I’ve got a new book out next month, The Paris Ripper, published by 280 steps and that’s inspired me to get my blogging arse in gear.
I don’t want to go back to book reviews and self-promotion, if that inspired me enough to blog I wouldn’t be talking about getting my arse in gear and there wouldn’t have been such a long gap between this post and the last.
I will, of course, be promoting my books. But I’ll also be exploring ideas. I’ve backed away from this in the past as, I think, I didn’t want to air my ideas in public. But I’m interested in the ideas of other writers and, as I’ve got another novel out later in the year (+ Salazar #1 is being re-released in paperback) I can count myself as a writer. Not a rich writer, they are rare fish, but a writer none the less. So perhaps my ideas will be of interest to some mysterious, unknown, others.
The Paris Ripper
This book took a strange path to conception. It began as Salazar 3, even before Salazar 2 was finished. This was a few years ago, 2013. Back then I had this idea that I should race through first drafts. Then leave them to rest while I tore through the next. So I wrote a draft for Salazar 2 in about 3 months then did the same for Salazar 3.
But I didn’t like them.
I rewrote Salazar 2 and I still didn’t like it.
So I wrote another draft about something else, The Doorbell Maker’s Daughter. It was a short sci-fi noir novel. I quite like it, but not enough.
I went back to Salazar 2, completed another draft, and still didn’t like it.
I think it was at this point I decided to re-write Salazar 3, without Salazar. Rewriting a novel without the main character is rather drastic. For one thing, they were the focus of the book, and for another, they were in most scenes. Most scenes. Unlike Salazars #1 and #2, I’d written #3 from a 3rd person POV. I ended up ripping out about 80-90 percent of the original text.
I started again with Belmont as the lead. He’d played a minor part in Salazar #2 and a slightly larger part in the early drafts of #3. Now, however, he was the lead. And that meant the focus of the book was no longer a freelance PI but a Paris cop. Therefore, the slightly anonymous sergeants he had around him had to become full-blown characters in their own right, with their own ambitions and conflicting interests. I had to give Belmont a home life and a back story. And I gave him a new killer to hunt.
Belmont, to me, is a cross between Maigret and Harry Hole. I didn’t want to back away from the violence of the Police in the 1930s and especially not the violence of the French Police. So Belmont gets his hands dirty in the interview room. Yet, I didn’t want him to be a mindless thug. You could call him a harsh realist. What he really is, is a sensitive man who’s become slightly immune to the violence. Like most of the cops and most of the criminals in the 1930s, he lived through the war. What, to me, would be abhorrent, to him is every day. I couldn’t give Belmont my values, I’ve not walked one inch in his shoes. I was playing in a chess match once, in the back of a village pub, and one of the opposing team dropped dead. He was an old chap and had a heart attack. It left me shocked and I thought about it a lot (it happened 30 odd years ago and I still sometimes think about it). Belmont witnessed death on an unimaginable scale every day for years. Horrible grinding deaths, of friends of men he’d shared cigarettes with. Not only that, but he has killed. Fired shells into enemy lines, pointed his gun at a man and pulled the trigger. Take him out of that environment and stick him, along with a load of other ex-army cops, into an interrogation room and things will get bloody.
I’m not excusing or justifying, I’m explaining. I used to hate the phrase from Maigret where he’d say he didn’t judge. I’ve always been quite judgemental but I’ve come to understand Maigret’s approach and it’s seeped into my writing and my life. Try to understand not to judge. Part of understanding, however, means differentiating truth from fiction. And fiction is something that drips from us, a sweaty slime which prevents anyone getting to the truth. Even if that anyone happens to be yourself looking at your own truth. I won’t go into this any more here as I’ll have more to say about it later – it’s a general theme in Belmont #2 which I’m writing at the moment.
Belmont’s a good guy but he doesn’t drink with the angels. In fact, he doesn’t know for sure where he drinks. By birth it ought to be champagne on the family estate. By nature it ought to be wine at gallery openings. Instead, he has created a character for himself, the character of Belmont the flic. It’s a role he plays because he feels comfortable playing it. His identity as a person was shot to bits by the war and the events which followed soon after it. He found he was a good flic, a natural. And so he made himself more flic. Which left him something less outside of work. That’s something I explore more in #2. For now Belmont drinks in a seedy flic bar near Police HQ, The Scarlet K. It’s named after my daughters to whom the book is dedicated. They won’t be allowed to read it for a good 5 or so years. You don’t have to wait so long: The Paris Ripper is out on February 18th 2016.
Jan 11th 2016
R.I.P. David Bowie who died today.