Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Where I Got The Idea For Sirens

When I used to do book readings I would invariably get asked the question "where do your ideas come from?" to which I almost always had no convincing answer. Where do ideas come from? The subconscious? Dreams? I don't know for sure. For me it's often been the case that the ideas for my books have come as a particular mental image. Dead I Well May Be began as a memory of waiting at the 1-9 Subway Stop at 125th Street and Broadway on one of those humid July NYC days. The Bloomsday Dead began while I was walking the dog back from Blackhead Cliff to my sister Diane's house. (That was a book where I wrote the last chapter first and gradually worked my way back to the beginning.) For The Cold Cold Ground the book came all at once with this line and this mental image: "Arcs of gasoline fire under the crescent moon."  
I Hear The Sirens In The Street began back in 1983 or 1984 when I was visiting HMS Caroline, my dad's Royal Navy Reserve ship that was anchored permanently in Belfast. Caroline was a venerable vessel that had taken part in the Battle of Jutland, but what impressed me on that particular morning was the sight of hundreds of DeLorean sports cars parked at the Belfast docks waiting to be shipped out to God knows where. The ailing DeLorean car factory had recently closed and John DeLorean himself had been arrested by the FBI for attempted cocaine smuggling, cocaine which he was hoping to sell to the IRA in attempt to get the factory going again. 
I began walking among the rows of DeLoreans and to my amazement when I tried one of the door handles the gullwinged door opened. I looked inside the DeLorean and was immediately impressed by the left hand drive, the small aircraft like dashboard and the smell of newness and modern-ness. Checking for a non existent security guard I got inside the car and closed the door. I sat there for about two minutes playing with the steering wheel and the peculiar automatic transmission then quickly got out again before I was discovered. 
I learned later that most of the cars in that parking lot were sold as scrap or for parts which was a shame because in 1985 Back To The Future was released and DeLoreans became prized collectors items. 
Anyway the idea for I Hear The Sirens In The Street almost certainly came from my memory of sitting in that DeLorean back in 1983/4, a memory that has been knocking around in my brain for the last couple of decades, looking for a way to express itself.