Monday, February 13, 2012

This book has love written all over it...

When you see this cover, it's incredibly obvious that it's not a cover that reflects romance in any way:

That's the new cover of my new novel, EMINENT SOULS, which is a romance -- of sorts. It's not your usual, every day, run-of-the-mill romance novel. There is love, yes: there is the love of two young people from different styles of living. But there's a different kind of love in this book: the love that two young people share of a piece of property -- not just any piece of property; it's where they met and fell in love.

In truth, it was more than just a piece of property: Scollay Square was a lifestyle.

For yours truly, Scollay Square became a love affair -- even if I didn't know exactly what was in it until a couple of years ago.

Back in 1991, I was 14 years old, and during the summer, I was about to enter my freshman year at Fitchburg High School. In late July, my folks, myself and my sister all went to Boston one Saturday. I didn't know why. It was just a day trip. We had walked through the Government Center area first, even though I really didn't know it at the time. We walked up to the State House and down Beacon Street. We approached the Cheers bar -- remember, it was 1991 and they were between seasons nine and ten -- and Jen and I were excited about that. But I more excited for seeing the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square: we were going to the Red Sox game! I think we were seeing the Twins that day. Or the Mariners. Who knows, really. We saw the game, then joined the throngs of people on the Green Line.

Dad had said something about seeing a free concert that night, but truthfully, I wasn't in the mood. I had seen enough (*gulp* and that is nothing I would say today) of Boston for one day, and just wanted to get home. Hell, I had seen the Red Sox game. That was enough for me.

I still had to go to the concert. Reluctantly, I went.

As we stepped off the subway at Government Center and walked up the steps to City Hall Plaza, I was amazed by what I saw. The monstrous City Hall off to my right, the towers of the JFK Federal Building straight ahead and off to the left a bit. People filled in the amphitheater around the north stage. It seemed like a great place.

That's when dad said, "We're in Scollay Square, the old happening place in Boston."

Those words set off a love affair with the Square. I knew about it -- but I truly didn't know about it. It wasn't until a couple of years ago, when I was in the process of brainstorming MODEL AGENT, that I decided to look into Scollay Square's history a little more.

Suffice it to say, I was astonished -- and sickened -- by what I saw and read. Gorgeous architecture, gone. Twenty-two streets, altered or wiped out completely. Over 200 years of history, wiped out with a wrecking ball. But more importantly than that, I learned that what my father had said was true: Scollay Square was a happening place. It had spirit. It had life. It was the heart of Boston, the entertainment district that preceded the Combat Zone. And I decided that I would have been quite comfortable living in and around Scollay Square.

It is also why I had Jaclyn Johnson thinking, "They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot," as she gets out of Hanson's car on Congress Street in MA.

EMINENT SOULS deals with more than just love. It deals with the fear Bostonians dealt with in the late 1950's and early 1960's. It deals with prejudices the poor endured from the snobbish Boston Brahmins. And it also deals with the fight Bostonians entered with the city against urban renewal -- one gentleman I spoke with said that his brother in law was a state representative at the time the West End, near Scollay Square, was revitalized a few years before the Square went through the same eminent domain process, and he said that he still hasn't forgiven his brother in law for how the city and state never helped those people. It's absolutely shameful.

But more importantly, EMINENT SOULS is a love letter from me to Scollay Square. I was born too late to fully enjoy the Square in its heyday, to take in a burlesque show at the Old Howard (that's the Old Howard on fire on my cover, 25 years to the day before the Celtics were honored by the city at City Hall Plaza, the same day Jerry Williams said, "I am not broadcasting from Government Center; I am broadcasting from Scollay Square. Let's bring back Scollay Square!") and have a Joe and Nemo hot dog all around (with horse radish, too), but I know in my heart of hearts that I would have loved it all.

Dad was right. Scollay Square was happening. It was the scene, the place to be.

So you see, it's more than just about romance. It's more about remembering what was once good and great about Boston, and what can happen when fear sets in. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope you, too, can fall in love with a neighborhood that now only exists in our elders' minds.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Eminent Souls on Kindle (US)
Eminent Souls on Kindle (UK)
Eminent Souls on Nook
Eminent Souls on Smashwords