Some characters leap out at you from the page and you tend to favour them because they didn’t cause you any rewriting

 

crime novel

These blogs, I am informed, are meant to be read by those who might then get in touch with Amazon and purchase the book for £9.99; out of which I would trouser £2.28 pence.

Money, of course, is a time-honoured target.

There comes often the thought of why you should buy The Summer Stock Murders, then another thought: why the hell should I have written it?

There are, however, the great novels. One thinks of Leo Tolstoy, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.

Read Molly Bloom at the end of Ulysses saying: “…its all his own fault if I am an adulteress … and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I say yes to say yes my mountain flower…and his heart was going like mad and yes I said I will Yes.

That was the end of seven years of writing.

Then there is To the Lighthouse or Mrs Dalloway or The Waves, anything at all by Virginia Woolf:

“Never did anything look so sad. Bitter and black, half-way down in the darkness, in the shaft which ran from the sunlight to the depths, perhaps a tear formed; a tear fell; the waters swayed this way and that, received it, and were at rest. Never did anybody look so sad.”

Woolf could not stop writing. The Waves is poetry, then there are the essays.

Those were two examples of stream of consciousness, a 20th Century breakthrough.

Now these great writers took themselves seriously, absolutely seriously. And what good did it do them? Tolstoy ended dying in a country railway station, having run away from Ma Tolstoy. Joyce ended it all writing Finnegans Wake, a novel in a language he invented for himself. Virginia Woolf loaded her pockets with rocks and jumped in the river.

That comes from taking yourself too seriously. I don’t suppose they could help it. Just as I can’t help not taking myself seriously at all.

That is no reason for not writing books. Even humble murder mysteries help readers escape from oppressive reality. Of course I don’t think it’s good salesmanship to tell people that you don’t take yourself seriously. They might wonder why they should buy the darned things.

There are bits and pieces of the Parker Daniels’ crime novels that I took seriously. In Death Dyed Blonde I wanted to let the reader know what it was like making hay. In Murder in a Cold Climate I wanted to show a girl waking up hungover in bed with a complete stranger in a strange house full of other strangers, one of whom is asleep snoring, making his girlfriend say, “What a romantic creature Al is.”

In my latest effort, The Summer Stock Murders, I was in love with Marie Strawberry, a two-hundred pound Southern belle, whose husband, Jake, gets drunk and shoots at her with a rifle, always managing to miss. Marie and Jake are still in love, and I liked writing that.

This does not mean I didn’t like Memory Babe Picard, Zeet Norris or Dixie Smith, but I didn’t love them.

I think this is true of all novelists. Some characters leap out at you from the page and you tend to favour them because they didn’t cause you any rewriting.

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May 30, 2014 · 5:22 am

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