About Confessions Of A Contractor - By Richard Murphy
A sexy, page-turning novel about the combustible mix that results when you blend desire, jealousy, and home renovation.
Henry Sullivan has spent seventeen years renovating houses for wealthy women in Los Angeles. To distance himself from his clients, and the intimate environments he works in, Henry has devised a set of rules to keep him out of trouble. Over the course of one very complicated summer, he begins breaking those rules when he takes on the houses and the lives of two very different women who used to be friends. Henry, an unconventional craftsman with a reputation that precedes him, falls for both women, and quickly finds himself erecting an emotional house of cards as he attempts to complete both jobs while piecing together the mysterious events that ended their friendship.
Confessions of a Contractor breaks new ground, knocking down the walls of the American home, giving the reader an insightful look into the way people really behave behind closed doors—and the secrets they shelter within. Candid, amusing, and hugely entertaining, this novel reveals that a good contractor can fix just about any home, but no contractor will ever be able to fix a homeowner.
About Richard Murphy
In the spring of 1976, when I was nine, my family drove from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Chicago for a long weekend. There, outside the windows of our wood-paneled station wagon were buildings I had never seen before: skyscrapers, big, powerful works of art that seemed to support the weight of the universe, keeping it from crashing down on the residents below. I knew at that moment that I would be moving to a city as soon as I was old enough, which in my delusional little head meant twelve, thirteen at the latest. Puberty eventually intervened, postponing my top-secret mission, a stroke of good considering my early morning paper route had only increased my net worth to around thirty-four dollars, most of which I’m sure I owed to my sisters.
During my junior year of high school, I grew more serious about my future and spent the next two summers working in a factory earning the money I needed to carry out my exit strategy. At eighteen, I moved to Chicago, the very city that caused me to look up nine years earlier. After a brief stint at Loyola University, where I spent most of my time off campus, taking classes at Second City and doing equity waiver plays for beer money, I dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles to write and act and explore new terrain. Having never been west of Illinois at the time, I was eager to experience life outside the Midwest even if that meant falling flat on my face.
Los Angeles had very few skyscrapers, and it didn’t take long before it felt like the universe was pressing down on everyone who lived there, most notably me. This sensation may have been amplified by the fact that I arrived at LAX in the tuck position on an airplane that was having trouble with its landing gear--my expendable face sandwiched between my knees and the gravity of my decision to leave behind a traditional education--adding an ironic twist that would take me years to unravel.
Despite the city’s less than impressive skyline, it was loaded with houses and apartments, significantly smaller structures that would eventually become the foundations that would keep me afloat. It began in the apartment I was renting in 1991. The manager, who looked after a number of apartment buildings in the area, came over to investigate an electrical problem, which I helped him locate and fix. He said he was looking to hire someone to maintain the units and renovate them once people moved out. I said I was available and looking for work. It was an arrangement that allowed me to write in the morning and at night, while spending my days utilizing the skills my father had taught me growing up.
When I was a kid, working on the family house was my dad’s way of relaxing. Forget about a trip to the beach or a round of golf: If an activity didn’t involve sweat equity, he considered it stressful. One of my earliest memories involved Dad installing a giant radiator in the garage to heat the space during winter – graciously providing us with the tranquil opportunity to step away from the chaotic world outside and wash the family cars at any time, which we did…often, sometimes twice a week. As a kid, I never fully appreciated “relaxing” with my father, but once I was away from home facing real adversity, I realized it was the best thing he ever taught me.
After four years of making my living inside people’s apartments, I branched out and started working on houses with a friend of mine who was also a carpenter. If we came up against a task we hadn’t yet encountered, we used books to educate ourselves before starting the job. We built everything to code, and kept our prices affordable to ensure good word of mouth, which traveled quickly, allowing us to be more selective. Over the course of the next eight years, I renovated on and off all over the city, doing everything from single rooms to entire houses while waiting for the literary agents I had contacted to return my call, even to pass on the material, even to tell me the movie scripts I had written were horrible and that I should donate my computer to a homeless shelter.
I made a couple of films on my credit cards during this time, both of which had success on the festival circuit, but not enough to support me. I eventually grew frustrated and stopped writing altogether, only to have the houses lure me back. As a writer, I couldn’t resist the intriguing, daily dramas I witnessed in my clients’ lives; the intimacy of the domestic environments I worked in; the struggles of cohabitation. I knew I would write about my life in renovation some day, in some way, but it would take the call I was seeking to make me realize that film wasn’t the best medium.
The call finally came in the summer of 2003. I promptly left the building trade and jumped into writing for the Hollywood studio system full-time. I still consulted for friends looking to buy homes, but aside from that, and occasionally building a piece of furniture in my garage, I concentrated solely on my writing career. By the spring of 2007, less than four years later, I felt completely burned out, bound and gagged by the restrictive format of screenwriting, frustrated by how difficult it was to get a film made properly once it had been written. I found myself digging through my office one day looking for the old notebooks I kept when I was working on houses. Two cups of coffee later, I began outlining CONFESSIONS OF A CONTRACTOR.
Only now do I fully appreciate entering the city of Los Angeles in the tuck position. If I had been sitting up straight, who knows what would have followed. The same goes for my phone. If it had rung years earlier, derailing me from the path I was on, I never would have written this novel. I wouldn’t have had the experience, the sweat equity, the ability to relax.
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