Monday, April 28, 2014

Darkness, Take My Hand

The title of this post is an homage to one of my favorite writers, Dennis Lehane.  His Patrick Kenzie collection is one of my favorite detective series, and I highly recommend it.  Darkness, Take My Hand is his second title in that series and is my favorite.  It should be no surprise that it’s a masterpiece of noire fiction and, without giving anything away, has some very clever, breath-taking plot-twists.   It is worth noting I did not ask his permission to borrow the title.  If he is somehow offended, I promise to rename or pull the post altogether.

I chose this title for today’s post because it describes how I feel in my own writing ventures.  Readers of any of my stuff will note that my work is hardly happy-go-lucky or sunshiny.  There aren’t a lot of beautiful April spring days. People had better keep their heads down should one come along.  It could only be a bad omen.  I have wondered why that’s the case. 

Am I some kind of sadist?  Do I hate people or humanity?  Is there some darker side of my psyche that yearns to be free?  I suppose there’s more truth to some of that than would make any of us comfortable thinking about—I mean you are reading this stuff.  Aren’t you?  But I think that it’s about something else.

Warm April days are great for going out and having a good time, but we aren’t challenged if everyone’s having a great time.  Who wants to read about characters whose biggest disaster is running out of mimosas at the bar?  Where’s the excitement in that?  Where’s the motivation to turn the page?

But if those people are stranded on a desert island and forced to fight some indigenous tribe or (even better) each other for survival, that’s pretty damned interesting.  How are they going to interact?  Does the “nice guy” really thrive in this law of the jungle society?  How about the pretty little maiden?  What happens when she turns into a force as powerful as a tidal wave?

I like fiction that makes me think, fiction that explores that part of life that no one really wants to talk about, the Grim Reaper in the room.  I have tried to write stories that pit likeable characters against each other.  Eric Phillips is flawed, but his journey begins with the greatest of intentions.  Good intentions or not, how could he possibly work with Laura Clabar?  Laura is likable and sympathetic, but she’s still an aristocrat and does seem a little out of step with a bunch of blue-collar revolutionaries, much as I suspect Princess Di would have amidst Marxist uprising.

My stories, so far have been war stories. War is an ugly business.  Politics is, too.  Just spending five minutes watching political ads makes me feel dirty.  How could I write a pleasant, feel-good story steeped in both of these? There’s no way.

I’m now about half way through a novel that's a departure from the galaxy-sweeping space operas of Proceena.  It’s a story about a disgraced cop who lives on the colonized moon.  It’s something new for me, something different.  The book is progressing very well and it’s coming together quite nicely. 

It’s also following very close to the story I had at conception.  There’s just one problem: when put on the page, it casts a shadow over the whole room.  I knew from the very beginning that I was going to be delving into some dark territories.  There really wasn’t a way around it given the very lurid culture in which I’ve chosen to set this story.  But what a great opportunity as a writer to put my hero, who’s flawed in his own right, in a moral conundrum!  How great it is to see him breaking more than the rules in his quest to get the answers he needs!  What master does he really serve?  Do the problems he face warp his moral compass?  Should they? 

If not, how does he serve both masters?  Who, in this Lunar Sin City can he really trust?  And, can he really have the luxury of friends?  If not, how does he do it all alone?  Do those questions sound interesting to you?  They sure do to me.  So, I thank you all for reading my work.  I’m grateful to you for taking the time to read this blog. 

But, if you’re going to read me, please understand one thing: I’ve grown up with All the King’s Men and Salem’s Lot and Gone Baby Gone.  I like dark fiction, fiction with villains that will make you hate them, and troubled, imperfect heroes who are sometimes unlikely…I’m looking at you The Proceena Crusade.  I like my danger to be grave (is there any other kind), my conflicts to ask questions and my triumphs to come at a cost, much like real life. 

I don’t see any other way for a story to be satisfying.  We bleed in real life.  We hurt in real life.  Why would we want our stories to be about someone’s lost mimosa?  That's not the story I want to read or tell.  So, as I think about the sordid world of Frank Parker and all of its wicked complexities, I say: “Darkness, Take My Hand.”  I know no other way.



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