On rare occasions, the setting of a story plays such an important role that it becomes one of the characters. An upcoming novel features La Jolla in the title role.
San Diego's unique character is a driving force in La Jolla native Corey Lynn Fayman's new book, "Black's Beach Shuffle."
"At least some of the time I've lived here, San Diego has had an inferiority complex, as if it were pretty but a little dumb," Fayman said. "I wanted to get a little sense of that conflicted nature it has, where everyone talks about how wonderful and beautiful it is, but they're secretly a little nervous that [it's] not as good as San Francisco or New York."
San Diego is a complicated character, and that complexity is reflected in the other fictional personalities, the plot and the book's theme.
"I wanted to catch the contrast between the funny and wonderful place that we enjoy," Fayman said. "Sometimes it's not quite as dark a world as you get in your classic LA or New York novel, but there is an interesting underside to it."
The lead character, Rolly Waters, suffers the same lack of self confidence as San Diego, despite a seemingly glamorous career as a rock guitarist.
"It's a little bit who Rolly is, also," Fayman said. "He's as good a musician as anybody who's made it, but because of his internal issues, he's not had the external success that other people have had."
"Black's Beach Shuffle," released in December 2006, is the first of an anticipated trilogy of mysteries centered around Rolly, part-time musician and part-time detective.
The story reads like a travelogue, with the action taking Rolly from the high-tech business parks of Golden Triangle to downtown blues clubs, and from the La Jolla Hyatt penthouse to clothing-optional Black's Beach.
Fayman carefully selected each location to maximize the contrast between what people see on the surface and what might be seen with a closer look, for example Rolly's music gigs.
"It's not something you normally associate with San Diego," he said.
Fayman, 48, was born and raised in La Jolla, back when it was a bucolic beach town. At age 14, he and his brother, Bruce, both students at La Jolla Country Day, formed a band called "Rumors."
That launched his musical career as a lyricist and keyboardist. A band formed later, "Bad Dog," played a lot of clubs around San Diego, including Patrick's nightclub downtown, which is in the book.
"It was a relatively successful band, but at some point we got a little too old to do what we were doing anymore," he said.
Perhaps slightly more practical than most aspiring musicians, Fayman took time to complete a bachelor's in poetry at UCLA and a master's in educational technology at San Diego State University.
He worked as a sound technician at the Old Globe Theater for a few years out of college. Later, Fayman served as head of the multimedia department at mp3.com, one of the first and largest online music companies.
Litigation related to copyrighted music led to the company's downfall.
"At the time it was the Wild West out there, as far as that kind of thing," he said.
In 2002, he left mp3.com and began teaching at the Art Institute of California, San Diego. The change also gave him time to write about the persuasive character who'd shown up in his head.
"He appeared to me and interested me," Fayman said. "He still wanted to be a musician, but had been through some hard times and somehow had fallen into detective work as a way to make ends meet."
Fayman set out to tell Rolly's tale. In addition to his own personal experiences, he found plenty of inspiration in his childhood backyard, La Jolla.
Jewel residents may recall the name J. David Dominelli, a scam artist who, in the late 1970s, took money from hundreds of wealthy residents. Again, it was contrasting perceptions that made Fayman decide to incorporate the idea of a swindler into "Black's Beach Shuffle."
"It interested me how a lot of supposedly bright and wealthy people got taken," he said.
The next two books in the Rolly Waters trilogy will also cast local locales in supporting roles. "Border Field Blues" is set closer to Mexico and Tijuana.
"It deals with the complications immigration creates for everyone, good or bad," Fayman said.
The plot for "Slab City Rockers" is less defined, but Fayman was inspired enough to select a title and location for the novel after passing through Slab City, Calif., an "off the grid" desert oasis for RV drivers.
"Black's Beach Shuffle" can be purchased online at Amazon.com or
Barnsandnoble.com. Visit Fayman's Web site for information about upcoming book signings and future releases (www.coreyfayman.com).