The reasons The Dead Don’t Forget is set in 1995 and not in, say, the second decade of the 21st century, are multiple. First and foremost, the book is a sequel to my first crime novel, The Wicked and the Dead, which is set in 1994. Both books try to capture a specific time in
the post-Northridge earthquake, post-Rodney King riots years when “paradise”
began to feel tarnished. Equally important is that my main character,
screenwriter-reluctant sleuth Billy Winnetka, is a somewhat disillusioned man
in his early forties who came of age during the counter-culture 1960s. Do the
math. Los Angeles
And, third, there is the fact that my own erstwhile experience working in the film business dates from those years, so my attempts at gently satirizing the Industry target what I know best. I don’t believe the underlying eccentricities of the entertainment business have changed much since then, though, so I don’t think the observations Billy makes are any less apt twenty years on. Only the names have changed, as it were. And the technology, of course. Billy doesn’t have a cell phone yet, although some of the other characters do. And folks in the novel still use fax machines, answering machines…and VCRs.
Still, the inference that a new story might in some way be dated by a decades-old time frame got me thinking. At what point does a story move into the subgenre of historical fiction? Most would probably agree that anything set during World War II or before would fall squarely in this realm. But what about the 1950s or '60s (the setting of a book I’m currently working on)? What about the Go-Go '80s—could the silly excesses (and big hair) of those years be any less “historical” to a new generation of readers than The Great Gatsby or Downton Abbey? Is it too early to view Billy Winnetka’s ante-millennial adventures in the1990s as historical fiction? I guess that’s for readers to decide.
- Robert Weibezahl