What inspired you to write The Slant Six?
I have to say lack of sleep was my inspiration. As long as I take my omeprazole for acid reflux, I sleep fairly well at night. In the morning, I wake refreshed and quite often, appropriately rigid. This makes me happy for a man now in his 50’s. But then there are those nights when an ugly little monster slithers out from underneath my bed to bite me in the bleary-eyed ass. The name of this beast... Insomnia. How frail is my condition without the ability to wipe away the toxins in my brain from a single day on this complicated planet? Seriously frail, people. My mind starts spinning out of control unless I can focus on something other than my own petty problems. During one particular attack, sometime around 2:00am, I found solace in late night television. All hail Turner Classic Movies, who happened to be showing the film, Duel, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1971 – a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... the caveman days before CGI, cell phones or Ambien. I must add here that as the youngest son of 4 boys and then my parents having their only daughter right after me, I tended to be the “forgotten child” raised on TV, books and my own feral imagination. Indeed, I had watched this movie as I child and enjoyed the premise. I still do after all these years. It’s about a traveling salesman driving his red Plymouth Valiant on the winding, mountainous highways of California. This poor guy is returning from a disastrous road trip and just wants to get home. However, he finds himself being terrorized by an unseen truck driver, a madman inside a dirty old Peterbilt semi. The genius of Spielberg was never showing the driver of the semi, allowing the audience to conjure up their own demon behind the wheel. The truck itself became the villain and not the driver. Brilliant!
Now my last novel, A Moon Called Sun, had such a complicated plot with multiple storylines that I wanted to give myself a break with my next one. I knew I was going to write something more linear, more straightforward, but what? I struggled with this idea. I even recalled it while watching the dogged salesman in Duel, played by Dennis Weaver, in his battered Valiant finally square off against the bigger Peterbilt belching up black smoke—both vehicles plunging over the edge of a cliff. That’s when the light bulb popped on… or I may have just blown a fuse, who knows for sure. This movie was pure, simple and sinister. I so admired the concept and being a sci-fi guy, I had the glorious notion of setting it in space. Brilliant! The potential of it was unlimited. It was a perfect recipe for my genre and furthermore, it sounded like a blast to write! I don’t remember what time I finally fell asleep that night. I may never have fallen asleep but the beast, Insomnia, was nowhere to be found. I was too geared up from this epiphany to worry about that silly little monster. I had the idea for my next novel.
What did you find most challenging about writing it?
The TV movie was based on a short story by the late Richard Matheson who also wrote the screenplay for Spielberg. To be honest, I based my idea for The Slant Six more on the TV movie rather than the short story. The challenge was not writing a word-for-word, scene-for-scene concept. I wanted the flavor of Duel but I also wanted it to be a completely original piece. It would be a homage and not a remake. Now, the TV movie had very little dialog but gobs of tension. The tension was a given, but one of my strong suits is my ability to write good dialog. Dialog was very important to drive the story. I also needed to flesh out the whole concept of why this salesman would be out in space by himself when space travel is normally a team effort. I started using the term salesman more metaphorically until it eventually morphed from salesman beginning with a small “s” to Salesman with a big “S”. It took on a different meaning for what the main character, Loman Phin, did for a living –Salesman being a synonym for smuggler and looked down upon by others as a shady or criminal type. Nonetheless, Loman being a Salesman would make him a loner which now made sense to the story. The term trucker as well became a code word for assassin. It goes on from there with other professions and ranks in their various societies. Even when keeping the plot-line simple as it was in the film, I expanded the story to give it gravitas. It needed additional, strong characters, a more defined villain (to which there are several), and distinctive world building. In other words, I had to put some meat on them bare bones!
What do you like most about your book?
The fact that I steer away from the more conventional terms in science fiction. I never use the words spaceship or rocketship for example. In this universe, people travel by an invisible highway woven throughout space called “the channel.” Therefore, my spacecraft are called channelships. I won’t use robot or android either for artificial lifeforms. These characters are referred to as faxes (as in facsimiles), voids or zombies. I worked hard to create a believable universe, one based in familiar concepts but unique to my world. The story being set 200 years or so in the future, language would have changed just as it does now from one generation to the next. I modified the language from that with recognizable origins to the totally original. It’s an alternate universe with a retro feel to the culture, the language and to the technology. Case in point, the channelships are modeled after classic automobiles. From the film Duel, I started out using the red Plymouth Valiant as the first design concept for the ship piloted by Loman Phin. I ran with the idea and soon there were all kinds of channelships buzzing about the solar system like Comets, Lincoln Townships, Vista Cruisers, Asteroid Martins, Slantbacks, Novas, Futuras, HemiSpheres and more…all based on actual models and engines but with a sci-fi twist. There exists a shitload (technical term) of incongruity thrown in for good measure too, such as references to the Old West, Medieval times, vampires, and even Dr. Seuss for Pete’s sake! How could you not have fun with that! The book runs the gamut of gritty sci-fi to horror to humor. It was simply a blast to write, and I hope it’s as much fun to read! It’s definitely ripe for a sequel, that’s for sure. Bwahahaha! (evil laugh).
ABOUT THE BOOK
Sci-fi / space opera thriller
Date Published: March 31, 2017
Publisher: Darkwater Syndicate, Inc.
The year is 2252 and Loman Phin is in trouble. A washed-up channelship racer turned freelancer, he hits pay dirt with his latest mission: a fortune is on the line if he can transport forty-three kilograms of human skin to a remote villa on Pluto's moon, Nix. Little does he know his very life is at stake when he gets caught up in an ancient feud, chased by a space vampire, and forced into a death-race by the king of Ceres. Meanwhile, danger is always hot on his heels in the form of a massive space freighter out for Loman's blood. With just his wits, his friends, and his beat-up cruiser, the Slant Six, Loman sets out on the most dangerous adventure of his life.
About the Author
Born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, Christopher Cobb ventured off to the wilds of New York City for several years to experience the world of acting. Finding it a cruel and inhospitable world, he hid high in the Appalachian Mountains of North Georgia for a time. Having grown weary of snow and perilous black ice, his life path took him back home to south Florida where he earned college degrees at Florida Atlantic University. He now lives in Jupiter—the city, not the planet—with his true love and talented artist, Alicia, their two weird cats, Simon and Weezy, and his amazingly wonderful daughter, Emma. He is a member of the Bloody Pens Writers Group, as well as the Florida Writer’s Association and intends on writing more exciting books for publication. All this makes Christopher a very happy man indeed. Visit him at www.chrisfcobb.com.