wes anderon's brother, eric chase anderson, has published his first novelBook Description
On the day of his eighteenth birthday, midshipman cadet Chuck Dugan receives a startling letter, including a treasure map drawn by his late father and news that his mother is about to marry a rogue and scoundrel known as "the Admiral." When the Admiral warns Chuck away from his mother, and the Admiral's sons attack the young cadet, Chuck leaps into action, going AWOL from duty to stop the wedding and find the treasure. So begins this delightful illustrated novel and the thrilling adventures of Chuck Dugan—heroic, resourceful, a great swimmer, and master of disguise. In each cliffhanging chapter, Chuck must grapple with a new set of dangers, from sunken ships and buccaneers to survival on open water and a final race to the treasure ahead of the Admiral and his boys. Illuminated throughout with detailed maps of places, people, and things Chuck encounters along the way, and written with an electric sense of derring-do and whimsy, Eric Chase Anderson creates a totally original and captivating hero, and a swashbuckling adventure story for all ages.
..............................................................................................................................................Mapping out a writing lifeWith Chuck Dugan on bookstore shelves, Eric Chase Anderson finds his adventures are just beginning
By BECKY BOWMAN Houston Chronicle
Eric Chase Anderson's had one little problem with readings from his first novel.
The trouble with presenting Chuck Dugan is AWOL: A Novel, With Maps (Chronicle Books, $19.95) isn't the text, or Eric's speaking abilities.
It's the Maps.
Eric's novel, about a midshipman who goes truant to find his late father's treasure and stop his mother's wedding, isn't any ordinary book. He's peppered it with quirky maps and sketches like the ones he's been making for his famous brother Wes' movies -- Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.
The illustrations explain location, details and plot. They're not supplemental. They're an integral part of the story.
But how to express that in a reading? Handouts? Picture cards?
Reciting and describing the drawings aloud? No, that wouldn't do.
"You've got to read these drawings," the Houston native said before a reading at Brazos Bookstore. "I want (readers) to turn to it and see it and then just laugh, you know, because it's this unexpected thing."
At Brazos, he found a simple solution. He signed a healthy number of copies before the reading. That way the audience had the book in hand to follow along.
After a brief speech, he plowed into Chapter 1:
The boy was remarkable. Roughly eighteen, he was tall and lean, with an air of wildness. Here is a map of how he looked:
As Eric paused, the crowd giggled. More laughs bubbled up as they absorbed the tiny details. Eric continued reading with a look of satisfaction.
For Eric Chase Anderson, Chuck Dugan is the realization of a dream of being a writer. He's got an order for a screenplay now and a future of more adventure writing, with stories about Chuck and a race-car driver named Caesar Agosto!, after years of always thinking such success was just three months away.
With Chuck Dugan on bookshelves, the youngest Anderson son stakes a claim as Eric the Writer, following Wes the Movie Director and Mel the Doctor.
It's a comfortable place to be, Eric said, after stints as a film student, a house sitter, a failed novelist and, well, a mapmaker.
HOUSTON AT HEART
For 19 years, Eric lived in his mother's house in the Memorial area, spending time as well with his father and stepmom -- and, of course, brothers Wes and Mel III and stepsister Julie.
Parents Texas and Mel Anderson Jr. divorced when Eric was young. But he said the family was "as close to an ideal as you can have."
Eric, Wes and Mel III spent time at both homes.
Texas remembers that each of her three blond sons was a bit naive to the evils of the world. But Eric especially led a life filled with affection.
"There was something so sweet about Eric that people touched him everywhere we went," she said. "They would touch his hair."
Texas spent countless hours car-pooling the boys to St. Francis Episcopal Day School, she said, and also took them on archaeological digs. Mel Jr. told the boys bedtime stories about racing and gave them their first videocamera.
As a youngster, Eric, now 31, developed an obsession with the Navy that later aided research for Chuck Dugan. The Naval Academy rejected him twice because of poor eyesight.
He even thought about joining the Sea Scouts, a coed program where members ages 14 to 20 learn about boating. But he found the first meeting alienating, particularly after a sharp personal lesson on T-shirt etiquette (no logos allowed).
"I looked at my dad and kind of rolled my eyes and said, 'Are you serious? When do the adventures start?'" Eric recalled.
While visiting home last month, in the town of his boyhood exploits, Eric rummaged through his mother's attic, seeking inspiration from boxed-up books and stumbling upon his Boy Scouts Troop 599 hat.
He wore the cap and a corduroy jacket, uncannily like one he wore in a childhood photo, to lunch at the Avalon Diner. He also walked around Rice University, recounting his youth.
For adventures as a child, Eric had his brothers, with whom he's always been close.
"We were a real threesome growing up," he said.
Eric related an especially telling scene of spending time with Wes and Mel III in a Galveston pool on vacation.
"I'd be on my floaties, because I was kind of a crummy swimmer," Eric remembered. "I'd be floating in this pool, and one of my brothers would come up behind me and grab me -- and not dunk me or try to freak me out but start narrating an Amazon jungle journey.
"Like me on a raft, and rapids coming in, and piranhas passing by my feet," he continued. "And I would go completely out to lunch, 'cause I loved that sort of thing."
They also spent many an hour "killing time" by making films at Rice, where their mother earned her doctorate in anthropology.
As a child, Eric most commonly played the person who got shot in the three-minute, black-and-white films he made with Wes and Mel III.
"It's true that I was readily available talent for these movies," Anderson said. "So I was frequently -- I'm not bragging when I say this -- I was frequently the star."
