There’s 43 days left until they finish renovating the old San Diego police station and turn it into The Headquarters, a shopping and dining center near Seaport Village. I’m not sure what year the police department moved, but the old place has been sitting vacant for many years. So it’s a good thing they’re finally making good use of a historic building. Bravo for urban renewal and all that good stuff!
But I’m a fiction writer, crime fiction, you know, and when people start digging around an old police station (it was built in 1939), my thoughts turn to one thing – I wonder if they’ll find any bodies buried there?
Well, I haven’t heard any reports, and they’re almost finished with construction, so I guess there’s no bodies. I’m going to have to fictionalize. I’ve had this on my mind for awhile and it’s how I’m planning to start my next book, Slab City Rockers
Here’s a few photos I took for research. I think that area out there in back is the most likely location.
Oh yeah, one more thing. The area where Seaport Village and The Headquarters was originally named “Punta de los Muertos” by the Spanish expedition of 1782. It’s where they buried scurvy victims. There’s a lot of ghosts out there.
One of the central plot points in Border Field Blues revolves around a song titled “Jungle Love”. My protagonist, Rolly Waters, finds a discarded CD case at the crime scene. It has the title “Jungle Love” on the cover. Later he hears a version of the song played, and learns about a hip-hop hit that samples the central riff from the original recording.
Since Rolly is a songwriter, I’ve often dipped into my own back catalog when I need a few lines to fill out a chapter, or hint at his state of mind. Like this bit at the end of the “La Madre” chapter, where Rolly sings.
A wave is coming at us.
There’s nothing else in sight.
On this dark, deserted ocean,
We’re about to face the night.
Those lines are from a song called “Fishermen” that I wrote but never recorded. But the song Jungle Love really does exist in recorded form and you can hear it for yourself below. I wrote it with my brother, many years ago, when we performed with our band Bad Dog. In our personal mythology at least, it’s the song that ruined our chances for a record contract with Columbia. The rep there who had previously expressed interest in our band hated it. We never heard from him again.
So I did a little recycling when I wrote Border Field Blues. I thought the title worked for the title of the song that’s central to plot. Here’s the original recording. I have to admit it was a very different song, and sound, from most of the stuff my brother and I were writing at the time. It’s certainly not my favorite song I ever wrote. I still kind of like the little piano riff and baseline, though. Maybe I can recycle it musically someday. Or maybe some hip-hop artist can sample it. Tell me what you think. I can take it.
Nowadays I use this for my ringtone. It’s a pretty good ringtone. You can download it here in ringtone format for iPhone and Android phones if you’re interested.
Border Field Blues Contest #1 – Character Names
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I have a system for developing the names of the characters in my books. Many of the characters’ names are a combination of musical terms, song titles, musician names, or musical instrument manufacturers. Here’s how I came up with these names from Border Field Blues.
Max Gemeinhardt is named after Springsteen and Conan drum man Max Weinberg (although anyone guessing Max Roach, jazz stickman nonpareil would instantly earn hipness points from me). His last name is the flute and piccolo manufacturer.
On Saturday, July 20, Maria and I took the Amtrak train to Los Angeles to collect my award from the Hollywood Book Festival. Border Field Blues was the winning entry in the Genre category of this year’s competition. Yay!
We connected to the Metro at Union Station (still a great relic of L.A. history), and got off at the Hollywood and Highland stop, a couple of blocks from our hotel, the slightly rumpled, but friendly and quiet Liberty Hotel.
The evening’s festivities were held in The Academy Room at The Roosevelt Hotel. That’s right, they used to have the Academy Awards here. When I lived in Los Angeles in the early 80’s, The Roosevelt Hotel had gone to seed. One of the local bands we played with then had even written a song called “No Answer at the Hotel Roosevelt.” Now it’s been revitalized and upgraded to a “luxurious boutique hotel“. They’ve kept much of the original and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
We were joined at the party by our niece, Sasha Carrera, who’s recently complete her short film, Mr. Hopewell’s Remedy. After grabbing some food and an adult refreshment, we found a table and met some of the other folks who were there.
Next to me was Mark Bego, who’d won an award for his book, Paperback Writer, a memoir that starts with the opening of Studio 54 and takes off from there. Mark’s written over 55 books, including biographies of Elton John, Martha Reeves and other rock stars and celebrities. There’s fifty or so people in the room, and I manage to sit down next to the other rock and roll guy!
We also met Gregory Paul Ogden, an animator who’s written his first children’s book, Franklin Frog and the Fallen Tree. His own spectacular line drawings illustrate the book.
At any rate, the ceremony soon began, and after a few glitches with the KeyNote projection being shown on the screen, all the winners present got to go to the podium, accept their plaque and make a short speech. I didn’t prepare anything, but I think I improvised pretty well (always thank your wife). It was a splendid evening for all, as far as I could tell.
After the ceremony, Sasha, Maria, and I went to check out the David Hockney pool at the Roosevelt. There was quite a collection of would-be, and some actual, hipsters hanging out among the palm trees, the bar stools and easy chairs. Several parties were going in the rooms that surround the pool and patio area. I mentioned that I suddenly felt like I was in an Eagles song (or more likely, Warren Zevon’s Desperados Under the Eaves). Maria thought it was more like a scene from The Player. You get the picture.
We headed home the next morning, jumping on the train again after a brief stop in Olvera street for tacos.
Oh, and one last thing. On the Metro to Union Station Sunday morning, I met Raj, a music and talent agent from Mumbai. He’s looking for acts. So if you’re a musician looking to book that tour of India, let me know. Raj might be your man!
The inspiration for Border Field Blues happened many years ago, when my wife and I first stumbled on Border Field Park while out for a Sunday drive. It’s a rarely visited California state park along the San Diego-Tijuana border. It’s the most southwesterly corner of the continental United States. It was a rare combination of place – beautiful and forlorn. There was only a single rusty fence separating the border at that time, a flimsy chain link structure. Separated families met at the fence – passing food, money, and conversation through the rusted links. Beautiful and forlorn.
Anyway, I originally set the climactic action of my first Rolly Waters mystery, Black’s Beach Shuffle, here, but the location didn’t really fit the scope book, so I dropped it. I found a way to build the second book around the place, although the plot of Border Field Blues ended up a long ways from where I started.
Tijuana River Valley Regional Park is the larger area around the park, managed by the County of San Diego. Border Field Park is the California State Park within the regional park, and Friendship Park is the parking and people-friendly area at the top of Monument Mesa, across from the Tijuana bullring. It gets complicated. For fiction’s sake, I just referred to the whole area as Border Field Park.