Cynics and Idealists

Most of my books feature main characters who are flawed and cynical.  That cynicism comes from a life time of experience that demonstrates it’s a cynical world.  There are exceptions.  Tommy Jacks in the Muckraker series, is an exception; he is an idealist.  But he is young and has yet to experience the harsh reality of life over an extended time.  Although he has plenty thrown at him in those books, at the end he is still more positive than negative about his fellow human beings.  Tommy is the exception, someone who might be idealistic their entire life.

Vincent Malone and Ray Pacheco have both sought to find a new place to hide from the cynical world and they both discover new reasons to be optimistic.  These were jaded, hard-edged people who mostly had a sneering approach to their challenging existence.  Now in their “golden years,” they have discovered fulfillment and meaning when they were least expecting it. Both had lived a large portion of their life as non-trusting tough guys, but now they are positive, even unsuspicious and almost romantic.  Contrasting traits tend to make great characters.

I have gone through long periods of my life where I was a cynic.  My defense for this curmudgeon attitude was based on experience.  With the exception of a couple of decades, most of my life I have been self-employed.  This involved numerous business activities; ice-cream store, popcorn concession-stand, shoe stores, accounting, printing, real estate development, business broker, consultant, financial adviser and a few I’m sure I have forgotten.  One of my first business ventures in my early twenties might have led to some of my cynicism.  It was a popcorn concession-stand.

Lots of circumstances played a part in how this happened, including the involvement of my father, but suffice it to say we ended up with a lease in the lobby of a new concept discount store.   This is the late 60’s and Walmart had not happened, yet.  This was a huge store and something new.  It was a big success with massive crowds waiting almost every day to get inside.  The stand was right in the middle of that huge lobby.

We sold peanuts, popcorn and drinks.  You would think you might make a little money peddling such low dollar items; but this was a monstrous winner.  The first year was an amazing success.  Have trouble remembering all of the numbers, but I think the profit for the first year was close to $30,000.  May not sound like much but that was 1969.  In today’s dollars that’s $205,000—selling popcorn! 

The lease required us to pay a percentage of revenue to the discount store.  I reported my sales to them every month and gave them their slice.  They couldn’t believe it.  One of the managers said they had no idea you could make that much money just selling popcorn. 

We had a five-year lease and of course realized with these numbers they would either demand a much higher percentage or they would not renew.  But I couldn’t blame them—it was just a hell of lot more profitable than anyone thought when we started.  But we were going to enjoy the five-year run.

Right after the first year we received a letter saying they were terminating the lease.  They indicated in their letter that they were exercising the option as spelled out on page 14, paragraph H4. Rights of Landlord.  To cut to the chase the landlord had the right to cancel the lease for almost any or no reason at all (should have hired a lawyer before signing that lease).

Here I was barely in my twenties, married, two kids and a group of big businessmen in suits decided my little popcorn business looked too good not to steal (legally, as it turned out).  That would make almost anyone a cynic.

Now to be fair, over the years I have met many business people who were as ethical and honest as anyone I have ever known.  Also many of my less than successful adventures into business deals were aided by people who invested or encouraged me to try whatever my latest scheme was.  Almost always trying to help without any reward for them.  The opposite of the discount store suits.  But it’s funny how you tend to remember the scoundrels who populate our lives while overlooking the good people.

Maybe that is why my books are chocked full of these types of characters.  A flawed person tends to be a more interesting person.  Plus, they are so much easier to write about.  As an author I would think a book about only nice people would be very difficult to write; and maybe even difficult to read.

The latest book I’m writing, Durango Two Step, has a long list of bad guys in only the first few chapters making it great fun to write.  Many of these bad guys will not survive; but our heroes, Vincent Malone and George Younger, will be fine.  It’s great to be an author and create your own world.

Thanks for being a reader!

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tedcliftonbooks

Ted Clifton, award winning author, is currently writing in three mystery series—Pacheco & Chino Mystery series, the Muckraker Mystery series and the Vincent Malone series. Clifton’s focus is on strong character development with unusual backdrops. His books take place in Southwest settings with some of his stories happening in the 1960s, 1980s and current times. The settings are places Clifton has lived and knows well, giving great authenticity to his narratives. Clifton has received the IBPA Benjamin Franklin award and the CIPA EVVY award--twice. Today Clifton and his wife reside in Denver, Colorado, with frequent visits to one of their favorite destinations, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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