Eric's father remembers his son's portrayals of death.
"You had to know how to react when you were shot," Mel Jr. said. "You had to know whether you hollered or you just slumped to the ground. Scream, don't scream. Moan. Just fall dead."
Mel III, now a doctor and Brown Medical School professor, usually served as cinematographer, or "the one not dressed as Indiana Jones," he said via e-mail. Mel described "state-of-the-art" visual tricks, such as tilting the camera at 90 degrees to simulate a steep climb, a la the Batman TV series.
Eric still gets a few on-screen seconds in his brother's films, but not to get shot. He's a medical student in Tenenbaums. In The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou he plays an "Air Kentucky Pilot." In Rushmore he plays an architect.
"I'm always hankering after a major part, but I don't really put (Wes) through that, the hell of me demanding a part," he said. "I wait to be asked."
As the vibrant Dugan illustrates, Eric shares Wes' storytelling talents. And it looks like he's getting better all the time at what he praises Mel for: a keen ability for understanding how things work.
There's no competition between them, Eric said. Just tons of support.
After graduating from Washington's Georgetown University in 1996, with a major in English -- "English and sort of straying from the curriculum as much as possible" -- Eric moved to New York, where he started film school at Columbia University.
After a semester, he quit school to write a novel and returned to Washington for revisions.
That summer Eric started to make maps of Georgetown, which he calls a "great neighborhood for thinking about architecture and alleys."
"Maps" is a broad term, however, for the diagrams and illustrations that adorn the pages of Chuck Dugan. The word "maps" hardly does justice to images created with such painstaking detail.
Eric demonstrated his technique at the diner, leaning close to the table, with his chin propped on one fist and his pencil grasped in the other. "My neck is just ruined," he said.
Eric returned to Houston in 1997 to work with Wes on Rushmore. He made some maps for holiday gifts that year, prompting Wes to hire him to make Rushmore maps.
By the end of 1999, he was putting together a portfolio and moving back to New York to work with an agent. He still wanted to be a writer, but this vocation sounded OK, too.
"Who was going to pass up the opportunity to be a mapmaker?" he asked. During the 2000 presidential election, he made maps of Austin and of Carthage, Tenn., for Time magazine.
Eric found the maps taught him about editing, content and clarity. He put them together with Chuck, a revised character from a failed prior novel, and set about writing the book.
Now he spends his days at home in New York or at Caffe Reggio, spinning further tales about Chuck -- always with an accidentally injured left eye -- and Caesar Agosto!, based on his father's stories. He's also working on a Chuck Dugan screenplay for Warner Bros., to be produced by Todd Phillips (Old School, Starsky & Hutch).
Right now he's hoping to sell copies of the novel.
With an existing fan base for his artwork, it's likely he will. Those who follow Wes' films also follow Eric's drawings, devoting message-board threads to his work.
SCENES AND CHARACTERS
Eric is prone to quoting both the book and the screenplay, acting out both sides of a dialogue if necessary.
In the movie, Eric wants Chuck to have more of a romance with Ensign Sally. To up the ante, he plans to have Chuck annoy Sally by cluelessly and incessantly calling her "ma'am."
"She says things like, 'You don't have to call me ma'am when we're alone,'•" Eric explained.
Eventually Sally will blow up.
Sally: "Why do you do that?"
Sally: "That! Why do you keep calling me ma'am? I have a name, you know. I'm a girl."
Sally: "Sally! My name is Sally!" Then, crying: "We like each other, you jerk!"
A love scene, just like that, told over coffee and milkshakes at the Avalon Diner.
He's been working on the screenplay since April, but he's not sure when he'll finish. So he's adopted a response.
"My usual answer is three weeks," he said four weeks ago. "It's like three-weeks-question-mark."
"I hope it's soon."
With only two main locales for work, and the rest of his time spent with friends anyway, Eric said he's had little need to buy a cell phone. In fact, his animated dialogue outbursts, though they help him focus his text, often confine him to working at home.
On the train from New York to Houston, however, Eric found himself in need of a way to reach others.
For Houston errands he added purchasing a BlackBerry so he could check e-mail as he trains and planes across the country.
"Does it seem like a big deal to get a BlackBerry?" he asked.
For someone who doesn't own a cell phone yet? For someone who writes his first drafts on an Olivetti typewriter, who prefers to write out his screenplay by hand in a notebook? Well, maybe.
Eric insists he's not averse to modern technology, but he does ooze an enthusiasm for the old-fashioned. The Olivetti, he said, "kind of exudes positive vibrations. You just want to sit down and start monkeying with it."
"Suddenly writing a sentence like, 'His blood ran cold. The torpedo was American.' This kind of tough-guy writing -- it really was so liberating," he said.
Alas, the store had no BlackBerrys that Tuesday afternoon. Plus, the Houston store couldn't give Eric a 212 area code for a cell phone.
They had standard cell phone packages or pay-as-you-go plans, including one at 25 cents per minute.
"That sounds very expensive," Eric said.
He could change the phone number once he got back to New York. He could return any phone within 30 days.
But the numbers began to swirl. Eric opted for more time and more research.
As of Wednesday, he still hadn't bought a BlackBerry, he said from Los Angeles. In this fast-paced, more and more high-profile life, a few projects have to wait.
But, he said, there's a foreseeable end to the madness, so he reasons it could be worse. He could be a secret agent, in an adventure story, with a permanently uncomfortable life.
"That's what's tough," he said. "Going on a book tour for two weeks is child's play (compared) to penetrating the enemy lines."