When I write about the not-too-distant past, I’m writing about someone’s lifetime. Part of my interest in jazz and pulp detective stories come from my parents. My father, in particular, loved music, and had a large collection of jazz and classical pieces that were part of the background of life. Mind you, the post-swing era of crooner and do-wop were more part of his personal timeline, but every generation picks up things from the generation before.
Detective stories have never really gone out of style. My parents had a large collection, and the local library had plenty as well. While many wonderful stories are being told in present day, the works of Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout, and others, will always have a place on a well-stocked shelf. Although some people may be put off by out of date social mores, a discerning reader will see some of the writers were pushing against prejudices few people talked about at the time. It also grounds the modern writer who wants to write about times past. Kerry Greenwood, the author of the Miss Fisher mysteries, does a wonderful job connecting with issues of the past that are relevant today. In a sense, one can ‘remember’ things by proxy.
The classic movies, often in black-and-white, played as filler on TV in much of my childhood, although they were preserving a time I never lived through. But the vivid emotion of the acting and high suspense of the stories drew me in and made me feel as though I were there. While some parts of Forever’s Too Long draw on more recent sources, the pop culture of the time is referenced in many ways.
But would it ring true to someone who had been there in person? I may never learn. The generation of my grandparents and their siblings is disappearing. I lost my great-aunt recently, and while I mostly thought back to happy memories of her, and what a swell woman she was (Eugene’s friendship with Rafael may have been subconsciously influenced slightly by having a very successful relative who never treated anyone different due to economic status), I also thought, I wish that my book had come out in time for her to read it.
Here’s to the ‘Greatest Generation” and the ones before and after, that expanded the American middle class, started a sense of multiculturalism (what else can one consider jazz to be?), adapted wonderfully to changes in technology and social structures, and shaped systems that improved world peace. Thanks for the memories.