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Escape Plan

Escape from Dolphin Street is ending on March 25th, 2024, along with the rest of Punk Fiction shortly after. I like this juvenile delinquent story and its origins in true crime. It is a story that has followed me in its many iterations: screenplay, short story, and novel. The evolution of a story over time is quite amazing in the way small details take on life or side events become more of the focus. I feel this must be a characteristic of novelizations of films and of writing sequels or reboots of things. On the other hand, I do think all the iterations of Dolphin Street have suffered from my odd title choice. The original idea was to reflect a bit of dialogue that warns the runaways of the dangers they face. The gist of it is that dolphins are carefree runaways, and there are dangerous punks (sharks) lurking about on the street surf that they are unaware of until it is too late.


The inspiration for Dolphin Street began with a series of true crime stories I read in the Billings Gazette when I worked as a server at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park in 2002. At that time, I did not have a cell phone, nor would it have worked well in the park. The newspaper, a payphone, and the occasional ride hours away to a town where my only contacts to the larger world outside of nature and tourists. The story in the paper was about a group of messed-up street kids living on the wrong side of the tracks who were involved in a murder. They all had colorful names, like Knappy, who walked around in a trench coat with a sword under it; Sid, short for acid (LCD), which she loved tripping on; and Crackhead John, whose body was found under the trapdoor of an abandoned house. When I left the park, I visited Billings and saw some of the street kids outside a Denny’s, including Knappy. I also explored the town, and at that time it literally had a low-income area on the other side of the tracks. I saved the newspaper clippings and carried the idea for years until I combined it with the grunginess of Montrose, a once bohemian neighborhood of Houston—the city I grew up in.


Dolphin Street became my true crime Afterschool Special, and I leaned into the JD (juvenile delinquent) genre, even using the names of some of the films from the 1950s and 1960s with wayward youth as chapter titles. It was also my only novel, when I was with a small publisher, that had censorship issues due to its content. The truth is that based on the success of Wild Boys, my gay western, the publisher did not want a horror novel but more of the same. That issue, the teenage characters, an abortion, sexual violence, a nihilistic tone, and a bleak outlook caused quite a fight to rewrite for the market. I reluctantly did, but when I got the rights back, I made the story stronger again in both the novel version, Escape from Dolphin Street, and the feature screenplay version, Dolphin Street. A cool aside: the screenplay was a finalist at SCUFF (South Carolina Film Festival 2019) and a best original screenplay winner at Hollywood Blood Horror Fest. Anyway, it is time for this story to rest in peace.


I have also quietly set Timber Tantrum to out-of-print status on Kindle Vella with no fanfare. I had no traction, and the format is kind of weird with tokens and such. It always sounded like some sort of arcade trick. Anyway, KDP recently sent an email about the changing terms of Vella, going from the first three episodes being free to the first ten. Timber Tantrum is only eleven episodes long, so it was a no-brainer to pull the plug. I am not sure what I may do with the material at this time, except shelving it for now.


DS



Dolphin Street House
Dolphin Street House

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