The Up and Comer: Lance's Thoughs
Howard Roughan has proven me wrong, and if it weren't for the fact that he did so with such a great book, I might have been apt to hold a grudge (LOL). I've talked many times about story telling in a match and I've always compared it to story telling in any genre, be it books, movies, what have you. My theory is that we are all telling basically the same story, we just tell it in different ways. The story we are all telling is that of a hero. We introduce our hero and establish him as someone we like, can relate to, or live vicariously through. We then throw that hero into some kind of peril. This peril can be many things, a villain to oppose him, a personal tragedy or traumatic situation to over come, what ever. The story is then the hero's struggle to over come that peril, and in the end his triumph over it. While I think everyone will agree my generalization is true in almost all cases, it certainly does not apply to Howard Roughan's "The Up and Comer", damn him! As I said earlier if he hadn't entertained me so well, he'd be in big trouble. (LOL)
Philip Randal is not a hero, he is not someone I particularly liked and he certainly wasn't someone I wanted to live vicariously through. Doing a book with a predominantly unlike able main character (especially one written in the first person narrative) must have been one hell of a challenge. Howard Roughan met this challenge by walking a very fine line and keeping Philip Randal likeable enough, or at least interesting enough, for us to want to read more about him, yet still keep him enough of a self centred prick, to make the book work as he designed it. Philip Randal was a character I could relate to despite how despicable I found him on the whole. This was achieved much in the same way, I believe, as I tried to create my heel "Lance Storm" character. I remember doing an interview once and when asked where I got "Lance Storm" (My ECW heel self) or who I thought he was, I answered that he was basically me with all my common courtesy, and consideration for others removed. Everyone has inconsiderate thoughts everyone at one time or another wants to be completely selfish and self centred, it's the good people that let their common sense and personal character, buffer those thoughts and not act on them and thus remain decent people. Philip Randal and ECW's Lance Storm embraced their self centred selves and only looked out for number one. I think that makes for a character you can relate to because who hasn't at least thought about taking short cuts and cheating? There is a little of Philip Randal in all of us, and I think that is what makes him a successful character.
As for the body of the book it's basically the opposite of every other story I've read. Instead of hoping our hero gets out of trouble, I basically kept wondering when Philip's luck would run out and when he would finally get what was coming to him. There were a ton of near misses for him that kept me guessing and intrigued. I loved his day in court defending a drunken Mrs. Devine on a DUI charge. While none of this predicament was Philip's fault it was great to watch him squirm. There were a ton of little details dropped early that played out later in the story, and the way Philip finally got it in the end I didn't see coming at all. This was top notch story telling with no details over looked and lots of ground work laid early to make the story come together in the end. All that and a character named Benoit. What more could a wrestling fan ask for?
All in all I found this to be a very unique and intriguing book. Roughan kept me guessing, and turning pages and I finished this book in no time. I can't wait to read his second novel "The Promise of a Lie" what a great title.
The Up and Comer: Howard Roughan's Thoughs
When Lance first dangled me upside down from the balcony of a thirty story building and suggested I participate in his book club, I told him in no uncertain terms that his was the finest idea in recorded history.
I'm easy that way. Seriously, though (if I may use such an overwrought segue), it was a real honor and thrill to have Lance choose THE UP AND COMER - an honor and thrill matched only by the opportunity to read all of your reviews. Take a bow everyone. The quality of your thoughts, your observations, not to mention the overall generosity with your own time, absolutely blew me away. For that, I extend my greatest thanks and appreciation.
Now allow me to address some specific comments made while at the same time conveniently calling out people by name in a shameless attempt to make them lifelong fans.
CARMALETTA - Fantastic insight about enjoying the book not in spite of your "bad feeling" but, rather, because of it. You're the person I write for. Now if we can just have you cloned a million times over.
ROBERT DEMOND - Thanks for sticking with the story and I'm happy it paid off for you. While I was aware that the first sixty or seventy pages might try the patience of the more plot-driven reader, I was convinced that the best way to develop the character of Philip (whether you love him, hate him, or just love to hate him) was to dwell for a bit in his world before letting things get out of hand. Indeed, it represented somewhat of a risk, one that couldn't possibly pay off across the board. For every reader such as you and DAVID PERRY (thanks, my friend) I'm not surprised to come across FIONA for whom it didn't work (sorry, my friend).
TERRA - I could kiss you. Your favorite line in the book happens to be mine as well. Very gratifying for you to mention it the way you did.
TAMARA GREY - Thanks for all the kind words. It was interesting that you pointed out Jessica's exploiting Tracy's love of gossip. As you may not know, THE UP AND COMER is currently being developed into a movie (Michael Douglas and his production company, Furthur Films, are doing it). Anyway, I recently wrote the screenplay with the director, John Polson, and one of my favorite scenes is when Tracy tells Philip about her conversation with Jessica, specifically the amazing sex that Jessica and Connor are apparently having. I think you'll get a kick out of it if and when (knock on wood) the movie makes it to the screen.
MIKE PATRY - Good point on the fake ID and Philip using the name of someone from his past. (I guess I was just channeling my own grudge against all the gym teachers who used to make me run a lot of laps.) Sorry I couldn't please you more with the read. That said, even in your well-reasoned criticism, I was glad you recognized the aforementioned "risk" that I took.
JONATHAN FRASER & NICK BOISSEAU - Appreciate the compliments. Given both your observations regarding the ending, I thought I'd share with you something that up until now only my wife and editor knew. There were in fact two endings written for THE UP AND COMER. I struggled mightily in trying decided which one to go with. Ultimately I chose what I did because I thought it read better as opposed to the other ending which wouldíve been stronger if one were "watching" it. Sure enough, that alternative ending is presently the one we're going with for the movie.
LAURA PAQUETTE - Great line about food stains on a book signaling a good read. Many of my favorite novels look as if they'd once been used as place mats.
DEE-ANNE BENSON - To echo Lance's comment, Philip was clearly in a state of panic at Tyler's apartment. Things had gone terribly awry and he had to act fast. I certainly considered other options for what Philip might do to "hide his tracks" but they all seemed even riskier.
JIM HENKE - To your point about Philip's giving money to the hotel clerk and how it felt "tacked-on" in an effort to give him a redeeming quality, you're half right. I was definitely trying to create a scene that made Philip a contradiction but it was done with foresight and not hindsight. Hope you enjoy(ed) THE PROMISE OF A LIE.
BOB - Keen review. You really nailed a lot of my thinking. As Lance mentioned, my next book is a collaboration with James Patterson. Given some of your comments, it may be a tough sell for you. Nonetheless, I'd certainly be curious to know what you think. (See my email address below.) The novel is entitled HONEYMOON and it comes out on Valentine's Day of next year.
KYLE MAS - "Wow" right back at you. Thanks for the raves. To your question, Did Philip love his wife, Tracy? The answer is no. What was perhaps most unsettling to him, however, was the realization that he in fact loved Jessica.
JOE - Well put about being "told" the story as opposed to reading it. Do you mind if I use that when I go around doing author talks?
Okay, enough with my schmoozing. I'll wrap it up here by thanking you all again for a most enjoyable experience. And, most of all, I want to thank Lance for making it possible. Lance, you are a gentleman and a true inspiration to us all. I wish you nothing but continued success.
To those who are inclined, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org Should you have any more comments or questions, please don't hesitate to write. Interacting with readers remains one of the coolest parts of the job.
All the best!