My next novel (in progress) is a very different animal. Workingly titled Rider Keene, it’s the story of the titular character, the elder of two brothers in a family of Irish-American jewelers in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Spanning forty years of the last century, spun out in three parallel narrative threads, the book tells the story of how a family drifts almost unintentionally into a life of crime, beginning in part one with the black market in World War II and continuing on into a brash new post-war America.
Cast out from the Bay Area after an unsuccessful power struggle with his younger brother for control of the family’s burgeoning criminal empire, part two finds Rider roaming the country in exile, putting his only true skill to use: ending the lives of lost men in bad trouble.
Until the moment comes when it’s time to return to San Francisco in part three and exact revenge.
Rider’s San Francisco > back to top
Rider is born in 1930, so he comes of age during the 1940’s and ’50’s. At that time, the Mission District was predominantly Irish-American, a close-knit working class enclave where church and family ruled.
Because I’ve never lived in San Francisco (nor was I alive during those years), I spent quite a bit of time researching the city in mid-century, and more specifically the Mission, the neighborhood where the Keenes live, work, and go to school.
To help ground Rider in the neighborhood, I created this map using Google Maps. It includes icons representing over 50 businesses, schools, and landmarks from the 1940’s and ’50’s, plus the location where the Keenes’ jewelry store sits, on 24th between Folsom and Treat. The Keenes live above the shop, and Rider’s bedroom window looks straight down that alley across 24th. It’s called Lucky Street, which I hope is appropriate.
Click the map to see an interactive version of Rider’s Mission District.
Casting call > back to top
Here are my working models for the main characters of Rider Keene:
Rider Keene: Michael Shannon, Ian Keene (Rider’s brother): Ian McShane
Henry Keene (Rider’s father): Paul Newman in The Sting
Meredith Keene (Rider’s mother): Patricia Neal, Ruby Witness (Ian’s wife): Linda Fiorentino
Granger Keene (Ian and Ruby’s son… or is he?): Jason London
Is the store called Keene Jewelry or Keene’s Jewelry? In all the storefront shops of small businesses I can find during the era, the possessive is used. It’s THEIR shop, their name, their work. The big name stores, which eventually cornered the lion’s share of the market in the late 60’s, tend to have dropped the possessive. The last big one to carry it was Woolworth’s. What will you write into the story, so when I get to the sign in the illustration, I match what’s in your mind. 🙂