It’s how the dead speak to the living…
The year 1988 was a real mixed bag. I had just come off of the famous “sophomore slump,” that dread disease of happenstance that strikes a lot of people during the second year in college, which left me and most of my friends with a major case of the blahs. There were shakeups, breakups, switched majors, and a general pall that fell over all of us once the bloom of university life–so new and vibrant that first year–faded into rose-colored memory.
I also lost a friend that year–one of the first people I had met at Texas A&M, a brilliant student who was well on his way to achieving his dream of becoming a doctor. An avid biker, he had been pedaling along one of those long Texas highways at the edge of town when a car swerved onto the shoulder and hit him. Nineteen years getting to that point in his life, and a careless driver ended it just like that. Up until then, I never really understood how fragile and precious life is–but ever since then, I’ve never forgotten it.
But that period of time wasn’t all bad. My buddy Steve and I patented what became known as the “Lost Boys” trip, where we would drop everything at the last minute and take some unplanned trip to Austin or San Antonio, sometimes in the middle of the night, to get Mexican food at the Alamo Cafe or sabotage the “Hook ‘Em Horns” signs at the University of Texas. Some damned fine music also came out around then, stuff that turned into the soundtrack of my experiences. Big Generator from Yes and Rush’s Hold Your Fire were in constant rotation in our tapedecks, as was Sting’s second solo effort …Nothing Like the Sun.
Which leads us to the title of my third novel, The Lazarus Heart. I adapted it from the first track on that album, a beautiful expression of loss and the regret that inevitably follows. It seemed like a pretty good fit. I took title of my previous novel Mistress Eyes from the same sonnet that inspired …Nothing Like the Sun. If Sting could borrow from Shakespeare, why couldn’t I borrow from Sting? It made perfect sense, in a circular kind of way.
Lazarus continued in the same horror vein as Mistress, only this time I was more ambitious. There were no vampires (except for one self-indulgent passage that tied the two books together), but there was a gruesome series of killings, a supernatural villain and a bevy of vengeful spirits out to exact justice from their murderer. I tried some new things this time around, creating some pretty detailed characters, and set it in New York City–a place I’d never visited, but developed as a character unto itself. If all this sounds a bit pretentious, it is; but most writers are filled with a lot of chutzpah to begin with, and those are the risks you take. Hey, at least it kept the cheese down to a minimum.
I had expected about 500 pages, just a bit longer than my earlier efforts, but over the course of a year the manuscript swelled to over 800 pages–enough to give my old dot matrix printer a real workout. Tearing apart those fanfold sheets was no joy either. Still, it was pretty cool to stare at that ten pound stack of paper. As I recall, my roommate thought it made for a pretty good door stop.
An interesting footnote to this story: While I was writing The Lazarus Heart, certain friends and family reported some strange goings-on, particularly in rooms where I had been working on the book. Things would disappear. Strange sounds would echo through the halls. Unexplained shadows would fall across the floors. In one case, a stack of records (reportedly) flew across a room. These activities stopped as soon as I finished the novel, and to this day nobody knows what they were about. Perhaps there was some truth inside the fiction?