A novel by W. Bruce Cameron serialized exclusively for AARP Members
I assumed I would be a best-selling author by the time I was 22 years old because I had done all the hard work necessary for such an achievement: I had majored in English. I had spent hours and hours pouring over books with the same focus as a microbiologist searching for germs, wringing deep implications out of the simplest of sentences. (Example: “I know it says ‘Call me Ishmael,’ but what does that mean?”)
Alas, it turns out that one needs more than a C+ in Melville to get a book published. Bewildered by the cold rejection of the publishing houses of the time, and unable to convince my parents that while I typed unmarketable manuscripts they should rent me an apartment, buy me a car and find me a wife, I was forced to do something I had never intended: I had to get a job.
There are a great many careers for which an English major is completely worthless. In fact, one could argue that all an English major is qualified to do is to teach, thus creating more English majors. Locked out of an economy unimpressed with the fact that I had been the social chairman of the Sigma Chi house, I took the only opportunity afforded me by employers. I became a repo man.
Making my living as a legal car thief exposed me to an entirely different set of circumstances than what I had encountered in my studies. (Example: “I know you said if I took your car you would shoot me dead, but what did you mean?”) To succeed as a repo man, I needed to overcome my natural inclination toward cowardice and deploy the only effective device in my intellectual toolbox: stupidity. I just didn’t believe anyone would want to harm me. Wasn’t I social chairman? Hadn’t I read Melville?
I did, of course, understand what a gun was, and when they were pointed at me, I did realize that I was not earning the same sort of welcome I had received while, say, hosting keggers for Kappa Alpha Theta. I also understood the connection between the punch I had just received and the pain signals that cheerfully arrived in my brain. When this happened, I knew that a customer had grown displeased with my kind of customer service.
Along the way toward becoming a successful repo man, I realized I was part detective. Often when people have run up debts that they cannot pay, they will decide it’s just easier to get in the car they are not paying for and vanish. But dropping out of society is not as easy to do as you might think. Very often there are disgruntled friends who have loaned you money, a relative looking to betray family secrets in exchange for a $20 bill, or a girlfriend who found out about your other girlfriend. Asking questions and sifting through the evasive answers eventually led me to track down a lot of people and relieve them of the burden of their transportation.
At some point, I started writing a story about a repo man who becomes an unwilling investigator in murder mysteries. This never actually happened to me: the closest I came to a murder would have had me as the victim, and there would have been no mystery at all as to whodunit. I would have been a willing victim of my own stupidity. But I love thrillers, and being a repo man offered up an endless supply of thrills.
This is how my Repo Madness series was born. Stitched into the life of the fictional Ruddy McCann are real events that happened to me while I was putting my life on the line so that a lender could recover a $400 automobile. I suppose you could say that Ruddy is based on me except I’m not 6 foot 2, I was (unfairly) never considered in the running for the Heisman Trophy, and though I was born in northern Michigan, I haven’t lived there in some time.
The Repo Madness series consists of the first novel, The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man; the second, Repo Madness; and a prequel short story, called the Midnight Dog of the Repo Man. If you are familiar at all with my work, I hope it is because you have read one of my dog books and not because you saw me backing out of your driveway in what had been, up until that precise moment, your Buick Regal.
If it turns out you are one of my former customers, I hope we can agree that time has healed all wounds and we can now share a good laugh about it. There’s a laugh or two in my Repo Madness series, so I hope you’ll read the books and be in less of a rifle-pointing mood than you were at the time of the whole Buick incident.
When I take questions at book signings, I am invariably asked when I will write another novel featuring Ruddy McCann. I always respond, “This is a two-book series. So far.”
—W. Bruce Cameron
Serialization — releasing a book in sequential installments, often in magazines and newspapers — has been used to build suspense for hundreds of years. Every day over the course of several weeks, two new chapters of W. Bruce Cameron's The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man were released here. Serialization took advantage of the book's natural chapter arcs — and helped build the mystery before unraveling it.
All of the chapters are available to read now. Click on the table of contents below to access them, or scroll down the page for a profile piece about the author and brief introductions of each chapter, with illustrations by Steve Vance.
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