Author T. Coraghessan Boyle is an educated man, earning a BA and MFA from universities before going on to earn his PhD from the University of Iowa in the late 1970s. Since 1978 he has been working as a professor in the English department of the University of Southern California (About). He has published numerous novels and more than one hundred short stories. For these works, he was received a good number of awards and titles, making him one of the most celebrated of modern American authors.
What makes the world of T.C. Boyle so interesting is the fact that he doesn't just use one genre or mode to tell a story. Instead, he tells historical fiction, morality tales, and whatever style he deems necessary to tell the story he needs or wants to tell. He always endeavors to tell a compelling story with interesting characters and a lot of detail. Characters are never two-dimensional archetypes, but fully developed individuals which is important to the overall quality of Boyle's work. Inherent in each story is a call to historicity, some sort of claim that the story is true or could be true, or at the very least that the story is realistic enough that something very close to it has or will occur.
In the short story "Ike and Nina," Boyle is a piece of historical fiction wherein the author tells about a pretend romance between former President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a Russian woman, Madame Nina Khrushcheva. What makes this story unique is the way it is presented and the use of the narrator in the narrative. The narrator here is portrayed as a member of the government, someone who was in Eisnehower's inner circle and thus would be a potential witness to the supposed events. He has recently been given a promotion to "special aid" whose job description is never clearly defined but it has something to do with an impending visit by the Premier of the U.S.S.R. And his wife.
Boyle uses the Cold War as a background to help perpetuate the idea that this story has any possibility of truth. The trials and difficulties of the Cold War period become paralleled in this love story between American and Russian. Their coming together and then the culmination of their doomed relationship is mirrored in the difficult interactions of the two nations. Trying to hide this extramarital affair, the president puts secret service, CIA, FBI and other government agencies in precarious positions so that their secret can be kept just that. Boyle makes a claim to realism by having the narrator explain his motives for telling the story to be completely magnanimous. "Because of the sensitive -- indeed sensational -- nature of what follows, I have endeavored to tell my story as dispassionately as possible, and must say in my own defense that my sole interest in coming forward at this late date is to provide succeeding generations with a keener insight into the events of those tumultuous times" (Ike). The important thing to take away from "Ike and Nina" is the use of historicity. Historical fiction is most pertinent when the historical moment is believable. To this end, putting a fictional character in the middle of event with nonfictional characters makes the whole thing far more believable, even in a story that is wholly unbelievable.
The story of "Greasy Lake" was supposedly inspired by Bruce Springsteen. This shows how Boyle himself, as well as other artists and writers, are themselves inspired by other writers and artists. The story itself begins with the epigram "It's about a mile down the dark side of Route 88." In this tale, the narrator, like in "Ike and Nina," uses the first person to present the idea that this story could be true, or at least a very similar story could in fact be true.
The title pond is a location for young hoods who wanted to be bad and who wanted everyone to know how bad they were. These young men are rebelling against parents and they learned their rebellion from movies and television. "Digby had just finished a course in martial arts for phys-ed credit and had spent the better part of the past two nights telling us apocryphal tales of Bruce Lee types and of the raw power invested in lightning blows shot from coiled wrists, ankles, and elbows.…