Journal of a Novel – Number Three

John Steinbeck hit a winner with the idea of warming up with a letter before writing each day. This is the fourth letter I’ve written before writing a scene in Southern Investigation – Tucson. Before I describe the scene I’ll be writing today I thought it a good idea to mention that after his death, Steinbeck’s family published the daily letter letters he wrote while writing East of Eden. The book is called Journal of a Novel – The East of Eden Letters. I have an old paperback copy; however I just searched and found that it’s now available for Kindle. The link I’ve inserted will take you to a number of Steinbeck’s journals, including a journal for Grapes of Wrath. So, if you’re interested in using Steinbeck’s journaling method, or if you just want to know more about John Steinbeck, here’s a place to start.

The first scene I’ll write today is an action scene. Unless I juggle chapter numbers again, and that’s unlikely at this stage, it will be Chapter 48. The setting is Tijuana, and two of the primary characters are Captain Romero Cruz and his second, Lieutenant Fernando Briones. I should explain something here, something that is true for me, and I have no idea if it’s the same for other writers and readers. Characters in novels are real people to me, as real, and in most cases, more real, than a neighbor, a co-worker, or a casual friend. I met Lee Falk’s Phantom when I was four years old. The Phantom has now been a friend of mine for sixty-six years. So, when I write, I don’t create characters and make up stuff about them. I just record the stories of friends who live in a world that I live in about as much as I live in the “real world.”

I shared that bit of information here so you’d understand that Captain Cruz and Lieutenant Briones aren’t from my other world. They are from Russell Blake’s other world. He told stories about them in King of Swords. As soon as I met them, I knew I needed their help with Southern Investigation – Tucson, so I asked Russell if they could visit with me for a while. He agreed to that, so in this scene, I will be recording the story of Captain Cruz and Lieutenant Briones’ elimination of the Banditos cartel in Tijuana. As it turned out, when I got to know Captain Cruz, he told me that he knew and had worked a number of times with two of my friends, Kenny Thompson and Gerald Wells, of the DEA, whose story I told in Southern Investigation. Kenny and Gerald will also be included in this scene.

Drugs flowing into the United States from Mexico are only half the equation, a half that is dependent on another half, which is the purchase of firearms and other weapons of war, in the United States and smuggling them into Mexico. There’s a lot of money in the arms business which means there are a lot of laws that favor those who manufacture, sell, and distribute them. With little effort, you can legally purchase automatic weapons, and I’m not talking about a non-firing M-16 you’d like to have hanging on your wall as a memento of Uncle John’s service in Vietnam. I’m talking about a truck load of real, working, automatic weapons, you can use to arm a private militia, and hope they don’t turn them on you someday, or you could sell them to a person hired by the Bandito cartel of Tijuana, who will arrange to have them shipped to Onofre, California, loaded onto a power boat, and smuggled into Mexico.

This scene is about the other side of the drug equation, and it begins with the DEA tracking a shipment of automatic weapons from Ohio to Onofre, where they are placed in storage to await their illegal shipment to their real owner, Luis Garza, the head of the Bandito cartel. Kenny Thompson and Gerald Wells are on board the DEA boat, Delta Queen, waiting for the movement of the guns to the Banditos powerboat, which they use to run guns into Mexican waters, where they are transferred onto a nondescript shrimp boat that also belongs to the cartel, and the shrimp boat carries them, along with its daily haul of shrimp, into Tijuana.

When the guns are picked up the Onofre warehouse, the DEA will advise Cruz, who is standing by in Tijuana. The movement of the weapons will be Cruz’s cue to move on the cartel headquarters while the DEA is capturing the guns and all the cartel members involved in smuggling them into Mexico. As the action plays out, bullets fly, borders blur, and four men, from two different countries, join in a common objective—the elimination of a drug cartel.

Now I’m ready to write the story.

Thank you John Steinbeck.





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