Given the Chance, I’d Revisit Berlin

Time Station BerlinI am not the person I was at 10 or 18 or 30 or even 50. I am certainly a more accomplished writer than I was in college or even at Starlog Press. Experience, age, and a little wisdom have made me better than I was and I hope with even more time and practice I will continue to grow. I remain justifiably proud of my stories and novels and books through the years, ever since I began with Trivia Mania back in 1984.

Still, there remains one nagging book, one that I truly screwed up and was not the right writer at the right time. Given the chance to redo one thing I’ve ever written, this is the one that immediately leaps to mind.

It was back in the 1996 so I had already been writing fiction for several years and received a call one day from the talented packager, writer, editor, and provider of chocolate Bill Fawcett. He had sold a three book series to Ace so they’d run under the house name David Evans and he needed them done fast. Fast like four weeks fast. Could I do one?

After he explained the premise about the Time Wardens, men and women who traveled the timestream to keep things neat and clean, he then said he picked three cities these stories were to set in. I was offered Time Station: Berlin which immediately brought up John F. Kennedy’s famous appearance and speech where he proclaimed, in German, “I am a Berliner!”, endearing himself to Europe.

I had an idea, an offer, and a stupid tight deadline. There was no series Bible and I, to this day, have no idea who the other two David Evanses were. The Internet was still an infant so the mass amounts of research about Berlin in 1963 and Kennedy’s visit meant time in the library, doing old fashioned research. There was nowhere near enough time to properly examine the city, the street maps, Kennedy’s itinerary, etc. I still had to invent original characters, tighten the springboard into an outline I could follow and write this over a month or so while still holding down my day job at DC Comics.

Why did I accept the assignment? It wasn’t Star Trek. A look at my bibliography will show that my only fiction up until that point was set in Gene Roddenberry’s universe. This was a chance to establish myself elsewhere, even if it was under a pen name. I could use the wiring challenge and the money so of course I said yes.

I gave it my best effort but even then I suspected my best in 1996 was not good enough. Bill accepted the manuscript and I don’t recall hearing much from Ace so I foolishly thought that I did better than I thought I did. The book was released on September 1, 1997 and it wasn’t long before I realized how wrong I was.

My first Amazon review said, “This was my first purchase of a book by Mr. Evans and it will be my last…Having been stationed in Berlin from 1966 through 1972, it quickly became evident that Mr. Evans’ knowledge of the physical layout of the city was deficient.” Ouch.

Another intelligent reader noted, “The premise of the novel itself isn’t bad, but the execution is disappointing, with little of the flair the author demonstrated in the previous book. Time travel is hardly even integral to the plot; it’s a few tweaks away from being a bland historical thriller. It’s especially disappointing as Evans’s rich concept could have supported any number of novels, though given the tepid execution of it here perhaps it is for the best that he stopped where he did.’ Clearly, my fellow Davids did better with the time they had.

The nicest review was found at Goodreads, stating, “In general I like time travel stories and I like this unassuming series. I read the other two long ago and somehow had missed this one. It’s a quick and fun read.”

Other reviews pointed out storytelling flaws and writing lapses that were missed and it hurts to see them so clearly spelled out for me.

So, imagine my surprise to discover this week that just last year, Audible released an unabridged version of the book, narrated by Gildart Jackson. For a mere $17.95 you can hear my writing at its weakest.

The premise remains a solid one so yeah, I’d take a mulligan on this novel.

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