As a kid, I loved science fiction, especially Isaac Asimov. I remember reading the Foundation Trilogy with a flashlight under the covers at night. As an adult, I prefer historical fiction. When I read historical fiction, I always wonder where the history ends and the imagination of the author begins. This website is for those who have read “Calamity” and are similarly curious. If you enjoyed the book, I think you will enjoy the multiple essays in this website that give the broad background history and up close anecdotes from which it is drawn.
I was born and raised in the Midwest, and now am a full time medical doctor practicing in Los Angeles. I have had some interest in writing since Medical school, when I wrote a truly atrocious piece that I submitted to Esquire Magazine. If I hunted around, I could probably still find the rejection note, which I framed and kept as a sort of joke. But at least I had tried.
I did not consider writing again until more than a decade later when I found Langford’s Vigilante Days and Ways in a used bookstore in Hollywood. I read this with great interest, fascinated by the rich detail of this history of the Old West. Recently married at the time, my wife had a friend who was a writer for screen and television, and I figured, wouldn’t it be cool if I could get a professional interested in this story? So I wrote an outline for a story and showed it to David, who was encouraging, but not interested in that type of project.
Cyberspace seems to be full of people who love to write, and I found that I am one of them. I started banging out a “spec” screenplay, from the perspective of Dr. Glick, the main doctor involved in the historical events. Our friend David was very encouraging, but advised that I was too focused on history, not enough on story. That was close to twenty years ago. For most of that time, I plugged along on the screenplay, taking encouragement from other writers I met along the way (thanks Vartkes!). There were some years where the writing bogged down so that I probably didn’t write at all, but during those years I still would research and reread the many sources of the history. I was never frustrated; I still enjoyed the process. I had doubts, though, that I could ever do justice to the story that I saw in the history.
The idea for “Calamity” came about two years prior to its publication. I still had not come up with a compelling story with the doctor as the protagonist; and I also felt that even if I did, a screenplay is tough to sell. But a novel- that might work. There was that compelling episode of Jane Canary begging in the streets that I had come across in my research. Too bad it had occurred after the rest of the events. What if I took David’s advice and messed with history more? So I inserted Jane into the history as the protagonist, and the story flowed much easier.
So now “Calamity” is complete, and you have only read this far if you enjoyed it, I’m sure. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback. I would love to answer your questions, and you might have a question that leads to another essay, or gets me thinking about my next book!