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I'm a business journalist and a fiction author. My novel Mute is available now from Silver Leaf Books.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What could inspire me to write something so outrageous?

Now that “Famous After Death” is finally out and people can actually read it (without hacking into my computer) I’m sure people who know me and race through the first chapter will wonder what inspired me to write this.

The thriller starts with three Miami teenagers dangling a blowup doll over a highway overpass at night and waiting to see what happens when a car smashes it. WTF are they thinking? It’s an adrenalin burst amid their mundane lives and a way to seek glory on social media. See, the camera is out.

They’re sitting on the edge, bubbling with laughter but deep down terrified at what could happen. It’s a rush, until the police car rolls under the street light.

You might think I couldn’t be more different from those teenage delinquents. Truth is, I know what they were feeling. I took part in some “pranks” as a teenager that could have ended badly but didn’t.

One time I hid behind a fence and threw apples at cars driving by. Did I consider what could happen if the flying fruit distracted the driver and led to an accident? No. I wanted to see something go splat. I nailed a convertible good. Then it stopped and the driver got out. It was a huge guy, with arms as wide as my head.

At 14, I was just as short as I am today. My friend ran but I stood there paralyzed as the hulking guy scaled the fence and stormed towards me. He hoisted me over his head with his arms fully extended. This is it, I thought, he’s going to power bomb me on the pavement Undertaker style.

The man set me down and walked away, his point proven. One would think I’d have learned my lesson. Not even close. I wanted to top it.

What can I say? I was an asshole. Ok, I’m still an asshole, but at least I’m not a stupid asshole.

The fortunate thing for me is there weren’t cell phone cameras and social media sites when I was a teen in the ‘90s. By the time those came about, I came to the revelation that destroying stuff for no reason wasn’t so funny…unless it has a New York Jets logo on it.

Teenage delinquents today don’t have it so easy. Everything in their lives is chronicled on social media, so why not their pranks? It’s not hard to find clips of teens lighting things on fire, fighting, and humiliating people. Most of these jerks haven’t figured out that immortalizing their faces online will make them unemployable, unless they want a part in the next Jackass movie. 

What if they were smarter than that? What if one of the teenage delinquents was computer savvy and posted the videos anonymously? That’s what happens in “Famous After Death” and praise from the sadistic fringe online inspires them to go bold for their next deadly pranks.

There’s this stage some teenagers have where they feel invincible yet they can’t comprehend the damage they can cause. Looking back, I’m relieved that no one got hurt because of me.

If I was a teenager today, I’m afraid how it would go. I might become famous for the wrong reason.