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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

An open book

Loyal readers will have noticed that for the past year or so I haven’t posted on this web site as frequently as was the case during most of its existence over the past two decades. There is a reason for that. I mean, besides laziness.

For a long time, like many people, I have had a few books knocking around in my head, and they wanted to be written. When I first started coming to Ireland, I even made a start on a couple of them. But then things happened, and I decided that other things in my personal life were a higher priority than locking myself away in a room for hours every day to write for months or maybe years. So I was content to blog away and express myself in writing that could be done in brief, tidy bursts.

Then things changed. I got encouraged to finish those books that I had started, and so I diverted much of the time I would have used for the blog toward finishing my novel. And now, wonder of wonders, it’s finished.

It is now available as a Kindle ebook from Amazon. You can find links to where it is on the various regional Amazon web sites by clicking here. As is the way Amazon does things, you can preview a healthy chunk of it right on the web site before deciding if you want to buy it or not. If you are an Amazon Prime member and own a Kindle device, you also have the option of borrowing it for free. Or, if you want, you can actually purchase it and download it to your Kindle or a Kindle app on all kinds of devices.

At some point I expect to make it available for other ebook platforms and maybe even in a print edition. But for at least the next three months, it is exclusive to Kindle. Think of it as being analogous to a film going into limited release and then opening wide later on.

So what is this book about?

Basically, it’s just a story. Hopefully, it’s an entertaining one and maybe even a thought-provoking one. It’s a story that’s been in my head for a long time. After I was well into the writing, I came to realize that publishers and readers like books to fit into tidy genres, e.g. mystery, crime, western, science fiction. I’m not sure that my book, which by the way has the admittedly unwieldy title Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead (no, really), fits comfortably into any of the popular genres. The main characters are teenagers, but I don’t think it can be properly called a “YA novel.” For one thing, the language is desperately filthy. The Missus, who only began reading it for the first time last week, was positively shocked by the words that came out of the characters’ mouths. On the other hand, there is really not nearly enough sex in it for it to be called “adult” literature.

Probably the best way to categorize it is as a coming-of-age novel or, to be more literary about it, a Bildungsroman. It concerns two best friends who have recently graduated from high school in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The time is the early 1970s, and they don’t care much for the prospects in front of them. These include tedious full-time work and/or maybe getting married, as many of their friends are already doing. And that’s if they don’t get drafted and sent to Vietnam. The wilder of the two, Lonnie, gets an idea in his head about escaping, about taking off in his Chevy and heading south of the border to Mexico. A few years before, a guy in their town went missing in Central America, and Lonnie has become obsessed with the idea of trying to find him. So off they go, and then things happen.

Given that the novel’s setting involves a time and place I personally know fairly well, the question inevitably arises: so how autobiographical is this book? It is well known that first novels are very often 1) mediocre and 2) overly autobiographical. There seems to be a rule of thumb that authors need to purge themselves of the tendency to write too much about themselves by doing this in a debut novel. I’ll leave it to readers to decide to what extent I have fallen into this trap. So far I have been more than a bit surprised by how much people who have read it—or even just heard about it—assume that it is about me and things I did as a teenager. The fact that I wrote it in the first person probably only makes it worse.

I can’t actually believe, though, that anyone who knew me at the age of 18—or at least who knew me very well—would think that I am writing about myself in this book. Certainly, I have put something of myself in all the characters, but I can say quite confidently that I myself was much better behaved than any of them.

Indeed, the main two characters are so badly behaved that a few apologies are in order before anybody actually reads the book. So here goes.

To my friends in and from California: I apologize for the characters’ bad attitude toward the place where they live. At one point the narrator says he hates the valley. I have never felt that way. Please focus on what he says in the last chapter and not what he says in the first chapter.

To my friends in Seattle: I apologize for the misogyny, racism, homophobia, casual acceptance of economic inequality and irresponsible gun use. The characters are most definitely not meant to be role models. Please focus on their character growth, not on their myriad character flaws.

To my friends in Ireland: I apologize for including a dodgy Irish character. I know you will pick apart the way he speaks and find him inauthentic. My excuse—and I’m sticking with it—is that we are seeing him only as he appears and sounds through the narrator’s young, inexperienced American eyes and ears.

To everyone I know: I apologize one more time for all the bad words. It won’t happen again.

If you have read this far, then thanks for indulging me. If the book sounds interesting to you, then I hope you will read it. If you read it, then I hope you enjoy it.

-S.L., 9 June 2014

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