I wrote “Patrol” as a warm-up to what I thought was going to be my second novel (tentatively called Posthumous). I had been busy researching and sending The Sun Eaters manuscript to publishers for months, as well as trying to place my stories “A Pursuit Race” (now at The Stockholm Review of Literature) and “The Good Sentinel” (still homeless but looking hard).
Posthumous is intended to consist of three very large parts—each about a book’s worth in length. The first third takes place currently in Afghanistan. It’s not really meant to delve deeply into the subject of armed forces a la Tom Clancy’s work, but I do intend to research extensively jargon, materiel, etc. And so I began “Patrol” not just as a warm-up, but also to see how that style would fly with me as a writer as well as looking at it from a reader’s point of view. I was to decide, after a few pages, if it was too difficult to follow or hang with as a reader; if it was, then I’d scrap the style for the first part of the book.
Somewhere around the middle of “Patrol” I decided I was going to shelf the idea of Posthumous. I felt then (as now) the novel is too ambitious a project for me to tackle now, at my age. I felt then (as now) I hadn’t yet learned enough about the mechanics of a gargantuan project like what I have in mind with Posthumous. So I decided to push the book one notch down the line. Presently, I’ve taken to writing a book I tentatively call The Long, Oil-Stained Life of Rosetti or Pro Patria. I am writing this one by hand, with a #2 pencil on a stack of white notepads. In February I was able to take 3 full days off from life in general and write nearly continuously; the 3 days’ work yielded 30 very strong pages. I have since slacked off on the writing, but have been collecting notes nearly daily. In any case, “Patrol” then stood as its own piece, ready to be sent out.
If you’ve read the story, it’s something different in style and even subject from which I write. It’s also heavily satirical. And it’s very much influenced by the work of Pynchon (in Gravity’s Rainbow), Burroughs in general, and a bit reminiscent of the work I did in Short Lean Cuts.
For some reason, “Patrol” reached or connected with me to Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. I wanted to give a nod to Kubrick’s great film, so at the end of “Patrol” the fellas in the armoured car, while driving out of an ambush in a tremendous frenzy, after one of the soldiers had just been hit in the helmet by an Afghani sniper, begin to sing a silly ditty. This was my little wink-wink to the very end of Full Metal Jacket, but also just like in Kubrick’s film, I wanted the effect to be absurd and comical and terrifically sad. Which I think it is. I hope it is.
When I submitted Patrol to the seven magazines I hand picked one dreary, icy winter day, I did so almost laughing out loud. For I knew, I was convinced NO ONE was ever going to touch this piece. It’s not something that ever gets published in literary journals nowadays (or maybe ever). The story was out literally 48 hours before the editors at The Adroit Journal accepted it. I was taken by shocked surprise. This, once again, proves that I know nothing of literary editors’ preferences; I cannot anticipate anything in anyone; I cannot fully peg down the state of literature or indie literature or alt literature here in this country anymore, no matter how much I rail against it or for it or am indifferent to it. And so it is underscored and almost vital: write for no one other than your own standards. Write with absolutely no audience in mind. Write beyond your boundaries. Always stretch to innovate, push the borders. Then move on. Step on to the next story, the next novel.
These things…stories, novels, poems…these things eventually have a way of finding their own homes. Often times they’re out there for months, even years. But then a door opens, suddenly, surprisingly, and they get taken in and nurtured and clothed and fed and given a warm bed.
“Patrol” is one of those lucky orphans no longer an orphan. And I’m very grateful to the young editors of The Adroit Journal for having given it a home. I hope you read it and dig it.