Backstory

Authors tell you what inspired their work

Leighton Gage, Author of "Blood of the Wicked"

"It's like a book, I think, this bloomin' world,
Which you can read and care for just so long,
But presently you feel that you will die
Unless you get the page you're readin' done,
An' turn another -- likely not so good;
But what you're after is to turn 'em all."

I was sitting on my grandfather's lap. I understood the part about getting the page you're reading done. Getting it done was exactly what I wanted him to do. Seven-year-old boys are not big on patience. Or poetry either. I was about to suggest we do the Three Little Pigs all over again. But when I craned my head to look up at him, I saw a tear forming in the corner of his eye.

I'd never seen Grandpa cry before. I wanted to ask him why he was doing it, but didn't dare. In the late 1940's seven-year-old kids didn't ask craggy old Yankee sea captains questions like that.

But maybe someday, I thought.

Someday never came.

He died two weeks later.

Grandpa had been a cabin boy at thirteen, a first mate at twenty and in command of his own vessel, at twenty-three. He had master's papers for sail, steam and diesel. He circumnavigated the globe seventeen times. He ran guns to Pancho Villa and rum and whiskey during prohibition. He spent a year in the whaling trade (told me how the sea water ten miles from the island of South Georgia, during the killing season, ran red with blood). He was in Gibraltar on the day my mother was born. (We still have his letter.) He anchored his ships under the shadow of the Sugar Loaf, and Table Mountain, and Sydney's North Head. He lost two ships. Saved my grandmother once by swimming almost ten miles with her clinging to his shoulders. Survived a mutiny. Killed a man, once, with his bare hands. It was all true and it was strong stuff for a small boy.

I wanted to just like Grandpa. (Well, maybe not the killing part.)

But Grandpa married late, and I was born when he was a very old man, and by the time I grew up, his world didn't exist anymore.

I could still travel, though, and I did. My God, did I travel! The Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. I learned languages, learned cultures, married and divorced a Dutch girl, had three children by her, lost one in an accident, married a Brazilian girl, had two more lovely kids and found true love. My wife and I have been together for more than thirty years.

But I didn't only fall in love with the girl. I also fell in love with her country. But, when I finally thought I'd gotten the page I was reading done, we moved on to Australia.

Australia is a great place, and I love it, but as Edgar Lee Masters once said, "there is a melody there in your heart and that's you". And my melody harmonized more with Brazil than any other place I'd been. So we went back.

But it's true you can't put your feet into the same river twice: my grandpa's world changed under him, and my world changed under me. The Brazil that I knew thirty-odd years ago is not the Brazil of today.

Today's Brazil is a rich, poor country. It's got the largest fleet of private jets outside of the United States. Ditto the helicopter fleet. It has what Vogue called "the most luxurious shop in the world" (Daslu in São Paulo). It has many farms the size of minor countries and one farm the size of a major one.

And it has some of the most heartbreaking poverty you'll find outside of Africa. Poverty breeds crime. Some prostitutes, male and female, start at eleven. Some twelve-year-olds will kill you to steal your cell phone.

And that, my friends, is fact.

Now, the fiction: My continuing protagonist, Mario Silva of the Brazilian Federal Police is a good cop in a world of cops gone wrong. I introduce him to readers in my debut novel Blood of the Wicked. The sequel, "Buried Strangers" will be released in January of 2009. For more information, and to learn a little about the world in which Silva lives and works, please go to my web site: www.leightongage.com.

Lastly, should you not be familiar with the poem that kicks all of this off, it's Kipling's "Sestina of the Tramp-Royal". You'll find it on the internet.


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Friday April 11th 2008, 7:31 AM
Comment by: Carol K.
I'm a writer, too. I've almost completed my first novel, and it came to me as your stories came to you. By the time I began to write about my ancestors not only had their world passed away, but so had they. I studied all I could find about the brief time they spent molding this earth into something quite different from what it is today, but no one was left to answer my questions. I turned the pages of books, letters, photo albums, and old newspapers before I went to sleep, and my great grandparents came to me in my dreams and told me their stories. You might say that what I have written is fiction, and it is, except the part about the souls of my ancestors living within me now. CK
Friday April 11th 2008, 8:42 AM
Comment by: Doris M M.
I like to be intrigued. Thank you. Doris
Sunday April 13th 2008, 10:59 AM
Comment by: Mary S.
It begs more reading!
Sunday April 13th 2008, 1:37 PM
Comment by: Judith S.
My husband and I both laughed out-loud with delight at Gage's ability to beguile (and with admiration at his cleverness too).
Friday August 8th 2008, 6:07 PM
Comment by: anna S. (South Africa)
What a wonderful story. I simply have to stop bouncing around the Internet and finding all these great authors with great books. I have more than I can ever read in my lifetime, but may have to squeeze Blood of the Wicked in. Sigh....

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Here's another terrific Backstory.
Books that inspire a novelist.
Patricia Wood's Reads
- 1 Comment
Books this novelist reads to inform her writing.