One of those things is how the status quo of the time couldn’t remain standing. 1957 was a great year in a great decade for Americans. Many Americans, but not all.
Already, cracks in the facade were beginning to show. And in the decade that followed, they’d explode full-force.
Kinda like a truck going off a bridge and crashing into a train — if you know what I mean.
Anyway, of the many challenges my protagonist Nick Pente faces, one of the most remarkable is racism. Not against him, really. Although he’s ethnically Greek, it never stopped him from getting a table in a restaurant. No — the challenge to Nick shows through in what he allows himself to dream about. He knows deep-down that the idyllic life in suburban Chicago he desires just isn’t going to work with him married to a Hopi maiden.
And then there’s the case of Shelby Howell. He inspires Nick to consider what might be in the trailer he’s been towing up and down Route 66. He’d never paused to think about the load he was carrying: His baggage.
Throughout the story there are hints of things that were taken for granted in a time when race and ethnicity were very real things. For many people alive at the time, it was all they needed to form a judgment. Readers from younger generations might be shocked. But then, maybe not.
Anyway, pick up your copy of Eye of the Diamond-Ttoday and see what I mean. There’s a lot of meaning folded into Nick’s last journey down Route 66.
I’ve been a fan of the writings of Paul Fussell since reading The Great War and Modern Memoryin college. It laid out for me — for the first time — the origins of what I had come to know as the “modern world.” At some point in the past a cynical edge had come over society. The stark futility of World War One had set the course for the Europe’s descent into skepticism and irony, though that particular wave didn’t hit America until Vietnam.
The hero of my story is in a rush to join up with the infantry in 1944, feeling that it held the ability to wash him of his shame and personal doubts from his horrible childhood. It ends up only intensifying both. Fussell’s view of war inspired Nick Pente’s experience, but it was his attribution of the great social changes brought by mechanized large-scale combat that really formed my vision of what the book was to be about. Nick is both a hero and a victim. The way he’s seen most depends on the cultural attitudes of the reader.