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Clay Reynolds

When it comes to fiction on gangs, secret-underworld organizations, or our corrupt government (Please excuse the redundancy of the last two categories), it's easy to get caught up in all of the action and the hidden agendas within the plot. What's not so easy all of the time is to get caught up in the characters and the setting for such a story. Most stories tend to make a character almost super-human or incredibly intellectual while the locale is some unrealistic god-forsaken place or in a city which you may be familiar with, but know that the locations do not or could not exist. Well, it's time for a breath of fresh air…

Welcome to the world of Players, where the locations are realistic and the characters could just as likely be your next door neighbor, a co-worker, or a well-known public entity that you would never suspect of getting their grimy little paws dirty. If you liked the style of the movie Pulp Fiction, then you're going to love this! Denton, Texas author Clay Reynolds explains how he came about the realistic settings for Players.

“I'm a native Texan. I grew up in Quanah. I was educated in Austin and San Antonio at the University of Texas and Trinity University, and then I went on to Tulsa to do my Phd. When I finished that, I relocated to Beaumont where I was teaching at Lamar University when I published the novels [The Vigil and Rage, both published in 1986]. In 1988, I relocated to Denton and taught at The University of North Texas for about 5 years and then I started writing full-time. When I did my third novel, Franklin's Crossing [1992], I did an extensive amount of geographic research. It's set in 1875 Texas. I've traveled all over the southwest and I'm fairly familiar with the southwest Texas as well as the United States.”

Players begins with a heated car chase across a vast, wide-open range in Texas as a small-time hood by the name of Raul Castillo is being chased by another vehicle filled with professionals. Needless to say, Raul gets shot and drives his '68 Camaro off an earthen dam, destroying the car and Raul (unlike action movies where the car is in great shape and keeps going). Raul does survive…for one more page. Long enough to be kicked while he's down. Thus begins the long line of deaths that occur throughout the book. And that's only page 3.

The main story actually revolves around Eddy Lovell, his estranged family, and a few criminals. Lovell is a down-on-his-luck ex-jock that never quite made the big time due to an injury. Not being the most brilliant guy in the world, hes stuck working dead-end jobs in the Dallas area for minimum wage with an ex-wife that's caught up in drugs and alcohol, and his daughter Barbara. To make a little extra cash, Eddy takes some guys up on an offer as a diversion in a robbery for what turns out to be a briefcase with a sole CD containing a very powerful program. As luck would have it, Eddy gets shot in the deal and sent off to prison for something totally unrelated. While in prison, he helps save a guy named Moria from becoming the girlfriend of some of the long-time residents. Once Moria gets out, he has connections to speed up Eddy's release and coerces Eddy to become his driver, assisting with his various business deals. All goes well for a time, until Moria receives the head of his right-hand man, Cole. That's when the story comes back around to the CD that had been stolen, taking Eddy and Moria to Houston and throughout Texas, but they are unaware of the CD and its involvement in this deadly game.

In the meantime, certain parties interested in the CD arrange to have Barbara kidnapped in exchange for the CD, but the two losers sent to Hollywood to do the job nab her friend, Vickie, an aspiring. Barbara and her policeman/boyfriend Sandobal take chase, trying to locate Vickie on a wild trip across the deserts of the southwest, not far from El Paso, in a little place known as Balmorhea where one of the most thrilling and interesting climaxes of this genre takes place.

The plot is a lot more intricate than this, with an abundance of backstabbing, murder, violence, lies, a lot of dark humor and a few stabs at some local establishments (i.e. The World of God Tabernacle in Carrollton, Texas), and everything else that makes for excitement and entertainment. But telling even some of these intricacies will blow a lot of surprises that occur throughout Players.

Reynolds does a superb job of keeping Players interesting by fluctuating between Eddy and the other characters as he develops the characters between current events and their past, revealing what makes each of them tick and how they got themselves all caught up in this mess, all without the stereotypical clichés of most stories.

“I try to be real sensitive to the idea of stereotyping clichés. That's why I made Moria short and fat, not big, threatening and handsome. Eddy is a big strong guy, but is also sort of weak in his willingness to take on a fight and that sort of thing. He looks mean, but isn't. I had a whole lot of fun with the characters. The characters were the best part about writing it. They were just delightful to work with. In fact, I think I could have made the book twice as long just by going through more backstory and developing them more.”

Despite the thrill of writing Players, Reynolds admits that the book wasn't the easiest task.

“I got stuck on the book. I didn't know what was in the damn briefcase! That was a real problem. I had set up the theft and the robbery of the Purolater truck, but the one thing that I didn't want to do and really wanted to avoid was putting something in the briefcase which was a cliché. I didn't want money, because you can't get that much money in a briefcase anyway. Silver Certificates have been done to death. Diamonds, dope, I certainly didn't want to do dope. So what's worth that much carnage and that much desperation? I was stuck on that for a good long while. Really for several months. I didn't do any writing for a long time. In fact, I flew to New York and my agent and I were having dinner and talked about it. Then I remember walking through Little Italy after dinner and I said 'I don't know what's in the damn briefcase.' He said 'Well figure it out.' So I got back to Texas and my wife was having some minor surgery and I was in the waiting room in one of the local hospitals. While I was watching the TV set, PBS was on and they were doing this program on this guy with a computer and he was demonstrating how he could learn information about people. He picked Dan Quayle, who happened to be Vice President at the time. He ran Quayle's name through the computer. Some very fundamental information was available that he was able to pull off the Internet. At that time, which was just a couple of years ago and is how fast this stuff grows, this was something not everybody could do. The capability was there, but not everyone had the technical ability in their homes. This guy is sitting in his living room and he pulls Dan Quayle's social security number, then his driver's license number and some other information. In the space that it takes less time to tell, he told us what Dan Quayle had for dinner last night! The interviewer calls the White House and asks whoever answers what the dinner menu had been the night before. He was right! Right down to the dessert! It was incredible! He says 'This technology is available and it's just a program.' I was watching this, then I remembered reading Jurassic Park and there was the program that had the matching of DNA that works at a very high-speed that put together numerical matches. I thought that if you put those two ideas together [numerical matching and prying into personal lives via a name and a little information] what you come up with is a very scary thing. You ask a question and different permeations of numbers until you come up with the answer. If you can do this in nanoseconds…you could learn anything you wanted to know. You could do anything. That was my "Eureka"!”

Orwell may have introduced the general population to "Big Brother," but Reynolds drives that point closer to home as most of today's society can relate to what the CD is capable of doing.

Clay Reynolds' first two books are out of print, but his other novels are available at Barnes and Noble as well as Amazon Bookstore on the Internet. Look for more in the future, and if you can't wait that long…take a class.

“This fall, I accepted a full-time position with University of Texas at Dallas. I'll be teaching screenwriting and fiction writing as well as literature.”

Ethan Nahté

Originally published in Gentlemen's Cabaret in 1998.

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