Rolly Waters meets Jimi Hendrix

Poster for Jimi Hendrix concert in San Diego, May 24, 1969
Yes, concert tickets were a real bargain in 1969, even with inflation.
A top ticket then would cost around $45 today.

Hendrix in the West, a posthumous release of live Jimi Hendrix tracks, is one of the earliest, and best, collections of Hendrix live performances. It was also the starting point for my upcoming Rolly Waters novel, Gillespie Field Groove. When I learned that some of the songs on the album had been recorded at the San Diego Sports Arena in 1969 (critic Robert Christgau has called the album’s version of Red House definitive), I started looking for ways to incorporate it into my next book. I had one problem. The fictional Rolly Waters wouldn’t have been born when the concert took place. How could I make a fifty-year-old concert part of his investigation?

Advertisement in the SDSU Daily Aztec for Jimi Hendrix concert in San Diego on May 24, 1969
Advertisement from San Diego State’s student newspaper, the Daily Aztec

Hendrix performed in San Diego three times, but it was recordings from the May 24, 1969 concert featuring the original Jimi Hendrix Experience that were used on the album. I started by doing some more research about that specific concert and learned the following:

  • The Sports Arena concert was one of the last for the original Experience lineup. The tour ended a month later and the group never played together again.
  • The concert was sold out, but a large group of hopeful gatecrashers showed up outside the arena. They became restive and the police were called in. A riot ensued, with cops beating up kids in the parking lot.
  • Backstage at the arena, a promotional contest by local radio station KCBQ went awry when Jimi’s handlers turned away the station representative and the contest winner (the station had not cleared the promotion beforehand with Hendrix or his team).

Based on the above, I imagined the following characters and scenario as a starting point for my novel:

  • The teenaged girl (and contest winner) who was turned away;
  • One of Hendrix’s roadies who was working the concert;
  • The teenaged girl and the roadie meet and run away together after the concert.

So far, so good. But we’re still stuck in 1969. How did Rolly Waters get involved? Here’s the answer I came up with:

  • Years later, after the above characters have died, Rolly Waters is contacted by their daughter who asks him find a Stratocaster guitar her parents claimed to have owned, a guitar once played by Jimi Hendrix.

I was intrigued now. I had something to work with. A puzzle to solve. And off I went. As I worked on the book, it took some unanticipated twists and turns but the initial idea stuck. We’re still a few months away from publication, but I’ll be providing more information in future posts.

P.S. If you want more details about the 1969 Hendrix concert, you can find them in this article from the San Diego Reader. Here’s the recording of “Red House” from the album.

Chekhov’s Russian Brides

Russian brides. Ukrainian brides. Asian and Latin brides. One of these ads has probably made it past your email’s spam filter. If you check your spam box to make sure it’s not blocking an important email, you’ll no doubt find dozens of “bride” ads, along with the usual miracle cures, surveys and get-rich-quick schemes. The ads tend to look and read the same, a grid of photos of attractive young women in skimpy clothes with plunging necklines and some messaging hinting at their matrimonial desperation. Occasionally, as in the ad below, an actual graphic artist seems to have been hired to put together the ad.

I’m sure there are legitimate services offering international online dating but most of these ads are clearly just a scheme to separate lonely men from their money. This kind of scam inspired one of the subplots in my upcoming Rolly Waters novel, Gillespie Field Groove (pub date TBA, early 2023). Further inspiration came from a story I heard about a more nefarious Russian bride grift dating back to the pre-internet era. I heard this story second-hand so I can’t vouch for its complete veracity (and I’m certainly not going to give you names), but here it is.

Sometime during the Glasnost era, a prominent San Diego attorney made a business trip to Moscow. While there he was wined and dined by the local businessmen, going to restaurants and clubs. At one of the clubs he meets a beautiful young woman. They hit it off and agree to stay in touch after he leaves. Back in the USA, he writes her letters and talks to her on the phone. He falls in love and arranges for her to come to the United States. They get married. So far, so good.

After a few months’ of wedded bliss, things start to change. His new wife seems to have relatives, both here and in Russia, who need her husband’s help. Sometimes it’s legal work. Sometimes it’s money. More and more relatives crawl out of the woodwork. Some would like to set up a business and partner with him. Strange and intimidating men show up at his home and his office, suggesting less than legal ways they might make money together.

