Friday, September 02, 2011

Jim Winter's Road Rules Cyber Road Trip

Just What The Heck Is A Chest Of St. Jakob?

When I originally sketched the story that became Road Rules, I needed what the great Alfred Hitchcock called “the MacGuffin,” the object that causes all the trouble. The MacGuffin is a time-honored tradition in thrillers, crime fiction, mysteries, and the odd comedy. Hitchcock, who coined the phrase, once said you didn’t really even need to know what it was until you almost finished the film.

You can see a classic example of this in the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only. In that movie, one of the best of the Roger Moore films, Bond is chasing a control device for Britain’s submarine-based nuclear arsenal across the Mediterranean, leading to a climactic showdown with the KGB and one of the best lines in a Bond movie: “Détente, General. I don’t have it. You don’t have it.” The thing is, EON Productions had absolutely no idea what Roger Moore was going to toss over the side of a cliff until right before principle photography began. And yet it fit smoothly into the story.

I needed a MacGuffin for Road Rules. I knew early on that the Cadillac would be involved. But a little research revealed that a 1962 Cadillac Coupe deVille would not really warrant the chaos I planned to create. Even making it the limo of a reputed mobster like Sam Giancana or Carlo Gambino wouldn’t help. But what did Cleveland have that could cause so much havoc?

It had St. Stanislaus, the large Catholic Church in the heart of Slavic Village. Which meant Cleveland had a bishop. In fact, at the time I started working on Road Rules, Bishop Anthony Pilla was plotting his retirement, which meant Cleveland would soon get a new bishop. If the bishop had a flair for the theatrical, it might involve a holy relic coming to Cleveland. Given that Cleveland still has a very large Polish community, whose epicenter was St. Stanislaus.

Of course, I didn’t want to misuse St. Stanislaus. Plus a four-hour trip to Cleveland to shoot photos and bug the priests was not really feasible. So I created St. Jakob’s. And since we needed a St. Jakob, I created one, St. Jakob of Danzig. Couple that with a bored Sunday afternoon watching The History Channel, and I was able to see a special on holy relics of the Catholic Church, including the bones of various saints. One in particular, those of Saint Nicholas (Yes, the original Santa Claus), stuck out for me. So, throw the bones in an ornate chest, send it to Cleveland so a new bishop can make a big splash with his new flock, throw in one shady insurance adjuster to steal it, and we’re off to the races.

A race down I-77 to South Carolina, but off to the races just the same.

You can buy a copy at Amazon, B&N, or Smashwords.

No comments: