The protagonist of Madhouse Fog names his dog Clint Dempsey. The dog is kind of a mystery in the book, and I won’t solve the mystery here. I will talk about his name, though.
I started writing the novel in January, 2007. At the time, the 2006 World Cup was still fresh in my mind. For American soccer fans, the ’06 World Cup was a little bit of a disappointment. We didn’t win a single game. We tied Italy, which was pretty good, but we lost to the Czech Republic and Ghana. Our national team coach, Bruce Arena, got fired because of this lackluster performance.
For me, the high point of the whole tournament came at the end of the US/Ghana game. The US were down 2-0. It was pretty clear we were going to be eliminated from the tournament. Arena subbed in a young player named Clint Dempsey, hopefully to generate an offensive spark. Dempsey did manage to score a beautiful goal, then do a ridiculous dance to celebrate. Of course, the goal came too late. Every time I watch it on YouTube (which is more than I should admit in a public forum), I feel like the US still has a chance.
You can watch the goal, too.
When I was writing the book, Clint Dempsey was still an upstart, a 24-year-old prospect. I had visions of finishing the book, declaring it genius, and getting it published before Clint Dempsey really made a name for himself.
Unfortunately, it took me another six years to finish the draft, go through all the revisions, get the book published, and have it released. At one point during the writing, I’d traded drafts of books with a writer friend of mine named Justin Bryant. Justin’s a soccer fan also. We talked about my early Madhouse draft during the 2009 Confederations Cup. Justin was bagging on Clint Dempsey, who’d played poorly in the early games of the tournament. Justin even tried to convince me to change the dog’s name.
The very next day, Clint Dempsey turned it on. He became one of the heroes of the tournament and the US nearly beat Brazil to win the whole thing. Justin called back. He said, “Clint Dempsey’s a great name. Keep it.”
Now, here we are on the original “release date” of Madhouse Fog. It’s a kind of anti-climactic release date because, well, the book is already available in most stores and the book release party isn’t for ten days. I’ll spend the evening of my release date watching soccer.
On the bright side, the Madhouse Dog’s namesake will be playing in a World Cup qualifier against Panama. He’s now the captain of the US Men’s National Team. All of my early enthusiasm about Clint Dempsey as a player is coming to fruition. Leander Schaerlaeckens wrote a great piece about him this morning. If my ramblings about Clint Dempsey aren’t enough, you can read this article.