Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pulp Life

My contribution to the new DS anthology, Collateral Damage, is a short story called Pulp Life – Episode One; The First Rule.

The reason it’s called “Episode One” is because I adapted it from the pilot script to a TV show I was pitching. I have a few more episodes in script form and I may adapt then into short stories as well, if anyone is interested in them.

Here’s how the story begins:


They’re sitting in Angelo’s BMW X5 in the alley behind East End Scrap Metal, been there less than ten minutes when Angelo says, “There he is,” and pulls the ski mask down over his face.

Danny’s looking in the side mirror, seeing a skinny guy getting out of a pick-up carrying a white plastic bag full of take out go up to a steel door with no handle on the outside of it and knock. Danny says, “Okay,” and pulls on his ski mask.

Getting out of the Beemer Angelo says, “You do the talking, they might recognize my voice,” and Danny looks at him, all three hundred pounds, and says, yeah, right, “That’s how they’ll know it’s you.”

“And just say ‘down on the floor,’ that’s all you say.”

Now Danny’s moving down the alley watching the kid as the door opens and Angelo says, “Right?”

“Right, I got it.”

For such a big man Angelo is fast, pushing past Danny and going up behind the kid with the take-out, slamming into him and the guy who’d opened the door, sending them both sprawling into the room beyond.

Danny gets to the door and steps into the office, seeing the kid and the guy who’d opened the door still on the floor and Angelo holding his gun on them – and on the six guys sitting around the table covered with money and cards.

And no one’s saying anything. For what seems like fucking forever until one of the card-players, Little Mickey, says, “So?”

Angelo’s looking back at Danny, his eyes bugging out of the holes in the ski mask and Danny says, oh right, “Yeah, down on the floor, let’s go, everybody, down on the floor.”

The card players all sigh and shake their heads slow and make a big deal of pushing back their chairs and Little Mickey says, “You assholes are dead.”

Angelo tosses a gym bag to Danny who starts picking up all the money on the table and then a book falls off and makes a loud thud on the concrete floor and Danny looks down at it, trade paperback of Wiseguy by Nicolas Pileggi, and says, “Who’s reading the book?”

No one says anything.

Danny leans forward, points his gun at the closest guy and the guy just shrugs so Danny holds his gun in both hands and points it at the next guy and says, “Who’s reading the book?”

No one says anything. The whole place is tense, about to explode and Little Nicky says, “For fuck’s sake, Vinny, the novel?”

Danny says, “It’s not a novel,” and Little Mickey shrugs and says, “What the fuck?”

“It’s not a novel, it’s non-fiction, it’s journalism.”

Everybody at the table is staring at Danny, not saying a word, no idea what the fuck he’s talking about and Little Mickey says, “It’s a fucking book.”
Danny grabs the rest of the money and says, “No one reads novels anymore.”

And Angelo shoves him out the door.

Six months before he started his career in armed robbery Danny Menard saw his third crime novel published to the enthusiastic tweeting, FaceBook posting and blogging of his online friends and the same complete lack of sales as his first two books. He was still teaching Intro to the Novel part-time at Humber College and thinking about writing porn and self-publishing it to Smashwords and Kindle when his agent, Sarah Benson, called him with an offer.

A guy named Angelo Gonidis had been a member of the Rebels motorcycle gang in Toronto and was getting out of prison after six years and he’d written a book. A memoir. Sarah said it was good, while he’d been in prison the Rebels had patched over to the national Saints of Hell and become big business and Angelo was pissed off about that and was telling everything in juicy detail but the writing was terrible. She already had publishers interested (bigger publishers than the one publishing Danny’s books) and even a movie deal in the works.

So Danny agreed to ghost write it and went and visited Angelo in Millhaven Maximum and they got along pretty well. Once every couple of weeks for six months Danny took the three hour bus ride from Toronto to Kingston and sat in the visitor’s room with Angelo and listened to his stories. At first Danny figured if Angelo’s book was no good he could use the stories in his own crime fiction and then Angelo made parole.

It was a bit of a surprise. He’d told Danny before the hearing that it would probably take him one more time, see the nice people again in another eighteen months, and Danny had said, “So that’s what this is about,” and Angelo’d said, “What?”

And Danny said the whole book deal was just to look good for the parole board and Angelo said, “No way, man, I’m serious about this,” and Danny had to admit that Angelo’d read all the books he’d dropped off, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (Angelo said, is this guy supposed to be a loveable loser?), Swag (gotta watch out for the chicks), The Big O (get better guns, man, and again, watch out for the chicks) and a couple of the biker memoirs (be better of they weren’t trying to suck up so much and pretend they didn’t like what they were doing).

So, no doubt, Danny liked Angelo and wanted to help him.

But the thing was, Angelo wasn’t finished with his life of crime and he took Danny along. They’d been at it a week, robbing Angelo’s old buddies, his partners in crime, as he called them that didn’t want him back. So fuck them.


And it goes from there. Nerdy writer Danny gets better and better at crime and lifelong criminal Angelo gets more and more interested in writing a really good book.

It was supposed to be one of those half hour cable series like Entourage or Weeds, a comedy but with sex and violence.

So, what do you think, should there be more episodes?

And if you'd like to read the whole story, it's in the anthology, Collateral Damage, available for the Kindle here.


pattinase (abbott) said...

There is just no way to keep up with the reading material now available on various formats. You have to pick and choose--and I choose this one.

Peter Rozovsky said...

“Danny looks at him, all three hundred pounds, and says, yeah, right, That’s how they’ll know it’s you.”

Very nice.

Umm, this story's not autobiographical, is it?
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

John McFetridge said...

Thanks Patti.

Peter, I did think about naming the writer McFetridge the way WP Kinsella named a character Kinsella but it just seems a little too precious. Still, if I continue with this I have a lot to draw on, I think.