Part 3; Continuing excerpts from a recent interview with novelist Stuart Murray, to discuss his first novel, Dangerous Perceptions
Part 1 provided a glimpse into the underlying themes of the book, and Part 2 was a continuance of that exploration, as well as an insight into the real life incident that provided the starting point for the story.
Here in Part 3 we explore and discover a little more about the characters who populate the book.
“I know each and every one of them intimately, inside and out, backwards and forwards and have seen all their ugly warts, weaknesses and unfulfilled hopes and dreams rise, fall, crash and burn.”
Perhaps we could move on now and talk a little about the characters, starting with Wayne Jackson. What’s he all about?
Wayne is a rancher and head of a reasonably sized cattle empire, he is a powerful, highly successful, proud, resourceful, self made man. Unquestionably an alpha male who rules his territory with the same self-centered tenacity as a feudal lord. He virtually owns the town bordering his vast land holdings, but he’s spread thin and has problems, weaknesses and temptations that he indulges in a little too freely and is unable to control.
Unlike everyone else, he lacks checks and balances, and as a consequence everything he does is completely over the top and on a much larger scale. He has a huge ego, too much money and too much power. And too much of anything, especially power, is a dangerous thing.
But he has vulnerabilities and is rightfully concerned for the future. The winds of change are blowing hard and there’s a tight window of opportunity on an unexpected proposal that could change his life forever. He has difficult choices to make and Steve Tait’s unexpected arrival provides him with a long overdue chance to put his sons to the test.
Jackson is a big fish in a little pond, and Tait is an unwelcome visitor that he uses, and abuses in order to test his sons as part of a continuing process to determine who will take over the family run cattle operation. He has higher aspirations, and the wherewithal to achieve whatever he sets his mind to accomplishing.
A thorn in his side is Joe Carter. He is a minor but fairly prominent character and could probably be best described as the antitheses of Jackson. What does he bring to the table?
Joe Carter is, without doubt, a tragic figure with a black and white view of the world, and a salt of the earth personality. He’s not only been beaten up by life, he’s been destroyed by it through circumstance and a never ending string of bad luck. He’s just trying to get by, escape a self imposed prison and in the process preserve whatever shreds of dignity he has left. And believe me, that’s not much.
He may be a character cast in a supporting role, but his importance, and what he brings to the table is unquestionable. And while he may not be the glue that holds the story together he is certainly an integral part of the fabric.
And you’re right, he is in many respects the antitheses of Jackson, and a prime example of how luck and good fortune are seldom distributed evenly in life.
Carter certainly came alive for me. What about Richard Tyler, how would you describe him, and the role he plays?
Richard Tyler is as tough as nails and more than a match for Wayne Jackson. He is in fact, the only person who can match Jackson in terms of power, wealth, intelligence and intensity. He arrives on the scene in the role of an antagonistic venture capitalist, and it’s a role in which he is a past master. He could well be described as a brilliant visionary with an incredible ability to create wealth on a massive scale. And he is not particularly delicate in the methods used to achieve it.
So similar in some respects to Jackson, but the complete opposite of the hero of the story, Steve Tait?
Well, Steve is a hero in some ways, especially when in his element, the military. He possesses rugged good looks and although no longer in peak physical condition he’s more than a match for any man. But now that he’s a civilian it’s entirely different. He suffers from PTSD; post traumatic stress disorder, having spent too much time in high stress combat situations, and the military machine he willingly served by giving the best years of his life did nothing to prepare him for a return to civilian life.
But that was a choice he made.
Giving up his career in the military was the price he had to pay to win the woman he loved, and the price he willingly accepted. It was, on reflection, a higher price than he realized; for achieving one ambition required abandoning the only life he’d ever known.
Burned out, directionless and in a low paying dead end job he has ambition, determination and the willingness to do whatever he can to create a better existence. But what can he really do? He’s hopelessly lost, struggling to find his way and hasn’t a clue how to turn his life around. He thought it would be easy, that the transition into civilian life would be seamless and that opportunities would present themselves to a returning warrior who served his country well. Instead he returns to an indifferent society, has no prospects and drives a worn out, seventeen year old car.
Yeah. I guess there are some parallels to be uncovered if you dig far enough and take liberties with your imagination. It’s inevitable, as a writer you draw on what you know, embellish wherever the opportunity allows and make up the rest. But Steve a hero? No, not even close. He’s just an ordinary man struggling to move forward, not making a particularly good job of it, and just like Carter, desperately trying to hold it together.
Surprising that you would categorize him as an ordinary man, or draw a comparison to Carter. Steve Tait has an interesting past, he’s nothing at all like Carter, and he has Karen.
Does he? Karen is a beautiful woman, a step or two above with the ability to attract just about any man she sets her sights on. Steve once described having the chance to go on a date with her as simply an interview where he was invited to present his case before being given an opportunity to try out for the big leagues. Karen could have done better, in terms of husband material, but fell in love with Steve because of the man he was and who he hoped to become, or perhaps more accurately, who she thought he would develop into. The initial chemistry burned hot enough to make them a couple, but time dulled that fire, and now all that remains is the undeniable truth. They are at a crossroads, his failure to progress is destroying their relationship; she could easily move on and enjoy a financially secure future with someone else, and he knows it.
