The new novel moves slowly, 25,000 words since September. Usually, that’s my output for a month. This is different. This is a bigger book. Bigger in scope, and likely, bigger in length.
Don’t know what possessed me to do this one the way I’ve been doing it. Fictional setting, feeding finished scenes to a friend, banging away without an outline and only a vague idea of what the end game is.
I have three (or four, really) touchstones driving this book. Hopefully, they drive the series as well. For starters, I take my inspiration from the 87th Precinct. It’s an ensemble piece, though hopefully, I have come up with a first among equals in a disgraced female detective. And like McBain, it’s set in a fictional city.
Second is the combination for Ken Bruen’s Brant series and Stuart MacBride’s MacRae novels. Both are very much the modern descendants of McBain’s 87th Precinct (though MacBride says he’s never read McBain. Can’t tell. He writes like he’s picked up where McBain left off.) Both stories are set in Britain, and the MacRae stories benefit from Scottish law vs. English or American law. So while I’ve learned how to modernize the McBain formula from both Ken and Stuart, I’ve also learned from the stark differences between these series and those set in America.
Third (or fourth if you count Ken and Stuart separately) is The Wire. Is there anyone writing noir, thrillers, or hardboiled crime fic today that doesn’t watch this show? But The Wire is not a television show. It’s a novel written by committee and presented in video. Sure, I can point to it and say, “That’s where I learned I could write morally ambivalent stories.” But what I learned from The Wire is how to pace a sprawling story with lots of characters. I don’t have nearly the huge cast The Wire does. This season, it not only pulled in two of Laura Lippman’s characters, but Laura herself is a character in one episode. David Simon, Ed Burns, and crew juggle a lot of balls, and from their juggling act, I’ve learned a new way to manage chapters.
That’s not to say this book will be the new 87th Precinct or Inspector Brant or DS MacRae. Certainly, it’s not The Wire. But all those have let me aim higher.