Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Eric Jerome Dickey: It Happened One Night

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 12:37 PM

In last year's novel, A Wanted Woman (now in paperback), author Eric Jerome Dickey took readers on a wild, often very violent ride across the country and including Memphis, where his lead character, a woman named Reaper, once lived.

But as Dickey writes in the acknowledgments to his latest novel, this time out he wanted to “create something smaller, less populated, a novel that used fewer locations.” Then he adds:

“Did my best to leave out the guns. I did. I promise. I really tried.”

And Dickey has, mostly: left out the guns. He’s pared down the action. He’s scaled back on the number of characters. And so, instead of a cast of untrustworthy, unsavory men and women, Dickey’s focused on two main characters: a woman named Jackie and a guy known simply as the “man from Orange County” — an “O.C. dude” to Jackie’s first-person narrator, who’s just an “L.A. girl.”

Dickey has trimmed way back on the number of settings as well: a gas station, a Denney’s, a movie theater, a 7-Eleven, and a hotel room. So too on the time frame: 6:31 p.m. to 6:31 a.m. — dusk to dawn and hence the title of Dickey’s new novel, One Night (Dutton).

But downsizing on the sex, a Dickey trademark? No way. Things between Jackie and her man start rocking at 10:32 p.m., and they’re still rocking hours later, with some quieter cuddling at the 3:56 a.m. mark.

That isn’t what gives One Night a special quality in the long list of works by Eric Jerome Dickey, who grew up in Memphis and attended the University of Memphis and who’s gone on to write nearly two dozen novels, a screenplay, and a miniseries of graphic novels. What’s special is the dialogue in One Night — the back and forth between Jackie and the man from Orange County, their give and take on what it means to be black in contemporary America, to be rich and poor in contemporary America. It’s talk that gradually reveals just who this L.A. girl and her O.C. guy actually are, until, in the novel’s closing pages, yes, there is a gun.

“Why would a guy like you want to talk to a girl like me on a night like this?” Jackie says near the beginning of One Night.

It’s Christmastime in Los Angeles — chilly, rainy. Jackie is in the parking lot of a gas station off of 605 and dressed like a Best Buy employee. She’s playing a short con called “rocks in a box,” and the well-dressed, well-spoken man from Orange County is pretty sure there’s no MacBook Pro I in the sealed box Jackie’s trying to sell. What he should be more sure of, though, is the electronic trail of his charge-card history and his wife’s access to that history. The wife? He — and we — learn eventually that she's running her own con, and it's a long one.

So too: the long back stories, the hurt lives of Jackie and her Orange County dude, back stories that Dickey skillfully brings to light. Rest assured, though, that in the end Jackie does get her reality check. And you, naive reader, will learn the definition of a “ramping shop.” •
Eric Jerome Dickey will be signing One Night at The Booksellers at Laurelwood on Friday, April 24th, at 6:30 p.m. For more on the author, visit his website here.

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