At dinner Friday night a new acquaintance asked me “How do you come up with story ideas for your books?”
“Be careful what you say” I teased. “My ideas come from my life and that of friends and new people I meet.” Actually, that is a question I’m often asked so I thought it might be a good idea to share how I got the title for the first book in my new historical fiction series about the mafia in Detroit.
The Sax Club at 2325 McNichols Road in Detroit inspired the naming of SAX CLUB: Thorn Birds of Detroit Confront Mafia. During the 1960s and 70s, it was one of the hottest places in Detroit. It promoted itself as the oldest topless club in the city and was classier than most other places.
You could take your pick, any place in town—Benson’s, Centerfold, Dirty Harry’s, Foxy’s Strip Club, Please Station, Sassy Sandy’s, The Dutchess, Zoo, and countless others. There were no “gentlemen’s clubs” in those days, Detroit was a working-man’s city.
On Friday nights back then the four (not three) musketeers as we called ourselves filed into the Sax Club. It’d been another hard week for us at Wayne State University and the four doctoral students were ready to loosen up.
Harold Resnick arrived first, before five o’clock to save the perfect corner booth. He was from Brooklyn and drove a Volkswagen like a New York cabbie. He kept spare fenders in his garage. He’s the personality from whom I developed the character Renzo Ricciuti. You can check him out on the cover of the book—he’s the one wearing the dark sunglasses (you’ll have to wait a bit to see the cover.)
Bill Wolansky arrived next so he’d have the seat directly in front of the center pole. He was a Canadian from Alberta and very formal, in fact kind of stuffy; that is, until the Disc Jockey announced “Dagmar.” She was a big-boned blonde who blew him away.
I usually sat beside Bill, to his right. We were the two senior guys. I had a flattop back then and drank Singapore Slings while waiting for Lou Anne to appear. She was the classiest dancer at the Club and always dressed in white.
Most of the dancers were housewives, single parent moms, and Wayne State University students. In a couple of days dancing they could rake-in more cash than most women could earn in a forty-hour week.
James Harris, an African-American, was the quite gentleman from Tuskegee. Most of the time he watched the strippers out of the corner of his eye, except when the African-American dancer performed. Resnick turned Jim’s head to force him to have the same pleasures we were having.
All of this makes it sound like something was going to happen with one of the women, but it didn’t. We were there to do our regular debriefing and bring a little levity into our narrow, straight-forward academic lives.
One day, I announced, “I just finished chapter 3 of my dissertation.”
“You what?” Wolansky exclaimed, downing a Stroh’s. “How’d you do that? Two weeks ago you were on chapter 1.”
“I’m on a roll with G. Harold (Dr. G. Harold Silvius was our doctoral adviser and tough as nails).
“Shit,” Bill said, knowing he’d started his dissertation six month ahead of me.
“Now on center pole, Dagmar,” the DJ announced. All eyes turned to Bill and then back and forth between Dagmar and Bill until her set was over. We cheered to Bill’s delight and went back to our dissertation discussion—Resnick was still working on his proposal, draft 3.
“I’m telling you, Harold” I said. “Print draft 4 on every page. I started color-coding the old sections on draft 5 so G. Harold wouldn’t change parts he’d already approved.”
“Did it help?” Harris, who was yet to start his proposal, asked.
“Not a bit.” I laughed. “But it made me feel better. It doesn’t matter what approach you use, G. Harold is going to make you go through 9 drafts. That’s why it’s important to start labeling the drafts.”
I threw my arms up in the air as Lou Anne’s name was announced. A hush fell over the booth. “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” blasted from the speakers. Pointing to me, Lou Anne started her routine, prancing around the stage then sliding up and down the pole. Stomping her boots, she paused and ripped off her long white bellbottoms revealing her white hot pants.
Whistles and cat calls filled the place. I cheered. Lou Anne danced to the beat, pointing to me she slowly unbuttoned her white blouse. The music stopped and she winked at me. I nodded, downed a Singapore Sling and turned to Bill. “If you don’t get going I’ll have chapter 4 done before you.”
The challenge was on and so it went, week by week, each of us pushing the other.
Two weeks later a smiling Wolansky was watching Dagmar holding up an approved chapter 4.
I hope you can see how memories create characters for my stories. In my next post I’ll tell you more about the Sax Club and some the characters I met that come alive in my books. Anyone besides me remember the Sax Club? I’d be great to hear you memories. If you have a picture of the club (outside or in) or know anyone who might, I’d really like to see it. I’ll even share it in a future blog post.
I’d also like to invite you to “Like” and Share my Facebook page. http://bit.ly/LesCochranAuthorPage I will be dropping little clues and and sharing pictures as we approach the book release date.
Cheers to readers everywhere!