In anticipation of the re-release of his acclaimed novel HEADLOcK, Burl Barer has taken the liberty of answering some of our burning questions about the intersections between fact and fiction in this PI mystery.
Q: This is fiction, but there are real people in it. Please explain.
A: The real people only seem to be real. They are pretending to be real. This is a fiction story with elements of truth, You know, like Peter Rabbit or Genesis. I’m basically Jeff Reynolds, the private eye, and everyone knows that is not his real name. There are real names of real people used in the book, but that is okay as it is satire, or they said it was okay, or I changed their names. That’s why I say if you think you recognize someone, you don’t.
Q. Is Travis Webb the same Travis Webb who is a famous rave producer and pop culture icon in the Northwest?
A: Yes, but the Travis Webb in HEADLOCK is the Travis I knew fifteen years ago when he wasn’t famous, wasn’t really handsome (he is now), and was much heavier. Travis says he reads the novel to remind himself of what his life was like back then. He is very smart, and probably even smarter than he appears in the book. He also is in my true crime book HEAD SHOT. People often get the two books confused.
Q: You have a lot of cool things about professional wrestling in the book. Did you make that stuff up, research it or what?
A: I lived it. I knew the wrestling promoter in Seattle, and I am credited with creating the rock n wrestling connection that went nationwide on MTV when my dear friend, the late Kevin Metheny, was doing programming. I was doing that on my radio show just before Kevin left to go to TV. He told me, “yep I stole it from you — great idea, thanks!”
Q: Is the very sexy character of Randy based on a real person?
A: Yes, I don’t know her name, but the scene in the book where I first meet her at a Mystery Writers of America event is 100% true, right down to what she is wearing and what rolls out of her purse. When that happened, in real life, I said to her “I’m putting this in a book!” and I did. Never saw her again, but she was the inspiration for Randy.
Q: The McFeely Tavern and the Pastime are real also, right?
A: Yes very real. People often compliment me on the colorful characters I ‘created” in HEADLOCK, but the characters at McFeeley’s and the Pastime are 100% real. Oh I may have combined a few people but the dialog from those places is very real. I would sit there and just listen for hours
Q; What about the “other” main character, Richard — the man who hires Jeff to solve the mystery?
A: He is also based on a real person whom I met in the Red Apple exactly as in the book, In fact, almost every word spoken by Richard in the book was taken word for word from my conversations with him which I recorded. But everything surrounding it and what happens is fiction..
Q: HEADLOCK has one of the biggest surprise twist endings of any PI novel in ages…without giving it away, did you know it was going to blow the reader’s mind?
A: I hoped it would be a good twist, but i was worried that it wouldn’t be a surprise. In fact, I was afraid I would have to give co-writing credit to Samuel Morris because I thought I telegraphed it, but luckily, the signals I sent early on were not decoded by the reader in time. Oh, and Chet Rogers, the newsman/producer featured in the book is based on the real Chet Rogers, the world’s best rock n roll newsman.
Q: What did famed hollywood producer, Bill MacDonald, the guy who gave us ROME on HBO and other great shows, do to deserve having the book dedicated to him?
A: I’ll tell you in part two.. It’s late, and I must get some rest!