A name popped into my head the other day. And no, it wasn’t Mr. Satan again. Although I suppose it could have been. But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. He usually brings tequila.
Anyway, the name was Gunner. A new character for a new series. The last name of a Hollywood PI with anger management issue, many for good reason – his hippy parents named him Artemus Gunner (dad’s fave TV show in the 60s was the Wild Wild West, and he loved Artemus Gordon – the number two guy, not even the number one guy, so when it game time to name Gunner…you can probably guess the rest), he joined the army when he was 16, forging his parents’ signature so as to piss them off when he announced, “I’m Going To Go KILL!!!”, but they just wished him well and told him they hoped his head would get into a more loving space and sent him on his way with a flower power T-shirt and an acoustic guitar. He got dishonorably discharged after 5 years due to disciplinary issues, and then grew his hair long and became a rock musician in Hollywood, where he met his 18 year old soon-to-be-wife and singer (with pipes like Joplin) who would take his band to stardom.
Of course, things didn’t go right for him, and after landing a record deal with the band to record the songs he’d penned and on the eve of the album’s release and their first tour opening for Nirvana, he got into a bar fight and broke his hand. The record company replaced him, and because he’d signed over all the songwriting credits to his wife (because she still technically lived in a trailer near a whorehouse in Elko, Nevada) in order to cheat the California tax authority out of their slice, he got nothing from the record (which went on to become one of the biggest sellers of the 90s) except $50K of hush money from a smarmy attorney who handled the shotgun negotiation, then assisted his wife in divorcing him (for which she thanked him by shacking up with the attorney). She’s now as famous as Beyonce, rich beyond imagination, and makes Madonna seem easy to get along with.
Gunner’s life post-rock god phase was a series of misadventures, where he frittered his paltry nest egg away on a series of disastrous businesses – a MLM supplement scam (he still has a room full of 15 year old shark cartilage), a dog walking/training biz (that went nowhere because dogs tended to hate him and bite him), a carpet cleaning business where he ruined a Beverly Hills home’s irreplaceable persian carpets, and finally a limo business that looked promising until a starlet OD’d in the back while he was driving her to the Grammies (he was busy telling her a story about a famous producer he’d worked with and didn’t notice she was dead ’till he pulled up to the red carpet area and the flashbulbs started going off).
His old army buddies, one of whom is a cop, another of whom is an entertainment attorney, helped him out and committed to getting him business if he got his PI license, which he did – barely. So now he’s the PI to the stars, and he’s reasonably good at it – not good enough to make any kind of real money, of course, but good enough to have developed a reputation.
He’s forty-something, retro everything, pictures himself as Bogey but doesn’t quite hit the right notes, is perennially trying to quit smoking (and is enraged by California’s restrictive anti-smoking ordinances), drives a convertible 73 Eldorado that barely runs (but is what a pimping LA PI should drive, in his opinion), and is basically kind of a twat. He’s working on his rage issues with a therapist who is angrier than he is. He prefers to speak in wisecracks, his communication skills somewhat lacking. His assistant is a hot twenty-something wannabe rock singer who despises him, the job, her life, but there’s some sexual chemistry/tension there. She lives with her tattoo artist boyfriend, who she suspects cheats on her constantly. She’s also very good at the job she hates – and she also hates the 70s and 80s music Gunner tends to favor, his 1940s styling, and his overall approach to life. Her nickname for him is “douche.” He tells himself it’s endearing – the way kids talk nowadays and all.
Each book is a new case brought to him by the attorney or the cop, which he must solve. There will probably also be a love interest each book. And a cat. A fat one named Mugsy that also hates him even though he is nothing but good to it (though he pretends indifference, he adores the cat and is secretly hurt that it dislikes him).
The parents, Spring and Chakra Skywalker, live in Berkeley, and for them it’s still the Summer of Love. Everything’s groovy, baby, peace and love. They wear Berkenstocks and Grateful Dead shirts and are oblivious to the passage of time, as well as reality – but through a quirk, Spring’s handmade soap business took off big in the late 90s and was bought by a conglomerate, so they’re rich. And dad put the money into Apple, knowing nothing about what the company did but liking the logo, man. Every book finds them working on some new improbable business that becomes mega, through no fault of their own. They live in a $10 million home in the Berkeley hills now and lecture Gunner about how money means nothing and it’s all about your energy meridians while he struggles to get by (he’s too proud to ask for a dime), and each new hair-brained idea (handmade candles, lava lamps, magnets for spiritual alignment, etc.) winds up making another fortune, further adding to Gunner’s black humor and rage at the universe at the unfairness of it all.
The attorney friend will be a combination of every politically correct, LA idiocy I can think of – he’s nipped and tucked and plugged and spray tanned, metro, a pathological liar, calls everyone baby and dude, name drops constantly, etc. The cop friend will be a decent sort who agonizes over his young bride’s depression over how the world doesn’t understand her. Hilarity ensues.
So that’s what I do when I’m in the bathroom. One of the things I do. And now that I have Gunner in my head, I feel compelled to write his adventures. So much for my lighter publishing schedule in 2013. Look for the first Gunner book by summer. Titled, appropriately, Gunner. Maybe a noir cover, reminiscent of the era. I actually sort of already know what I want it to look like. Copper colored, maybe a black line drawing of a guy wearing a fedora in profile, but just from the shoulders up, the collar of his trench coat (which he wears, but you never need to in L.A.) turned up.
I’m scaring myself with this.
But in a good way.
Anyway, my new publishing schedule will probably now change to seven books, maybe eight, in 2013, which is what I swore, SWORE, I wouldn’t ever do again.
But Mugsy and Gunner and the rest must be birthed. And you read about it here first, as it was gelling. Whatever the hell that means…