Thursday, February 18, 2016

On Writing Historical Fiction, Strong Emotions.

Louis Shalako

One of the neat things about writing the Inspector Gilles Maintenon Mystery Series is that the author can do anything.

One of Gilles Maintenon’s habits is developing new talent.

Right now he’s got some young gendarme, dragged into the case from what would normally be traffic duties. Due to the nature of crime and investigation, a scene sometimes has to be secured, and with a murder at the Palais Garnier, it’s a big building. Bedard spent his shift guarding a side door. Constable Bedard has some seniority. He’s eligible to write the sergeant’s exam, with a pretty good chance of a posting if he passes. It’s a big department, and if he played his cards right, he could end up anywhere he really wanted. People are saying he has a brain in his head and he’s obviously destined for better things.

Maintenon is having a look at the man, giving him a bit of rope and responsibility. Let’s be honest. Everyone wants to work homicide. This is the top of the heap in policing.

There are times, when what is noir fiction has a bit of warmth. Cops are human beings after all, and Gilles has no children of his own. His wife died not that long ago. The times, the man being what they were, he has no real way to express his love. His only outlet is his work, the job and the people around him.

Maintenon lived through the Great War, which bled France. He was at Verdun, a Holocaust of artillery, machine-gun fire and frontal infantry attacks. That was the whole purpose of some battles—to bleed the enemy until he had no more men to put in front of the guns…

Writing historical fiction can produce some strong emotions, and I like that very much. It keeps it interesting, to read as well as to write. My point is that Maintenon saw all too many kids like Bedard die. He was right beside them when it happened.

That’s just the way it was.

Some people hate cops, and certainly criminals have much to fear from them.

It’s a tough job and you need to be doing it for the right reasons. There’s not a lot of macho bullshit in a Maintenon mystery. Corny as it sounds, the best possible reason to become a cop would be service to one’s fellow man. That’s the sort of thing that a guy like Inspector Gilles Maintenon would take pretty damned seriously. Cops need honour or they become very dangerous.

No one needs that.

To Maintenon, who’s been around the block once or twice, good cops are worth their weight in diamonds. And no one likes to work with the real assholes anyways, as they inevitably drag down to their own level all around them.

So far, Constable Bedard’s been doing all right, to the extent that they’ve got him in plainclothes, he’s driving the boss around and making all kinds of sensible contributions.

The young fellow is learning a lot and getting some experience.

I have every confidence that the team will solve the mystery, the murder of opera singer Largo Banzini, by blowgun-dart, in front of two thousand witnesses at the premier performance of The Golden Dragon. If you’ve been following along, that opera was written by the (fictional) French composer Fosse.

Here’s a link to another book in the series, Speak Softly My Love.

Thank you for reading.


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