’s nuts, and there are other editions of the book at a much less cost. The book is my road through the amazing life I have been blessed to live to the point of finding a daughter and two grandchildren I never knew existed a few years ago. Truly a miracle.
Kaye: I believe your stories are successful because they all hit emotional chords in your readers. How do you portray the emotional elements of your story so that they will touch your readers?
Mark: I tell writers I work with to be certain, whether fiction or non-fiction, to show the reader what’s happening, not tell them. That’s how the emotion comes through, how the reader connects with the story. Remember, a book is like a conversation with the reader but the author is not there so the emotion must be shown not told.
Kaye: In How to Become a Published Author, you talk about the importance of titles and subtitles. How do you come up with titles and subtitles for your books? How important are subtitles?

Mark: The book ideas come to me and the titles in the middle of the night when whatever spirit it is that is guiding my life, whispers in my ear. I quickly write down the idea on note cards I keep by my bed.

Many good books and movies have never seen the light of day due to bad titles. They need to be catchy, like TRWKTM, Denial of Justice, Miscarriage of Justice, The Poison Patriarch, etc. Don’t have too much experience with books based on true stories or fiction but Courage in the Face of Evil is striking as is Victor Punch: Lawyer on the Brink.
 
Re subtitles, not as important as titles but add to the description of the book. Again, I’m quite proud of the subtitles for my books. They certainly add to the allure of the story.
Kaye: Many of your books are collaborations. Is it difficult to write a book with someone else? Why collaborate? What are the pros and cons? 
Mark: No, during the early part of my getting some footing as a writer, I had collaborations, but no more. This said, working with someone famous to tell their story is a good way to show writing skill and the ability to tell a good story. That’s key to establishing a reputation, as is writing biographies if a writer wants to enter the world of non-fiction.
Kaye: You were a criminal defense attorney and legal analyst for the news media covering the Mike Tyson, O.J. Simpson and Kobe Bryant cases, and you have a book about Tyson, Falsely Accused. Are there books about O.J. and Koby in the future? If not, what separates Tyson out from the others? 

 

 

Mark: Injustice is the key word for the Tyson book since he did not get a fair trial. That thread has been woven through almost every book I’ve written in the last ten years or so, Miscarriage of Justice, Beneath the Mask of Holiness, Melvin Belli: King of the Courtroom, The Poison Patriarch, TRWKTM and now Denial of Justice, which relates actually to four people, JFK, Oswald, Jack Ruby and Dorothy Kilgallen. All were denied justice.
Kaye: What’s in the future for Mark Shaw?
Mark: Only the good Lord knows but I am truly the most blessed man on the face of the earth and for sure, I want to help as many writers as possible become published, to realize their publishing dreams.
I want to thank Mark for sharing with us today. He’s given us some insight into the world of a nonfiction author. You can learn more about Mark or his books at the links below.

Website: https://www.markshawbooks.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mark-William-Shaw/e/B000APQ7ZM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1547774000&sr=1-3

 

 

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