Buried Treasures: Treats for the Watchful Reader

For me, writing is a lonely sport, thousands of hours invested in a novel with only sporadic feedback from my critique group and beta readers. In early drafts, when I’m focused on building characters and weaving plots together, solving the puzzles that make a novel sizzle provides its own thrill. The grind of revising later drafts can become tiresome, though, and I find myself yearning for more entertaining tasks. One I particularly enjoy is planting buried treasures for watchful readers to find. (I’m easily entertained–ask me the capitol of any state!)

Some of these little Easter eggs are identifiable only to a limited audience (like significant dates, meaningful numerology, and “coincidental” character names or descriptions), but others take the form of homages, themes, and trivia I hope will intrigue others.

For example, movie fans will like the way Frank Paine, my protagonist in King of Paine, thinks. He’s a former Hollywood stud who’s joined the FBI in search of redemption for his excesses. He draws inspiration from his old acting mentor and the way respected actors have handled various predicaments on film. In one scene, Frank throws a punch at an armed adversary and then has immediate regrets:

Hand stinging, Frank bounced on his toes like a boxer, poised to deliver another blow if Zack wanted to duke it out. The big guy’s surprise showed in his blue eyes, the only feature he shared with his kid sister. He looked like a denim gorilla. An angry denim gorilla with a forty-five caliber, FBI-issued Glock.

Frank recalled the famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where an Arabian swordsman dazzles Indiana Jones with his ferocious blade work until Harrison draws his pistol and slays him with a smirk and a single shot. Maybe we should’ve thought this plan all the way through, old man. His mental image of Lee Fields shrugged. That’s why we have rewrites, Frankie Boy.

I love movies, and these homages to notable actors and films are littered throughout the story. Frank’s status as a former insider also created some irresistible opportunities to poke fun at the Hollywood scene. I crack up every time I re-read his troubling flashback about Jack Nicholson in a Speedo at a Playboy Mansion party. (As mentioned earlier, I’m easily entertained.)

Tributes to authors who have inspired me also dot my writing. While my novels read at contemporary thriller pace, some themes and devices are drawn from surprising sources.

Umberto Eco’s Foucalt’s Pendulum can be dense at times, but the story is amazing (spoiler alert). When an intellectual’s research unearths a medieval list which could be interpreted to describe a centuries-long conspiracy, or not, a group of pseudo-conspirators take up the ancient cause with tragic consequences. In my first novel, The Jinx, a young lawyer inadvertently discovers a cryptic poem hinting at a 140-year conspiracy against the American presidency. In case Eco’s influence was not apparent, a character in my novel recognizes the similarity of the presidential conspiracy to Eco’s contrivance and speculates that the poem may be the work of pseudo-conspirators like in Foucalt’s Pendulum. This uncertainty whether the scheme is real or imagined propels the suspense in the early going.

King of Paine more subtly honors another favorite, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. While that story rants against the alienation of wealth producers who ultimately rebel against over-taxation by fleeing to a hidden free market commune, King of Paine suggests that focusing on achievement and greed at the expense of family and tradition can lead to alienation of a different sort. Lonely seniors are drawn to another secret haven where a reclusive biochemist is either curing or killing them with a mysterious new drug. See if you can spot my own take on Rand’s classic “Who is John Galt?” line, a literary device that creates suspense without any action or threat whatsoever.

Another understated theme in King of Paine takes cues from classic fiction. I’ve been running a contest on my website in which a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift certificate will be awarded to the first reader to correctly identify all three literal and figurative references to a legendary novel buried within King of Paine. One is easy, but no one has found all three yet. Can you?

Hiding Easter eggs in books may seem trivial (okay, it is trivial), but few things give me more pleasure than when a reader gets excited about finding one. After I left my first law firm in 1992, I lost touch with several valued colleagues. A few months after The Jinx came out, a senior lawyer called me out of the blue after recognizing an expression he invented (look for my hero’s “clong”–the sickening feeling of one’s stomach accelerating into the throat–and the stunning twist that prompts it). My old friend’s joy in being honored this way was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a writer.

