Late last week, I signed an agreement to publish a second novel, Jerkwater Town. For the last year plus, I’ve been collecting buckets of research—like a train crew jerking water for a steam locomotive—and pouring the results on to paper.
During my labors, I came across a quote from the early 1900s in which folk singer/songwriter and union activist Joe Hill denigrated San Diego’s organizing potential.
“There is too much energy going to waste organizing locals in jerkwater towns of no industrial importance,” Hill said. “A town like San Diego, for instance, where the main ‘industry’ consists of ‘catching suckers,’ is not worth a whoop in Hell from the rebel’s point of view…..”
Hill’s reference was to a time in the steam locomotive era when rail operators required ready access to water to refill the engine’s boilers when they ran low. When a train entered a town without a water tank, the crews had to create a bucket brigade to “jerkwater” from a nearby river or stream.
My grandfather was a train man, and I’ve been intrigued by the Wobbly movement ever since I read former Chief Justice William Douglas’ autobiography. I stirred those ingredients into a pot of mafia intrigue, prohibition era decadence, a famous murder, and a little sex; then turned up the heat. It came out of the oven as a historical novel featuring Nick Lanouette, in a return engagement from my previous novel, Falling Down.
More to follow as the publication date nears.