Strippers are timeless, or why I’m dusting off my old unpublished novel
We don’t always end up where we expect we will in life. And if, by some miracle, we manage to hit a mark or two we’ve set for ourselves, it’s usually not by the route we expected to take.
When I was younger, I wanted nothing more than to write novels. I wrote some really godawful ones — one in high school, one in college, one right after college, and two in grad school. (You can check out the last one, “The Face of the River,” right here. The less said about the first one, “Giri: A Debt Of Honor,” the better.) After grad school, while I was spending days playing Mr. Mom to my infant-then-toddler kids and nights writing about landfills for an environmental association, the whole novelist thing seemed a long, long way away.
But I kept writing, man. I wish I could say I was writing tirelessly, lighting one cigarette off the stub of another, a row of crumpled Red Bull cans ringing my desk. But the truth is that even though I had an idea for another novel, I sometimes went weeks, even months without writing a fictional word. Way leads on to way, you know, and at some point you wake up and realize that two, three, four or more years have passed since you started your little book. You can either give up, or you can plod on, stumbling step by step across the desert.
As for me, my little book is called BLUFF CITY, and a few years back, I finally finished the damn thing. I showed it to my agent, and while he liked it, he gave me the sad truth: first novelists without an established platform of publicity have about as much chance in this world as puppies on a freeway. Wonderful. All that wandering (I wrote and rewrote the thing three times) for nothing? Sure seemed that way, at least initially.
Around this time, I started the sports blog that would eventually lead to the gig with Yahoo! Sports. Way led on to way, and BLUFF CITY took a back seat to Tiger Woods, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the day-to-day needs of the blogosphere. It fell into that “someday/maybe” file from which few projects ever return.
But in the last couple years, something’s happened to change the publishing game. Ebooks have exploded in popularity in the way that digital music did in the early 2000s, the way digital movies and TV shows did in the mid-2000s, the way sports blogs did in the late 2000s. With a click of the mouse, you can put your work in front of the entire planet.
At some point in the last few weeks I came across a draft of BLUFF CITY. It’s the story of an old Mississippi bluesman who gets kidnapped from a Tunica casino, setting off events that end with Memphis in riots. It’s got Elvis, wrestling, the KKK, the blues, gunplay … oh, and strippers. Lots and lots of strippers.
You can tell from that description that we’re not talking Oprah’s Book Club material here. Which is fine; the discussion of literary vs. entertaining fiction is one for another time. BLUFF CITY is much more in the crime/comedy genre of Carl Hiaasen and “Rescue Me.” The author Tim Dorsey, one of the reigning masters of the genre, gave me a killer blurb: “Busbee does for Memphis what Hiaasen did for Florida,” and you can bet your ass I’ll be using that on the book’s cover.
Now, the words “unpublished novel” are two of the most painful in the English language, and with good reason. But as I was reading the book with fresh eyes, I came to a happy realization: BLUFF CITY is good. Legitimately, really, yes-I’m-the-author-but-I-wouldn’t-embarrass-myself-with-crap good. Sometime in the next few weeks, depending on production processes and the like, BLUFF CITY will go on sale at Amazon’s Kindle Store, iTunes’ iBooks, the Nook store, and a whole range of other outlets. And you’ll be able to judge for yourself.
What’s next for BLUFF CITY? We’ll see. Perhaps it’ll click; I’ve got a much larger regular readership than I did back when I wrote the thing. And perhaps it’ll sink with nary a ripple to mark its passage. But somebody’s going to read it, at long last, and hopefully it’ll be you.
So if you would, please check out BLUFF CITY when it hits. If nothing else, you’ll learn how to use a potato as a murder weapon. That’s useful knowledge.