Monday, October 17, 2011

How I Came to Write This Story: Patti Abbott

"Monkey Justice" is, of course, the title story in MONKEY JUSTICE (the original illustration by Mark Satchwill from Dark Valentine zine shown here)

Its genesis is easy to remember. I overheard the entire story on a bus ride into work. No kidding. Well, not the part about the protagonist working with monkeys, but the rest of it.

Who could resist using a story about a man's wife and mistress giving birth to his daughters on the same day? The guy on the bus becomes Gene, the beta male, in my story. I even watched him de-bus at the Science Center.

He will never know that his story became my story and the title of this collection.

It was almost too easy to write it until I thought to insert the part about monkey behavior. Who doesn't like monkeys and how could I resist using it for a title of the collection? Spending a week or two looking over recent Capuchin monkey experiments was a treat. And those four anthropology courses finally paid off.

"Like a Hawk Rising" is the first story in MONKEY JUSTICE

I only realized the genesis of this story when I sat down to think about it years after I wrote it. Today, in fact.

I remember at the time being very keen to write a story Neil Smith would take for PLOTS WITH GUNS, which he did. I think I sent him several before he took this one. (And another one or two afterward). He's mean one, Mr. Grinch. (Only kidding).

This story is obviously derived from my love of REAR WINDOW. Like Jeff Jeffries, my protagonist, Bernie, is laid up with a broken leg. But unlike Jeff, he has less to look at out his window in the Florida suburbs, so he ends up watching the kid next door who keeps a menagerie of odd animals in backyard. So its animals in cages instead of hot urbanites through their windows.

One of the threats in my story is the boy's father, who pays the occasional visit to the house next door where he torments his son. The other threat is the man Bernie and his wife owe money to--and with the broken leg he cannot earn (as a second- story man) enough to meet his debt.

So the protagonist is impotent on several fronts.

Also, as in the film, Bernie's sexy female partner is called on to save the day. Twice. She risks her life in doing this.

The hawk is a tattoo on her jacket and on her back. Unlike Jeff in REAR WINDOW, who is blind to Grace Kelly's charms., Bernie's crazy in love with her and the hawk on the back is their secret.

I used to think it was a mistake to have Jeff Jeffries so oblivious to Grace's charms in Rear Window. Why not cast a less glamorous woman, why not dress her less elegantly?
But now I think, it was genius. It became an eternal talking point for REAR WINDOW and made Jeff a more multi-dimensional character. I think this point exactly is the one most often discussed.

So the similarities are certainly there with my story. It's an homage but not a steal.

If you've enjoyed my stories, could I ask you to post an amazon review under MONKEY JUSTICE. This is a little known author's best chance of getting read.
If you don't enjoy my stories, you may want to keep it to yourself. HA!


Deb said...

Great "stories behind the stories"!

One of my friends is the overnight nurse at a primate research center. They always have to have a nurse on-site to ensure that appropriate monkey-bite protocol is observed when researchers are bitten. I'm not a fiction writer, but I've always thought "Monkey-Bite Protocol" would be a great title for a short story (or, in Bill Crider's world, a great name for a rock band).

Anonymous said...

Patti - Thanks so much for sharing these stories. And I'm so happy for you about the release of Monkey Justice. How interesting that you got your idea from something you overheard on a bus - I love it that you were that open to inspiration. And I think it's wonderful, too, how you weave your love of movies in. What a great story-behind-the-story :-).

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow, Deb. That would be a great title and story. Thanks for generating another idea. I'd use it for a rock band too if I had an iota of musical ability.

Loren Eaton said...

Just ordered it, Patti, and it's downloading right now ...

YA Sleuth said...

I ordered it--can't wait to read!

Overheard conversations are the best short story inspiration, I think.

Ron Scheer said...

I can only encourage you to use public transportation more often. Your stories are a delight.

Anonymous said...

Money-Bite Protocol would indeed BAGNFARB.

Thanks for the "how I wrote this" stories. Jackie once overheard a guy on the bus to the Staten Island Mall telling his friend about his upcoming murder trial!

Jeff M.

Paul D Brazill said...

Good stuff!

Charles Gramlich said...

I guess that's the way it almost always works. Someone's story becomes our story, with our own touch on it. Overheard ones are many of the best stimulants for writing

Dorte H said...

Great to read the story about YOUR book! I can see I should spend more quality time on the bus.

Are your stories very dark? (We have enough depressions in this family already....)

pattinase (abbott) said...

I would say they are 1/3 darkish, 1/ comical and 1/3 literary sorts. None have overt violence. It is always off-stage. And nothing kinky.

Dorte H said...

Must try it then. I am sure I need some books ;)

And I like that it´s on Smashwords which is much cheaper for me.