Our lawyer friend realizes he’s screwed, the sucker in a long con. The lovely young woman he’s married is just a front for a criminal organization. He starts to fear for his professional reputation and his own well-being. To protect himself, he starts taking notes. He’s a lawyer, after all, and he comes up with a plan to extricate himself from the situation.

He doesn’t take any of this to the police. He doesn’t have enough evidence to win a criminal case and fears reprisals from the crooks. He hasn’t been married for long so he’s able to present his case in court and get an annulment (based on fraud). Quick and easy, before any of the bad guys (and girl) know what he’s up to. And it works.

His wife returns to Russia. He waits, fearing some sort of reprisal, but there is none. The criminals dry up, disappear, and move on to their next mark. And he moves on in life, a chastened and wiser man.

That’s my Russian brides story. And that’s why I have girl in a bikini on my website today. As for the title of this post? Well, I have to admit that in my geeky literature major way one of the first things I thought of when I first saw the above ad (okay not the first, first thing) was Chekhov. Not Star Trek’s Chekov but the writer and playwright Anton Chekhov. He was Russian. He wrote a play called The Seagull. He wrote another play called The Cherry Orchard. Both feature young women who are seen as good marriage potential. Chekhov often wrote about the difficulty of bringing two worlds together. Look at the ad again. You see where I’m going with this? Nah, I don’t really either, but that’s how I think sometimes and that’s how I came up with the title for this post.

Which brings me to one other question that came up in my mind as I was writing this. Why do you never see any of these ads for Canadian brides?

Free! 3 Crime Fiction Short Stories

I’ve combined three of my previously published crime fiction stories into one eBook edition. Download them here or by clicking on the image above. The three stories include:

  • Geronimo’s Cornflakes – Two best friends combine forces in the scrubby arroyos of the Southwestern desert, with lethal results
  • Killer Motivation – A professional killer matches wits with a multi-level marketer
  • Le Bistro Fantastique – A traveling widower seeks redemption in a magical memory from his honeymoon.

New Music – Los Vangeles

My newest musical composition and an unusual one for me. It’s an instrumental with a movie-theme vibe, a touch of Philip Glass and a bit of Vangelis. Not sure where the title came from. Let me know what you think.

The Noble Rider vs the Creepy Mayor

Bob Filner was a U.S. Representative in California’s 51st district for almost twenty years and San Diego’s mayor from 2012-2013. San Diegans will mostly remember him for resigning the mayor’s office amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment and later pleading guilty to state charges of false imprisonment and battery. In short, he was a real creep, and many of us who had voted for him were glad to see him go.

Which is why, some years later, when I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN I was taken aback to find this photograph among the many that lined the exhibit about the Freedom Riders.

Yes, that’s right. The young Bob Filner was a freedom rider who spent two months in a Southern jail to protest the racial inequalities in our nation. It was a brave and principled act. So how does this idealistic young freedom rider become an odius middle-aged mayor, infringing on the personal rights of the women around him?

I have no idea, but it fascinates me. Not just in Mr. Filner’s case, but with human beings in general. It’s something I’m always thinking about when I’m writing my novels. How did a character get this way? Was it a bad habit that got worse and worse, leading to an inevitable reckoning? Or was it one bad decision, a fork in the road, steering them down the route to unavoidable consequences? Perhaps they’re just flip sides of the same coin.

This was all occupying my mind as one of the characters in my work-in-progress has some serious sexual harassment issues. I’ve had to think about how that manifests itself and how that fits in with the rest of the character’s identity. And how his behavior has affected the people around him.

The protagonist of my crime series, Rolly Waters, made some bad decisions in his youth. He developed some destructive habits, which only got worse. A mortal reckoning came due and he changed his life, but the residue of his failings still cling. But he’s lucky. He repented. He learned. As Rolly goes about his detective work, dealing with clients and criminals, he’s confronted with echoes of his own past. The criminals he encounters fall on both sides of the coin–some have habituated their criminal life while others are trapped by the consequences of a single bad decision. Either way, Rolly must pursue his case until he arrives at the truth. And he’s reminded of one thing that will always be true. If we don’t get better at life, we get worse.