Have you ever planned a murder? I ply the art three times a month for my series, “The Hard-Boiled Detective.” I have to admit that this is an odd slant on the publishing racket: retro, private eye fiction on a subscription basis. After seven months and 21 adventures, word is finally, slowly, starting to break. Then in steps Paul D. Brazill, esquire, graciously suggesting I pen a guest blog.
You don’t double-hitch at that kind of generosity. I immediately propped a vanity mirror next to the laptop and conducted the following interview with myself. Sure.
“The Hard-Boiled Detective” is some kind of series?
Sure. Doesn’t everybody have a series these days? Tag it, “old-school, detective fiction.” Three short stories come out every month. Subscribers download tales in the format of their choice: epub, mobi or PDF.
Three? You’re really going to crank out three pieces every month?
That’s what everybody asks. I’ve been doing it since the site launched last February. Three yarns a month come rain or come shine. I guess I’m just crazy that way.
So who is “The Hard-Boiled Detective?” What’s his name, etc?
I won’t tell you his name. One’s as good as another.
Or the city that serves as his beat. You’ll figure it out, all right.
His time? It’s any period you like. Call it 1929, 1939, 1959.
A man of mystery?
Nix. Nothing like that. I wanted to create a throwback, see?
Narrative forms are always evolving. Like the flattening of the narrative arc in the cinema under the influence of new wave directors. (That played real esoteric-like, didn’t it?). How books and television immerse adventure stories in more and more soap opera subplot. I longed to get away from that and return to a simpler form.
So I modeled the series partly on the idea of classic television. I chose to avoid contemporary times, opting instead to create an undefined period piece. “The Hard-Boiled Detective” is basic, a romanticized valentine to the genre.
Isn’t that sweet?
I hope it doesn’t come across too sweet. That would gum up the format. I merely allow the hero’s actions and observations to do his talking. I’ve never developed his personal life. There’s no melodrama on that level.
So there is a format?
Sure there is. And it’s kind of funny. The last thing I want is to bog down the form in any heavy sense of realism, but something odd struck me when I began writing. You start out with the movies, then read Hammett and Chandler, add in Spillane, and then those countless detective shows on television—victims are everywhere. They’re dropping like flies. By the hundreds. Probably by the thousands. So it struck me: all these gumshoes must spend half of their professional lives at the local station house giving accounts to the bulls. That lightbulb established the format: each story of “The Hard-Boiled Detective” is told by our gumshoe hero as a statement to the police. Naturally, he likes spinning a colorful yarn.
So the characters and stories never develop, one to the next?
Not per se. I do attempt to reward regular readers, but each plot stands on its own—you can start with story number 11 without reading 1–10. Jump around as much as you want, even. It’s really as simple as old TV comedies. Every episode is self-contained. The idea’s to craft the P.I. and his tales as timeless. As timeless as a code of honor. As timeless as man’s corruption and sin.
You sure reference television a lot.
I don’t mean to. My first influences were Hollywood, all the way. Cagney and the Brothers Warner. Bogart. Raft. The entire Warner gangster cycle. Feels like I was weaned on ’em. And comic books and cartoon strips. Of course my generation claims ABC, CBS and NBC as surrogate parents. And then there’s books.
Detective-wise, Hammett came first for me. But it was Spillane that moved me towards this series. Spillane provided a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he inspired me to hit the keyboard; on the other hand, his later works made me long for the earlier tales before modern times and political correctness mucked up the proceedings. Call it a knee-jerk reaction, sure, but that was my take.
Of course, no set of masters is complete without mentioning Chandler. Aces. Simply aces. There’s no simile like a Chandlerism. It makes me think of that “Unfaithfully Yours” line by Preston Sturges: “You handle Handel like nobody handles Handel.” Sure.
So who do you go for, Hammett or Chandler?
Really? You’re going to throw that one at me? Okay. It’s means nothing, but for me? I prefer Chandler. I’ll also take Keaton over Chaplin, Astaire ver Kelly, and paper over plastic. Satisfied?
So when will we see “The Hard-Boiled Detective” on the little screen?
Probably around the same time I get my first book deal and “The Ed Sullivan Show” comes back to prime time. Sure.
But I’ve got some thoughts on that, just the same. A fella can dream, can’t he? See, I’ve got two ideas for the TV series. And they’re plenty radical.
First of all, we make it a half hour. Can you picture that? A 30-minute detective show? It’s just not done, but man, would it clip along! Leave ’em wanting more—there’s a motto for you.
The second idea—this one is a pip. We’ve got an unnamed sleuth working the mean streets of an unnamed burg, right? In a sense, he’s unidentified, right? So we cast a different actor to play him in every episode.
So the detective is actually a guest star every week?
You got it.
What the hell? After all, it’s my fantasy. It’s the stuff that guest blogs are made of.
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