The weekend approaches.
I know it must be hard for the X-geners and the Millennials to believe, but once upon a time, for millions of kids around the country, the weekends meant one thing. Saturday Matinees. Every Saturday, local neighborhood theaters ran movies all Saturday afternoon. For 25 cents you could enter the theater and noon, get your popcorn and candy, and watch a Roy Rogers double feature, preceded by cartoons and an episode of Radar Men from the Moon, or Flash Gordon. Those were days when you felt anything was possible.
THE BIG SHUTDOWN, my space western novel, featuring the exploits of Jack Brand, the only law left on the dying planet of Tulon, is in some ways a tribute to those bygone days. The basic premise of the novel is patterned on the central idea found in The Searchers– one man’s seven-year search for a sister kidnapped by Nomad outlaws, Tulon’s equivalent of Comanches. Through 12 separate adventures, like the chapters in a movie serial, Brand follows the outlaws’ trail from desert, to steaming jungles, to an underwater city, and a gambling town run by alien gangsters. The difference between the book chapters and the old serial cliffhangers is that each chapter is a separate, complete story with a beginning, a middle and an end. But they are all connected with the consistent narrative thread that follows Brand’s quest to find his sister, Terry.
And while the book is a tribute to the Saturday Matinee of the past, it wouldn’t really be suitable for today’s readers, who wouldn’t be satisfied with simple black and white stories with simple minded black and white heroes. THE BIG SHUTDOWN is a more complex story with complex characters. Brand himself, while a heroic figure, is wracked with guilt. It was his error in judgment, as the leader of the tactical unit that Terry was part of, that led to an ambush and her capture. Christy Jones, the female lead in the book, is more than the usual sexy adventuress you find in pulp fiction. Rather than the femme fatale she claims to be, always looking out for No. 1, we discover she’s much more than that.
It’s the relationship between Brand and Christy that becomes a central focus of the novel. In fact the entire novel’s focus is always on the relationships Brand has with the characters he meets. It’s about how they stack up against each other, especially the men. Each encounter is almost like a bullfight, with Brand’s antagonists challenging him, testing him to see if he’s got the goods. There is plenty of explosive action and hopefully enough of an emotional hook via the characters to keep readers turning pages.
So there it is, THE BIG SHUTDOWN– a Saturday matinee feature with aspirations to stretch the limits of its genre. Hope you’ll give it a read. And if you do, please leave a comment on the Amazon page.
And here’s a link to the book trailer.
Thanks for reading.