The Curse of Dolphin Street
The Curse of Dolphin Street began a long time ago. In 2002, I worked a season in Yellowstone National Park as a server at the Old Faithful Inn. I went alone. The scenery was breathtaking, yet harsh. The snow was up to the roofs of some buildings when I arrived in May, reminding me of The Shining. The park has a dark side of people falling into hot springs or mud pots and burning alive or melting, bear attacks, and most common bison attacks. The stories reinforced the idea of never getting off the path. I mention this because I am drawn to dark things or maybe they are drawn to me. In that vein, I started getting the Billings, Montana newspaper from the gift shop and discovered a true crime story that was shocking. There were a series of articles about some street punks who lived on the wrong side of the tracks and had possibly killed one of their own. A body had been found under a house and the odd assortment of characters included Knappy, Syd (short for acid) and Crackhead John. The colorful story stayed with me. I left the park before the end of the season as I felt under the weather. I needed some time before taking the long twenty-four Greyhound bus ride to Galveston, where my mom lived at the time, so I stayed in Billings. In the small town surrounded by wonderful nature, I discovered a punk rock cafe (the roadkill dish on the menu was delicious) and an unmarked gay bar. I went to a minor league game of The Mustangs and explored the town finding that there was a wrong side of the tracks. Some of what I saw in Billings ended up in my novella, Where the Road Roams, but that is a different story. I saw some of the street punks hanging around even going into a Denny’s . I felt like Pierce Brosnan in Nomads, the film where his character became obsessed with a gang of supernatural punks. I never approached them like he did, but I watched and sometimes observing is enough.
The idea stuck with me. Around 2005, while living in the Montrose near downtown Houston, Texas, I wrote a short screenplay about runaways that run into the wrong punks. My protagonist were Jason, Kelly, and Tanya all from suburbia and alternative in the Hot Topic way. And to the villains, I added Hex as a rough butch partner to Syd, Liev a pseudo skinhead and de facto leader of the gang, and a hulking shadowy figure named Hound. A news story that happened in the Montrose was also an influence at the time. The story was about some street punks that held someone hostage in a closet and burned and tortured them for a week, horrible stuff that makes you look at your neighborhood in a different light when you walk down the street. Later on, the short version of the script evolved into a short story and was originally in the Dark Lands anthology from 2010, long out of print.
After the crazy experience of Spiked in 2009, a short film with Mike James and Jason Swarthout, we were looking to do a follow-up. Dolphin Street seemed like a natural fit to the underground Montrose films we were developing. We became overly ambitious and decided to go for a full length screenplay. I fleshed out the opening in suburbia and most importantly added the character Adam, who was friend’s with John and knew the gang of street punks. Jason became the focus and the view of other scenes shifted. I also had some scenes that played one way and later turned out to be different. There was even a scene with a made-up band, Institutionalized, at a club called Visions which was a fictional version of Numbers. The opening and closing had newspaper clippings of the crimes and even some statistics. All in all the story was fleshed out in a better way. Things looked good until filming began and the project slowly fell apart with one problem after another. In reflection, it was too ambitious at that time.
In 2014 I was looking to follow up Wild Boys Trilogy and The Trouble with Furries with another book. I have always been a horror fan since my earliest years of discovering monster and slasher films on VHS and reading Fangoria magazine. I decided to revisit Dolphin Street and labored on taking the long screenplay and turning it into a novel. The act was rewarding as I could go into the character Jason’s head and give the story more depth. I even gave him a brother who had runaway years before. Some weird dream imagery came into play on the page, adding to Jason’s psyche. I added a new opening and a crazy extended ending that went in a direction that Rob Zombie would get. The vibe was of an After School Special that went to hell. Unfortunately, I had a romance style publisher at that time and felt the need to add some sex and romance features to the horror. When I submitting it, it was denied. I was shocked and had to deal with censorship for the first time. I had to change some things, just words here and there, to get it passed. In 2015 the retitled Escape from Dolphin Street came out and did not do as well as my western or the furry book as it was too dark for the romance crowd.
In 2017, when I retained all the rights to my previously published works, I took a new pass at it and took some romance out and added some other elements back in. Feedback from a past reader, caused me to answer the question of Trevor, Jason’s lost brother. I also got a kick out naming each chapter after a juvenile delinquent films from the fifties and sixties. The final version with its punk rock flaws and all was released on September 27th, 2017.
Why I am writing about the curse? Sometimes a story does not die. It keeps coming back from its shallow grave. For three weeks in September, on top of everything else and while having the flu, I rewrote the screenplay. Now simply titled, Dolphin Street, it is a hybrid of the original long screenplay and parts of the book and it is the last time I will visit these characters as long as they stay buried.