This is an accidental novel, I suppose. A friend gave me a collection of matches, and we’re still unsure where they came from. Estate sale, flea market, ebay - can’t quite recall. But most of the collection was specific to a time and place: Ohio in the 50s and 60s. Whoever assembled the collection had an eclectic eye; he saved the things others might toss. There were quite a few devoted to the matchbook profession as well, and I wondered if he hadn’t been in the business.
At first I just wrote a few sentences speculating where the matches came from, how we got them. Before long, though, a character emerged: a man in his early thirties who worked for a promotion company, designing and selling matchbooks. He lived in Cleveland; he was single. Did I want to write a novel about him? I did not.
Didn’t know anything about Cleveland, for one thing.
Instead I decided to treat the project as a fiction-writing exercise: every day I’d choose a book, start writing, and stop after a maximum of 30 minutes. No peeking ahead to the next book; no planning ahead. Just start the stopwatch and start writing. The more I did it, the more I got to know Joe; the more certain patterns emerged, and the more challenging the project became. If you propose something in one chapter, you have to trust you’ll be able to resolve it, regardless of what match may come up. Two story arcs eventually surfaced, as you’ll see.
I stopped the project in 2005. That’s the 1955 batch.
The story resumes two years later, with another 50 episodes. (This time the matches were chosen at random, instead of alphabetical order.) The story will finish in 1959, eventually.
I had more fun writing 1957 than almost anything else I’ve done. I regret to note that it is a pay site, at least for the next year and a half. Don’t worry, it won't be that expensive - details in a few days at the Bleat.
Welcome him back. If you’ve already read 1955, the next batch will feel like he never went away.