This book began as a short story. When I finished the story I realized that its protagonist, Hugh Waters, a frustrated writer working in an insurance company, had a lot more to say. The novel focuses on Hugh and two other characters, a woman named Hedda Chase, a Hollywood film producer, and Denny Rios, an Iraq war veteran. Their lives come together unexpectedly, with dangerous consequences.
Like his name suggests, Hugh Waters is oddly transparent and yet nuanced with shadow. He is the kind of guy you may have worked with over the years. Attractive, yet enigmatic; squeamish around his superiors; distant, yet polite. At the office party, he lingers on the periphery. As passive as he appears, you can’t help thinking that, at some point, under the right circumstances, he will snap. Indifferent to his wife, Hugh’s only apparent pleasure is in watching movies in the basement of his suburban home. For Hugh, spending a few hours caught up in someone else’s troubles is a spectacular reprieve from the monotony of his own existence. Remarkably, he succeeds in selling a screenplay to Hollywood, but at the last minute the project is trashed by a new producer who rejects his blatant use of violence. For Hugh, it’s the last straw in a life already routine with disappointment, and he decides to take matters into his own hands. Reenacting scenes from his script, he becomes somebody else; empowered, devoid of pain and regret, removed from consequence.
With the proliferation of special effects and cyber imagery, we have become accustomed to watching the impossible. We are a culture of watchers. TV – our neighbors – the strangers in the street. Danger lurks. The world – our planet – seems unreliable; unsafe. This is the set up for an atmosphere of extremes.
The story is told from three perspectives – Hugh’s, Hedda’s, and a third character, Denny Rios. Each character is motivated by loss. For Hugh, his dream of becoming a Hollywood player has been interrupted; Hedda has compromised her ideals for the sake of money and power; and Denny has lost a part of himself – his soul – in the deserts of Iraq. They are each broken in some deeply personal way. Their dreams of a certain kind of life have been betrayed. I wanted to explore what would happen when these disparate characters are brought together in an extreme situation – how they would handle it, what they would teach one another, and who would survive.