I don’t know how we failed to note the 30th anniversary of What now, McBride? last year, but we did. I intend to rectify that now, here, at the beginning of 2013.
Gary Lee Davis’s first novel was released two years after the successful debut of Jack Weyland’s Charly and, like Charly, it’s a romance between a Mormon boy and sexually soiled gentile. Or, in this case, Jewess.
Can you just feel the 1982 rolling in?
While McBride is underdeveloped, it has a certain lack of pretention and purity of purpose I found charming. It runs only 99 pages and that lack of length means you shouldn’t be surprised that, by novel’s end, we still have no idea whether picking up chicks outside the LA Temple Visitors’ Center is the sort of thing Nephi McBride did all the time or why in the world Paula Cohen does or does not maintain almost any opinion she does or does not maintain. Because character development and logically proceeding plot are not what this book is about; it’s not about Paula’s conversion or the absurd addition of an abortion subplot. What it’s about is jokes.
Gary Lee Davis was a traveling comedian with the Program Bureau and McBride undoubtedly consists in some measure of leftover material and new material he was never able to use. The characters engage in genuinely amusing screwball banter—and not much else. Except when we learn that Paula is afeeling something.
[Advertorial aside: At times I was a bit unsettled by the similarities between McBride and Byuck (save now! with code TA42D on the ebook!)---McBride reads a lot (a lot) like my early notes: snippets of dialogue and scene-setting but no connective tissue to make characters characters and plots plausible. So, in a weird way, I can see McBride in my novel's DNA. Even though my personal history with the novel means I never read it until Byuck was already in print. I would like to be very very clear about that.]
Sadly, the two books Davis had in the pipeline (see backflap, below) were not published immediately after McBride leading me to suspect the novella was not a great success. I cannot say whether those two books are the same as the two he published decades later, but I do think it’s too bad he didn’t find an editor who forced him to expand his debut work into something more . . . functional.
All that said, I think What now, McBride? is a fascinating bit of early 80s Mormoniana. And a nice snapshot of early 80s LA as well. And I want to track down those who were involved. This will be a nonrushed ongoing project, but if you would like to help, here’s the data I have:
Here’s my checklist:
[ ] Gary Lee Davis
[ ] Richard Holdaway
[ ] Teresa Chingas
[ ] Todd Anderson
[ ] Mitch Davis
Now, I grant you, I may not be motivated enough to take this all the way to commissioning a new photograph with the models, but for now, let’s hope for the best.
Because that photo would be awesome.