Friday, December 3, 2010
Just because it's a great opening doesn't mean it has to be the opening.
Heat radiated from the buildings, the street and the bronze sky. It was a rare and perfect double 99 in New York City: 99 degrees Fahrenheit, 99 percent humidity. Thank God it was Friday.
Office workers poured out of the tall buildings onto the sidewalks, sneaking out a couple of minutes before noon to get the jump on the crowd, grab a quick bite, maybe get in a little shopping before running back to their desks. They hit a wall of sweat and diesel-stained steam and kept going, shoulder to shouder, hip to hip. Juicy Fruit, Dentyne, Dubble Bubble and Black Jack, fossils of mastication spit out years ago and bonded as one with the concrete swelled, melted and stuck democratically to the soles of Ferragamos and Wal-Mart flip flops.
The traffic light went green, the old bus groaned, staggered into the intersection, knelt down and died in a spreading pool of hot, glistening oil. Horns sang in all directions. When the lights changed again, a freshly painted, pea green, deeply fragrant garbage truck with a car door stuck in its grill like a dog carrying a bone charged into the intersection....
Midtown traffic halted its funereal procession. Blocked solid. Heat, carbon monoxide, water vapor, petroleum fumes and the scent of hot garbage (a top note of rotting orange over deep resonate base line of liquefying chicken) rose in syrupy waves from the clogged river of overheating fossil-fuel burners. It was the day of the Great Lexington Avenue Lockdown. Gridlock spread from block to block like short circuits in the national power grid until it reached the front page of the evening papers and the prime opening spot on the six o’clock news.
The opening chapter of TAKEOVER (above) goes on to rise 43 stories overhead to a CEO’s spacious office where the air is as cool and fresh as an Adirondack summer day. It’s a good opening. The contrast between the hell on earth and the near paradise overhead goes on to give you some insight into the mind and method of top flight CEO, Don Cannon of Americon International. Don lies face down on the bottom of his corporate roof top pool at the end of the chapter.
A good opening, but now, I think, the wrong one.
The right opening, the one that really summons up the themes and drama with the whole orchestra and chorus is 85 pages later. A bored, retired hedge fund manager watches a man parasailing over a golf course in Sea Island, Georgia. “I kept thinking that the man hanging in the sky looked like a hanged man. Then it turned out he was.”
The man in the sky who’d gotten the tow rope wrapped around his neck was the CEO of a vast international paper company. The company drops ten points off it’s stock the next morning on the news. And the hedge fund manager thinks if the market values a dummy who can’t handle a tow rope that much, maybe there’s a lot of money to be made knocking off CEOs and shorting their stock.
I killed a couple of dozen CEOs in the book and I really enjoyed it. Especially the one where a tank drives through the Minneapolis mansion of a Big Pharma CEO. If we ever make a movie of TAKEOVER, that would be a lot of fun to shoot.