Pretty quickly it became clear, this Zerr dude indeed has things he needs to learn about writing a book. It should be pretty simple, right? Write a beginning. Then do a middle, and don’t forget to stick an end to it. One, two, three. Easy peasy, right?
Not. I discovered that writing is harder than work. I tried something close to a hundred different beginnings on Locker. What I finally went with was a beginning the “advice to wannabe writer” books advised to NOT do. Don’t start with the phone waking a dude up in the middle of the night. That’s like “It was a dark and stormy night,” they said. Well, on beginning number 100, I decided that’s how it should begin. An abrupt rip from a deep and dreamless sleep into a major life altering experience.
I finished Locker, experienced a brief bout of postpartum depression, and launched into Sundown. I thought it would be easier to do than the first one, but easy and writing don’t go next to each other in a sentence if the sentence is true. It took a bit more than two years to complete it. When I did, I experienced a much deeper bout of postpartum depression. Originally, I planned to write a series of novels set in the sixties and seventies and dealing with Vietnam. Following Sundown, I thought I might just quit trying to be a writer. I wasn’t sure I had any more stories in me, but I fiddled with short stories. Not writing, it turned out was not an option for me, either. Eventually, I settled on Noble Deeds as a story I thought I should tell.
It was good for my brain to get away from Meridian, Mississippi, in 1968 and from Vietnam for a time. After a couple of years away, I went back there with The Junior Officer Bunkroom. I think about all my books and all my characters, but none so much as I think about Sundown Town. Maybe it’s because I had to be truly evil to write some of the characters. I worry that it doesn’t scare me enough to have been that way.
So I was going along with my writing plans this summer when I got a call from a publisher offering a deal to republish Sundown Town. I pulled the book out, read through it. Found some phrasing in a few places I would not write today, plus I was never happy with the cover. I asked a local artist to do a cover for me and fixed the phrasing issues I found and agreed to the publisher’s deal. That’s why I am republishing.
Sundown Town Duty Station features the same characters, the same story, the same settings. It is my hope, though, that a new publicity campaign might get the book some new attention.