Slipping Into Darkness
“Going, Going, Gone”
Peter Blauner is a New York Times bestselling author whose novels include The Intruder and Slow Motion Riot, which won the 1992 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Blauner’s novels have recently been released in e-Book by Open Road Integrated Media. Blauner’s story “Going, Going, Gone” is exclusive to Storyville and not part of a published collection.
Blauner said this about his story: “Going, Going, Going” was the first short story I had published after twenty years of writing heavily-researched novels, and one of the first pieces of feedback I got about it was from a reader saying, “Damn, I could have written that.”
The idea is so simple that I’m sure it could have occurred to anyone who’s ever felt a twinge of anxiety watching a small child get on a crowded train with a distracted guardian. In fact, I resisted writing the story for a long time because I was sure somebody else must have done it. But then I couldn’t think of a specific example.
Really nothing much happens in the story, except the disturbances in the father’s head. But that’s okay. Hitchcock said that certain stock situations come up over and over in stories; the only way to make them new is through character and emotion. So the piece is just about one man’s response to the worst moment of his life. And maybe that’s enough for a short story, to capture something familiar in a slightly unfamiliar way. Simple is all right sometimes. Anyone else could have written the riff for “Satisfaction” – but they didn’t.
Blauner said this about himself as a novelist: I’m supposed to be “a thriller writer.” At least that’s what it says when you try to find my books in the stores and libraries. The problem is I don’t think of myself that way.
To me, “a thriller writer” conjures up an image of some smooth silver-haired old pro in a turtleneck grinding out book after book about a noble granite-chinned series character with a 75-foot yacht and a penchant for tanned blondes and dry martinis. Whatever. That’s not me. I drive an old Volvo. I only write one book every two or three years. I don’t even think I own a turtleneck and most of my characters don’t get out in the sun long enough to get a tan.
What I’m trying to write are social novels. Yes, they have a suspense element as well. But the crux of them, the real animating impulse, goes back to growing up in New York City and seeing things on the street that I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about. I remember Ed Sullivan giving me a wary half-smile on Madison Avenue one sunny afternoon, both wanting and not wanting to be recognized. I remember “The Bird Man” of 77th Street standing in front of the halfway house near my school, squawking at my teachers on their lunch break. I remember a little girl pulling up the front of her dress outside Gimbel’s one day just before her Irish nanny nudged her and said “Stop it. You’re as bad as your mother.”
Anyway, I started writing little street scenes when I was in school and found perhaps I had a small knack for it. With the encouragement of a teacher named Charles Stone, I started working on my writing. I was absorbing influences as fast as I could. Not just books either – though I devoured Philip Roth, Raymond Chandler, and Salinger – but film and music as well. As a grown-up looking kid in the seventies, I could get into R-rated movies on my own, so I discovered Scorsese, Altman, and all the great European directors. And with the money I earned as a Good Humor man, I could sometimes get into CBGBs without getting carded.
I packed all those influences with me when I went off to Wesleyan University in Connecticut (nice people, not too many bodegas), where a story I wrote managed to win the Paul Horgan prize for best short fiction by a student. That was enough to keep me going through the next few years as it dawned me that I probably couldn’t sustain a long-term career as a novelist just writing about myself.