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Suitcase City

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A haunting Florida-based literary thriller in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock.

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Sterling Watson’s Author Statement for Suitcase City

Two of my novels have come to me in dreams. Suitcase City is one of them. I often have what my dreaming mind convinces me are good ideas for stories, but I don’t often remember the ideas when I wake up. I dreamt the first forty pages or so of Suitcase City vividly, and did remember the characters and their actions in the morning. I went to my computer (no shower, no breakfast, no coffee), and wrote the dream as fast as I could type, as though I were taking dictation from some source—a voice, a . . . presence. I know how odd, mystical, even adolescent this sounds, but I swear it’s true. I hasten to add that during most of my writing life I have labored more like a bank teller than a mystic dreamer (set hours, discipline, logic and reason balancing intuition and accident) but twice, for reasons I can’t explain, my dreams have delivered books to me.

I got the first forty pages of Suitcase City from a dream, but the rest of the novel had to be worked out through the usual process of trial and error, direction by indirection, and fumbling in the dark—what the novelist and poet Fred Chappell called “saintly tedium.”

As the story developed, I became fascinated by the theme of preemptive violence. When is it right to strike first? What rights can a man claim who strikes first and what rights must he forfeit after striking the first blow? Every blow invites another, and once begun, how does the cycle of violence end? How could I make the cycle end with actions not like the punches of exhausted fighters but like the last strains of a good song, the only possible notes?

I have always loved stories about people who are up against it, whose backs are to the wall, whose heels are halfway over the precipice even as they fight to stand their ground. Suitcase City begins with an ordinary man on an ordinary day finding himself suddenly, extraordinarily faced with a decision—to strike or to restrain his hand. He strikes because he believes he has to, and trouble rolls down like mighty waters. Will he work himself out of trouble or drown in it, and what will be the condition of his soul when the story ends? These are the questions Suitcase City asks.

—Sterling Watson



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