Back on the Beat with A COLD KILL, Number 7 in the Series
It's a homicide case with more questions than answers for Detective Sergeant John Bowers. His partner Sergeant Minnie Rae is birthing twins so John is working with Max Bando, the carrot-top detective who has to carry a napkin in his back pocket instead of a handkerchief. Lots of folks don't like lawyers. But when one is shredded like coleslaw in his uptown office, it turns out maybe there's a cold case in the background.. And in the middle of it all, John's number two ex, Doris, is back. And natch, John hasn't a clue where the landmines are. It's another case of catch up for the homicide detectives from Barbies to Bandidos.
One interesting thing about writing a series is watching your characters grow and develop into virtual acquaintances. We all know the story of the author who got so wrapped up in his virtual world, he wandered off the grid. A little quirky maybe, but many of us scribblers can identity with the dilemma. It's hard when we become so attached, maybe even a little in love with our protagonists that we feel betrayed when they veer off the course we've set for them. But that is really the miracle of creating them in the first place. After all, they are all peopled from our intimate experiences with real people who are anything but set in cement.
At my first John Bowers book signing for Blue Butterfly, the first Bowers book, I was gobsmacked by all the takes on my characters. I thought I was just channeling the fuzz balls in my brain, but, as it turned out from listening to my readers, they had drawn all sorts of side plots, motives and perspectives on their own. Where I thought I had created a sympathetic, windmill tilter, many saw him as a Rocky Balboa. Where'd that come from? And my hero who sacrificed a lot to arrive at the basic Golden Rule morphed into a steely-hearted s.o.b. who sold out after struggling with his soul. What? The upside was that they all loved the guy and swore they knew him. Fact was, a lot of folks were certain he was drawn from real life. "So you worked with this guy, right?" "Is he still with the Portland PD and what does he think of the book?" "Did John retire and actually write this under your name or what?" I was finally forced to explain the definition of fiction to more than a few. Who cared if they drew different virtual people from what I'd scripted? They all liked the big guy for different reasons.
The experience taught me a valuable lesson for a newbie. It's impossible, and if somehow it becomes possible to write characters who are seen in only one view and heard in only one voice, they will never become fleshed-out folks, warts and all. Consistent formulaic stories with cut-out figures guarantee that only those rare readers who never consider coloring outside the lines will fall in love with your heroes and heroines. I figured out that fictional characters have to come in many-faceted shapes to reach a broad spectrum of folks who like to set themselves inside the virtual world you've created. The bonus from the book signing was that several of my readers enlightened me as to the depth I'd sort of taken for granted or rather just underestimated. The more tightly you draw a character, the more restrictive the readers' imagination to build their own sand castles. Real people who exhibit these constraints are branded as anal, rigid bastards you pray will never be your seatmate on a long flight.
So despite the many takes that John Bowers and his cast at Central Precinct come up with, he always plays to folks of different stripes. He's sexy to some (an eighty something gal reading Babylon Blues in the Atlanta Airport clued me in) and a big teddy bear to ladies who swear he's as easy to see through as cellophane, and to street cops and Semper Fi guys, he's just the kind of heavy they can look up to. Just like the rest of us, he's whatever he needs to be to deal with the situation at hand. He's normal and has as many sides as a pretzel, Probably why when I get to my keyboard to let loose another episode of the series, I just relax and let him take the reins. I trust him to lead the way. And that's why I think I'm in love with the dude.