Going over the text of my 1987 horror novel DARK SEEKER, getting it ready to put up on Amazon as a Kindle e-book (available now here), was an occasion for some bittersweet reflections on mortality and the passage of time.
As I’ve remarked elsewhere, I loved the old Los Angeles, which is now pretty much gone, alas. I thought it was an exciting and oddly romantic city, in its own dark, twisted way. I don’t recognize the glossier and more crowded version that has replaced it. In my equally vanished youth, L.A. seemed like the place where anything could happen, and it kinda did, for better or worse. The last few times I’ve been there, it seemed dull and corporate, safe and sanitized; I doubt if there are many rough beasts, pace Didion, slouching toward it now.
The book’s protagonist Tyler is seen on the first page, taking the Melrose off-ramp from the freeway. I took the same off-ramp a couple thousand times at least. Back then, in the seventies and eighties, that stretch of Melrose would take you past the Anti-Club, a short-lived hangout where my future wife and I heard some of the first-generation L.A. punk bands, such as Fear and Nervous Gender; an oddly friendly den of iniquity. Also, heading further along Melrose, usually heading toward Aron’s Records in its original location just before Fairfax (I had a huge collection of white-label promo vinyl trolled out of Aron’s bins), you’d go past a postage-stamp front lawn, with a slowly decaying Cadillac permanently parked there — said Cadillac having been given as a tip by Elvis to a local waitress. Where’s it now? Towed away, I suppose, to make room for whatever office tower or condo building took its place. DARK SEEKER is a very car-oriented book; whole big passages take place in one vehicle or another. Re-reading it was like taking the wheel, to drive around a city whose streets only exist in my head now.
Other signs of time rushing past: in the book, phones have cords, and recording studios have reels of tape. My memory is all analogue, I suppose. I toyed with the idea of updating the personal technology the characters use, to drag the book into the digital age, but decided instead to leave everything as a shabby memorial to so much of what I loved, figuring that I haven’t really lost it if I can still remember it.