A prolific and talented writer, Eric D. Goodman is one of Baltimore’s rising stars. In addition to writing fiction, he has written travel articles and maintains a writing blog. He also organizes and leads his own event, Lit and Art, which promotes local Baltimore writers and artists. When it comes to his fiction, Goodman’s signature trait is the way he explores perspective throughout his work. His prime example is his award-winning novel, Tracks: A Novel in Stories. It’s this use of perspective that allows him to craft very character-driven plotlines that draw the reader into the struggles of the individual characters and how they add to the narrative, both uniquely and as a whole.
To explore this writing technique, I invited Mr. Goodman for a drink – as a rule, writers never refuse. I went for a rum and coke. Eric chose a dark beer, German. It was here that Eric pointed out that while we were both at the same setting, our perspectives and outlook on the scene are inherently different. Perspective is a cognitive concept we all have. In any given event, there are hundreds, thousands of ways to tell the story of what happened. This can be influenced from anything ranging from physical view, personal feelings, even what drinks people choose. Knowing this helps the writer build their character’s perspective, layering it in into the narrative and influencing that character’s interactions with other characters. These perspectives are what can move a single plotline in so many different ways. Eric examined our own meeting. He pointed out that we were just two people in a bar filled with other individuals having different conversations; they were seeing aspects of this place different than our own. They themselves have different stories. Yet, we were all linked to the place. Within this set-up, a narrative can be formed. Other writers like John Steinbeck, Jack London, even G.R.R. Martin, all apply the idea that individual characters move the narrative. In Eric’s novel, Tracks, the story is not focused on any single character, but rather on several characters with independent stories and focuses. The only thing linking them is their journey on a train.
Tracks is a novel told in a collection of interwoven short stories set on a train travelling from Baltimore to Chicago. Each chapter of the book is the story of an individual passenger on the train. These different characters at times intertwine and connect in meaningful ways. A main character in one story may be a pivotal side character in another or may have their own story altered in another person’s perspective. The novel brings together a Holocaust survivor, a hitman, and a poet seeking inspiration, and others. Eric gives justice to each of these characters, adjusting his style to suit them all. While all of these characters are on their own journey, they are connected, their roads intertwine. The train itself is the device that allows for all of their stories and perspectives to merge. While they all are on their own journeys, they are also sharing one. The journey, the train itself, in fact acts also as a theme among passengers. Helen, a Holocaust survivor in the story “Live Cargo,” is reminded of her traumatic experience on a train used by the Nazis to deport Jews. This journey prompts her to reflect. While she acknowledges the painful past, this train ride helps her to affirm that she has remained strong.
Eric wanted to examine how any single event or circumstance can be shared by others and yet impact them each in unique ways. It is something he certainly accomplishes in the book. In 2012, Tracks won the gold medal for Best Fiction in the Mid- Atlantic region from the Independent Publishers Book Awards. He has gone on tour to promote Tracks and continues to share his work at several venues in the Baltimore area. Anyone interested in Tracks and other works by Eric D. Goodman can visit his website where there are both written and audio excerpts.