I'm delighted to be sharing an extract as part of the blog tour for The Picture by Roger Bray. First of all though let's take a look at the description for the book...
A warehouse in Japan used as an emergency shelter in the aftermath of the 2011 Tsunami. A distraught, young Japanese woman in dishevelled clothes sits on a box, holding her infant daughter. Ben, a US rescue volunteer, kneels in front of her offering comfort. They hug, the baby between them. The moment turns into an hour as the woman sobs into his shoulder; mourning the loss of her husband, her home, the life she knew. A picture is taken, capturing the moment. It becomes a symbol; of help freely given and of the hope of the survivors. The faces in the picture cannot be recognised, and that is how Ben likes it. No celebrity, thanks not required.
Roger Bray on Amazon -
Context: Vince Brown is a key protagonist in the story, he hits on the idea of a reality TV show focusing on natural disasters. He thought of the idea after seeing how much money was donated after the Japanese Tsunami. In a chance meeting in a bar with a TV producer he lets the other man think that Vince is the key figure in an iconic picture taken during the Tsunami relief effort, which he is not. As a throwaway line he thought it unimportant but it takes on primary importance when the idea of a reality TV show is closer. This part is when Vince is just starting with his idea, as his celebrity begins to grow.
Vince Brown waited in the wings of the stage. He had already had a peak from behind the curtain at the audience that had begun filing in over the past thirty minutes.
Good crowd again, he thought, probably over a thousand, closer to fifteen hundred.
And at fifty bucks a head that makes it a nice seventy-five grand for the night.
Take away the cost of auditorium hire, staff, and his manager’s twenty-five percent, Vince was still going to clear at least forty-five thousand for the two-hour talk, and that was before, getting near the end, he would start talking about the cost of these relief efforts, and the staff would wander the hall with their buckets collecting whatever money the crowd would give. Of course, Vince always showed the most grueling photographs as his pitch was starting.
Pictures of the dirty children sitting in the gutters surrounded by the remains of their lives, the wailing women, and anguished fathers. If the experience of the previous talks he had given was any indication, he would rake in another twenty to twenty-five grand purely based on the gullibility and false sympathy of people.
Groups were best, group bookings, five or ten people who, once the buckets appeared, would try to outdo each other in the donations, especially the ones who considered themselves bleeding heart liberals, democrats with deep pockets, and social consciences.
Vince was making money, and that’s all that mattered. Hell, he would even give some to a charity or two. Not much but enough to keep the IRS off his ass, that and his creative bookkeeping would keep the money rolling in until he set up his own charitable trust, which he alone would control, and which would be charitable only as far as Vince Brown’s bank balance.
And Vince always made sure that the pictures showed people who were as close to the people in the hall as he could. A picture of some starving kid in Ethiopia with the distended belly and a stream of snot coming out of their nose did not bring in as much money as a picture of some kid after Hurricane Katrina, standing in the remains of their home, clutching onto their bedraggled pet and with a battered Stars and Stripes in the background. Black, white, or Asian, it didn’t matter what the ethnicity of the subject was, if there was a Stars and Stripes and destruction, it was a winner.
This was relief work, but not aid. That was Vince’s pitch. Aid was becoming a poisoned word. Folks were overloaded with aid pictures and a lot now thought that it was wasted with tin pot dictatorships skimming off the top, and the money never getting to where it should have gone.
Depending on where he had been so far, he had sold the idea based on whatever natural disaster could befall the people in the audience, what made them realize they were only a stroke of luck away from being the pictures flashing up on the big screen, a procession of pictures of increasingly devastating hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, or floods. Local people with local disasters, they had all seen the pictures of the neighboring town or county after a fire had ripped through it, or a district that had had multiple tornadoes touch down over a few days.
These are the things that were happening, and Vince wasn’t asking them to donate any money to him, was he? If they did feel the need though, to place some generous amount in the buckets coming around, well Vince would go out of his way to make sure it got to where it was needed, which in Vince’s reality was his back pocket.
And what would the money be used for?
Well, it was relief not aid. Being neighborly, helping folks, folks like them, when something terrible happened. If someone’s house burned down, well then, would we all as a community rally around and help them? Provide shelter and food, clothes and whatever else was needed. Well, of course we would, he even managed to twist Roosevelt’s hose pipe analogy to his own use and the audience would nod along in agreement with Vince’s folksy interpretation.
He would tell of his experiencing this on a large scale, he knew how devastating these events were, Katrina, and wildfires and, of course the Japanese tsunami.
And then the picture would flash up, large and bright on the screen and the audience would applaud wildly and thrust their hands into pockets and purses determined to help.
And the money rolled in.
I have always loved writing; putting words onto a page and bringing characters to life. I can almost feel myself becoming immersed into their lives, living with their fears and triumphs. Thus, my writing process becomes an endless series of questions. What would she or he do, how would they react, is this in keeping with their character? Strange as it sounds, I don’t like leaving characters in cliffhanging situations without giving them an ending, whichever way it develops.My life to date is what compels me to seek a just outcome, the good will overcome and the bad will be punished. More though, I tend to see my characters as everyday people in extraordinary circumstances, but in which we may all find our selves if the planets align wrongly or for whatever reason you might consider.
Of course, most novels are autobiographical in some way. You must draw on your own experiences of life and from events you have experienced to get the inspiration. My life has been an endless adventure. Serving in the Navy, fighting in wars, serving as a Police officer and the experiences each one of those have brought have all drawn me to this point, but it was a downside to my police service that was the catalyst for my writing.
Medically retired after being seriously injured while protecting a woman in a domestic violence situation I then experienced the other side of life. Depression and rejection. Giving truth to the oft said saying that when one door closes another opens I pulled myself up and enrolled in college gaining bachelor and master degrees, for my own development rather than any professional need. The process of learning, of getting words down onto the page again relit my passion for writing in a way that I hadn’t felt since high school.
So here we are, two books published and another on track.
Where it will take me I have no idea but I am going to enjoy getting there and if my writing can bring some small pleasure into people’s lives along the way, then I consider that I will have succeeded in life.