Reed described Cody as a “typical 15-year-old.”
“He’s self absorbed, a little on the selfish side,” Reed said. “I don’t think he’s a bad guy, but he’s got his bad traits.”
Early in the book, Cody’s life is changed when he goes to the General Cinemas to see “Saturday Night Fever.” He is instantly attracted to the character of Tony Manero, played by John Travolta, and soon models himself after the disco king.
Reed had the same reaction when he saw the movie, which he said is often mischaracterized by many.
“If you took away the white suit and the disco soundtrack, it’s a hard edge movie,” said Reed. “It could be a Scorsese movie. It’s very harsh and rough.”
Both Cody and Reed refer to the movie simply as “Fever.”
“(Cody) really related to Tony Manero so well that the rest of his high school life, he’d always go back to, ‘how would he handle this situation?’ ” said Reed.
Reed also strove to depict the racial divide that existed in Waltham in those years, between the city’s Hispanic and white populations.
“Back in the 70s there was a lot of racial tension in Waltham,” he said.
For example, the incident at the Wal-Lex, where several people were injured, involved a gang and was deeply rooted in the racial divisions of the time.
“It just exploded one night,” said Reed.
The book ends on New Years Eve, signaling the end of 1983, a moment Reed characterizes as the end of an era.
“I felt the late 70s, early 80s were such a special time to a lot of people,” he said. “It’s not a time that’s focused on. … When 84 kicked in, the world seemed to get a little more serious and dangerous … the drugs got more serious, the AIDS virus was mainstream.”
Cody also changes, realizing the folly of his adulation for Manero.
“When he gets out of high school, (Cody) realizes, ‘(Manero) worked in a paint store,’ ” said Reed. “He’s a cliché going nowhere, which is a line from the movie. He realizes, ‘I’m probably idolizing the wrong guy here.’ ”
The title of the book comes from one of Reed’s childhood teachers who once described Waltham as a paradise. Reed said he added “lousy day” to the title because of the racial tension of the time as well as the trials and tribulations of being a teenager.
The 47-year-old Reed was born in Waltham, and although he lives in Arlington now, he said he would move back to the Watch City.
“It’s changed, but I still think it’s full of character,” he said. “I am so beyond happy and proud that I got to (write this book) and I got to put Waltham in the story. I am so happy that I was fortunate enough to have this happen.”