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Simon Sobo Writing

A collection of opinion pieces and chapters from his novels

Tell us the story behind the story. How did COMMODORE come to be?


Commodore began its life as a novel being written by Michael Russell, the main character in the novel, After Lisa I am finishing now. I needed a contrast between Michael’s situation (his son is suicidal, the insurance company is kicking his son out of the hospital after 4 days, he is completely impotent against the system) and someone in a completely opposite state.

Vanderbilt was the Michael Jordan of his day.  He wouldn’t be beaten. He kept at it until he got his way.   He started with nothing and died the richest man in the world…  So originally, I was writing the two novels together, well as one novel.  Michael kept turning to writing Commodore to get away.

Commodore was a hell of a lot more fun to work on than Michael, and his nuanced and depressed wife and son.

Not just fun.  Exciting!  The more I learned about Vanderbilt the more fascinating he became.  Where did he get his phenomenal drive to succeed?  I mean succeed at that level.   That’s what the reporter in the story wants to know.  How could a  practically illiterate farm kid from a family of losers,  claw his way to the very  top.

He had more people working for him than the U.S. government, more money than the United States Treasury.  And more power.

Well maybe not more.  But he had a lot of power.  At his peak he was the “Emperor” of the Empire State.  He built his castle, no his cathedral in New York, his home town, Grand Central Terminal, the grand, but always functional entrance to New York City.

Everything Vanderbilt did was functional.  Ships, then trains, carrying freight. To and from New York carrying stuff that people needed or wanted and that other people needed to sell.

In quantity!  There was big money in freight.  Very big money.

I’ll stop, but as you can probably tell, Vanderbilt really had me going.  Still does, but I’m not going to start a Commodore sequel.  I’m working away on the original novel After Lisa.  Should be done in the next month or two.

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