Geoff needs no introduction on this blog; he has practically become a regular of late having taken up residency on the Friday Fantastic Flash! As a member of the Bloggers bash committee, and proponent of #1000voicesspeak, he has become quite well known around the blogosphere. Well, in case you hadn’t heard, he has a new book out, and here he is to tell you all about it.
Ali has kindly offered me the chance to share with you a little about my new book, My Father and Other Liars.
The extract below is the start of chapter five. Before this point we have focused on the two main protagonists, Maurice Oldham and Lori Ann Beaumont. In this scene we meet Isaac Beaumont for the first time. Isaac is Lori Ann’s father and the current head of the Church of Science and Development. We already know about the Church, its focus on genetic research at the university it funds and that an investigation is underway into the possible misuse of certain Federal grant monies it receives towards that research.
I wanted to share this with you because (a) It begins with a description which for me is quite long but since it relates to the fictional town of Beaumont where a lot of the action takes place is crucial to the narrative – how do you feel about this? I explored locations over at the Daily Echo last week; (b) We hear a little about the investigation but also the internal stresses at the University – in this context we come across two important characters for the first time: the Professor in charge of the genetic research, Jacob Stzinski and the Chief Operating Officer of the Church and the acting head of the University, Dan Albertstein – do these introductions leave you intrigued? (c) We are also introduced to Gina Peroni, Isaac’s PA and friend to his daughter who it turns out has crucial part to play in the story – what do you surmise about her from this section? (d) Apart for the opening chapter that probably changed ten times, this was one of the most difficult sections to write, mostly because I was trying to answer the questions I’ve posed above.
A lot happens in this part, most of it via dialogue. As I’ve written over at Sacha Black’s Writespiration, having effective dialogue is a real skill and difficult to master. The combination of the longish opening description, the significant information dump and Isaac’s internal and external dialogue make it something I want to change every time I read it. So what do you think? What would you change?
Beaumont is a modern town situated close to the panhandle to the north west of Oklahoma. It is within 100 miles of Enid, the nearest town of any size. In the 1987 edition of Towns and Cities of Oklahoma Beaumont, then called Cooloon Heights (pop 1720) was described as ‘a bustling little throwback to a distant age of ranching and staging posts’; that ‘while the oil and gas wealth that has benefited other parts of the north of the State did not extend to Coolon Heights, the town has grown with ‘the unexpected and unbalancing addition of the Church of Science and Development’s growing community’. That year, two changes that would dramatically alter the landscape occurred. First, Pastor Joseph Beaumont persuaded the town council to change the town name to Beaumont on a promise to drill for new water supplies, and second, Isaac Beaumont, his son, produced the first sketch of what was to become the Beaumont Christian University campus, later renamed the Christian University of Beaumont. The development was rapid. The old town survived but as a twee museum piece of boutiques and coffee shops serving the university’s growing population. The campus itself, shaped like a fan with each Faculty housed along one of the spines, was dominated by a 15 storey monument of glass and steel, designed with more than a nod to Mies van der Rohe. This centre piece, at the hinge of the fan and called the Cornucopia building, housed the headquarters of the university, the Beaumont Charitable Foundation and, at the top, the administrative offices of the Church itself. Isaac Beaumont, now Pastor of the Church, occupied a corner office that looked out over the town. Whenever he needed inspiration, for a sermon or an essay or any one of the many interviews he gave, he would stand and stare to the west, calling to mind the stories his Father told him of that first bumpy truck ride when he found Cooloon Heights and knew he’d come home.
Isaac was a tall man with a straight back and the remnants of blond hair, mostly now silver. His blue eyes shone in the light from the hot Oklahoman sun. He turned away from the window, having briefly caught his reflection, distorted by the angle of the glass; it made him look tired and older than his 57 years. He glanced towards his PA, Gina Peroni, bent over her notepad. She had short blond spiky hair that Isaac felt sat oddly with her conservative dress sense. She was waiting for him to continue the read through for Friday’s sermon, but his concentration had gone.
He said, “You know, Gina, several times I’ve thought I missed the cut and thrust of the university, helping shape its future but talking to Professor Stzinski earlier reminded me what a… a pain it can be.”
She smiled up at him. “He did sound animated, sir.”
“You heard? Jacob was pretty loud.” Isaac paused, wondering if he should say anymore.
Gina said, “Can I do anything, sir? In Mr Albertstein’s absence?”
“No Gina. Jacob’s just a little paranoid. You’d think, after the press he’s just had, he’d be happy.” He picked up a sheet and read, “The Chronicle called him ‘genius’ and The Monitor said he was a ‘once in a generation marvel’ and Beaumont Christian University is the ‘go-to place for budding geneticists’.”
“It hasn’t all been favourable, sir.”
“What have I missed?”
“The Oklahoman was pretty rude, I thought.”
Gina shuffled her papers, avoiding his gaze. Isaac smiled. “Come on Gina. Tell me the worst.”
She coughed. “It implied that you didn’t know what you were getting into when you recruited him and you’ve been lucky so far. Pretty churlish I thought. It said… it said you must be crowing.”
Isaac smiled as Gina lifted her head. “That’s pretty good for those fellas, don’t you think? After all they usually display their Southern Baptist prejudices quite openly.”
“I think they feel we are a little too liberal, sir, taking on the Professor.”
Isaac smiled. “First folks to call us liberal. That wouldn’t please Dan.”
Gina nodded. “Did Professor Stzinski say why he was upset, sir? Was it Mr Albertstein?”
Isaac hesitated before continuing. “It’s nothing really. And yes, it seems to be Dan’s fault this time. Apparently, Dan agreed to one of the department’s main funders, the Medical Research Funding Bureau, he said, sending in a team to do a check and, of course, according to Jacob, their sole aim is to disrupt him and his work. I’d not heard about this.”
He glanced at Gina but her head was down. “It sounded harmless enough to me. As usual Jacob expects me to sort this out.”
Gina nodded. “I’m sure Mr Albertstein can quiet him, sir. Maybe during your 2 pm call you could mention it?”
“Dan’s good at polishing Jacob’s ego, isn’t he? Yes, probably best if I ask him to speak to Jacob.” Isaac looked at the picture that dominated his room, a reproduction of Raphael’s Madonna and Child. Another reminder of his Father. “Sometimes…” He shook his head and looked back at Gina. “Sometimes it’s easier dealing with the egos of TV producers than those of scientists and administrators, that much I have learned. Now, this interview with the Chronicle…”
Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls.