Sunday, August 2, 2015

How to Rob a Bank, or Write a Book, or Whatever.

Louis Shalako

I began my eighteenth novel on June 27, 2015. I’m really only up to 36,000 words, and it’s already August 2. That seems a bit slow for me. I would generally try to write 2,000 words a day when working on a novel.

This one is a mystery novel in the 60,000-word class. (All he ever wanted to write was pulp fiction. – ed.) At that rate, barely a thousand words a day, perhaps a bit more, I can still have a good first draft by my birthday, which is August 9. The pace of writing has quickened in the last couple of days. This particular crime, involving a dead body in a bank vault and theft from safety-deposit boxes, is nothing if not complex. 

Even at a measly thousand words a day, there is hope for any author, or anyone who has ever wanted or considered or dreamed of writing a book. (I’ve done seventeen of them already. I’ve written eleven books in five years and numerous novellas, short stories, blog posts, etc.) According to Hemingway, people who talk about their writing or themselves are jerks, but he lived in another time and place.

(So fuck Hemingway. -- ed.)

I like to have some kind of ending in mind before I begin a big story. The story has a beginning, a dead body. I had an ending in mind. The only real challenge is the middle of the book—approximately 55,000 words or so of hard-slogging legwork.

That’s not to say I haven’t solved it, because I have. Obviously, if I can’t solve the case then Inspector Maintenon can’t solve it either. I try to challenge him, as he is particularly gifted…

This is a crime of imagination which speaks fairly well of the mind of the killer, who makes off with one-point-three million francs worth of uncut diamonds belonging to a depositor.

The series is set in Paris, France, during the 1920s and 1930s. It makes life easier for me. A certain reader will like the series, others will walk away and that’s fine. That’s the way the world is. I prefer to write historical mysteries.

For one thing, modern forensic science is pretty complex, and of course CSI is so pervasive. It’s already been done and it’s kind of boring and derivative as well. I’m not a big fan of swirling special effects shots where the viewer is taken down the bore of a microscope and then dragged like Fantastic Voyage through the cellular minutiae of a blood clot, (or semen), or snot, or shit, or piss, or whatever.

In a way, I couldn’t compete because I simply didn’t care to do the work. The Inspector Gilles Maintenon character was inspired by Maigret more than Hercule Poirot. He was inspired by Agatha Christie much more than Closeau, although there are certain parody elements in each story. This one, ‘How to Rob a Bank’, is obviously a parody of the locked room mystery, which I had actually done before in The Art of Murder.

It’s merely a variation on a theme. I have to admit, this one has been a tough case to solve.

As a person heavily influenced by music, one of the things I tend to do in books and stories is to use a kind of structure. I like to throw in what I can only call refrains, riffs, or hooks. Any writer knows about the hook at the end of a cliff-hanger. It sucks the reader forwards. A good musical example of this would the little guitar flourish, right at the end of a major riff. There’s still one or two scrapes against the strings. The artist found the time and had the presence of mind to squeeze it in. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s what makes a song unforgettable as opposed to merely good.

Another thing is timing. Take Led Zeppelin’s Wanton Song, or Steely Dan’s Reeling in the Years. The timing on the cymbals or high-hat demonstrates this exactly. Man, when I write, I want to hit every beat, whether it’s the swing beat of The Police or John Bonham’s heavy and very distinctive attack on the drum-kit. An attack which is beautifully parodied, in the best kind of homage, by The Rival Sons in their best music. Imitation is the best form of flattery, and there are times when the student surpasses the master.

All good writing begins as fan fiction.

Anyways, ladies and gentlemen, we’re under pressure and out of time.

Have a splendid day.

‘Cause I know I sure will.

Oh, shit, I almost forgot. Inspector Gilles Maintenon Mystery # 6, ‘How to Rob a Bank’, will be complete, fantastically good and available for pre-order by, or on, or about, the end of August.


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