I would get the figures from Random House, the publishing figures, I think once a year as a courtesy and it’s all good business. And Random House would just send me out this slip of a paper that said “Your books have sold…” or the name of the book and so on, and the number of copies. And so, I realized that I had written a singularly unsuccessful book. And there was nothing I could do about it. When I took on Heckletooth, I was determined to write a book that described war, and the feelings that a huge incredible kind of something that gets away from you, and can be suddenly very, very demanding in terms of how the men work, not so much in terms of the fire itself, because fire is never — it’s not in Eastern Oregon, where you get brush fires. It’s in standing timber. And so, the work of it is just to put the fucking thing out, you know.
And so, the story of it is how these men, their backgrounds, their different backgrounds and how they’re attracted to that kind of work, how they finally find themselves into that kind of work. And that’s why I made the District Ranger. I came up with the idea that he would be Jewish. And I think it was now a terrible presumption on my part, and I should have stayed away from that whole Jewish business. Because it hits everybody’s hot button, and has been for millennia, and I had no right to step into it.1
But I thought because it wasn’t part of my — I’ve been watching this American-Jewish series on TV, wow, it’s wonderful, I think they overuse that damn theme song a little too much, but it’s just a wonderful, wonderful presentation. And it made me realize God, I never should have gotten near that. I should have pushed the whole redneck thing. I wasn’t enough of a professional redneck. And I should have done that. I should have gone after the barbaric yawp rather than something that was a little more citified. So, I feel that was a bad judgment on my part.