Although I had a tiny bit of success as a fiction writer in my younger days, creating short stories and novels is way too hard — too lonely, too unprofitable — so I’ve given it up. Nevertheless, I still love coming up with titles. In fact, in the good ol’ days, a title might come to me before the story, which was the case with “The Harlequin Globetrotters.”
Like virtually all my publications, “The Harlequin Globetrotters” is lost to posterity because the journal in which it was published is now defunct. So I’m afraid you’re out of luck if you’re dying to read about Katrina Piedmont, a female ref who adored Globetrotter star Skylark Keats. He had visited her younger brother when he had been dying of cancer, and when Katrina found herself reffing a Globetrotters’ game, she overcompensated for her adoration by calling questionable fouls on him. Just before the buzzer and with the Globetrotters down by two, Skylark drove to the basket, collided with Katrina, and ended up on the floor on top of her. Oblivious to the hubbub that surrounded them, they allowed their lips to touch, at first tentatively, a gentle butterfly of a kiss, and he could feel her arms encircling his back, her tongue flicking across his earlobe, darting to the tip of his ear, and so he crushed her to him and began to kiss her eagerly, his tongue exploring, then plundering the warm, wet cave of her mouth Swept away in utter abandon, they surrendered to the tidal surge of their pent-up passion as the roar of the crowd washed over them like the sea. . . .
Perhaps a copy exists somewhere, its pages yellowed, like the author’s teeth, with age, but I rather doubt it, so like I say, you’re out of luck.
Be that as it may, I still like coming up with titles. As a bonus, I provide possible scenarios, hoping that someone in cyber space might take the bait as I did when a fellow writer told me he had a great title – “The Insomniacs’ Ball” – but no story. It took me years, but I finally came up something that ended up winning a Piccolo Spoleto fiction prize and was read by an actor in Marion Square in front of literally tens of people (well, maybe a couple of dozen).
The titles that most appeal to me are ones culled from other literary sources like “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “The Sound and the Fury,” and “Of Mice and Men.” Allusive titles like these provide the erudite reader a hint as to the major themes. The secret is to use a catchy phrase, and who has come up with catchier phrases in the last 50 years but Bob Dylan? So I surveyed the jukebox of my mind and came up with three Dylan phrases that would make killer titles, and here they are, fiction writers, yours for the taking.
Titles from Dylan’s Canon
From “The Gates of Eden”
The motorcycle black Madonna
Two-wheeled gypsy queen
And her silver-studded phantom cause
The gray flannel dwarf to scream . . .
The Gray Flannel Dwarf
Genre: melodrama, 2 hankies. This narrative revolves around a talented but diminutive fashion designer named Sebastian Gorky, a snazzy dresser who loves retro ‘50s fashion. The plot revolves around his doomed unrequited passion for a strapping transgendered seamster named Rex Renault. Gorky is an Alexander-Pope like figure, saturnine, cynical, but beneath it all possessing a sweet if somewhat sullied soul. Think of it as Cyrano de Bergerac meets Willow. Gorky tries to protect Renault from the predators of the fashion industry as the two jetset from New York to Paris to Milan. The movie version is rated PG-13 for language and brief, gratuitous nudity in changing rooms.
From “Stuck Inside of Mobil with the Memphis Blues Again”
When Ruthie says come see her
In her honky-tonk lagoon
Where I can watch her waltz for free
‘Neath her Panamanian moon
Genre: action/adventure. 4 explosions. Townes Van Barnes is an ex-pat living on a Caribbean island, and, like Rick in Casablanca, runs a bar. Of course, the joint is teeming with a cast of colorful characters, and Townes’s mysterious personal tragedy (involving a strapping transgendered drug runner named Jan Auster) is stoically covered up by a prodigious amount of emotional scar tissue. Add whatever complication flips your switch: Jared Kushner’s company’s plan for developing a resort that will ruin the island’s culture, radioactive waste being dumped offshore by a nefarious multinational corporation, or a spring break culture clash featuring politically correct Middlebury students and some wild partiers from the University of Alabama.
Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties
Are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise
While Rubin sits like Buddha in a ten-foot cell
An innocent man in a living hell
All the Criminals in Their Coats and Their Ties
Genre: political thriller. 15 indictments. This fast-moving far-fetched scenario traces the rise and fall of narcissistic mobster/real estate developer who as a publicity stunt runs for president on a phony populist campaign in which he promises to kick corporate America in its fat ass. Much to everyone’s surprise – especially his own – he beats his well-intentioned but terminally unlikable opponent and goes on to do the exact opposite of what he promises. His administration runs like a fine-tuned machine until a former lover, a strapping transgendered exotic dancer named Rick Rambler, blackmails the president by threatening to release information proving that the pre-President had paid for an abortion back in the days when the exotic dancer was a slender blonde barfly who went by the name Tiffany Texarkana. After Rambler is found dead from blunt head trauma, a clandestine group of female British investigative reporters unravel the mystery as the agents of the president’s private security staff zero in on them.
All I ask for these potential best sellers is a brief mention in the acknowledgements.
 The writer was Harlan Greene, the year 1983.