The end of 1998 saw a 66300 word novel appear, Comeback. After Some Other People, it was something of a letdown at the time, but reading it nowadays, it isn’t that awful. As it was, I sent it to 2 publishers and an agent, but never heard from any of them.
I think my biggest problem was that it was a real departure for me. This one was just a thriller. No horror, no monsters, nothing supernatural – just three people not coping at all with anything.
It was also written in an odd way. The opening scene with the taxi driver was written while I was in high school, while the ending in the hospital was written a few years later. It was only when I got them together a few years later again that I realised it was the same story and this was born. I had a character first, and the story came from what happened to him. I’ve done that a few times since, but not too often. It seems forced, I guess.
It tells the tale of a guitar hero from the 1960s and 1970s living in Sydney. He chances upon a singer who made his name in the 1970s, who had come to Sydney to try and revive his career in musical theatre. Both are down on their luck, but this meeting inspires them to try and get together for one last chance at fame. This results in a rather demoralising tour of country New South Wales. During the course of this the singer does something which jeopardises the tour and appears to kill himself, while the guitarist hooks up with a middle-aged fan. They end up in South Australia, and then things steadily go from bad to worse.
There’s a lot of death, and some convenient chances appearing, but the story itself is a different one for me. The guitarist was a combination of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck; the singer was John Farnham, Del Shannon and Roy Orbison. And I wrote the whole thing as though I was seeing a movie in my mind. That often happens, but this was clear. I visualised the entire thing, and so my descriptions are somewhat lacking – I could see it all, so writing it down seemed superfluous.
This is another story that I should go back and rewrite, especially the downfall of the singer, and the final confrontation in Port Lincoln. So while it’s certainly not the best thing ever written (and the ellipses are ever-present again), it’s still not too bad a story, I think.
It seemed by this stage of my writing, I was finally getting the hang of putting things down on paper.
That was all it came down to, that single beast that the multitude become when a performer is on stage.
Just staring at that anonymous sea made everything worth it. No matter what other emotions churn through a performer’s mind – feelings of nausea, worthlessness, inferiority, lack of confidence, foolishness – there is one over-riding factor that always drags them back to the same situation, over and over again. It was something Richard had always revelled in and sought, something that Michael had deliberately gone out of his way to forget. And it swamped over the two of them in a tidal wave of love. Michael especially… he knew immediately he stepped foot upon the stage that that really was what was missing from his life. Richard had been one hundred per cent right. That one simple, little word, that one feeling that really drove everyone who ever appeared on stage to go back again and again, no matter how bad they knew they were.
And their power over the crowd…
He had let his other emotions get the better of him last time he had done this, the vomiting and fear had made him forget how good this really could feel. But this time it was different… but also the same. Different to the way he remembered it, but the same, he knew, as it had probably felt to him when he had first started. The small club atmosphere, the faceless crowd having some features, all eager and happy just to see and hear him play, the sounds of people having a good time and enjoying themselves, a partner living up to and feeling and contributing to the whole scene as completely as the crowd. He would never have dreamed it would have felt this good again…
“Fuckin’ brilliant,” Richard whispered in awe as he emerged from the bathroom, having towelled himself down. Both were sweating profusely – due more to nerves than any great heat or exertion – and Michael’s fingers actually hurt, but it was worth it; the crowd here at the hotel had been larger than either could dare dream of when they had started all of this – full, the barman had said, and that meant in excess of five hundred people from a town with a population of less than five thousand – and, though not as enthusiastic as especially Richard would have liked, deeply appreciative of the music.
Especially the music…
Rejection total: 45 + 3 = 48