So if you read one of my books and discover a buried treasure that makes you smile, drop me a note. Maybe I’ll name a character after you!

 

One comment on “Buried Treasures: Treats for the Watchful Reader

  1. Mr. Khan knows that I am an avid fan of his novel KING OF PAINE and I would like to take the opportunity here to post what I worded about his most recent commentary above. So here goes:

    I have read Larry Khan’s novel KING OF PAINE and, without a doubt, he can pack a punch with many top-of-the-line best-selling authors who leave little buried treasures within their stories and therefore, in my humble opinion, making the reading worthwhile as the novel(s) are not predictable while also making the reader thirsty for more.

    In Larry Khan’s novel KING OF PAINE he created two wonderfully creative plots that are woven together but certainly not hard to follow. In that sense, I don’t think I have read such a well-written novel. His characters come alive, the story is a page turner and the ending became something I would have never ever ever guessed at! It is certain to touch every reader if they would just give KING OF PAINE a chance. I promise you will not be disappointed. Sooner or later in your life you will be affected by the theme presented.

    I gave KING OF PAINE a long review on GoodReads if you are up to reading a lengthy review.

    I have Larry Khan’s previous novel (THE JINX) in my possession and arsenal of novels to read and am looking forward to reading it since I am so impressed with Larry Khan’s writing style and ability to “capture” a reader in all ways. I have a short attention span so that says
    something. 🙂

    Lori

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  • Larry and Ellie Kahn

  • When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2010, my neurologist told me there was nothing I could do to slow down an inevitable slide into disability. So I simply (apathetically?) went about the business of researching my third novel for over a year until I crossed paths with others who had discovered a curiously overlooked goldmine of scientific research suggesting vigorous exercise could help slow the progression of PD and improve quality of life.

     

    After experiencing the impact of exercise myself, my wife, Ellie, and I began brainstorming with other believers about how to effectively spread the gospel of exercise and hope.  We formed PD Gladiators in 2013, a nonprofit charged with developing a plan to ally metro Atlanta fitness instructors and clinicians to convince people with PD to take a proactive approach to managing their disease. PD Gladiators entered agreements with the Atlanta YMCA, Livramento Delgado Boxing Foundation, Yellow River Center and other independent fitness instructors to build a network of PD-specific exercise classes based on PD Gladiators’ promise to promote the exercise research and the PD Gladiators Fitness Network to local clinicians to create the referral “pipeline” necessary to make the adapted fitness programs sustainable. I believe recruiting the support of influential clinicians in our community from the start was the critical insight that has led to the phenomenal growth of the Network.

     

    By 2018, the Network consisted of over 60 weekly classes, and metro Atlanta “gladiators” logged almost 25,000 class visits for the year! On August 1, 2018, the Parkinson’s Foundation and PD Gladiators determined they could better serve the needs of the Parkinson’s community through an organizational unification. Ellie and I served on the Advisory Board for the Parkinson’s Foundation Georgia until retiring in October 2019. PD Gladiators Executive Director Annie Long continues to manage and grow the Network as an employee of the Parkinson’s Foundation.

     

    Ellie and I still practice the proactive, hopeful approach that we  preach. With Ellie’s loving support, I exercise daily, eat a nutritious diet supplemented as recommended by Dr. Laurie Mischley (a Parkinson’s researcher and naturopathic doctor practicing in Seattle), and have adopted good sleep habits. While excited to begin the retirement we had deferred to nurture PD Gladiators, I intend to devote some of my energy–without stress and deadlines–to brainstorm ideas for other areas of Parkinson’s care in need of intervention  for consideration by government and charitable organizations with the mission and resources to undertake these projects.

     

    I believe that problem-solving is a team sport, and I encourage you to join in the discussion. Let’s make Parkinson’s Ideas, Man an incubator for high impact solutions to the issues that effect us most.