Craig Allen Heath
On Being a 60-Year-Old (Literary) Virgin
Updated: Jun 18, 2022
Actually, I just turned sixty-four, but my literary virginity is about to be lost. My debut novel, Where You Will Die, will come out this fall.
It all started fifty years before, up against a spare bedroom door in the palatial New York mansion home of Don Vito Corleone.
If you were a bored, fourteen-year-old suburban Los Angeles boy in the summer of 1972, without the means to go to camp or play sports or do anything else requiring money, you had few choices. Getting into trouble in one form or another was always just a late-night bike ride away. If you were a skinny nerd who feared your parents, and the police, the pickings were slimmer. But, like now, one option is always available to skinny nerds: read a book.
In the summer of 1972, I was one of those skinny, nerdy, broke, goody-two-shoes fourteen-year-old suburban boys.
Mario Puzo's novel, The Godfather, had been out for three years and the movie was all the rage, but my empty pockets and the newly established movie rating of R meant I couldn't see it for three years. But there, in the tiny built-in bookshelves next to our modest suburban rabbit hutch fireplace, sat the 1970 Fawcett-Crest paperback edition. My mother read as much as she could while raising three children and hating her life, and she'd always encouraged the habit, so I picked it up.
Within the hour I had abandoned reading and was furiously scribbling prose on lined schoolwork paper in a three-ring binder. I'd read only as far as pages 22 through 24, the sex scene between Lucy Mancini and Sonny Corleone. Ablaze with pubescent hormones and an overactive imagination, I decided in that moment I wanted to write novels, or, at the very least, a sex scene like the one I'd just read.
I never did finish reading the book.
The next morning, after a restless night of trying to sleep, writing, masturbating, then writing more, I announced to my parents that my career plans of being an astronaut, deep-sea explorer or policeman were all now tossed aside as childish wishes. I would be an author, I said, or words to that effect I don't remember. My mother was wearily enthusiastic, and my father risked a hernia to drag an aging, all-steel, 1950's-era Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter out of the closet and put it on the desk in my bedroom. I slid sheet after sheet of lined school paper into the carriage and two-fingered my handwritten work onto the pages in smudgy, dark black Serif Elite type.
I managed to write my sex scene on or about page thirty and faced my first episode of writer's block. I didn't have a story, just a burning adolescent desire to do adult things, like publish a novel and experience sex.
From that summer to this, one of those goals has eluded me.
I've written a great deal in those fifty years, from poems and songs to short stories and news flashes, from film and stage scripts to comedy sketches. I once managed to get myself a regular column in a regional weekly that lasted about seven months before it was pulled by the editors who called it "obtuse, and unfriendly to the reader." I wear that appellation today like a medal.
I've also made my living by writing in one form or another since the mid-1980's. I've written product catalogs and business school manuals, chamber of commerce newsletters and advertisements, software technical specifications and end user guides, system analyses and business justifications for new products, and much more. It's earned me a decent living and I don't begrudge a single word I've turned out for somewhere between one and fifty cents each.
But that novel, like chasing a sprite in a recurring dream, has always been just one step ahead of my outstretched hand.
Until now, or rather, soon.
I don't yet have a publication date, but I'm eyeing early fall. Right now, the manuscript is in the hands of a capable editor who is performing the final review before it is sent to be prepared for publication. I am also collaborating with a brilliant designer on a cover that I am falling in love with (the cover, not the designer), and I'll be giving sneak previews of the cover and the text over the next weeks and months.
No sex scenes in this one, I'm afraid. Check back next time.
If you'd like to get those sneak peeks early and be invited to pre-sales and special offers come publication day, please visit my site to learn more about the book and sign up to get email notices.
I'm a little old for a coming out party, but I hope you'll come and celebrate with me.