Imperial City, Virginia

“The Empire City.”

The city’s not-so distant leadership racked their brains to come up with that slogan.

In reading Go Set a Watchman and criticism, I am fully in the camp that the novel is an intact first draft.


Because I see Brown River Blues in it for similar reasons.

As I have mentioned countless times, I have experienced the lives of some of those characters for nearly 17 years. I’ve walked in their shoes for so long, I’ve forgotten that no one else has. I appropriated 150,000 people from Earth to populate Imperial City and the players in the Wessex County tale. Moments in our lives overlapped from 2001 to the summer of a few days after July 21, 2006.

I went to high school with them. We attended college together. Lorenzo and I worked in Petersburg. A year before the novel began, we were at Tau Delta Phi’s convention in Quebec with Pete, Dorian and the rest. Lorenzo returned to his hometown when I was considering it, decided to do it and spent a few months as an extreme commuter.

Lorenzo and I both realized that we needed to be somewhere, and “home” wasn’t it.

Because of this, I know many, many things about their pasts. I make references to some of them in a way that you need the previous short stories and The Novel That No Longer Exists to understand — Why is Natalie Westwood infamous, and why did Lorenzo once save her life? What exactly happened to Samantha Plymouth and why has that story changed from what happened in that tossed tome? Exactly why does Lorenzo feel he isn’t at home in his apartment near his ancestral home that overlooks his job?

I’ve drawn countless floor plans and façades for the Williamston home, Rosewood, but not once does he set foot across the threshold in Brown River Blues. At one point in the story, a legal opinion would be helpful. Lorenzo dismisses giving Imperial City Commonwealth’s Attorney William Waycross Williamston a call. In fact, only his Aunt Ashley and Uncle Allen are mentioned more than once.

What has estranged him from his family? Are they even?

I know the answer. The novel currently does not say.

One night, Lorenzo is on his balcony, surveying his quirky town. On paper, it should not exist. For years, the commonwealth of Virginia did not fully grasp that it did. In our reality, it’s the Glenroche Country Club, a quarry and two sets of low mountains between Interstate 81 and the upper reaches of Holston Lake.

Tonight, I set in my living room, resolute to flesh out why he won’t go home and why he can’t stay home, why his relationship with a woman who barely graces the pages is doomed, what “that mess at Greenfront-Council High” means.

Having to set this novel aside for as long as I had probably was the best thing that could have happened.

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