Road Rules – The Strange Case Of Loman

Road Rules by Jim Winter

Back in 2008 or so, when an agent shopped Road Rules for me, I tried to come up with something to follow it. There were three ideas, two of which fizzled. The first would be Mike and Sharon trying to settle down in Savannah only to get caught up in another adventure. I actually had Julian Franco’s willing blow-up doll decide she wanted to run the show and go after our newly attached couple.

The second would have been a standalone like Road Rules is now set in a nearby city that, like Youngstown near where I grew up, had fallen on bad times since the end of the steel industry. I picked this particular town because I wanted it to be about a pizza delivery guy (a job I know better than I care to admit) getting entangled in the schemes of a Jim Trafficant-type Congressman.

Those fizzled.

But one stuck with me even as I took a break from writing. I had this vision of Loman, supposedly killed when Franco’s Cadillac goes into the Savannah River, comes walking onto shore like something out of The Walking Dead (which was still a couple of years in the future at that point.) He shambles up to a bunch of college boys sitting on the riverbank, takes a beer from one of them, guzzles it, and stumbles off into whatever awaits him.

At that point, police are assuming he’s dead. So what if he is? Loman is an enforcer for a drug lord. With his boss dead and himself legally deceased, he has a chance to wipe the slate clean. Who wouldn’t want a hit man likely not to be a suspect? If he’s dead, he’s not on the list of people who could have done a crime. With no name, no residence, and no assets to track, he would be a ghost. I even wrote a story about it that may or may not go into the forthcoming Winter of Discontent. (It’s in The Compleat Winter if you can find a copy.) A client tries to stiff Loman because, hey, he’s dead. How’s a dead man going to collect. His mistress is more than happy to help show him. I remember writing the story backwards, with a security type from a private island telling Loman to get out of town.

I may rewrite a couple of the scenes simply because they probably won’t fly well in the current climate. And I’m good with that. If it means tweaking or retiring a short story, so be it.

I liked the story so much, I tried to write a novel about Loman. He hides out in Cuba. The mistress moves on to another job at her late lover’s law firm and uses her position to give Loman cover, communicate with him, and hide assets. Think of her as a vicious combination of Moneypenny and Jeri Hogarth from Jessica Jones. The plot involved Loman getting hired to kill a governor in spite of his prohibition against political jobs.

Alas, like so many ideas, it fizzled. I moved on. Holland Bay sucked up my attention, as did science fiction. I may revisit. It’s pure thriller territory, and we may be moving into an era where a hit man-cum-vigilante antihero could be right for the times. For now, though, Road Rules stands alone, even its characters.