LAST NIGHT AT MOOMBA: A NOVEL IN PROGRESS
Last Night at Moomba was a story -- is a story -- I had to write. It marked my progress from an earnest Creative Writing student yearning to be the next great American writer to a writer comfortable enough in his skin to write with confidence. You see, until the writing of this novel I suffered from the writer’s pretension that unless it was great, it shouldn’t be written. In those student days I also only read classics, telling myself (and unbelievably others) that I did not want to be influenced by any other writer’s style. We all began at the same starting line – I pompously believed -- immersed in the classics and only through divine inspiration (and perspiration) could we break through our culture and experiences to find our own voice. Yes, it’s pretentious as hell. This was the time when I was deep in academia, attending the Sewanee Writers' Conference, applying to Masters’ programs and living a writer’s life. Don’t get me wrong. I loved, still love, that life. Surrounded by writers, joyfully sitting through countless readings, rubbing shoulders with greats, attending workshops. Living, breathing, eating, blissfully enraptured with all consuming words. Would I be a playwright (like Tennessee) or a poet (like Uncle Walt)? Would I write a collection of short stories or embark on a novel? Would I seek refuge in a university, studying, and teaching? This was my young-artist living dream. As it is with most serious writers, I imagine. “Have you been to Bread Loaf?” “Oh, yes, but Sewanee is so much better now”. And on and on we talked under the Banyan Tree at Benedict Hall on the mountain all while consuming copious amounts of liquor and trekking to the grave of Alan Tate. What fulfilling times those were. I count them as some of my best.
Then something happened that surely comes as no surprise. I returned to Manhattan through a whirlwind of opportunity and found myself in the epicenter of High Society. Suffice to say there is a huge story in between those sentences but I’ll save that for the autobiography. You will definitely come close to my experience of those heady days reading Last Night at Moomba as it is part Roman a clef, part historical fiction, part romantic illusions and nostalgic reminiscences. It was during this time I began writing what would become Moomba. The working title was An Extra Man for obvious reasons. I was, and very much am still, an extra man called upon to fill any table, outing, party, what have you, with joie de vivre, a quick wit, ample connections and of course, devastating style. I used to add good looks (the photo is of me during those Moomba days) and sex appeal, but alas, with time, you settle for good hair and a whipped waist. Oh the days. The days – and more so the nights -- were glorious.
But as my good friend Jen Slocumb of Martha's Trouble wrote and sings, "When the night ended I was alone." Listen to this song about when I left Manhattan after September 11, 2001 to return to Alabama and in particular, Waverly. It always makes me cry. So naturally I had to write about it. The outpouring of the bulk of the book happened while living in Laurel Canyon (that’s the famous Hollywood Hills you hear so much about). I was living with my great friend Kevin West and we decided not to return home to our beloved South (his; South Carolina. Mine; Alabama) and stay on in LA and take advantage of the post-Christmas depression and lock ourselves up for a writing boot camp. And that we did. It also happened to coincide with the worst torrential rain Los Angeles had experienced in over a hundred years. We often looked up from our writing to see if the house would slide with the mud down the mountain. It was an ideal setting and the words flowed. I found myself in the grip of a maniacal writing surge sitting over my keyboard for 6, 8, 10, 12 up to 14 hours a day writing, writing, writing. It was the greatest time of my life. And one I hope to experience again. My body ached, my stomach churned from a steady diet of scotch and cigarettes but I lived! And wrote.
Soon after, I sent the manuscript off to several agents and took the summer off to Cape Cod. Provincetown, to be precise and found myself again. Arriving on that spit of sand with a broken spirit (if not wing) I discovered the good side of gay in that glorious summer. More on that time in the autobiography or perhaps it will make itself known another way, but not today. I received an email from none other than the hot new agent at William Morris wanting to meet me right away and could I come down to Manhattan for a meeting. Oh high hopes they do intoxicate. After a long series of disappointments and near misses let’s just say, well, the novel did not sell. I shelved it, shopped for a new agent, it was acquired by an executive at Warner Brothers television then dropped for a similar project which never made it to air either. I finally pulled the book out of the ether and started working on the blog and book that would become Social Primer and have been riding that wave to this day.
Along the way, I pulled the trigger and published the book on demand. As the covers above will attest, I was always fiddling with the story. I still may not be done with it entirely, but here is what is about to happen. I have pulled the editions that have floated around the internet like flotsam and am poised to release the original manuscript from those creative Laurel Canyon days with minimal edit and minor intro prologue. Perhaps this post is that piece. All to say, the versions that are out there are not the original. They have been edited to please others. The book I will release soon is the unadulterated, uncompromised, replete with dirty (well, naughty) scenes, language and thoughts intact. And it’s the best one.
So. If you have one of those others you will LOVE the one to come. And you might be surprised to know I have restored the protagonist’s name to its original, Judge, not Jake. Judge is the name of a family friend I borrowed for the story and changed when I felt uncomfortable using it. But now, with a clear disclaimer that any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental, I am charging ahead. I identify so deeply with my greatest character Judge that it felt like someone else when I changed his name to Jake. Judge is back. In all his glory. And you’re going to love him too. Or at least love to hate him. So into the breach we go! Onward.
Here’s a peak at what is new, an index if you will, of the book to follow.
Act One: The Players
Chapter 1 Judge Mender’s Call of Duty
Chapter 2 Victoria Newton Stokes
Chapter 3 Maxwell Jones Gloats
Chapter 4 Scarlet Goodman Floats
Chapter 5 Scarlet & Harrison Discovery
Chapter 6 Jet Set Exposed
Chapter 7 Scarlet Rises, Victoria Reigns
Chapter 8 Lucy Shining & The Wonder Ball
Act Two: Rise & Fall
Chapter 9 Buddy Russ & Lucinda Walker
Chapter 10 Caleb Returns, Maxwell’s Miami
Chapter 11 Shining Achievement
Chapter 12 The Scarlet Lamb
Chapter 13 La Goulue, Save Venice, Doubles Entendre
Chapter 14 Young Fellows Frick & Victoria’s Frost
Chapter 15 The Photo
Chapter 16 Recklessness & Reckoning
Chapter 17 The Season’s It Girls
Chapter 18 The Walkers Take Manhattan
Chapter 19 The List
Act Three Season in the Sun
Chapter 20 Into the Shining
Chapter 21 The Announcement
Chapter 22 A Flea Market Affair
Chapter 23 Last Night at Moomba
Chapter 24 The Photo Reveals
Chapter 25 Myths & Muses at NYC Ballet Gala