Welcome to Patrick M. Brown’s Blog

Writing

I’ve often been asked what inspired me to write a book.  I’ve always loved words and the ability to communicate ideas, thoughts and expressions in the abstract. Fiction writing provides the perfect vehicle for doing that. Through fiction one can get one’s point across via the characters or setting of the story. A writer can also live vicariously through his characters. We have all at one time or another wondered about other people’s lives, what their challenges are, what we would do in their circumstances if we were presented with them, fiction allows us to follow those thoughts out to their conclusion, although it be a made up one. What inspired me to write ‘The Oaks’ was really the love of a place, the dawn breaking on the calm of the river, the sounds that surround you as the world begins to come alive, the bustle onshore as the day goes on, all have a part to play in the imagination of a writer, and all contribute to the book. The writing process for me is a less structured one than it is for most writers. I tend to brain dump onto a page then re-write until I get the product that I want. Some writers will know exactly what the story is beginning, middle and end, and be able to build around that construct. For me that would spoil the fun. I like to think about where my character is going next and what his or her options might be. That’s exciting to me! To have the ability to control the destiny of a dynamic character and throw in the twists and turns that make him or her interesting to the reader and closer to real life is what I enjoy most about writing.

 

The Oaks

The main character in ‘The Oaks’ is a fellow named Doug Carlson. Doug is the kind of guy that you love to hate. He’s charming and good looking, comes from a privileged background and seems to get everything he wants in life with little or no effort. To make matters worse Doug is selfish and mean spirited. He’s the kind of guy that if he found you unconscious would rifle through your pockets before he checked to see if you were breathing. He’s the kind of guy that would take your last stick of gum before opening the full pack in his pocket. Are you starting to get the picture? Doug’s not a nice guy, but he can be if it means getting in your wallet or your panties. ‘The Oaks’ really began with the setting, which is Oxford Maryland. The rest of the characters sort of sprang out of the setting. Oxford is a sleepy little town almost surrounded by water. If you weren’t going there on purpose you would never arrive. However, to look at the town from the Tred Avon River the first things you notice are all of the boats. I’m not talking about row boats here; I’m talking about enormous motor yachts and sailboats, cabin cruisers and catamarans, nautical status symbols and toys of the wealthy. You can’t help but look at all of this and wonder what these people do and where they’re from and what goes on in their lives. Doug came out of that curiosity. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that all of the inhabitants of Oxford are like Doug Carlson. He just happened to be an interesting character that I conjured. The other characters in the book are much different than Doug and all hail from the same area. Let’s take Doug’s best friend Skip Patterson for instance, he is not as ambitious as Doug but has a firm hold on right and wrong. Skip brings the character that Doug lacks, although he is not beyond temptation.

 Doug envisions buying the local bar/restaurant called ‘The Oaks’ and expanding it into a huge corporate conference center. A retreat for the movers and shakers of the world where they can meet, discuss business, make deals etc. This would require a large new building, complete renovation of the existing building, increased dock space, the works. The current owner of ‘The Oaks’ is a fellow named Harry Sheehan. Harry is a lovable old Bostonian who moved to Oxford to escape the memory of his departed wife. When he bought ‘The Oaks’ it was nothing more than an old farm house and pub, but he added on, fixed things up and turned it into the thriving business it is today. Harry however is getting older and has talked about retiring. Doug sees this as an opportunity to buy ‘The Oaks’ form Harry and fulfill his vision. Once Harry learns of Doug’s plans to turn his little restaurant into a corporate conference center he decides not to sell and to only semi- retire. This infuriates Doug and he sets out to dispose of Harry. Doug tries to murder Harry but finds that he doesn’t have the nerve, so he enlists the help of a West Indian woman named Pamoja who used to work for his father. Pamoja delves in vudan and convinces Doug that she can, through spiritual and other means, get Harry out of the way. Harry does in fact disappear and Doug thinks he’s accomplished his goal. Unfortunately for Doug, Harry’s body is not discovered and he learns that until Harry is declared legally dead he is just considered missing and his property will not be dispersed. Doug then tries to find out what Pamaoja had done. He learns that Pamoja hired professional killers to get rid of Harry, but she doesn’t know, nor does she want to know, how they did it. She dismisses Doug and chastises him for contacting her so soon. Doug continues to attempt to find out what happened to Harry but as he gets closer to discovering the truth he is paid a visit by the killers Pamoja hired to kill Harry. After a near death experience with them, Doug has an epiphany and begins to re-examine his life. He decides to become a better man and not concern himself with as much with material things. He meets a girl named Rebecca and falls in love. Doug and Rebecca become a perfect couple and their relationship blossoms. Doug’s past is close behind. The police soon begin to question Doug and suspect him in Harry’s disappearance.

The quagmire for the reader then becomes his or her feelings now for Doug. Is he truly reformed, or is this a temporary situation? Is Doug deserving of some sort of punishment for what he had done, for all the sins of his past, or does his change in behavior and attitude exonerate him? And what of Rebecca, she’s fallen in love with the new Doug and has forgiven him for the things he’s done in the past, at least the things she knows about. She’s preparing to be a blushing bride and start a life and family with Doug. Should she be punished for his past? So you can see at this point in the novel I, the writer, am left with the same questions and I have to decide what’s to become of Doug and Rebecca. Here I sit, judge and jury, over the next chapter. I did make a decision, obviously, the book is out right? But I won’t tell you what it was. If you haven’t read the book I don’t want to spoil it, and if you have you already know.

 

Book Review – A Confederacy of Dunces

I just finished reading John Kennedy Toole’s novel ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’.  

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” – Jonathon Swift

 It was a great read, very funny. The main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, is an overweight and seemingly overeducated eccentric. He feels that his place in the world is well above the normal and he should be recognized as the genius he thinks he is and treated accordingly. Ignatius would be happy to remain a recluse living off the matronly teat however his mother Irene has forced him from the comfort and retreat of his room to go to work. Ignatius does reluctantly find work at the Levy Pants Factory, but is not content with the way the company is being run or with the treatment of the employees, most of who are elderly, minority or otherwise challenged. I should mention here that the story takes place in 1960’s New Orleans during the Jim Crow period. Ignatius is soon fired from Levy Pants after inciting a revolt and finds himself in the employ of Paradise Vendors where he takes a job selling hot dogs from a cart on the city streets. He, of course eats more than he sells and has to come up with new excuses every day to explain his short fall. The writer does a great job of portraying 1960’s New Orleans right down to the various dialects of the individual characters. The structure of the novel is very interesting; chapters are often divided into subchapters to include different aspects of the story. There is also the occasional correspondence between Ignatius and Myrna Minkoff. Myrna is a sort of girlfriend of Ignatius who seems to be his polar opposite. They banter back and forth one trying to outdo the other in their very different fields of endeavor. Myrna is a Jewish New Yorker who has embraced the 60’s counterculture or beatnik lifestyle, very liberal in her views and actions. Ignatius is quite the opposite. A conservative southerner who thinks Myrna and her kind will destroy society. Each character stands alone and there seems to be several stories being told in tandem and the reader wonders how in the world all these people are going to connect in the end. They do, in a rather strange ending. For more on ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Confederacy_of_Dunces . I would highly recommend this book. One interesting side note is that the book wasn’t published until 11 years after the author’s suicide. Toole’s mother found the manuscript and worked with a writer named Walker Percy to get the book published. Percy provides a great foreword in the Novel. If you are a fan of Kurt Vonnegut I think you will like this as well.

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