The whole [punk] scene possessed an in-your-face, “I have a right to be here too and screw you if you can’t deal with it” vibe that intoxicated me as a young gimp . . .
-Doug Lathrop in New Mobility Magazine
When I received a copy of the manuscript for Doug Lathrop’s “Chaffs,” I immediately took note of the opening quote. It is from the song ‘Merican by the punk rock band The Descendents. It was difficult for me to venture further because I knew Doug, and his inclusion of those lyrics was perfect in a uniquely challenging way. The lyrics, fiercely critical of knee-jerk nationalist pride, are appropriate to the story:
You’ve got to know the truth
Before you can say that you’ve got pride
but they held additional layers of meaning for me.
I met Doug Lathrop at a writer’s group. This was back in 2009, and I was a new resident in San Diego hoping to find my place a continent away from my former Baltimore home. I was wearing a t-shirt for the punk band Hot Snakes, and Doug was also a fan so we got to talking about music, as well as literature and horror, since we were there to write and we were both playing with horror or science fiction stories at the time.
Eventually, I started the first Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, and Doug was one of the attendees. This is when the venue was the 10th Avenue Arts Center downtown, which is an old building and lamentably unfriendly to people who use wheelchairs. The elevator in that building is a bit terrifying since it is the original 1928, wooden paneled relic that was installed when the building went up, and I was told not to use it except in extreme situations. Well, the festival took up a couple of floors and the roof of the building, and I wanted to make sure Doug had access to all of it so I made it his elevator. I was a bit embarrassed at having my event in such a place, but Doug’s attitude was nothing but of the highest spirits. He even gave me the quote that has graced the About Page of this website for the last five years:
That, my friends, was just Doug Lathrop. He never let anything get in the way of his living the fullest life he could wrap his fingers around. Somehow he managed to apply that same fierce energy to his writing. See the link supplied in the quote that starts this article for an excellent example, or read this absolutely stunning article he wrote entitled A Tale of Two Closets, both for New Mobility Magazine. His writing is intensely honest and introspective while maintaining a sense of humor that promises to make even the most jaded reader laugh through misty eyes.
It is close to a year since the world was deprived of Doug’s presence, but one of the gifts that a writer can give is a part of him or herself through the power of words. Now, that gift is being made available in the form of “Chaffs,” thanks to the efforts of local San Diego writer Walter Meyer.
Doug passed away mere weeks after completing this novel, but Meyer’s efforts are to give some people a chance to get a copy of the book (seriously, the cover art is fantastic), get copies made to get reviews by newspapers and authors, and to preserve the legacy of this novel. In addition to all of this, Doug’s family will donate 10% of all of the proceeds from “Chaffs” to the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation.
Kickstarter is the platform where you can get your own copy of the book. It looks like they won’t be around very long, though! Head here to order yours.
I was asked to write a blurb about the novel “Chaffs” itself, and this has been something that has been difficult without the personal baggage I feel gives this project more weight for me. Douglas Lathrop was one of the first friends I made in San Diego. That being said, “Chaffs” is an Orwellian look at an alternate America, where Morality Police rule against the elements of society they deem unworthy. Doug’s prose brims with energy, anger, humor, and honesty, just as I anticipated it would. I have yet to complete it since I wanted this essay to get online on the same day that the Kickstarter did, but I am chomping at the bit to get back to the world of “Chaffs.” This time, it is because I am draw to the characters of Tyler and Casey, rather than any other biases I may have. I think that speaks volumes.