Behind the Scenes: Cruel Devices
The story's original title was changed from 'Doure Sint' to 'Cruel Devices' shortly before its release because the publisher felt that sales could be negatively impacted with such an unusual/unpronoucable name.
"Her pupils like black marbles rolled around wildly. When they finally locked on him, she squinted and grunted. The hand with the coveted cigarette scratched at her dark bird’s nest mound of hair.
“What? What are you wanting?” Madame Kovács dunked the harelip deep into the coffee cup.
If it was coffee."
"She shifted her attention back to him. “You leave... not good for no. Something bad, you."
She nervously stroked at the gold links in her necklace.
Gavin caught the glint of a green emerald, making him pause."
Story Inspiration Uneasy Contimplations
A peculiar thing happened to me as I began to write my first novel, Spindown; the introduction of the main character, Fowler opens with his morning routines. The system requires a daily health status check to ensure that workers are fit to go to work in the mines. So we see him wake up and perform these diagnostic tests on his body before doing anything else. Within a week of writing that scene, I was diagnosed with diabetes and like Fowler, became forced to measure my blood each morning before going off to work.
It was a moment when life imitates art. At the same time I was writing a theater play in which one of the characters, a young child drowns. The boy was the same age as my son at the time and it creeped me out a bit to write that scene. Though the idea was ridiculous, I found myself thinking what if in some weird way, I was causing something tragic to happen to my son just because I’d written it. Though it was a silly fleeting idea, the concept of an author’s writings bringing something into reality stuck with me.
I’m aware that it’s been done before, even Stephen King has a short story called Word Processor of the Gods, L. Ron Hubbard dabbles with the concept in Typewriter in the Sky and there’s the video game, Alan Wake, has a writer near a mystical lake that turns everything he writes into existence. I took a different approach of how and why something like this would be happening.
Puma Jacket Man
"The paper lowered to the counter as Gavin’s gaze stopped at the half-opened blue and grey Puma windbreaker. Copious amounts of dark chest hair swirled this way and that on the man’s half exposed abdomen. It was like viewing the overlapping patterns of trees from above a forest."
The Cat LampArt imitates life
The 'Cat Lamp' was a real object that I found in a dilapidated thrift shop many years before. It was such a bizarre and fascinating item, that I bought it immediately. I describe it exactly as it was (it also shattered by accident years after the story was published).
- - - -
"The ceramic cat was a typical mold-made piece found in any pay-to-paint shop in a mall. What made this one so bizarre was how someone had bored a dozen or so holes in it. Translucent marbles of every color plugged the holes. Examining the underside revealed a fist-sized hole and a mounted forty-watt bulb with a cord."
# # #
"The air that swirled around him was cold, but not like air conditioning or the chill of a freezer. It was as if someone doused him with a freezing cold bucket of ice water, yet he was completely dry.
The sensation only lasted for a couple of seconds, but it was enough to cause Gavin to lose his footing. The cat slipped from his grip shattering on the floor with a loud crash. Brightly colored marbles ricocheted in every direction leaving only shards of the original piece on the ground."
Live Frog Dissection
The scene in which the young boys dissect a living frog on the sidewalk was taken from a true experience that I encountered at age ten. I've never been able to shake the image of that helpless creature attempting to swim away from its pain while unconscious.
Much of the novel was written in various hotel rooms in Lake Charles, Louisiana usually over three-day stays (the same duration as Gavin's hotel stay in the story).
Victoria 'Torri’ Barta
"Gavin wiped the rain from his eyes, as Torri’s form grew brighter, and the glow from typewriter on the pavement behind her began to dim.
The ghostly image of Torri Barta started to fill in. It was as if she were made of thousands of tiny swirling multi-colored lights that zipped through the area she occupied; a spinning kaleidoscope of colors in a frenzy of energy.
After a few seconds, the dazzle of the lights faded, replaced with various hues of flesh tone where skin would be… if she were human. The moving specs made it appear as if her skin were boiling, bubbling at varying degrees of temperature.
This was it… she was Coming Through."
" Gavin looked at the ground at a faded sticky note, a note that had lost its adhesiveness many years ago. He slowly crouched to pick it up. “Aren’t you comin’ mister?” asked the bell-boy from the open elevator compartment.
Gavin turned the note over and saw the small printed image of a unicorn; its horn impaling the stickman that he’d drawn what seemed like a lifetime ago. He didn’t look up. “You go on, kid; I’ll take the next one down.”
Gently rubbing his fingers over the handwritten note, which read, ‘This one is you, Gavin. Love, Jo,’ he muttered, “I love ya too, baby.”He’d gazed at it a thousand times before, but couldn’t peel his eyes off it now."
"It had a circumference and height of a wide brim pith helmet. At first it was barely recognizable to him as to what manner of device it was, then he remembered photos of turn of the century typewriters, a time before the machines were shaped like a rectangular box, back when the design trend involved semicircular keyboards sprouting from a base, back before the acceptance of the concept of the QWERTY keyboard layout.Though Billy was the undisputed expert of that type of antique hardware, Gavin knew this was something uncommon, this was something special.
He guessed the flat, nickel-sized pads attached to the twenty or so metal tendrils to be the round keys of the contraption. Even from his vantage point, the overlapping spoke-like stems weaved in and out, twisting like pipe organ tubes before disappearing into the midsection of the typewriter. A tiny wire-frame cage extended three or four inches from the top.
Thrilled with his discovery, he precariously ascended the remaining levels of the luggage staircase. “Now that’s something Billy will love."
"It just kept going..."
"The story was originally intended to be a short story, but as I began to write the tale just got away from me."
The EpilogueI wrote the epilogue which takes place in an ICU recovery waiting room while I was an ICU waiting room waiting for my mother to recover from a serious health condition.
The book is dedicated to her.
The number 719 appears throughout the story. The fictional birthdate of the main character is July 19th (the same as Henry David Thoreau), Gavin's hotel room number is 719, and many other instances
In the past fictional setting of the story, the character of Billy Cavanaugh outbid actor Tom Hanks for a special antique typewriter.Hanks is an avid collector of vintage typewriters in real life.