Tupungato Dead Ahead

Mount TupungatoBeing the crazy, Devil-may-care type that I am, I’ll be exper­i­ment­ing for the next few weeks with pic­tures on my blog. First up is a view of Mount Tupungato, Argentina. I used Google Earth to visu­al­ize the view from the cock­pit of CS-59 in the moments before impact, because I’ve reached the point in my nov­el where this hap­pens and I’m inter­ested in how it would appear to a pilot.

You know what? I felt a little uneasy as I ran the anim­a­tion and saw the vol­cano expand until it filled my mon­it­or. I spend my life strain­ing to ima­gine the events of my char­ac­ters — and, because this is a thrill­er, some of those events are unpleas­ant — but this was dif­fer­ent. This actu­ally happened. Yes, the last moment of the ‘Star Dust’ is enig­mat­ic and, yes, we’d all like to know what that final trans­mis­sion ‘STENDEC’ means, but…these were real people.

After I ran the anim­a­tion, I turned to one of the books I’ve been using for research, the excel­lent ‘Star Dust Falling’, by Jay Rayner. He sup­plies a list of the pas­sen­gers and crew at the back of his book. When I first read that list, the names were mean­ing­less. I might have been look­ing at a phone­book. Now, when I see those names, I see people, and I remem­ber the wise cracks made to my fic­tion­al nar­rat­or, the way Harald Pagh plays the piano, how his friend Jack Gooderham might tell him to ‘belt up’ in a good-natured way, and so on.

I know that real people some­times fea­ture in ima­gin­ary works. Norman Mailer, for example, describes a num­ber of them in Harlot’s Ghost, my cur­rent bed­time book. (And Frederick Forsyth did a ster­ling job with Charles de Gaulle in The Day of the Jackal.) But I won­der wheth­er using real people is appro­pri­ate for my book. Sure, they died in 1947, so they can’t sue me, but that isn’t the point. But they are the grand­fath­ers and grand­moth­ers of people alive today.

It’s some­thing to think about; and cer­tainly a job for the edit­ing pro­cess, which I’ll embark upon shortly. One option will be to change their names and occu­pa­tions. It does seem a shame, though, since the pas­sen­gers are so much part of the ‘Star Dust’ story.

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Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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