In BALLARD motor court, there is a moment in which Ballard is alone in the convenience store. He is checking packing lists and listening to a radio program on the life of the composer Bohislav Martinu. The radio announcer talks of the bell tower in which Martinu spent his childhood: his father was a fire warden; the family lived in the tower so that they might look out over the town and countryside for signs of fire.
While listening to this radio program, something inside Ballard clicks and he begins to realize what has happened to him and who has saved him from the attempt on his life. That moment, the program and Ballard’s reaction to it, formed the beginning of this new book, BALLARD the republic of dogs.
The first scene I wrote (in screenplay form, actually) was from what ended up being the fifth (of six) chapters in the book: RC in a bell tower. Looks out over the desert floor through binoculars. Thinks he sees trouble coming. Alerts the town below. But is proven to be mistaken as the threat is merely dust thrown up by an approaching car.
BALLARD the republic of dogs was then written—forward and backward—from that one scene.
But … in reality, “The Republic of Dogs” dates back 30 years. I made several attempts at that time to write a just-pre-apocalyptic story about a community huddled on the edge of a desert, plagued by attacks from packs of dogs. Its theme, embarrassingly enough, was that the viciousness of the dogs paled in comparison to the wretchedness of the humans in the desert town.
Mercifully (for the sake of literature), I was never able to take that story anywhere, and all I was left with was a title that continued to haunt me through the years. And to which I ultimately returned when the BALLARD universe began to take shape.
I don’t know how it works for writers with greater talent than mine. For me, these ideas seem to percolate for ever, in various forms through the years, and then, one day, when I’ve lived long enough to become good enough to give them life, they emerge, as if for the first time.