Paul J. Garth’s “Blood and Pavement” appears in the Winter 2014-15 issue of Needle: A Magazine of Noir, available in print. We asked him to explain how the story was written, how it came to exist.
The first draft of “Blood and Pavement” was written in a single night in a hotel room in Madison, Wisconsin. I had been working on another story for an open call anthology, but the story refused to come together, and the deadline was the next day. Unsure of what to do, only knowing I had to get something out, I closed the story I’d been obsessing over, opened a new document, and wrote.
There was no outline, no plot, no characters who’d already existed in my head. Instead, just the image of a black car on a empty Nebraska road, speeding through the night with its lights off, a man dying the backseat.
That version of “Blood and Pavement” is very different that the one now available in the Winter 2014/2015 issue of Needle, but the basics were there from the beginning.
The violence, the deal gone wrong, the relationship between Jed and Ben, and most importantly, the sense of spiritual longing.
Instead of plot, I think it was the spiritual aspect of the story that allowed me to finish the first draft so quickly. I’m still a young writer, but of the stories I have put out, I think a theme of spiritual confusion is pretty clear. It’s the blank page I return to every time I begin fleshing out an idea, and in this case, it was what carried me all the way through.
I’m not sure if my interest in the spiritual aspect of criminality is because I spent a large portion of my formidable years in South Carolina, surrounded by those who had faith and who proclaimed it with vigor, or because one of my favorite writers is Flannery O’Connor, or because I simply find crime fiction more interesting when there is more than bodily harm and cash money at risk. I want my crime fiction to come from a place where the crime itself is only an ugly outgrowth of an initial Sin, committed by one who knew it was wrong, but chose to do it anyway.
I don’t think of myself as a religious writer. Or that I’m attempting to advance any kind of specific theological agenda with my stories (I don’t think so anyway, though I think it’s pretty easy to see where I come down on the topic of pre-destination vs. free will). It’s simply that mans’s natural tastes for both violence and piety – and his ability to reconcile them in all kinds of horrible constructions – is a contradiction I’m constantly attempting to figure out.
Like Ben in “Blood and Pavement”, I think it comes down to the fact that I earnestly want to believe, but in my gut I’m afraid we’ve already gone too far down that lonely road, our lights off in the dark.
Postscript: I’d like to thank Steve Weddle, Chad Eagleton, Dyer Wilk, and J David Osborne for all the editing help and insight I received in making this story the best I could make it. No one writes alone.