Writing CrashJamie J. Buchanan / Thrillers & Crime
By Jamie J. Buchanan
Copyright 2016 Jamie J. Buchanan
Thank you for your support.
Table of Contents
The End of Death
Casualty of Life
The Seduction of Proposal
Memento of Excess
The Penny Dropped
The Older Brother
An Easy Death To Handle
Therapy in Absentia
The spine cracked as I entered virgin territory. I curled back the cover of the paperback gently, a soft arc as I perused the opening page.
“Season Pass”, by Jerome Bordeaux.
The pages crisp/clean, that new book smell wafted out of the pages and promised so much. A brand new book, a fresh author I’d never read before. It was an anticipation that was like a drug to me. I love that anxiety, the feeling that I’m about to discover something original and exciting as I open a new tome. It’s a different feeling to reading the latest novel by an author you’ve read before. You know the style, you know what to expect. But a new author? It’s a whole different sentiment.
It’s like sitting at a comedy club and a comedian you’ve never seen before comes on stage. “OK funny guy, make me laugh. I’ll give you a few jokes, I’ll give you a chance. I know you’re nervous, but I’m willing to work with you for a while.”
Jerome Bordeaux was the new wunderkind of Crime Noir (my agent told me I was a new Wunderkind, but that was before all of this happened). His work was dark, thoughtful and full of long words that I had to assume I knew the meaning for. I’d get the gist of the sentence and, from that, determine an approximate definition of the word. I mean, who uses ‘eschew’ in day-to-day conversation? Honestly?
I knew this because I was three pages into the book and already I could taste its pretentiousness. The precociously short sentences. The awkwardly arranged alliteration.
Dammit! I liked it!
My agent had the temerity to call me ‘wunderkind’. I’m 47 years old – hardly a child in any language. True, though, that I had only written two novels. The first one, “Dancing With Strangers”, was a mild success and it enabled me some money so I could finish “A Sliver of Light”.
Yes, I know you’ve heard of that one.
It was the right book, the right style, the right time.
It was the literary equivalent of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
The literary equivalent of ‘Pulp Fiction’.
And now I’m stewing over my third book and not really getting anywhere.
Actually, the comparison with Tarantino (‘Pulp Fiction’) is appropriate really. ‘Dancing With Strangers’ was my ‘Reservoir Dogs’ – mildly popular, cult classic, well received by critics and peers. And, like ‘Reservoir Dogs’, it was more widely acknowledged after the sophomore effort – when people checked the limited back-catalogue to discover the mega-success’ predecessor.
Cries of “how did I miss this?” resounded.
‘A Sliver of Light’ was my ‘Pulp Fiction’. Where ‘Pulp Fiction’ resurrected Travolta’s career, gave Bruce Willis street cred and established Samuel L. Jackson as ‘one cool motherfucker’ (I know you said that in your head using Samuel’s voice), ‘A Sliver of Light’ – and the subsequent screen version – brought back Russell Crowe just as he was disappearing into the bloated Kiwi most Australians thought he was. It made John Waters sexy again. It made us all scared of Hugo Weaving – really scared too. It was his John Jarrett ‘Wolf Creek’ moment – a far cry from Hugo’s attempt at menace in ‘The Matrix’.
Now I had just finished the first chapter of “Season Pass” by this new guy Bordeaux…and it had me hooked. Like an addict’s relapse into the forbidden, my taste of this was sweet, addictive and sensational. I liked it so much that I wished I’d written it. I also knew that I liked it so much that I would have to finish it and, if I’m reading something so damned good, then I can’t be writing my own stuff.
I put the book down and picked up the tepid tea – Earl Grey and far too sweet. I wondered if it was okay to absorb some of Jerome’s style into my work? The guy was twenty years younger than me…was I too old to be influenced?
The answer was obvious and I knew that my ego would have to take a back seat on this one. If it’s good, be influenced by it – that was my pragmatism speaking and he almost always won over my ego. My ego really wanted to hate this book – revile it and denounce it as pappy, arrogant trash. But my ego had no option to concede that it was good and my new novel (such that it was) would have to wait.
I had been avoiding my agent’s insistent questions about what the story was about, or how far into it I was, or when he could read at least a chapter or two. The fact was I had no idea what it was about. I knew how it would start but, beyond the first chapter, there was nothing.
I had no plot, no characters, no second or third act. Hell, I didn’t even have a first act! The first chapter was, at best, an okay short story. But I had no idea where it was going.
I put down my tea and picked up Bordeaux’s novel.
It was then I knew what my new book would be. It would be a journey for me. As I was reading Bordeaux’s work, I realised that part of the excitement here was that I did not know what was coming up. I didn’t know where he was taking me – most of what was written on the back of the book had taken place in the first chapter…I had no idea what the rest would be like. I’m sure Bordeaux did, but that’s his story to tell. I liked the excitement of adventure. I wanted that form of inspiration for when I was writing my novel. To not know what the future held – to be unsure of where the characters were going, or taking me, and taking the reader. I didn’t even know how many characters there would be.
It was the literary equivalent of ‘Seinfeld’ – the show about nothing.
So that’s what I did.
The End of Death
And this was how it started.
Although, for Tobias, it was in slow motion - the smash was more of an elongated crunch. His mind distorted time, twisted reality and obfuscated the truth. A self-defence mechanism, protecting itself against future pain.
The car left the road at 95 kilometers an hour, sliding sideways across the empty lanes of blacktop as its tyres aquaplaned through the pools of water. The wheels spun, hopelessly inadequate to gain traction, completely useless against kinetic energy.
