by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee


I’d like to thank Paula White, Alice Martell and Kristy Baptist on this one — they each know why, perfectly well — also Caroline, Ana, and Jodi at the bar, for their little-girl dress-up tips.

— Jack Ketchum

There are two names on the cover of this book, but no one would see those two names together if it weren’t for a third: Alice Martell. Thank you, Alice, for representing our work with Class. I think we make a fine trio, and here’s to more. Glad to be Your Client.

— Lucky McKee


From Lucky McKee:

“The nicest thing in the world you can do for anybody is let them help you.”

— John Steinbeck, SWEET THURSDAY

From Jack Ketchum:

“Love is friendship caught on fire.”

— Bruce Lee


by Jack Ketchum

In everyday life there are no starts or stops. Even the most startling, life-altering events — unless they’re fatal — are buffered and buffeted by other events, constant and ongoing, so that the impact of any one of them is muted.

Not so in fiction. Fiction’s like music. It starts and stops in silence. First there’s no music and then there is and then it’s gone. And again like music — if it’s any good — that silence at the end should have a bit of resonance beyond itself. A loud or quiet buzzing in your ear that satisfies both you the reader and that particular story.

Because fiction wants to make a point. Sometimes many points. It wants to make you stop and think and feel at the end. So it needs its clear delineations, its exclamation points, its opening and closing curtain. Life has only one closing curtain. And it sucks.

I’M NOT SAM started out its life as the idea for a short story which Lucky and I planned to adapt into a short film.

Then the damn thing started growing.

The root premise, which was a simple one, kept sprouting new shoots and branches and leaves as we worked it through in our daily Instant Mail messages to one another. We got a little crazy. We fell in love with the characters. We had fun.

Pretty soon though, as we started writing the prose version, it became clear that what we had on our hands was going to be novella-length, not a short story — and a fairly long novella at that. No problem. A novella’s just about a perfect length to adapt into a feature anyway. With a short story you have to expand and add on. With a novel you’ve got to compress and subtract.

The thing is, the rules and exigencies of prose are not the same as they are for film. Prose is a whole lot looser.

The modern film, most of the time, is divided into three clear acts. This — as a lot of writers and directors will readily tell you — is a pain-in-the -ass case of the tail wagging the dog. Because the acts are defined not by complexity of story or the director’s vision but by simple running-time. Distributors and movie houses want to turn their feature over every two hours or so to maximize showings, hence draw in the bucks. The days of SPARTACUS and BEN-HUR and magnificent overtures and slowly drawn curtains are over, folks.

The first act of a movie today is probably twenty to thirty minutes long. It sets the premise, introduces the characters and kicks off the action. The second is probably forty-five minutes to an hour. It complicates the situations suggested by the premise and enriches the characters. It tries to pull you in deep. Then along comes the third act. The third act hopefully ties up all the loose ends set in motion thus far, brings things to a head, makes you glad you’ve plunked down your hard-earned money instead of sitting home with a beer watching cable. It’s again about twenty to thirty minutes in length.

There are no such rules for prose. Sure, there’s a beginning, middle and an end in any prose worth reading or writing but there’s nobody standing over your shoulder with a stopwatch while you’re doing it. The beginning can be a couple of paragraphs long if you want. The end can be a single punch to the gut.

So long as you adhere to the rule of silence.

A silence that has resonance and meaning.

When we finished I’M NOT SAM we felt we’d played our music pretty well. We were happy and satisfied with the piece. We felt it worked.

That it worked as a novella. But not as a movie. Not quite.

The end, in fact, was a single punch to the gut. Perfectly okay as far as we as prose-writers were concerned.

But as a film, it lacked a third act.


Lucky and I work pretty well together, though. So it didn’t take us long to agree on a solution.

SAM would remain as she was, a stand-alone novella. We weren’t going to try to expand her. But we’d go on to write another piece, a direct follow-up to the story, picking right up where SAM left off — a story which would have a different kind of resonance altogether — called WHERE’S LILY? So that’s what we did.

As a film, the two would run seamlessly together. But here, on the page, each would stand alone. Same characters, wholly different themes and tones.

So here’s where you come in.

We’d like to ask you a favor, Lucky and I. Hopefully you won’t find it too pushy of us to be doing so. We’re only asking because we think it might add to your experience of the thing, make it more fun for you and more fun for us thinking that you might just indulge us on this one.

If you like what you read in I’M NOT SAM, there could easily be a temptation to dive right into WHO’S LILY?

Вы читаете I'm Not Sam
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату