I'll be the first to admit I do a bad job covering all the great events happening at the Regulator on Ninth Street, but I couldn't let pass a chance to mention the new novel by my neighbor (and one-time Trinity Park traffic calming co-conspirator) Bryan Gilmer, whose newly released book "Felonious Jazz" has a regional theme of sorts to accompany the musical one so obvious from the title.
Gilmer will read from his book tonight at 7pm at the Regulator, accompanied by local jazz group Sawyer-Goldberg.
The jazz theme speaks to the villain in the story, a man looking to commit a record album's worth of felonies -- each crime linked back to a jazz composition, with the antagonist's targets turning into what Gilmer describes as "a twisted critique of life in the suburbs."
In one scene, set like much of the book in the Raleigh faux-bedroom community of "Rocky Falls," the crime-capering character turns his attention to a roadway linking the 'burb to the city. After stealing a truck from a shopping center construction site, our character Leonard decides to make a little fun for morning commuters, in a scene that's reminiscent of a much darker version of the recent "Barrel Monster" fracas:
Leonard checked again for cars, saw none, and pulled the .380 from his coat pocket. He’d kept the blue-steel semi-automatic from the load of stolen guns. It reminded him of one he’d admired in a pawnshop case as a teenager. He got a nervous little thrill from the cold steel and turned on his heel to face the truck.
He fired. Fluid drained onto the ground, looking dark as blood in this light.
The diesel fuel wouldn’t catch fire, since it only exploded under the pressure inside an engine, but they’d probably bring out a HAZMAT crew to clean up the spill, and that would take a while. Excellent.
And they’d have a harder time moving the truck without fuel. And with 18 flat tires. His ears rang from the shot, and he cursed himself. A musician had to be smart about his hearing. He stuffed in yellow foam earplugs, almost burning his cheek on the gun barrel in the process.
He fired slugs into the tires in succession with a drummer’s perfect rhythm, seeing his written score for the piece in his mind, counting out the measures to time the leaps of the pistol. He worked around the truck methodically until he’d created a 40-ton roadblock.
The traffic engineers around here were clearly no military strategists. Making all the traffic in an area rely on one big-ass road made it plenty easy to bring traffic to a stop, either by accident or on purpose. Why, thank you folks; thank you very much. This next tune is one I call “Choke Point.” It’s off “Stolen Inspiration,” and there are autographed copies on sale out in the lobby…
Gilmer, a graduate of the prestigious journalism school at Northwestern near Chicago, spent ten years as a professional journalist, including a stint at the St. Petersburg Times in the Tampa Bay area before moving to Durham six years ago.
Much as for this author, Gilmer's time in Florida inspired little love for the car-oriented, suburban nature of the region -- and of much of the Sunbelt, including our little Triangle.
"In Florida, my first post at the Times was in northern Pinellas County -- the entire county is literally crammed full of subdivisions connected by stoplight-to-stoplight 9-lane highways where there are dozens of fatal crashes every year. It's a miserable place to live," Gilmer says. "I'm afraid the Triangle is making those same mistakes."
"I think Orange County's getting it right: preserving rural space and prescribing dense, walkable, mixed-use villages. Durham and Wake counties should do the same," he adds.
Gilmer, who's turned to his own writing, editing and public relations practice since leaving journalism, dabbled in writing groups here in the Triangle but found better luck connecting directly with other local authors one-on-one, looking for connections with whom he could trade manuscripts in order to give and get "frank critiques."
"I'm suspicious of classes on how to write and masters of fine arts programs because I think they can stifle writers' voices and impose the teacher's -- and often don't produce work regular readers want to read," Gilmer says.
He also credits the Regulator and its owner, Tom Campbell, with helping to get Felonious Jazz off the ground.
"[Campbell] believed in my book from the moment I told him about it, and without his enthusiasm, I would never have gotten it published."