A good fiction writer lies in order to tell a deeper truth. She creates an entire make-believe world for the sole purpose of wrapping words around one true essence.
When I returned to Humboldt County for my annual fog-fix last month, I visited The Shanty a couple of times. The Shanty is the bar that inspired the primary setting of my novel, Bigfoot Blues. (If you want more information on this book, click the link at the top of this page) Oh, I stole the name of the bar from Eureka’s old Vista Del Mar, better known as VDs. But the essence of what I tried to portray in the book is The Shanty, that’s the bar I had in my head while writing.
But remember, the mind of a fiction writer is markedly different from that of your ordinary truth-teller. The ‘real’ Shanty is in a small, windowless, one story building with a fenced area out back known as The Courtyard. The bar runs along the left side of the room as you enter from third street.
The bar in Bigfoot Blues has two windows, one looks back at Humboldt Bay and the second gives a view of First Street. Yes, that’s right I moved the entire location two blocks west so that my main character could see the bay from her upstairs bedroom windows.
And, I tacked on a second story and added two more rooms, and sort of merged The Shanty with an old brothel I toured in Tombstone, Arizona in order to accommodate all my main characters and a back story that includes my real-life great aunt who actually was a madam on Eureka’s First Street in the mid-1900’s.
What else? I covered every piece of furniture I could get my naughty fiction-writer’s hands on in gold glitter plastic, stuck animal heads on the wall like visiting relatives and tacked a framed photo of Roger Patterson’s Bigfoot, Patty, over the bar.
So, what then remains of the actual Shanty?
The essence, people, the true essence of the bar. The down-home, straight-forward, you-don’t-mess-with-us-and-we-don’t-mess-with-you essence.
Oh yeah, and the bartender, Staci. Hell, I even kept the name the same for my main character Samantha’s wise and funny and beautiful side-kick. How close did I stick to the truth in describing Staci? You’ll have to wander on into The Shanty and see for yourself. And, oh yeah, you’ll need to read the book.