I stepped into the Pink Flamingo and spotted the bartender preparing for the day. I approached and said, “Hi, my name is Bill Kerouac, Jack’s cousin,” and extended my hand.
The gruff old guy snarled at me and said, “Bull shit. I know all the Kerouacs and you ain’t one of ’em.”
I smiled and said, “You got me, partner. I’m an author looking for a story and it led me here.”
He nodded and pointed to a stool. “Well if you want to know more about Jack, sit down in his spot and I’ll tell you about him.”
For the next half-hour Jim, a bartender at the Pink Flamingo for more than forty years, intrigued me with fascinating tales about Jack Kerouac’s personality, heroics and flaws. He ended his story by saying, “I guess you can say I killed him.”
“Yep. I served him his last shot of whiskey, October 21, 1969. He puked up blood, went to the hospital and died.”
“Please, please, let me put that in my next novel ….”
I enjoy writing from experience. Writing my latest novel, Try A Little Sunshine, I traveled to Florida to connect with the settings I describe. Then, elaborating on the truth, I blended those locations with people and events I had met during my travels.
Inspiration comes at the most unexpected moments. In January, I had just completed writing the novel, Like Father, Like Son and stopped at the Crown Pub in Fort Collins to celebrate. Christine, my favorite bartender, gave me a complimentary drink and asked, “What do you plan to write next?”
I had no clue until someone reached over my shoulder, pointed to the beer taps and said, “I think I’ll try a little Sunshine.”
“Try a little sunshine?” I responded.
“Yeah, you know, Sunshine Wheat Beer.”
“No, my friend, not a beer, but the title of my next novel.”
I flipped over a beer coaster and outlined the story. I based it on the string of encounters I had with strangers over the previous eight years, using ‘sunshine’ as a theme to hold the story together. When I showed the coaster to Christine, she begged me to put her into the book. She’s in it.
Over the years, I have enjoyed a series of conversations with hitchhikers, people I met on vacation or customers in bars and restaurants. These encounters never led to the creation of a book, but for that brief moment, all the individuals I met and the stories they shared coalesced into the core of Try A Little Sunshine.
The story-line reflects authentic discussions I had with people who didn’t care about being politically correct or fretted over what they said or did. They expressed honest feelings I tried to capture and turn into a narrative that would entertain and amuse readers. Pick up a copy and enjoy.
Other books by Bill Lamperes include:
Making Change Happen: Shared Vision, No Limits, How educators turned a failing alternative school into a national model.
Bar Exam: Tavern Tales and Reflections. Eavesdrop on a fascinating weekend dialogues regulars at the Benbow Inn.
Depositions. The death of a prominent small town citizen intrigues a writer who investigates and uncovers a murder.
The Attendant, Originally an Internet joke, Bill turned it into a manhunt that takes the reader to the Greek Islands.
Out of the Zone, The story of a man who returns to his high school reunion to resolve past sins.
Voices, The tale of a writer whose wife is killed in a hit-and-run accident and solves the crime by listening to ghosts.
Jinx, A precocious teen gets into trouble attempting to torch her sleeping mother.
Sierra: Shrink to Fit. A sequel to Jinx. The story continues.
The Artifact. An historic fiction novel tracing the theft of Hitler’s personal weapon from Russia in 1951 to its appears on E-bay in 1998.
Like Father, Like Son. The saga of a man searching for his deceased father’s secrets. The scavenger hunt sends him on a thrilling adventure across six countries.
Bill’s novels can be purchased in Fort Collins at Old Firehouse Books, Al’s Newsstand and The Eclectic Reader. Order them through Amazon or email him at email@example.com
Marian Allen says
Wow! Great stories! You’re like a sponge, aren’t you? Or a filter. Or a computer. You take in all these moments and then, suddenly, BOOM! a bunch of them coalesce into a story line. An enviable talent!
Margot Kinberg says
Oh, what a great story! And it just goes to show that we all have those experiences that we can use to inspire our writing. Thanks, both.
Alex J. Cavanaugh says
I’m sure that leads to some really authentic characters in the book.
Plus when people ask what you do as an author, you can say you frequent bars. (That will keep the myth of the drunken writer alive a few more years.)