Sunday, March 24, 2024

Guest Post: Barracuda Backfire Inspirations by Tom Milani

Please welcome Tom Milani back to the blog today with a guest post on his novella, Barracuda Backfire. This is the fourth novella in the Chop Shop series created and edited by Michael Bracken. This installment of the Dallas, Texas, based series comes out on April 1st exclusively on Amazon for the Kindle. You can read more from Tom in his guest posts about a story for Black Cat Weekly (Issue 78) here as well as his story in Groovy Gumshoes: Private Eyes in the Psychedelic Sixties anthology here.


Barracuda Backfire Inspirations


My friend John once owned a Plymouth Barracuda, an early model with a wraparound rear window and a fold-down rear seat. He told me that a few weeks after he sold it, he drove to the new owner’s house and got behind the wheel. The owner came out. “You miss your car,” he said.


That story has stuck with me because it’s a reminder of the attachments we have to our firsts—cars, loves—and how they can achieve an outsize importance in our memories. Their faults fade from from our recollections until all that remains is an idealized version that never existed.


When Michael Bracken invited me to pitch an idea for Chop Shop, a series of novellas set in Dallas and featuring Huey’s Auto Repair, I knew what car my story would involve—a Plymouth Barracuda like my friend’s—and what the theme would be—first loves and their holds over us.


Early on, I decided to structure the story with two timelines, one set in 1976, the other in 2021. I thought I had a good setup. The only problem—I knew nothing about Dallas. Enter my friend Chris, who grew up in Texas. I offered to buy him coffee in exchange for some of his memories. I got the better end of the deal.


He showed up with three maps of the Dallas area and proceeded to tell me what each neighborhood was like in the 1970s and now. He knew which auto parts stores were prominent then and which beers kids drank. I took notes as fast as I could. As an afterthought, I asked him if people drag raced then.


“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Forest Lane.”


That led me to an online article on the history of Forest Lane as a site for cruising teenagers. The details in the article, and those from my other research, informed the drag race scene in the story.


About that race … I knew that Billy Wright, my protagonist, would be racing his car against Skip Parker. The question became what would Parker be driving? Among the cars featured in the January 1965 issue of Motor Trend, which I found for sale on Amazon, were a Ford Mustang 2+2 and a Plymouth Barracuda. The article had quarter-mile times and speeds for each vehicle, along with a host of driving impressions. Now I had Skip’s car.


I’ve talked about the car, but there was also a girl involved: Veronica Valdez. This inspiration for her isn’t as clear cut, but my memories do play a role.


I am grateful to Michael Bracken for including me in this fantastic series. At one point during the writing, I saw how all the pieces of the story would fall together, and I began to get excited about putting it out into the world.

I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.


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Tom Milani ©2024


Tom Milani’s short fiction has appeared in Groovy Gumshoes: Private Eyes in the Psychedelic Sixties, Illicit Motions, Black Cat Weekly, and Urban Pigs Press. Barracuda Backfire will be out on April 1, 2024. His website is

1 comment:

Ann E O said...

Enjoyed to the max...
Cheers, Wil