by Larry Constantine
I’m not a boomer—too old—and I do not write boomer lit. I write intrigue and action-filled page-turners. True, some of my recurring characters are almost as old as I am, and in The Rosen Singularity, a work that walks a wobbly line between literary fiction and thriller, some of the players are much older than any human being has a right to be. (To fully understand that throwaway line, you will just have to read the book.)
If you pick up any of my novels, make sure your pacemaker is functioning, because my readers are taken on a figurative rollercoaster and may even end up shouting at the pages.
Besides giving readers an amusement park ride, I write to get people thinking.
Among my interests is the part that age and age differences plays in love and friendship. One of the central characters in my first novel, Bashert, is Karl Lustig, who emerges as a protagonist for the entire Homeland Connection series. Karl starts out as a settled and self-sufficient older bachelor who gets manipulated by a manufactured mystery into a connection with a significantly younger woman, the widow of a college chum. Their relationship evolves over four novels, reaching a point where Shira has to step in and take the strong, decisive lead in looking after an incapacitated Karl.
The screenplay that has been written for Bashert and is now being floated under the working title, “Destined,” highlights the dilemma my story creates. The screenwriter rejected the core bit of subtext and made Karl much younger and a contemporary of Shira. This basement-level renovation not only compressed the time span of the novel, simplifying filming, but would make the couple ever so much easier for the movie-going public to identify with. So the argument goes.
There is still plenty of action and suspense in the script, but the age issue and the dynamics it introduces have been rubbed out. The opening scene of the screenplay is straight out of my prologue—I tend to write quite cinematic fiction—and most of the dialogue is taken almost verbatim from the book, which pleases me no end, since reading dialogue aloud and revising repeatedly are important parts of my writing process.
All in all, the screenplay is very good, and a savvy studio would be smart to option it before some competitor gets to film the first Lior Samson blockbuster. But it is a very different tale than the one I told. That in itself is to be expected; feature films and novels are profoundly different art forms. My disappointment—which I expect may vanish the moment I step onto the red carpet at the world premiere of the movie—is that one of the important pieces of what the story and series is about—age—has been lost. If the first film is a success and the other novels become onscreen sequels, the heroes will have to continue as an ordinary, middle-age couple stumbling onto and defeating terrorist plots. Heck, it could even be the basis of a television series. I can see it all now.
There are, of course, plenty of “older” protagonists in movies, television, and fiction in general, and aging has been at or near the heart of a number of Hollywood hits—“Driving Miss Daisy” and “The Notebook” spring to mind—but I was trying for something different. I wanted age and age difference to be important but incidental, as in real life, where we are not defined by our ages or the differences in or ages, but where these are nevertheless unavoidable subtexts in the narrative of our lives.
Larry Constantine is a designer and university professor who writes fiction under the pen name Lior Samson. His most recent novel, Chipset, is the sweeping conclusion to the four-volume Homeland Connection series of techno-thrillers. He teaches at the University of Madeira, Portugal, where much of the action in Chipset is set. He is working on his sixth novel, his first murder mystery, which also explores the role of age in human relationships. He is known among family and friends as an inspired chef, resonant baritone, and sometime composer of choral music.