NEWSLETTER NO 5 - LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
As the readers of my Hartmann Series know, I frequently use real businesses and locations in my novels (Le Central Bistro in San Francisco, Silver Dollar Hofbrau in Fresno, Spago in Beverly Hills, 48 Lounge in New York). I also include locations such as the IRS Service Center in Fresno and FBI Special Agent Hartmann’s apartment in San Francisco.
An author has to be careful in using existing business names to avoid becoming involved in litigation. When I use an existing location, I follow the industry practice of not saying anything negative about the location. Also, it is my practice not to kill someone off at a real location unless it’s a recognized public place like the IRS Service Center in Fresno. I’m definitely not going to poison someone in an established real restaurant but as my wife, friends, and many a waiter or bartender know, I will often plot the murder of someone while eating or imbibing at that location.
I prefer to use a real location that I know when writing a story. FBI Special Agent Hartmann’s second office in San Francisco, is Le Central Bistro, where I have sat at the bar many a lunchtime and afternoon. It was a regular Friday afternoon meeting spot with a number of business buddies and ‘yes,’ the ‘Mischievous Irregulars’ mentioned in my novels does exist. There is a plaque on the back wall of the bar with the names of several business colleagues and myself on it. I understand that It is still the Friday hangout for San Francisco’s former Mayor Willie Brown who, when I was still going there was often visited by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and numerous other political and social figures. The description of such a meeting is described in my novel ‘Death & Taxes.’
I just found out that the Silver Dollar Hofbrau in Fresno has closed after 35 years. No, it was not because Hartmann and his crew were mentioned eating there in ‘Death & Taxes,’ but rather according to an interview with its owner by the Fresno Bee, “. . .the outside world has changed. . . time has passed us by. Everyone has moved north. People don’t want quality food anymore.” He then added, “A heavy police presence in the area aimed at cutting back on drinking and driving also affected business.”
For ‘Death & Taxes’ my wife Coleen and I did visit the Fresno IRS Service Center where I took pictures of the facility. My wife is sure the IRS has us on tape from the CCTV cameras located around the place. I'm probably on some subject of interest list in D.C.
On that same trip in doing research for the book, we drove through the area of Fresno known as the Dog Pound, which was control by the Bulldog Street Gang. Yes, both the gang and the area are depicted in my novel. When we had dinner that night with some friends who live in Fresno, we were advised they had never been to that neighborhood and that it was not safe for outsiders. At that time even the Fresno Police did not go into the area.
Both Hartmann’s apartment in San Francisco and his parents’ home in West Hollywood were places where I actually lived. My wife and I did live in the former manager's apartment which had been expanded and upgraded on Russian Hill adjacent to Lombard Street (The famous one-block section, claimed as "the most crooked street in the world"). We could hear the cars screeching down Lombard, but had a great view of Alcatraz to the North and Coit Tower to the East.
I was brought up on Huntley Drive in West Hollywood. My dad paid $380 for the lot and built a Spanish style home in 1926 for $6,000. The house is still there, and according to an internet property value website is now worth $1,300,000. It drives me crazy in writing my novels having to change the timeframe from when I was living there to current times. When I was growing up, Hollywood was filled with orange groves and Sunset Boulevard was lined with Poinsettia fields owned by our neighbors the Eckes.
Sometimes you have to use a location that you have never visited. For example, in my second novel ‘Death on the High Seas,’ (soon to be published) I ended up using the 48 Lounge in New York. Hartmann claims this place as one of his old watering holes. I wanted to use Hurley’s in Rockefeller Center, which I did frequent. I had met a lot of AP and NBC reporters there, but that location is now closed, and so, based on research on hot spots in NYC, I selected the 48 Lounge, which is close to where Hurley’s was located and is a current hot spot. My research was based on their website and reviews by patrons on various restaurant review sites.
For the same book, I have Hartmann chasing a perp to Mumbai, India where the concept of Bollywood is explored. You have to read the book to understand why, but it does help solve the crime. My wife interrupted my research on this location when she heard traffic and people shouting coming from my office. I was playing on my computer a video filmed by a British couple on holiday of their cab ride from the Mumbai Airport to their hotel in downtown Mumbai. If you think driving in U.S. cities is a challenge, you should watch this video.
A location that I’m holding in reserve for future use is New York’s Monkey Bar on East 54th Street. One evening I was sitting at a table in the bar when a small group sat next to us. We learned over time that the group was headed by a local Madam who was trolling for new talent for her so-called escort service. Boy, was that an interesting evening. She eventually left with some talent in her black stretch limo.
As you can see, developing a location for your plot can be fun for both the author and the reader.
Your comments and suggestions are always appreciated.
Richard V. Rupp
P.S. I have found it is easier to read my newsletters on my website than in an email. Suggest you go to www.richardvrupp.com