Novel focuses on Sun City, cannabis
Special for The Republic
Sept. 10, 2005
First, let's be clear that neither Jock McNeil of Sun
City nor Paul Cilwa of Peoria could tell you where the
"grow rooms" are in Sun City. Or even if there might be
Nor does either man have a hidden stash of cannabis
anywhere, for any reason.
Nonetheless, their collaboration on
The Sun City Cannabis
Club resulted in what they describe as "a
page-turning thriller . . . a dogma drive-by."
The book is, in fact, spicy enough that the two printed
it with the name of McNeil's Southern grandmother,
Armentine Duryea, attached as the author.
"Besides," McNeil, 70, admitted, "I thought it might
have more . . . credibility ... if people perceived it
as produced by a woman."
An actor and retired bartender, McNeil said he's written
a number of screenplays and "a novelty book," and mulled
the plotlines of the new novel for several years.
Cilwa, 54, is a technical writer and software trainer by
trade. He, too, had thought about a novel for some time.
"I had been working on an idea to do a story about a
woman who solved mysteries, and I had already named her
- Marion Wiggins.
"Then Jock came to me and asked if I could help him
finish a story about two women solving a mystery - and
he'd named one of them Marion Higgins," Cilwa said. "And
I believe there are no coincidences."
"I thought I'd be 100 before I finished it without a
collaborator," McNeil said.
The Sun City
Cannabis Club describes a Sun City-based
physician's practice of alleviating many of his
patients' pain and other ills by prescribing marijuana,
supplied to his patients by several of the doctor's
elderly friends - who home-grow their grass in hidden
"grow rooms" throughout the retirement community.
Throw in an Arizona congressman who has reasons of his
own for keeping marijuana use illegal, and a murder or
two, and the book turned into what McNeil describes as
"I'd say we ended up with a pretty clear 50/50
collaboration," Cilwa said. "Jock came up with the two
main characters and the basic premises of the plot. I
wrote and wrote, and Jock edited and rewrote - and so
Cilwa, who missed the drug revolution by paying
attention to more important issues (like academics)
while in college, said that until working with McNeil on
the finer plot points of their book he was unaware of
the controversies ignited by medical marijuana's use and
"I read up on it to be able to write," he said, "and it
was quite an eye-opener. I had no idea there were so
many uses for this plant."
McNeil, too, says having the book in print has changed
"This has opened a whole new door for me," he said.
"Just as we describe the book as presenting a kind of
metamorphosis for our key character, I feel that
completing the book, having it out there . . . and now,
looking ahead to our next steps, is a metamorphosis of
sorts for me, as well."
Cilwa, whose software training business evaporated after
9/11 and who spent a year as a truck driver, said, "I
probably wrote about half of this while driving a big
rig. And now that it's in print, I can say I'm happy
"This is the kind of thing I like to read - and everyone
else who's read it has been wild about it."
The two are already discussing a sequel (although it
probably won't focus on Sun City, they said), and are in
the process of shopping movie rights.
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