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Cold

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Which is what it is today.  I’ve got a rather odd week-end planned, assuming that the status of everthing and everybody stays as it is–that is, that nobody dies.  I’ve got some stuff to do tomorrow, and then I’m going to reread a couple of Harry Potter novels that I have hanging around–the first, and the seventh.  Actually, I’m not rereading the seventh.  When we first got it, my sons took it and spirited it away, and I’ve only just come across it again.

Just as an aside–the book of Shadia Drury’s that has me held in a state of morbid fascination is called something like Aquinas and Modernity.  I looked it up, too, and it’s cheaper than the one you guys found, but it’s still expensive for a paperback.  I assume the price tags are the result of the books being classified as “scholarly.”  And, yeah, I know.  If the articles in  Free Inquiry are any indication, her pretentions to scholarship, especially in the Middle Ages, are, well, what can we say?   Weak.

And as to a book in the library saying that angels are pushing the planets around:  I see nothing wrong with the book being there, but something wrong with announcements about it made in science classes in such a way as to imply that that theory is equally scientific.

Which is what was being done in Dover–in spite of the fact that there is no (none.  zero.  zilch) actual scientific work in Intelligent Desin, no refereed papers, no experiments, nothing, in spite of the fact that none of the people pushing ID is trained in the field (the only biologist is not an evolutinary biologist, and his claims have already been refuted, he’s just not listening), what the school board in Dover wanted to do was to present the situation as “evolution is a theory that not all scientiests agree about and there’s equally convicning scientific evidence for Intelligent Design.”

Which is not true.  

But today I want to get to a smaller and much more practical issue, because right now I’m in the midst of mapping out two new Gregor Demarkian mysteries in my head.  

I’ve said that I nearly always start books with a character and let the character take the lead, and that’s ninety nine percent.  It’s even half true in this case. 

But for the last couple of months,  I’ve been considering a situation that intrigues me both with its logistical possibilities and with the nature of the character that would have to be at the center of it.

And it’s a very interesting situation, even though the main “fair play” clue would be a literary reference not everybody would get.

But what’s become very clear to me is that this particular idea would not work with  Gregor Demarkian as the detective.  He’s got the wrong kind of mind for it, and the wrong set of references to really understand it. 

I wonder about that sometimes, the fact that all of us come equipped with sets of references we don’t even realize are references, that we think of as just “normal.”  And those references determine not only a lot of what we think about the world, but a lot of what we notice.  Father Tibor sees God everywhere.  Bennis tends to see class.

One of the things you can do with an idea that is outside your detective’s ken is to start a new series, which has occured to me.  I don’t want to give up writing Gregor, but the idea of another series, with a different set of characters, is intriquing, and when  I suggest it people sometimes actually seem interested. By people here, I mean, people in a position to know whether somebody would pay me for it.

This particular idea, however, would fit very well into Gregor’s universe, it just couldn’t be satisfyingly investigated by Gregor himself. 

And that leaves me with a set of possibilities, none of which I know much about. 

Why do people read series, for isntance?   It’s obvious that lots of people read them in order to follow the lives of the main core of characters from one book to the next.   It’s also obvious that a lot of people have a lot of trouble reading third person multiple viewpoint, and my guess is would have even more with first person multiple viewpoint.

Would a series be just as satisfying to a reader if the main character changed from one person to the next in a small set of continuing characters?  Would it be possible–after twenty-two Gregor Demarkian novels–to produce one where Bennis was the detective, or Tibor was?  Or one written in first person rather than in third?  What about one from the point of view of one of the more minor continuing characters–say, Russ Donahue or Hannah Krekorian?

Or, take it in another direction–how about a series in which each book was written in the first person point of view of a different character in the main core set? 

Or maybe I’m just getting more literary here than I ought to.

But here we come to one of my other problems with genre.  Genre determines not only narrative arc, or at least underlying narrative arc, but also reader expectations about muc m ore than that arc.  Mickey Spillane was once quoted as saying that if a book got boring, the best thing to do was shoot somebody–but he’d have said something different if the books he’d been writing were romances.

In a world of people who read for entertainment and escape, I don’t know the answers to questions like these.  To me, any of these experiments would be inherently interesting, but the fact is that they all represent much more work on the reader’s part than just doing the normal thing with a series. 

But then, I also tend to think that a book that makes me work is a good thing. I get the impression, more and more, that I’m in a minority there.

Okay, this is not the kind of problem any of you could be expected to solve,and I’m not going to solve it either.

But I’m thinking.

Written by janeh

September 3rd, 2009 at 6:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses to 'Cold'

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  1. Should I comment when I don’t particularly like the Demarkian novels? No serious reason – I just can’t get into them.

