My book, Salazar, is a PI novel set in Paris, 1930. I’ve been living with Salazar for years now – through many drafts and character transformations. The supporting cast tended to come and go, occasionally changing sex and frequently changing names, but Salazar managed to hang in there. The original murder investigation was dropped, along with the original client, and a new client arrived with a missing person case. Gradually the story took a more solid form and the re-writes were about improving the pace, tinkering with the plot, and cutting out the bits I’d put in because I thought they were witty. You may have worked out from this that I’m not a plotter.
Once the format of the story solidified I found myself thinking more and more about the case itself. I’d cycle home from work cursing the rain and wondering how Salazar would go about finding Gustave Marty. Then, when I had a path for him to take, I’d think up ways to make that path difficult. After all, this wasn’t a missing man but a man who had deliberately done a runner. So, what might such a man, with money to spare, do if he wanted to disappear? What could he do to stop someone finding him and how far would he go? Might he leave traps? He might but he couldn’t just scatter bear traps on streets of Paris. So what sort of traps could he leave and how would they be triggered?
Then there were the gangsters. What would Salazar do when he came across them? Would there be gunplay, a knife fight, a chase through the tunnels of the Métro or cocktails all round and a game of whist? And in the world of gangsters and PIs there has to be room for a few romantic encounters. What men or women from the Parisian night would try to take advantage of our weary investigator? A few of my note books are filled with scribbled out scenarios and situations for Salazar to work through. Some of them were out right rubbish and others couldn’t be made to fit the story. Most of these scenarios died before they were born many more were culled before they could walk. Only a couple saw it all the way through to the published version.
Eventually the searching has to come to an end and Salazar must come face-to-face with Monsieur Gustave Marty himself. Who was this man, Marty, and why did Marie Thérèse Poncelet want him found? Would he be holed up in an old mountain refuge with a six litre jug of absinthe in one hand and an World War I rifle slung over his shoulder? Would he be down on the Riviera rubbing shoulders with gigolos, con artists and the British nobility? And once he was found how should I wrap up the story? And after all that, what then for Salazar?
Salazar’s been hanging out with me for some time now, if you pop over to Amazon he can hang out with you for a while. I’m sure you’ll enjoy each other’s company. But before you invite him over make sure you have a chess set and a bottle of cognac at the ready and, I must warn you, Salazar will be smoking reefers at your breakfast table.