Yesterday I gave my reasons why it was and is far simpler and more logical to believe O.J. “did it” than any alternative scenario that has ever been offered. It simply wouldn’t make sense, and in fact would make hash of much I believe about human nature. But it was all heresay and supposition. There was nothing to be done with it. To be that certain of the identity of a monster and be unable to do squat about it really ate at me.
But as some of you may have noticed, I’m a writer.
Tananarive and I had created, with actor Blair Underwood, the detective novel “Casanegra”, a tale of a former actor turned bodyguard and detective, solving the murder of the most prominent female rapper. It had been very well received, and we wondered what to do next. The idea of the series was to take events in Hollywood and turn them into Roman a clef mysteries.
I’m not saying the story of “T.D. Jackson” in IN THE NIGHT OF THE HEAT (yes, each title was a play on a famous movie) bears any resemblance at all to O.J.’s tale, but I will say that plotting it was an enormous joy. The core aspects of the tale certainly did resemble core elements of the Nicole Simpson/Ron Goldman murders, but due to circumstances beyond his control, after an initial appearance at a black Fraternity reunion, good old T.D., actor and former football hero, was sadly murdered. Sob sob.
So the story was not “did he do it?” but rather “did he do it? And if he did, how and why? And if he did, did it somehow lead to his death, and at who’s hands?” Which allowed us to not merely vent the poison in my own heart, but say some things we believed about the cult of celebrity, sports, politics, the weight of old money, and small-town psychology. Once we laid out the core, wrapping the rest of the story around that chewy center was a dream.
Readers loved it, and it won the NAACP Image Award (Stacey Dash can bite me) so I think that all’s well that ends well. IN THE NIGHT OF THE HEAT was a combination of:
- Skilled writing (We plotted together but T wrote the first draft, to place the vulnerability and heart at the core of the character)
- Passion. I really CARED about this story.
- Specialized knowledge. Ask John Grisham if this doesn’t matter. Audiences love feeling that you’ve “pulled the curtain aside” for them. And boy, did I have a story to tell!
We wrote four novels in the Tennyson Hardwick series. There may be no more. But in many ways, I think the entire series existed so that HEAT could be written.
Tonight, T goes to the Image Awards for the third time, to see if her collection “GHOST SUMMER” wins. Fingers crossed. But if it’s someone else’s turn…
Hey, we’ve got ours!
(ain’t it purty?)