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Jimmy Callaway: Five Things I Learned Writing Lupo Danish Never Has Nightmares

LUPOWith great power comes great dysfunction.

Lupo Danish is the most feared man in organized crime. Tales of his exploits are told in hushed whispers around mobbed-up campfires. But when terror strikes gangland, there is only one man capable of battling with monsters, for he has already become one himself. A furious blend of Beowulf and Amazing Fantasy #15, Lupo Danish Never Has Nightmares is a tale of guilt, retribution, and punching. Lots and lots of punching.

Lupo Danish never botches a job. Lupo Danish never misses his mark. And Lupo Danish never has nightmares.


The going wisdom is that at the end of your life, you don’t regret the things you did, but the things you didn’t do. But in this case, the going wisdom can get gone. I came up with the idea for Lupo Danish Never Has Nightmares, a crime version of Beowulf, in 2003. I got about 100 pages written that summer and realized that the idea was good, very good. It was in fact such a good idea that there was no way a perpetually drunk 26-year-old college student living in a garage was going to be able to execute it in a way he wouldn’t later regret. This is counter-intuitive to any writer worth his or her salt, because once you put something down, you rarely pick it back up. But I mentally carved out an area in my brain to think constantly about Lupo, and I was sure I’d get back to it, if for no other reason than I was unlikely to come up with a better idea. Would it have been even better if I had waited longer? If I’d waited until I was dead to write this, would it have been the greatest novel of all time and space? I dunno, maybe. But I’m still grateful I didn’t let that one asshole back 12 years ago fuck this all up for me.


Having said all that, I very much enjoyed getting to work on this book. Like many slack-asses, I would often put off the work of writing to do more fun things like amateur dentistry and compulsive gambling. But Lupo was easier in this regard because a) of all the projects I’ve taken on, this one spoke to me enough to really want to see it through and b) I could justify reading stacks upon stacks of superhero comics as research. So write the stuff that speaks to you most and you’ll never work a day in your life. Again, you’d think I’d have learned this by now, but turns out I’m a big dimbulb most of the time.


For a novel that is largely concerned with punching, this book has a lot of me invested in it personally. That doesn’t exactly put it in an exclusive club: Artists have been exorcising their demons with their work for years, at least since Smokey Robinson recorded “Tears of a Clown.” But there are things about me in this novel that I didn’t even catch until the second or third pass over the final version, and when I did catch them, I had to sit down for a minute. This certainly seems like a lesson I should have learned by now, but if I’m going to insist on playing the wasp-ish role of stiff upper lip in my day-to-day to the severe detriment of my emotional well-being, I sure as fuck better find a way to get that out in my writing.


I’ve always loved the Coen brothers’ films, and one of the many reasons is they are very entertaining at just a surface level, but then they’re also rife with delicious symbolism and imagery. In no way should this be taken to mean that my book is on par with a Coen brothers’ film; however, as far as high water marks to which to strive, I think I could do worse. In the course of trying to invest Lupo and the other major characters with as much subtext as I could, I learned a lot about, among other things, water safety. This will make it much harder for me to ever drown myself when depressed, which I’m sure is a relief to my mom. Plus, “drowning chain” as a phrase sounds really cool.


Again, this is not so much a lesson learned, as a fact reinforced, which I might argue is more vital than learning new things at times. From beginning to end of this book, I have had a large and more importantly loving support system of friends and well-wishers to help not only keep my spirits up, but also write this thing and make it as good as I possibly could. I’m not going to risk insulting anyone by listing anyone here, but you sexies know who you are anyways.

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Jimmy Callaway is a writer and stand-up comedian in San Diego, CA.

Jimmy Callaway: Twitter

Lupo Danish Never Has Nightmares: Amazon