Tommy Allsup is alive and well, but he should have died on Feb 3rd 1959. And he would have done if another man hadn't challenged him to toss a coin.
Tommy was a guitarist with Buddy Holly's band. (Their music should play automatically when you open that link!)
On Feb 3rd 1959, band members were due to fly on an eight-seater plane from Clear Lake, Iowa, to Fargo, New Delaware. All the seats were booked and Tommy had one of the bookings, but Ritchie Valens wanted to join them.
"I'll toss you for it," said Ritchie. And Tommy agreed. Tommy lost the toss and gave up his seat to Ritchie. The plane crashed, killing all on board. The Buddy Holly band had been incredibly successful and this night became known as "the night the music died".
How many times must Tommy Allsup have thought to himself, "What if?" What if Ritchie hadn't wanted to go on the flight? What if Tommy had refused to toss him for it? What if...the hand that flipped the coin had spun it just slightly ... fractionally ... teensily a different way? After all, the way a coin lands depends on so many things. What if a breeze or air current had caught it differently, or if the coin had been the other way up when he picked it up... Arghhhhh! Those unknowable things! You could drive yourself mad thinking like that.
In some ways, that's what Jack does - playing what I call Jack's Game. (I'll tell you more about it another day.) This is what Wasted is based on - those events that seem like "chance" and which rule our lives. But it's not chance, is it? It's about the physical properties of that coin, the way it was spun, the strength of the fingers, the way the wind blew. We can't control it but it's not chance - it just seems like it. It is luck, though. Or it certainly was for Tommy Allsup.
You think Tommy was lucky? Not as lucky as the person I'm going to tell you about tomorrow... Any ideas who it is? Could be the luckiest person alive today.
COMPETITION: guess the name of the person I'm going to blog about tomorrow. I will use a coin to pick a winner if there's more than one correct entry and the winner gets a copy of Wasted. Or, if you already have Wasted, you can choose one of my other books. Hurry - you'll have to post your comment before tomorrow's blog post goes out! So, deadline 09.00 UK time. The post goes out at 09.01 - you get a lie-in for a Sunday!