Through the last couple decades, I have told a lot of fun stories featuring a small army of great characters. Datchet, a curmudgeonly old chap in London, was good enough Michael Caine wanted to play him on the screen if we could have raised the money to make it. Bonefish, a quirky horse with a mind of his own, brought a lot of laughs to South Florida. Greedy little pinhead 2-Putt, a rich goofball with a lazy streak wider than a four-lane highway, carried Jurassic Trout to great fun.
As great as those have been, my favorite character ever is petite Tuki Banjo. A quiet, petite, resilient, and internally determined young woman from rural New Zealand, I shared Tuki’s story 15 years ago in a novel titled Tuki Banjo, Superstar. In it, we traced her quixotic life from ages 15-to-20.
Crosseyed from dealing with the insanity of the movie business over the past few years, the pandemic gave me time to reflect on what I was writing and why. Messages are always at the heart of my work — I often say my stories are how I talk to the world — and the film business insisted on wringing every drop of truth out of a story in exchange for fitting a formula, often at the behest of people with no clue of the subject matter they were judging.
To get back to the truth, I needed to get back to Tuki. Tuki was, is, and forever shall be the Voice of Truth. I decided to pick up her life twenty years later, after the furor she created while rocketing to fame had subsided. Like so many of us, life is different now. At times, so much harder.
No one was happier to hear I was going to reconnect with Tuki that my friend Anne Look. Anne loves Tuki as much or more than me. When I let her know I had framed the story I wanted to tell, I told Anne that as long as I didn’t gum it up trying to tell it, I had a story to tell.
“No worries,” she wrote back. “Tuki will show you the way.”
Anne was right. Tuki has. We’re three-fourths through the initial draft and so far Tuki has allowed me to tag along quite nicely. Still ahead is “the big finish,” but she knows exactly where we’re going. All I do is follow how Tuki navigates life and then report the news.
Revisiting this character at this stage of life has been invigorating and inspiring. She brings great joy, not in what she does but how she does it and why. Tuki is resilient (which God knows we all need to be), but most importantly, she is true to herself every step of the way.
I’ll let you know when we button this up. I hope you get to read it.
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