And it’s precisely that knowledge that is the catalyst lying beneath the surface, his failures and unfulfilled ambitions are compounding factors, and the pressure is building, waiting for the faintest green light or glimmer of hope to ignite the spark.
Which brings us to Karen. She might start out as a background, second string character in a supporting role, but it is a role that develops and grows into something quite substantial.
Very much so. Karen is as much at the center of the story, as is Steve, and the man who wants to destroy him, Wayne Jackson. She, as it will be discovered in the second book, is the one subjected to the unintended consequences created by her husband’s poorly considered pursuit of an opportunity to change his destiny.
And she is a remarkable, strong willed woman who, perhaps as a result of failed relationships in the past, isn’t willing to simply accept the status quo.
She could, and should already be living the good life, and would have if not for a successive run of poor choices in men. She loves and believes in her husband, but underneath can’t help but wonder whether Steve is just another in a long line of mistakes.
She is depicted as someone who is very intuitive.
Some people have a stronger sense of the potential for people to play a part in their lives than others, and despite a lack of luck with relationships, or perhaps because of it, the one thing she does possess is keen intuition. She knows when someone arrives in her life whether they are there in a positive or negative capacity and if they will play a significant part. Out west, in the backwoods of Montana that realization comes to her in a less than pleasant way. And it’s here she is faced with the realization that when a handsome stranger suddenly appears that it is not by accident. He is a very attractive package representing acute danger, and so much more.
And that provides the ideal segue to that very man you’re describing; the impossibly handsome cowboy, Ray. How would you characterize him?
Strong, virile, with a magnetic ability to attract women without even trying. He is several years younger than Karen, meets her under unusual circumstances and is instantly and deeply attracted. But his relative youth, lack of maturity and inability to control his emotions result in a highly explosive powder keg personality capable of intense passion and uncontrollable violence. Karen has no trouble recognizing that this is someone who likes her a little too much, in a disturbing and unwelcome way. But she also knows that meeting him produced some sort of karmic attraction that may be impossible to deny.
There are many other characters in the book that we can’t cover here, but it would be remiss not to talk a little about Calvin.
Calvin is perhaps even more volatile, unpredictable and dangerous than his brother, Ray. He is the man who initially set off the entire chain of events and gets the ball rolling. He is fearless and ambitious, but not the brightest bulb on the planet. His father goes out of his way to try and teach him the finer points of manipulation and the effective use of power, but ultimately sees him for what he is, and is left to questions his ability to lead the family forward. There is a battle raging inside Calvin for the possession of his soul, and there is no telling which way it will be resolved. But without question, lacking the ability to intelligently reason and predict outcomes makes Calvin dangerously unpredictable. It’s a trait shared with his brother, Ray.
It’s amazing to hear you describe these people. It’s almost as if they were alive.
Of course they are alive. They are living, breathing beings, just as much, and perhaps more alive than they have any right to be. I know each and every one of them intimately, inside and out, backwards and forwards and have seen all their ugly warts, weaknesses and unfulfilled hopes and dreams rise, fall, crash and burn. I’ve known each of them for well over ten years, and they are very much alive within the pages of the book.
But they’re not really alive, right?
It’s a novel. A work of fiction, so technically they don’t exist.
Technically! So, what you’re saying…
I am not saying anything, but if you want to interview one of them let me know.
Let me think about that. One final question. The book sales. I mean, not good, dude. You gotta be choked?
Sales would be nice, but look, I accomplished what I set out to do. A completed body of work was created in the form a book. Two in fact. The bringing together of a story such as this captures a moment in time and paints a picture that is impossible to recreate in any other medium. The closest medium would be the movies, and no director could recreate the essence of what has been presented here as an original, unique body of work laid out and exposed in simple words. That has to be enough, and it is. The rest is down to fate, destiny, luck, whatever that magical thing is that ensures success in whatever form it takes. All I can do is present it. Whether that’s good enough is for others to judge and determine.
I’ve pushed it out into the world. Now it is time to walk away and move on.
What else is in the works?
First up is publishing ‘Dangerous Perceptions Part 2 Unintended Consequences’ on Kindle. It is currently only available on Apple’s iBooks.
And after that?
There are two more books in development, both gathering dust for now. I expect to get back to them soon, but how quickly, and with what degree of enthusiasm depends on various factors.
Reviews. Or a simple inspiration that comes out of left field
I hear you. I could use sone of that myself. You know, I must admit that I thought doing this interview would be a waste of time.
Yeah, pretty much still feel the same way. Anyway, I want to thank you, Stuart, for doing this.
Okay, and I want to thank you, for asking such great questions, even though none were a surprise.
What, but how? Okay, you got me. I admit it, I am not a real interviewer and I have no credentials.
No, not only aren’t you a real interviewer, you don’t even exist. But we could do this again some other time, if you like.
You’re too kind. What are we making for dinner tonight?
I was thinking about pasta.
Me too! Okay, I’ll give you a hand.
Which one, left or right?