Enjoy Your King (with Duke Haney)
The Season One Finale of the PREVAIL podcast.
IN 2009, to promote the release of my debut novel, Totally Killer, I began to write for an arts and culture site called The Nervous Breakdown (TNB). What began as a mercenary way to spread the word about my pub date morphed into an experience that changed my life for the better. TNB was a community of writers—novelists, poets, memoirists, essayists—that became a sort of online writer’s group, operating through the robust comment boards. At the time, I’d recently moved from the city to the Hudson Valley suburbs (“Exurbs!” I remember insisting at the time, as if anyone cared) with my wife and our infant son. By 2009, we had two little kids, and very few local friends, so I spent an embarrassing amount of time at TNB, reading, writing, leaving and exchanging comments, and eventually serving as (volunteer; very much unpaid) senior editor.
One of TNB’s best writers, and most active comment-board participants, was D.R. “Duke” Haney. Originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, he moved to Los Angeles to be an actor, and wound up as a screenwriter; his claim to fame, which brings him no small amount of embarrassment, is that he wrote the script for Friday the 13th, Part VII. Duke was also at TNB to promote an upcoming book, his debut novel Banned for Life, about the search for a lost punk rock star—published at a press so small as to be almost nonexistent. I bought it mostly to be supportive, with little intention of reading it. Then it arrived from Amazon, an oversized paperback, photo of a young actorly Haney on the cover, and I gave it a go.
I was unprepared for how good the book was. I mean, I was stunned. I knew the guy was good, but I didn’t know he was this good. Here is what I wrote in the Amazon review:
Banned For Life is about punk rock? Sure, just like Moby-Dick is about whales. This is the thrilling story of Jason Maddox, 80s musician turned 90s screenwriter, who embarks on an Ahab-like quest of his own—although the blubbery object of his fascination is a vanished punk-poet. Like Melville, D.R. Haney has created a world so rich in detail, so authentic, so damned cool, you want to take up a harpoon—or, in this case, a guitar—and join the fray. Banned For Life is literary fiction at its best—funny, heartbreaking, hopeful, and every bit as inspiring as the punk music it extols.
Duke and I became friends. We’d have marathon phone conversations. One night, we spoke for five solid hours (actually, he spoke for five solid hours; I mostly listened). We visited him in Los Angeles (my wife is also a big fan of the book and friends with the author). He visited us in upstate New York, where all he wanted to do was play board games with the kids; it was amusing to behold his six-foot-three frame hunched over the Sorry! board, his eyes wide with child-like enthusiasm, as our seven-year-old kicked his ass.
Duke was never much interested in politics—he is a literary, not a political, creature—but when Trump was elected, he was among the first to sound the alarms. To one of his MAGA Facebook friends gloating about the Trump victory, he wrote these words, which I still think about all the time: “Enjoy your king.” Later, he put away the proverbial typewriter and picked up the camera, taking wonderful photographs, including some in Echo Park the day the 2020 election was called for Biden-Harris.
When I started the PREVAIL podcast, he was one of the first half-dozen people I interviewed. Because our discussion is different than the others—the first part is him talking about his horror at the election of 2016, and his relief four years later, and the second is about his writing life, his reading habits and creativity in general; it’s sort of a “Sunday Pages” episode—I wasn’t sure where it fit in the order. So I decided to save it for last.
Description: For the first time since Election Night, Greg Olear talks to his friend Duke Haney about the election of 2020, the election of 2016, Duke’s hometown of Charlottesville, and how Trump’s surprise victory changed him. Then they discuss Duke’s eclectic career as a film actor, “Friday the 13th” screenwriter, “Banned for Life” novelist, essay writer, and photographer, and talk about about writing, fame, creativity, Dorothy Parker, and Doug Peacock. Plus: a new Eric Clapton antivax cover.
Follow Duke on Twitter:
Buy Duke’s books:
Photo credit: I can’t remember who took this picture of me and Duke after a reading at Book Soup in West Hollywood, November 2009.