A Literary Salvo, Huh?

Out of curiosity and/or masochism, I’ve skimmed through two James Patterson novels over the past two days at the Salvation Army.  (The Salvo featured almost an entire shelf of his hardbacks on sale, either a sign of popularity or of wised-up readers.)

Yesterday (November 8), I entered the world of London Bridges, one of four books he or more likely his assistants churned out in 2004.  The book features not one but two recurring  Patterson villains: British mercenary-slash-serial killer Geoffrey “the Weasel” Shafer and the Bond-esque (more like Bullwinkle-esque) Russian megalomaniac known only as the Wolf!  Hooray.  I knew I’d stumbled into a cesspool when, in the opening chapters, the latter baddie kidnaps the former baddie, hangs him upside-down, and tortures him for an hour by shaking him vigorously, with zero permanent damage.  The two work together, blowing up lots of buildings and bridges as part of a convoluted extortion scheme that Dr. Evil would find ridiculous.  Also, the Wolf employs countless impersonators; by the novel’s clichéd end, when one of them, to conceal his identity for some pointless reason (no one knows what the real Wolf looks like), undergoes plastic surgery sans anesthesia, bleeding profusely, yet has enough stamina afterwards to shoot everyone in the operating room (including the be-awtch doctor) to death, I despaired for humanity.

Just as I continued despairing for humanity today, when I read Roses Are Red, from 2000, a year in which his production-line workers slacked off, manufacturing only one new thriller-style product that unfortunately mentions nothing about Pittsburgh’s own Bobby Vinton.  Instead, the novel introduces the ultra-psychotic, ultra-anal-retentive Mastermind (yet another generic name for, uh, a criminal mastermind), who seemingly kills more people than World War Two did, and who has explicit sex with a female flunky he’s just killed with poisoned pizza of the takeout variety (no restaurant specified, an unusual occurrence for the brand-obsessed Patterson).  Obviously, if a villain doesn’t commit every crime and perversion imaginable, readers might mistake him for a choirboy, a lesson Stephen King (a writer only slightly less successful than Patterson) has taken to heart.

Does asking for more than one dimension in characterization make me a snob?  Does sometimes wishing I could prolifically, Pattersonally, Kingly write best-seller after best-seller, so I could meet my expenses, make me a literary hypocrite and/or a normal person?

Copyright © 2017 by David V. Matthews

November 9, 2017 (revised November 10, 2017)


Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words or Fewer) #23: Maggie and Hopey

L-R: Maggie, Hopey. Art by Jaime Hernandez.

During my exotic phase my sophomore year of college, I dated Isabel, this Latina classmate who resembled Maggie, a Latina character in a comic I read called Love and Rockets.  (Two brothers named Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez wrote and drew it.)  Four months into the relationship, I boinked June—Isabel’s Latina roommate—several times.  June didn’t look like Hopey, Maggie’s part-time (and part-Latina) girlfriend, but I didn’t care.  Anyway, Isabel somehow found out what I’d done, and—game over, man.  Three decades later, I voted for Trump, despite his views on brown people; he understood the cheatin’ urge, unlike Hillary.

Copyright © 2017 by David V. Matthews

(revised December 13, 2017)

Flash Fiction (a Hundred Words or Fewer) #22: Humor as a Coping Mechanism

As she strolled by herself through the gentrifying urban center, 19.737 seconds before the incident with the white police officer would commence, an incident 6 witnesses would—to no avail—capture on their smart phones and post onto social media (a grand jury comprised entirely of white suburbanites would decline to recommend charges against the officer involved), Shandra, an African-American, would attribute that late September day’s unseasonably-high temperature (102°F) to climate change.  “That Chinese hoax,” she would say aloud, sarcastically referring to a similar comment her current least-favorite person, Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States, had made.

Copyright © 2017 by David V. Matthews


The Filthy Carrot

Yesterday, I tackled an assignment for an on-line college course series.  The instructions, in part: 

“Write a scene of 250-350 words featuring a character with one concrete want (a table, a moose, a toothbrush, anything physical is fine!) and one weakness.  Use these two features to drive the action of the plot. Set up the story where every other sentence is a rising action.  To help you come up with rising actions, use one word from the following list of twelve words in each sentence that has a rising action.

  • trick
  • memory
  • aboard
  • tiger
  • pretend
  • carrot
  • appliance
  • cage
  • rings
  • crow
  • filthy
  • explode

“You must use at least 6 of the 12 words[.]”

What follows is a revised version of the three-hundred-and-fifty-word  story that I wrote on the spot and submitted; you judge if I fulfilled the assignment.

The Filthy Carrot

“Your complete ignorance is, like, bumming me out, dude,” my husband Blaine said in that parodic California surfer accent he would use to piss me off.

Blaine had a blog called The Filthy Carrot, where he chronicled our experiences as gay Millennial farmers in the wilds of downtown Detroit.

“Then educate me, dude,” I said.  “Tell me why I should pretend that we can win this.”

“Anything’s possible, with the right publicity,” Blaine said, sans accent.  Six months earlier, he had climbed aboard the video podcast train, releasing Filthy Carrot’s first and so far only episode, an hour’s worth of agricultural advice and political commentary.

“You can’t win just preaching to the choir,” I said.

The episode had featured a three-minute clip, the porridge speech, from that lame superhero movie, Tiger Claw 2—a clip that Blaine had altered by overdubbing dialogue in which Putin has intimate congress with the most powerful orange guy in the world.

“Come on, lots of people hate Trump,” Blaine said.

“Including Tricky Rick?”


“How much do you think we’d get, selling our mood rings on eBay?  They’re, like, freakin’ collectibles, and we need to pay the wireless bill.”

Patrick “Tricky Rick” O’Leary was the ultra-right-wing zillionaire who ran the megacorporation that had released the movie; within a week, the corporation’s fierce legal department had sent Blaine a letter, ordering him to delete the clip immediately or get sued.

“We don’t have to part with our heirloom jewelry.  I’ll sell appliances or insurance or something.  I’ll earn a living some normal, average way, so we can continue rocking together.”

Blaine, insanely foolhardy, had refused to take down the altered clip; in a Facebook posting that the site’s overseers have since removed, he cited “the First Amendment and fair-use doctrine and, by the way, Tricky Rick [redacted due to legal reasons], plus he has the nastiest crow’s feet around his eyes.”

The megacorporation has sued us for five million dollars and won’t offer us a deal.

“Anyway, whatever happens, remember that I love you,” Blaine said, the perfect line that shines in my memory.

Copyright © 2017 by David V. Matthews

August 18, 2017