Incessant rain + poor drainage = a deathtrap for Tobias’ Ford Falcon.
It was a disaster waiting for him to come along and take up his role in it. In an accident waiting to happen, the vital ingredient was Tobias.
And the pedestrian too - he played his part.
The kerb jutted up from the black-top like a ski ramp ready to launch the jumper into glory. As the car’s wheels collected with the concrete edge of the road, Tobias felt the world stop. Time ceased, motion paused. His heart skipped slightly as he realized that he was no longer in control of the vehicle - he was as much a passenger within it as his jacket on the back seat, or the fluffy dice suspended under the mirror.
Whilst he slid across the road, he maintained an illusion of control - perpetuated by the steering wheel. He gripped that wheel for dear life, ripping it left, then right violently but with zero effect. No matter which way he turned it, the car continued a wide-arced pirouette, the rear of the metal beast slowly turning as if to overtake the front half.
Control, time, sequence…all of it illusory as reality blurred and paused.
Tires left the road, the engine screamed as Tobias braced for the inevitable landing. His heart felt like it was squeezing in slow motion - a faulty pump vainly squeezing out treacle through a straw. His eyes shut, protecting his mind from the horrors of a sight he never wished to see.
The world upside down.
Momentum and force + a high centre of gravity + a low-set immovable object (like a kerb) = a certain rollover.
As he shut his eyes, the earth approached. The roof collapsed under him, loose change tinkled around his head as the ceiling of the car crumpled under its own weight.
Windows crushed - thank God for safety glass in the windshield. The side windows smashed, a discordant rhapsody played as the shards fell about him, slicing and dicing whatever they came in contact with.
The roof dug into the soft earth, the weight of the automobile above the collapsing aluminium frame flipped the car again. Once more, turmoil. Up became down, reality and perception disintegrated into free-fall.
The metal now crunched and groaned - a demonic harmonic.
Tobias’ hands now screamed with pain as his thumbs broke - the steering wheel spun violently, smashing his thumbs as his hands gripped it with terror. His eyes opened briefly to see red - glass scratched his eyes like sand, blood filled his vision. Through the hell-haze he saw the approaching row of trees.
He braced as the car’s wheels found minimal purchase on the slippery grass, curtailing the roll-over, marginally reducing the speed of the imminent impact.
Grey eucalyptus trees approached, attacking, imposing.
Tobias was aware of screaming in the car - human screams. His screams.
The words incoherent, unintelligible.
Time stretched further, prolonging the impact. He wondered when he would see his life flash before his eyes. Wasn’t that supposed to happen just about now?
Flash! Back track a bit…rewind back approximately eight seconds to when he was casually driving along, half-asleep at 11.30PM on this wet Friday night. Tobias had just left the pub where his friends were busy drinking - out celebrating being young. Tobias, however, was in no mood for revelry. The week had been longer than most, his back ached from the heavy lifting he had done all week on the building site. His eyes struggled to stay open as he watched his friends get progressively more drunk, more raucous, and more bullet-proof.
It was his turn as designated driver so he fulfilled his end of the unwritten deal they all had - each of them took their turn to drive. But, now that they were set for a big night out, he decided to bail early and get some sleep.
The rain fell in a steady soft pattern, sweeping across the four lanes of traffic like a gentle curtain billowing in the cool breeze. His eyelids struggled to remain open as he drove, his thoughts drifting into a milky cloud of heaviness that preceded sleep for him.
A guy, out of nowhere, stepped out into the road. There was no-one around Tobias - his was the only car on this side of the glassy tarmac. Two lanes headed south and further into suburbia - the northbound lanes on the other side of the overgrown median strip were also devoid of traffic. It was like his was the only car in existence - the guy couldn’t have picked a worse time to stumble into the road.
An horrific slap/thump sound snapped Tobias into full consciousness as the body smashed into the front passenger side fender, the pedestrian’s head whipped forward on an elastic neck, smashing into the corner of the windscreen - blood and hair splashed an obscene tableau.
This came back to Tobias in the mini-second it took for the Falcon to slide on its wheels into the row of trees on the driver’s side.
Time resumed and reality was regained.
A one metre diameter tree-trunk smashed into the rear wheel arch, whipping the car around 180 degrees and flipping it again, this time it stayed upside down. An explosion went off inside Tobias as the sound and the force of the impact buffeted him. His right leg snapped just below the knee as the twisted chassis ripped inwards below the steering wheel.
His arms flapped about him, slapping his face and head, fingers snapped as they became caught in the collapsed roof.
The engine roared one last time whilst the metal groaned and creaked.
Wheels spun momentarily and, before Tobias passed out through shock and impact, he heard the oppressive roar of silence. It engulfed the carnage, wrapping itself around every element of the equation. The car, the pedestrian, the driver - all cloaked within silence.
The world stopped, breathing curtailed, heartbeats on pause, flickers of consciousness suspended. These were all constructs only, definitions of a reality that had paused for a few brief moments for Tobias. Pain was imminent and he knew it was welling within him - a crescendo building towards an imminent finale.
But, until then, unconsciousness awaited.
The silence rolled in like fog, more overwhelming than the percussive impact that broke the monotony on this wet and windswept night.
The mind protected itself, allowing an altered state of reality to invade the present - consciousness took a back seat as he passed out.
When Tobias looked back at his life, this was the moment he realized was the turning point.
This was when his life began.