    But if I were a fan and brought a new book by Jane Hadden which didn’t feature Gregor, I would feel cheated.

    Suggestion – use a different pen name or make sure the cover blurb clearly says Not a Gregor Demarkian book.

    jd

    3 Sep 09 at 1:22 pm

  2. On the other side of the page, I enjoy the Demarkian novels well enough (though Bennis does at times get on my last nerve) but think that Jane writes terrific *other* characters and has plenty of chops to write stand-alones or alternative series.

    In fact, I’ve told her that in particular, “Other People’s Music” would have been much stronger without Demarkian. It seemed like that book had a strong, compelling story going and bringing in the standard characters seemed like a weak dependence on a crutch. That’s my take on it, anyway.

    Other authors with very successful series have introduced new characters to become the main focus of a book in a series, relegating the series main to secondary status for a book or two. The one who comes to mind is Robert Crais, whose Joe Pike novels take nothing away from his Elvis Cole series, and are very successful on their own.

    Many writers I can think of write in several series, completely separate, like Joan Hess or JA Jance , or loosely (or not so loosely) interweave them, like Robert B. Parker.

    Readers who enjoy the Demarkian books will at least try another book by Jane. Given her writing skill, most will enjoy them at least as much as the series. Dana Stabenow writes two separate series set in Alaska, and she’s written several stand-alones recently. As far as I’m aware, her success as a series writer carried over into the sales of the standalones, which were very readable and in no way a disappointment to me as a reader of her series.

    I agree that any such departure from the series should be labeled as such. It’s a selling point, though, not a disadvantage. For a writer, it seems like being locked into only writing one set of characters would be a straitjacket, kind of like an actor being typecast as one character or one role.

    Make Jane work!! We’ll all be better for it. I’d love to see a new set of characters, a new setting, and a whole new population of victims to be mowed down, a la Cabot Cove. ;)

    Lymaree

    3 Sep 09 at 2:01 pm

  3. I think Rex Stout set the precedent. THE HAND IN THE GLOVE is a Dol Bonner mystery and RED THREADS is an Inspectory Cramer mystery. For those who don’t know, Dol shows up from time to time in the Nero Wolfe mysteries when there is need for a female operative, and of course Cramer is a regular in the series. But neither of these mysteries makes any direct reference to Nero and Archie.
    I see no reason why Gregor can’t be busy with another case, laid up with a broken leg, down with the flu or on vacation long enough for Bennis or Tibor to solve this one. (Tibor gets my vote!)
    Another cast might be interesting, but it isn’t necessary in this case.

    robert_piepenbrink

    3 Sep 09 at 4:02 pm

  4. Agatha Christie managed both the Poirot and Marple series with no overlap of characters.

    Kerry Greenwood is a contemporary Australian author with two mystery series. One set in Melbourne of 1928 and the other in present day Melbourne. Again, no overlap of characters and very different personalities.

    But I doubt that a book with Bennis as the main character and Gregor as a “walk on” would work well.

    jd

    3 Sep 09 at 4:11 pm

  5. I recall reading, when I was in my early teens, at least two series in which the focus changed from one character to another: the Jalna books by Mazo de la Roche and Elswyth Thane’s series about the Sprague/Day/etc families. Yes, they moved from generation to generation, but at least a few of the books took place fairly close in time, so that it was a kind of “Meanwhile, back at the ranch” effect. It also seems to me that it is fairly common to do this in romance novels; M>C> Beaton has several series about different girls at a school, or several sisters, or the servants at a Mayfair house. Mary Balogh has done, as well as Susan Elizabeth Phillips (my mother was an avid romance reader).

    I don’t see why it couldn’t be done in a mystery series as well, and I think you could handle it well.

    CASM

    3 Sep 09 at 5:14 pm

  6. I really enjoy the Demarkian books, and my first reaction on hearing that the next book had a different protagonist would be disappointment. However, I would certainly read it, and maybe I’d find I liked it equally well, or even better. I always read the first books in new series by authors I like. Sometimes I like the new series, sometimes not. In fact, I’ll read the first books in a new series even by authors I don’t like, in the hope that I will be pleasantly surprised (which has happened.)

    Lots of authors write two or more different series, sometimes with overlapping characters, sometimes not. I think readers are probably used to the idea. Just make sure that it’s clearly labeled somehow as starring a new protagonist, so it doesn’t feel like bait & switch.

    My personal take on your decision is that you should write what interests you. Far better a book that really absorbs your attention and interest as you’re writing than one where you feel you’re just going through the motions, or you feel you’re stuck with something that doesn’t work for you anymore, or doesn’t work for this particular book.

    Lee B

    3 Sep 09 at 8:10 pm

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