Face in the Crowd from Death on the Wild Side

Tom Petty’s Face ‘in the Crowd was the inspiration for this sample chapter of Jack Corbett’s Death on the Wild Side.

Face in the Crowd inspired the final chapter of Death on the Wild SideDeath on the Wild Side
Jack not only wrote Death on the Wild Side, but he also created it from the typesetting, cover design, the photography. sizing of pages, and graphics arts design. For example, Jack chose Arianna a del as his model. And long after shooting hundreds of pictures of her he picked what he felt was the perfect picture of the alluring stripper whose personality and inner self is totally unknown to her audience. One sees her from the side on the book’s front cover with her body and face turned sideways to the camera. On the book’s back cover, Jack created a transparent image that can barely be seen. Arriana, even though there are two pictures of her on the book’s covers, is still a total enigma.

Then there was Lori. Slender and quick in her movements, she had a mind as agile as her body. She could read a man like a book. Always alert, she listened to everything he said, Yet her eyes would occasionally move about the room like a ferret. Making sure that one of her other customers didn’t walk in and leave without her saying hello or goodbye. She’d smoked cigars and drank a lot of booze with him. She had been serious, and she had been impish. He pushed a cassette into the tape player. It was Tom Petty, who is very appropriate, thought Frank. Lori was a master of her craft. She could make all her customers feel important, always the perfect companion.

Tom Petty’s voice filled the interior of the pickup. He was singing A Face in the Crowd.

It was Frank’s favorite selection on the tape. Definitely not a ballad, it had nevertheless always made him think of the Old West, and for some reason, that he couldn’t quite put his finger on, about Billy the Kid. He had first heard “Face in the Crowd” while visiting a friend in Oregon. The two of them had listened to the audio tape while driving to Mount Hood with their skis in ski racks on top of a Mazda.

The friend was a very good friend–a fearless skier, who had left a secure job in the Midwest, in order to live how he wanted to live in the West. This friend was the only person in the world Frank wrote to, the written word being the form of communication chosen by both men to bridge the 2000 miles separating them. The man had never had a secure job since moving to Oregon, but he had nevertheless carved out a life of his own choosing on his own terms. Larry had been born one hundred-fifty years too late. For that matter so had Frank. The souls of both men were alike in that they did not belong in a century of civilized constraints.

They had driven to the Oregon coast where they stayed several days along the ocean. Where they picked their way around boulders, littering the beach, and hiking through Oregon’s rain forests.

Larry and Frank had drunk lots of beer together in Oregon’s brew pubs where homemade ales were served. They had skied Mount Hood racing each other to see who was the fastest that year. The two men had ridden chair lifts while getting soaked as wet heavy snow fell on them from the skies. And through it all they discussed anything and everything: their marriages, their careers, politics, farming, history, life, death.

Frank couldn’t make out most of the lyrics in A Face in the Crowd. What was important was the impression he got from the music.

It was tied to the West–the Old West–even though no one but Frank would get the connection.

And it was tied to Lori.

The crowd was all those people out there going about their daily business, scurrying about between job and grocery store and all those mundane things and places that most people preoccupy themselves with.

An individual gets lost in the crowd–crying out for someone like him–but the crowd is too busy frantically trodding the treadmills of life to notice or to care. The soul sees a river of faceless people flowing around it and drifts away in lonely isolation. Then a face comes out of the crowd, a light. It takes shape and touches the soul. Perhaps for a fleeting moment, an instant of time only, the isolation is penetrated as one soul touches another. The two recognize one another, and both know that they are not alone.

Buy Death on the Wild Side and anyone of Jack Corbett’s five books at the Jack Corbett bookstore.

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