The Wise Novelist

Send For The Smith Brothers

Peter and Raymond Smith were fixtures from my childhood.

Peter was in my class in St. Margarets of Cortona from first grade on. Ray was in my older brother Eddie’s class. Given that the Smiths bred like Tribbles ( there was a Smith in all of my siblings classes as well.

Peter’s dad was a Captain in the FDNY. Took us all camping – with Ferd Beck and Big Jack Vaughan – when we were kids. He was a great guy.

Peter was the member of our Riverdale crew who gave my cousin Jimmy McEntee (another character in FJM) his indelible nickname, Apples.

That fuzzy photo of (left to right) Ray and Pete was taken in the early 70s at one of the speak-easy parties I ran out of my family’s basement as a kid. We all got shit-faced. Each time.

So, of course, Pete and Ray made it into Finding Jimmy Moran.

Now I haven’t heard the sound of Peter’s voice in almost 50 years. His family moved out of Riverdale and up North above the Tappanzee Bridge to Greenwood Lake when we were all in our late teens.

Last night my phone rang, and Pete’s childhood nickname (which he hated) “Poofy” or “Puffy” depending on the inflexion, showed up on my screen. Joe Serrano – also a central character in FJM (and a bad guy in KMAG) – had given me Pete’s number when Joe first started rounding up members of the OFC after TWA dropped.

Turns out, Pete had received a copy of The Claire Trilogy from one of his daughters, and had then heard a rumor (from Joe Serrano) that Finding Jimmy Moran was dropping in April, and wanted to know if it was true that there was a character in that book based on him. It reminded me that the things from my childhood that spread fastest among Riverdalians was Mononucleosis and Rumors, and sometimes crabs, often shared at the same time.

I spent the next hour laughing my ass off. Seriously, I had tears in my eyes.

I cannot recount 90 percent of the conversation, because there are still a few statute of limitations that have not yet run, and if the FBI was tapping that phone call, Peter is one of my legal clients so it’s all privileged communications, so back off. But let me sum it up this way. It was agreed that no one would believe that the childhood we shared back in Riverdale could possibly be true, unless they were there. Enough said.

Another thing about Riverdalians. You can pick up the phone after half a century and feel like you just spoke with the other person yesterday. Sadly, that world doesn’t exist any more. But the good news is that I have done my absolutely best in trying to recapture the basis for it in FJM.

Now Peter wasn’t the only member of the OFC that made me tear up yesterday, because my frenemy BC had already had me pissing myself with a posted response to a comment by one of the most loyal and wonderful of the fine, five readers of my blog, Adrienne:

  1. Hi Adrienne,
    Your revelation of #4 on your bucket list has triggered an unexpected guilt response from several friends and I who co-created the The Claire Trilogy. We started this as a writing experiment testing out an AI program and now feel badly that you’ve bought into it so far as to rank meeting our character “Tom McCaffrey” as # 4 on your bucket list. You see, in all honesty now, we found some guys at Stanford Univ. who developed an AI program where you pick a number of parameters (whether related sounding or not) that you’d like to see built into a story (e.g. NYC youth roots, mafia interaction gone bad, WITSEC, talking mule, ET’s, etc.) and then the novel gets written by AI bots. Then while on a drinking binge in Colorado, we found a guy living in Berthoud who we thought looks like what Ernest Hemingway would look like today if he lived a hardscrabble life in CO. We toss him some drinking money each month, and in return, he lets us use his image and sends us fresh photos now and then when he can stand and hold his phone steady.So anyway, that’s the scoop. Sorry to knock our character “Tom” off the pedestal you and others have placed him on. But as I said, we felt guilty letting you go on carrying a meeting with him as the #4 position on your bucket list. Thanks for your appreciation of the writing of our bots though.Reply
  2. BC says:EditAlmost forgot to mention about the blogs — The feel-good blogs are written by a group of monks we’ve contracted with in Nepal. We ask them to center their writings around Claire the mule. And then we add in some profanity and outlandish situations to spice them up.Reply
    1. BC says: EditWe first met the monks traveling on one of those exhibition tours around the U.S. where they create sand “paintings”. We were passing through Longmont and ran into them coming from performing an exhibition in Steamboat Springs — tell you, most fun-loving monks you ever want to meet — when they’re off-duty! Sure, they’re all serious when performing. But we were enjoying a stop in Mike O’Shay’s bar/restaurant that evening when they rolled in for the famous MOS vegan favorite Caprese sandwich. When the ever-accommodating manager, Lonnie, led them to the back room so they could have some privacy, we assumed that meant for peace and quiet. But upon further review when we stopped in to offer them a few shots of down-home American hospitality, we saw that after a hard day of sand painting, these guys like to let their hair down. And yes, they CAN party! We were in awe to begin with when they appeared to smoke a hookah and drink Macallan Scotch at the same time. (Still don’t know how they did that.) But when they then proceeded to do so upside-down, we knew we were out of our league and were forced to utter “Uncle”. If you don’t believe me, drop in at Mike O’Shay’s if you’re ever in Longmont and ask for Lonnie. Then ask him to show you the photos of what went on back there that night. He might be hesitant at first, so you may have to nudge him a little. Happy New Year to Lonnie and all the staff and regulars at MOS!

Can you imagine what it must have been like growing up surrounded by characters like this during my highly impressionable formative years? They were all like that. Even Peter. I was the quiet one. The altar boy.

My resulting insanity was a given. But I would not have traded a moment of my childhood. I could never have written the first word without it.

For the record, as today’s PSA, let me make it absolutely clear that FJM, like TCT, is a work of complete fiction. Characters, events, the whole nine-yards. I swear it. Really. I’m not kidding. After all, I’m just an AI program.

Anyway, getting back to Peter Smith, after a wonderful hour catching up, I promised to send him an inscribed copy of TCT and FJM. After all, I could not have written either without his crazy influence.

So, here you go, brother. They are going out today.

But remember, Peter, you promised to read them in order. And just to make sure you do, I’ve placed a Druid’s curse on these books so that your dick will shrivel up and fall off if you try to skip right to FJM. So be warned. As any of the other members of the OFC – and a few Nepalese monks – will attest. I got serious mojo.

And BC, I’m still awaiting January’s drinking money.

Anyway, the first work day of the new year awaits, so I better get on it.

But first, a kitty cuddle, my rounds and some torture.

You fine, five readers please ignore the postings by BC on these blogs, they are the ravings of a mad-man.

And while you are at it, have a great day.

5 Responses

  1. Tom, I have to say I loved that exchange and was hugely entertained by it. I love a good bullshit story. Thanks for mentioning me yet again in your blog. BC, I used to live in Longmont and Denver. I know that neck of the woods. Thankyou to Ms. Burnett for the invite to the book fair in April. Your booth will be the very first one I go to if I can make it. I’m very interested in the food truck lunch.

    1. Adrienne, You’re a great sport and apparently a formidable adversary for any who would dare to challenge you, judging by the way you dismissed me summarily with the back of your hand yesterday without skipping a beat. Small world that you lived in Longmont and Denver! Wishing you all the best with your writing and book sales in the new year.

  2. Please don’t threaten. Me with that. If it shrinks anymore there will be nothing left. Lol. It was great catching up with you last night.

  3. Joe Morello, I will keep you in mind. Thanks for the offer. BC, My bullshit detection abilities are very well developed. Thanks for the great story though.

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