The Belly of the Beast: Reading ‘Tail of the Dragon’ screaming carpe libertas!

I love reviews of my recent novel Tail of the Dragon like the one below.  It is for readers like that which prompted me to write the book in the first place.  In the letter I see that the soul of a person was touched in the way I had hoped, and invoked the thoughts and beliefs of a time before people grew up and began to “compromise.”  The letter writer tells a brief history of their life as the exploits of the novel’s fictional character Rick Stevens provoked memories long suppressed.  It ended with nostalgia for just one more adventure in life before age robs the body and mind of such yearnings, and every time I hear a story like this, it breaks my heart.  It is for those people who I wrote the story, to give people such an adventure without the risk of their own peril.  By reading the book, they gain the ability to crawl into the lives of Rick and his daredevil wife from the comfort of their bedrooms and contemplate the possibilities written words can paint on their minds.  The villain of many modern lives, especially those over the age of 30, is the long list of compromises that are usually made just to navigate through life.  By the time many reach the age of 40 to 50 they are just fragments of their former selves, and this produces a level of sadness as such people look longingly toward their own past in a yearning to recapture it for just one more time. In the novel, Rick Stevens never compromised himself.  He at times in his life delayed his efforts as there were obstacles in his way, but he tenaciously held on to his course until such a time that his number for a grand adventure was called, and when it did, he didn’t turn away from it.  The Rick Stevens story is one of a man doing anything he can to hold on to his own authenticity, even if the result is death.  This is a powerful motif, one that resonates with many people, and it touches me deeply when readers let me know that they found a part of themselves rekindled by the book.  Here is the letter as it was written:

Thank you Rich Hoffman. I just finished reading Tail of the Dragon. What a great ride. It brought back some of the adventures of my youth. My first muscle car was a ’66 Ford Fairlane GT with a 390. It was red and fast. My friend and I would take either my car or her ’66 Chevel SS and cruise and street race and laugh. We were underage and cute so we would get guys to buy us beer then we’d go off to race. I sold the Fairlane when I enlisted in the Navy. My parents thought I’d spend my entire Naval career in the brig. I didn’t. Only 1 Captains Mast and a couple of close calls and 6 extra months for a Good Conduct Medal. After watching the original Vanishing Point I bought a Super Blue colored 1973 Challenger with a 383. The first car I ordered from the factory. I wasn’t able to get the Hemi I wanted. A pox on your house Ralph Nader.…… had that car for a long time. While in the Navy I had airborne adventures too. As I trained pilots, on the weekends I’d go down to the flight line and see where a plane was going that I hadn’t been yet. During Nam there were lots of planes going lots of places. I got to steer a tactical jet. Eventually I bought a Firebird. It was orange with a white Landau top. It was a nice car but the color sucked and it wasn’t a Trans Am.

Those cars and I had some good times. We drove cross-country several times by our selves. The fastest trip was in my ’83 Challenger. D.C. to Yosemite in 2.5 days thru ice, snow and rain storms and stopping at hotels 2 nights. You only stop when the bladder is full and the tank is empty. We had adventures those cars and I. I received professional curtsey from Texas Ranges, RCMP, NHP& CHP or I’d have a lot of points.

My friends all wanted to get married and have 2.5 kids, a dog, a station wagon and I white picket fence. I always said I didn’t want to be put out to pasture as a brood mare before I had a chance to run some races. I ran several and set some records. Young ladies, there is no need to thank me for opportunities you have now. I didn’t do it for you.

I don’t want my adventures to be over yet but it’s hard to find somebody that will come out and play anymore.

I want to thank you Rich for another adventure.

See a shorter version of this letter at the end of this article and at the Amazon review site:

To that letter writer, you are sincerely welcome.  It is hard to find people who are willing to come out and “play” in these ultra safe times of apathy, political correctness, and attorney driven schematics, so I sympathize.  I understand.  That is why I wanted to give readers Rick Stevens.  Rick is willing to come out and play…………………in a BIG WAY.

There are thousands of reasons that people live their lives like a slow death losing pieces of themselves a little bit every day until their days run out.  I deal with those reasons at this site extensively.  But more than what is ever offered at this site; there is nothing contextually more powerful than when difficult philosophical concepts can be placed within the plot of a story like I was able to do in Tail of the Dragon.  In human societies, we have always done such things, which is how mythology is created.  It is our myths which form up the values of our social behavior.  So to bring to light a problem, the best way I know to tackle that problem is with mythology.

The journey of Rick Stevens in Tail of the Dragon is on the surface a good ol’ car chase.  But mythologically speaking the story is much deeper than that, at least the way I intended it—which is most notable in during the “shopping mall” scene.  For me, this scene for Rick Stevens is his Jonah in the belly of the whale, or Pinocchio trying to rescue Gappetto from the same type of beast.  Rick in the shopping mall is on a psychological level the same type of mythological story telling, the hero going into the belly of the beast to find what society is lacking, which has been consumed by the beast.  For the readers, who have been placed into their own bellies of the beast as they have unintentionally found themselves consumed by the monsters of existence, they must escape, which is the point of the novel.

As a writer I loaded Tail of the Dragon with such metaphors, some spelled out literally, and some quite discrete.  The purpose was to take readers on a journey of their own “escaping their own personal beasts,” so it gives me great joy to learn of such successes.  It is in such journeys that people find redemption even if many years have passed them by and threatened to deliver them to their graves in a suppressed state.  People speak about freedom all the time, yet they seldom realize that before they can have freedom in their lives, they must have it right in their mind.  It has always been my hope that readers of Tail of the Dragon can re-learn what freedom is and experience it for themselves in Rick Stevens struggle.  For the letter writer above, this was the case.  So for that person, the thanks go both ways.  Yet the adventure doesn’t end there.  Hopefully for that person there will be many more times that “someone” will ask them to “come out and play.”  It may not be Rick Stevens, but there will be others………………….

5.0 out of 5 stars A great ride and a great read. April 24, 2013
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
Tail of the Dragon is a great ride. It brought back some of the adventures of my youth. My first muscle car was a ’66 Ford Fairlane GT with a 390. It was red and fast. My friend and I would take either my car or her ’66 Chevel and cruise and street race and laugh. After watching the original Vanishing Point I bought a Super Blue colored ’73 Challeger with a 383. I couldn’t get the Hemi I wanted because of a Birkenstock wearing crusader. A few years later I got a Firebird. All these cars represented freedom to me. The freedom to live, to breath, to think.

That’s what Tail of the Dragon is; a tale of freedom. The freedom to live. The unbridled political ambitions of a Governor backed by the police union set Rick up. He is thrown in jail and abused ending his romantic weekend of motorcycle riding with his wife. Rick is given the opportunity to fight back against the abuse. With his friend Charlie’s help, great craftsmanship, creativity and inventiveness they turn his old Firebird into a bird of prey. Rick and Renee declare war on the vampires sucking the life, soul and freedom from the citizens of Tennessee in the name of public welfare, public safety and the public good. What follows is a tale of the fight for freedom and liberty against all the odds.

Ride with Rick and Renee in that red Firebird as it flies through the Smokey Mountains screaming carpe libertas!

Rich Hoffman

166701_584023358276159_1119605693_n“If they attack first………..blast em’!”