Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Things continue at Father Lucifer ...

Father Lucifer, a novel in progress: Father Lucifer: Middle Part of Chapter Two:

I knew Breit hated to be awakened before nine, so I phoned him at 8:30 from the lobby of the City‑County Building. The hawwnkks and brakkk‑k‑k‑s from his end could have been a walrus receiving the Heimlich maneuver.
"Detectives in Denver are unlicensed," I said. "Anyone can be one. Even an ex‑felon illiterate oaf like me. They were going to start licensing them a couple years ago but the state board that controls licensing said detectives were not important enough, at least not as important as beauticians, so they didn't." It had taken me about fifteen minutes to learn this as I wandered from office to office. "But if you're going to take clients and accept checks, you have to register a trade name, and now that I've been around here asking, the tax guys know you're out there. I thought Nasty John's Detective Agency didn't have a real good salesy ring to it, know what I'm saying?"
"Yeah." Hrawk‑bbb‑hrawk‑k‑k. "Yeah. All right, well, give us a name, list yourself as fifty percent owner. Some name someone your age would like."
"Beer and Chicks Detective Agency."
"You know what I mean."
I did, so I called Leigh, since she's my consultant on what's cool. It was also my chance to make sure she was on her way to school, which she was.


The Father Lucifer site has been slightly reorganized, so that the three sections of Chapter 1 are now a single post, cleverly called Chapter 1, and considerably cleaned up typographically  as well.  I'll try to do that at the end of every chapter.


The magic number, I am realizing, is three; whenever three people ask me a question via email, I feel compelled to put the answer out in public.  So here's a quick answer to the question "What's this Father Lucifer thing all about, Barnes?"

Way back when Raymond Chandler wrote "The Simple Art of Murder," he spelled out how the then-new hardboileds would be defined against the then-conventional "manor mysteries" (now often called cozies).  Pointing to the work of Cain and Hammett (and indirectly to his own) he laid out the basic idea: the kind of world where life is cheap and great evil lurks, a man who is "not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid," and an investigation that one way or another turns over the rocks of human evil (and perhaps sometimes surprises us with finding a flower rather than a snake).  The idea was the kind of world where murders really are committed, even if in many ways the story was highly stylized, using at least somewhat more realistic means and for somewhat more realistic purposes.  

Since this involved a much more violent world than, say, Lord Peter Wimsey or even Sherlock Holmes commonly visited, it helped to have the detective be a healthy, strong young man (in most of the classic Chandlers the detective is somewhere under 35, sometimes under 30).  But mystery readers are series readers, and after a while, the new wave of detectives were getting pretty long in the tooth, and it wasn't really credible for them to take a beating anymore.  Furthermore, the paraphenalia of film noir/LA hardboiled was getting to be as historically remote as hansom cabs and steam trains ...

So a new generation of hardboiled writers invented it all over again, in a new world of disillusioned Vietnam vets, heroin, corrupt intelligence agencies, rock and roll, ex-hippies with secrets, and all that.  One of the great inventors of the new hardboileds was my friend and encourager, James Crumley.  (If you are a mystery fan and you have not read his The Last Good Kiss, go do that.  Just trust me.  You need to.)

And once again, the series are getting long in the tooth, and we now have fifty and sixty year old detectives from that wave who think too much and can't take a solid beating, get really drunk, fuck someone inappropriate, take another beating, and drive four hundred miles, all in one chapter, and just be a little achey the next day.

So, I said to myself ... "Self, when Chandler was writing his young men, he was in his forties and fifties.  And thanks to teaching in a small college with a large number of ex-cons, and working some jobs where I was around young men who have had, let's say, police troubles ... I know enough to write in that scene, and I have friends who can be my beta readers and run-pasters, and it's time for another reboot on the hardboiled."

Hence Hal Dimmesdale:  twenty-five, chip on shoulder, good at violence, and maybe Otnay Ootay Ightbray, but under all the roughness, there is "a man who is not himself mean."  

And that's what I'm up to, and what I've been trying to sell my own agent, and a variety of publishers, for several years, generally to a chorus of "But the mystery audience is old people and they want to read about detectives their own age," coupled with "I don't like how brutal this guy is,  or the ugliness in his past,  or the way he doesn't respect intellectual detection."   Well, we shall see whether anyone besides me likes the idea ... and in this new self-pub world, I can find out.
 Special shout-outs to Patrick Rhone and Rob Brown.  Patrick asked who the smartest bloggers were, Rob said I was one, and Patrick believed him.  Two down and seven billion to go....

A couple of small notes about other things afoot: the newsletter went out a few days ago, and if you were meaning to subscribe, you still can; usually when someone adds a newsletter subscription I send along the most recent newsletter, unless another one is really imminent.  Just email me and let me know you want to be put on the mailing list for it.

Also, for the collectors among us, I'm doing some inventory reduction at my eBay Store, and I've got a few last-ofs being auctioned this week.  Last easy chance you'll have at a signed first edition of Orbital Resonance, signed complete paperback set of the Meme Wars tetralogy, and last chance at any signed TimeRaider ("Dan Samson") novels.  Historically about half the time the auctions go to someone making the minimum bid (a.k.a. the former regular price), so if your collection needs any of those, now's the time.