Message From The Author

Author's Message

So I was drinking beer in Key Largo, sitting on the rickety deck of the rickety cabin my friend Sean Chercover had rented. Sean’s a novelist too, but we were down in Florida together to co-write a screenplay. Screenplays are best written somewhere warm—especially when you live in Chicago, and it’s February, and the suicide skies and banshee wind are slowly but inexorably breaking you. 

Anyway, we were playing dominoes in the sun and smoking cigars—smoking is bad for you but good for writing—and I was telling Sean about a character idea I had for my next novel. It was just a scrap, but it had been haunting me. The character was a guy whose wife, a television actress, had died young and unexpectedly. I could picture this poor man, lost in his grief, sitting on the couch in the blue wash of late night television, watching his dead wife’s show. Seeing her alive and vital and smiling, just as he remembered, preserved forever.

It was such a romantic image. And yet, it was a tragic one too, because that was as close as he could ever get to her. 

We talked about it for a while, and agreed that it was a terribly depressing idea, and that I should definitely not write about it. But as happens in the best discussions about writing and ideas, one thing led to another. We started kicking around notions of identity, of how the man wouldn’t really be watching his wife, he’d be watching her play a character. And after awhile, especially with the actual woman gone, that character would have more reality than the actress who portrayed her. 

Then we decided it was time for Cuban sandwiches.

I was pouring hot sauce on mine—everything is better with hot sauce—when Sean said, “Have you ever heard of Satchel Paige?”

When I said I hadn’t, he proceeded to give me a lengthy and pedantic history of Paige’s career as a baseball player. I zoned out. 

But then he said something interesting. Paige, who famously didn’t know his birth date, was asked by a reporter how he still seemed so young despite a long career. And he replied, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” 

It was one of those lightning strike moments. 

Because I found myself wondering, “Who would you be if you didn’t know who you was?” 

What if you woke up lost and alone with no memory of how you’d gotten there?

And what if, along with having to decide or discover everything about yourself, from how you liked your hamburger to whether you were capable of terrible things, what if you found yourself truly and deeply fascinated by a woman you saw on a television show? A vital, smiling woman, who seemed to be talking just to you.

How far would you go to find her—and to find yourself?

- Marcus Sakey


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