Thursday, May 14, 2015

On Writing – Not Ripped From The Headlines, But Stolen From The Ignored

Richard Burton and Peter Firth in Equus

Playwright Peter Shaffer wrote the award-winning Equus after reading a story about a young man blinding six horses. Disregarding what might have been the true motive, Shaffer instead created a fictional story in which a psychiatrist becomes a mind detective and the audience witnesses the tragedy of the cure being worse than the disease.  I didn’t see the play (the original or revival), but I have seen The Richard Burton- Peter Firth film version and it is stunning.

My point is that the news —and not necessarily those events that make the headlines – may answer the question readers often ask writers.  Where do you get your ideas? From life. Maybe even a filler story in your local paper. Though that is rarely my source, there was one very short news article that sparked the plot of a full-length novel. I wrote it without knowing the facts of the actual crime, but merely the premise. And that sparked the question, “how could this be true?”  And off I went.

There is one recent news story out there that should have been big news and seems like the basis for a fine high-society, British-style mystery by a writer knows his or her way around families like the Rockefellers.   The Waltons have the money, but not the pedigree. Nor do the Kochs. However, there are so many angles to the transplant story and the legendary family that it could be the source of several mysteries.

I can’t say the Rockefeller heart story was ignored.  After all, it wasn’t all that far under the stack of “if it bleeds, it leads” new stories.  Several sources pop up when Googled.  It’s true.  It’s fantastic. I am amazed that it didn’t receive more attention, especially while our country is engaged in a heated political battle over economic inequality. Six hearts, for goodness sake. I’m not saying he’s wrong to receive them. But it says a lot about the way our country works. The issue, not Rockefeller specifically, just the luck and the largesse of it, promises to be the central focus of the 2016 presidential campaigns.

Six Hearts And Holding
Yes, David Rockefeller, 99, has received six new hearts, so far. The latest transplant surgery was performed at his home. He is now recuperating on his private island.  His nearly $3 billion in self-worth has its roots in family ties to Standard Oil and Chase Bank. His family name is a synonym for rich and powerful.

Being a touch cynical as I am, I wonder what keeps him going. Perhaps it is just a fiery, passionate spirit for life, perhaps a desire to make sure his philanthropic philosophy is adhered to, or to piss off aging and frustrated family members who feel they’ve waited long enough. Certainly there are a number of Rockefellers eager to be the family matriarch or patriarch. Also, any number of foundations that are on the bequest list might be impatient for that chunk of promised dough.

Meanwhile, the sheer number of hearts as an example of what the super-wealthy can buy provokes all sorts of public arguments over the haves and have nots. What a background for a murder drama. Aren’t most murder mysteries morality plays?

I have no personal animus toward the senior Mr. Rockefeller. Get well, David.  However some clever mystery writer should use this remarkable story as grist for the mill.

1 comment:

Teri-on-the-sandbar said...

holy cow! I had NO idea. how many does a poor man get? I'm guessing one--his original factory equipment.