Sunday, July 29, 2012

How I Came to Write This Book: Red Baker by Robert Ward

Although Mr. Ward did not write this piece for this series, but in response to my review on Friday, I thought it fit in with it perfectly as it explains where the book came from. It seemed a shame to not post it in a more prominent place than the comment section of the original post. So here it is.

Hi. This is Robert Ward, the author of Red Baker. Thanks for reminding people about my novel. I'm glad you couldn't put down. What i wanted to do was to write a deadly honest book about the real guys I knew in Baltimore and how they really lived. No bullshit genre crap with white knights charging around saving the world and turning down sex because they are too virtuous. This is how these guys really live. I grew up there and every guy I knew who was married had a "side" girlfriend. That is every guy that could have one did. The other guys either wanted to, but were too broke or too unattractive to get one or too afraid of their wives to do it. It was a macho culture. Yes, it's wrong and the guys who did it were tortured by what they did, but they did it anyway. Like the guys in Goodfellas, except most of them were very petty criminals. They lived hard lives with very few of the pleasures that middle class or upper mid class people have. Their work was backbreaking. They got into fights. They had wild senses of humor. Then their jobs were taken away and what little they had was also taken from them. Some of them killed themselves. Some of them went nuts. Some of them -very few-retrained and became computer workers. Some of them, like Red, turned to petty crime with disastrous results.

I wish you had also mentioned that Wanda, Red's wife, is a strong and self-reliant person who won't put up with his shit for long.

My novel won the PEN West Award as the Best Novel of 1985, and if you look on the Barnes and Noble site right now you'll see that they compare it favorably with The "Great Gatsby" and "The Grapes of Wrath."

One final thing...fifty per cent of all marriages now end in divorce. Millions of people are cheating, but for some reason, if you write about working class people they are supposed to be noble and self sacrificing, like, say The Waltons. That's not art, that's sentimental bullshit. Wealthy people cheat and go to shrinks and say how "conflicted they are. Then go cheat again. Poor people cheat and when they feel guilty, which they do, get drunk. In the end, both classes are doing the same thing. But only one of them is considered ok. More bullshit. I don't approve of any of it. But as a writer I understand it. Thanks again.


Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Thanks for featuring Robert Ward's explanation of what was behind Red Baker. I love it that he wanted to write what the guys he knew were really like. That always lends a lot of authenticity to a story.

Heath Lowrance said...

I just finished this myself and was staggered by the insight Mr. Ward has about the state of mind of someone who's just lost his job. It's spot on. And I appreciated the lack of sentiment as well as the sharp, clean prose. Great book.

Chris said...

I have this; I think it just vaulted up the ranks of my TBR pile.

Charles Gramlich said...

I knew some Walton types, but someone soon got sick along the line and the pain began. Nothing worthwhile lasts long.