Hey all. Gerry Boyle here. And I want to tell you about my new assignment. In 20 years of writing mystery novels, it’s a first.
My new publisher, Islandport Press, has asked me to write introductions to my early books, which Islandport will begin reissuing this fall. This is a great thing, as anyone who has been in this business for a while will tell you. After a couple of decades the early books get scarce. And if you’re writing a continuing series, in this case my Jack McMorrow novels, that’s a problem. A new series book is a tougher sell if the early books are out of print.
So thank you, Islandport Press. Those introductions are on the way.
But I’ve never written retrospectively about any of my books. This assignment called for me to get them out and reread them, including time spent staring at the jacket photo of me with brown hair and a cherubic look. Okay, maybe just the brown hair.
The assignment also calls for me to try to recall writing these books more than 20 years ago, and to ask myself: what was I thinking?
I don’t know about you but I’m sort of a forward-looking writer. The next chapter. The next book. The next series, even. I don’t presume that readers have prior knowledge so I tend not to refer to earlier books in later ones. Just a matter of taste.
So not only had I not written about these early titles. I hadn’t dwelled on them of late, either.
This is a little embarrassing to admit. Sometimes I do a book talk and I look out and I see someone with a copy of the first or second book and I get a little nervous. Will they ask me about some small plot detail? Will they bring up a minor character by name? Will I be left standing there like the flummoxed kid in the spelling bee? (Could you please repeat that character’s name in a sentence?)
I won’t keep you too long here, but a few observations:
* I don’t recall a moment where a muse visited, and the plot was revealed. I do remember deciding to start to write a novel and then refusing to give up until it was done.
* I don’t recall where the characters’ names came from, not specifically. McMorrow? I didn’t know any McMorrows when I came up with that one. I vaguely remember deciding to go with a Celtic surname. But McMorrow’s partner, Roxanne—where did that come from? Hard to say. Maybe I should have kept a journal, but hey, I was busy writing a book.
* I do recall the places that inspired the settings, wonderful towns like Rumford, Maine, a fascinating steam-belching paper mill town that provided much of my early education.
* I do recall the inspiration I got from mysteries I was reading then: John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels. Very early Dick Francis. The first Spenser novel, The Godwulf Manuscript. I decided I had to try this myself, on the chance that some of the magic in those books would rub off.
* And— this is important for writers in the early stages of this effort— I remember that when it came to writing a book, I just plunged in. No hesitation or calculation. No consideration of markets or the hot theme of the time. Just the seed of an idea that turned into a story. We’re storytellers, after all. Nothing more.
*Lastly, I remember the thrill of getting the news that somebody wanted to publish my first book. I wasn’t crazy after all. It was a long slog but it actually worked. Many books followed but none of them replicated that moment. What a rush. Think of that, you first-time writers. That moment makes all of it worthwhile.
So back to work on my intros for DEADLINE and BLOODLINE. Writer of 2014, meet the writer of 1990. We’re not the same people or even the same writers but we’re glad to get reacquainted.