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Interview: Dale Bailey on “Lightning Jack’s Last Ride”

– Tell us a bit about “Lightning Jack’s Last Ride.”

Lightning Jack is a story I’ve been wrestling with for a long, long time—I wouldn’t want to say how many years.  The problem was that I had the title, but nothing else to work with.  And when I did get started my drafts always went off the rails.  The consequence of this is that I also have half a novella—a totally different story—that grew from the same title.  I plan to finish it, but I guess I’ll have to come up with something else to call it.

 

– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I finally broke through and managed to hook a story to the title when I got interested in the gangsters of the 1930s—Babyface Nelson and John Dillinger and people of that ilk.  I got interested in the question of how they inspired such loyalty from their gangs, and more than that, the way they came to seize the public eye.  These were very bad men, yet they came to be viewed as folk heroes by some.  I was trying to explore that question.

 

– Was “Lightning Jack’s Last Ride” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Only in the sense that all my stories are personal—that I get caught up in writing them, the characters, the language, especially the language.  I have no personal history with gangsters or NASCAR!

 

– What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?

Well, I’m not very good at research, really.  I tend to make it all up.  I did do some research on NASCAR, mainly by asking some questions of a friend that’s a big fan.  And a lot of the language that Gus uses is more or less authentic.  But I’m sure I got a lot of it wrong.

 

– What are you working on now?

I have a collection of stories—The End of the End of Everything—coming out in April.  Most of my time lately has been devoted to a novel, The Subterranean Season, which should be out this fall.  I also have another novel in process, and a variety of short stories in various stages of incompletion.  There’s always a bunch of those.

“Lightning Jack’s Last Ride” appears in the Jan./Feb. 2015 issue of F&SF.

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