By Jack Engelhard
The Girls of Cincinnati My latest paperback novel, “The Girls of Cincinnati,” is a work of fiction. It’s about a hot love affair that gets interrupted when a third party intrudes with the intent of doing damage. It’s true that I based the female lead on someone I knew, and knew warmly, in Cincinnati, back in the days of my youth. That would be Stephanie Eaton, as I have her in the novel – high-born and high-class. She is so rich and so beautiful that she feels that nothing can ever go wrong. (Life is full of surprises.)
From there, however, the resemblance ends with the real person – I made up all the rest. In fact, I made up Stephanie Eaton strictly from my imagination, though surely there are many women who can say that they are the prototype for MP (those are the initials of the girl I originally had in mind, but that I changed for the sake of fiction).
I do not know what happened to MP. Is she still in Cincinnati? (All this was so many years ago.) Is she a mother, a grandmother? Is she married? How many different men did she marry? Is she – and I hate to ask this – is she still alive? The prototype for Maishe (my dear friend Moishe, whom I also fictionalized) – turned up gone for good when I accidentally found a listing along the Web. This was a sad discovery.
All this is by way of saying that since the novel came up on Amazon I’ve been asked by several readers where the truth ends and where the fiction begins. The answer is – I don’t know. I mean, even fiction has roots in reality. Sure, I invented most of it, but Stephanie Eaton is such a strong feature in the novel that I must admit that I’ve lost my place – and some readers have even suggested that they knew the real woman that I had in mind; and they’re glad and grateful (and flattered) that I brought her “back to life,” speaking of MP.
But MP (all right, I’ll give away her first name – Melanie) was fantasy when I wrote about her as Stephanie, and she was fantasy even during our Cincinnati romance.
As every novelist knows, you may start off with a real person in mind, but then literature happens; a new person emerges straight from your subconscious.
Yes, Melanie made this novel happen. I wrote this novel before I wrote anything else and kept rewriting it over the decades, which is another reason why I can’t be sure where the truth ends and where the fiction begins. There have been quite a few revisions. As I say in the book itself, in my Note from the Author: “Over the years (decades actually) I kept polishing it, nursing it, and nourishing it, always mindful that I mustn’t tamper too much, otherwise I’d lose the innocence, the youthfulness and even the heartbreak in which it was first written.”
Heartbreak is the key word here – heartbreak for the youth and beauty that happens only once and never comes round again. We only get one chance at this.
So I don’t know where Melanie is, but I do know that Stephanie Eaton is alive, very much alive, in these pages.
Fiction is often truer than life itself and in this instance Stephanie doubles for nobody. She is a woman all her own.
If Melanie were to come back, in the flesh, she’d have to compete with Stephanie, in the book, as to which was real, which was invented.
Both, however, are equally dear to me.
Novelist Jack Engelhard is the author of the international bestseller (and later, movie) “Indecent Proposal” and “The Bathsheba Deadline.” His latest novel, “The Girls of Cincinnati,” is available exclusively on Amazon. He can be reached at his website www.jackengelhard.com