~Guest Post by Tim Bryant
Fiction writers are people who never stopped believing in magic. We can’t stop throwing these characters, names, words and ideas into the hat to see what might come out. How does the magic work, you ask. If we try to answer, we’re just making that up, too, because we never really know for sure. Here’s the secret, as much as it can be told: The magic lies as much within the reader.
In 2010, I published my first novel, Dutch Curridge. At that point, I had lived with Dutch— a private detective— and had come to know his world— 1940s/50s Fort Worth, Texas— inside and out. Dutch was a man who identified with and fought for the downtrodden even as he fought his own personal demons.
Says everything/says nothing.
You can’t really know the man behind the words until you read your way into his mind and his heart, and then he’s as hard to capture with language as any of us. I carefully outfitted Dutch to be an antihero I could work and play with. He’s like me in many ways, but not all. I like him in most ways, but not all. However, I didn’t know what kind of life he might or might not have until the first novel came out and started getting feedback. That was magic.
I began to get emails and messages from people in faraway places like Washington state and Cape Girardeau, Missouri and the United Kingdom— readers who weren’t related, who had no reason to get in touch other than to tell me how much they enjoyed my novel, my character, and by the way, how soon will you have more out?
A good portion of the readers were women, telling me that they weren’t normally fans of hardboiled detective novels. In truth, neither Dutch nor Southern Select are standard pulp novels. They’re also music histories. Psychologies. Ghost stories. Love stories. Like true Texas tall tales, I just wanted them to be bigger.
Some readers were history buffs who were happy to see Fort Worth’s colorful history used as a backdrop. Cowtown, as Dutch’s home, had a rich musical background — western swing to jazz— to draw on. It had a gangster reputation to rival that of Chicago’s. Most importantly, it had a chip on its shoulder for being continually pushed into the Big D’s shadow, and that mirrored the one on Dutch’s shoulder.
As sales of Dutch Curridge climbed higher than I had realistically hoped, and as more people began to look for more Dutch, there was a short time when the magic began to feel like pressure. Could I pull a rabbit from the hat again? Would the smoke and mirrors work? Would Dutch, the character, come through for me again? That’s when I came to the realization. It’s not down to me. It’s not Dutch.
We all believe in magic. It’s what makes us pick up one book and then another and another. It transports us from the lives we know. It allows us to see through new eyes. It gives our lives a richer, more empathetic context. My grandmother used to tell me that people who read are smarter than those who don’t. Now I know that she was instilling that magic in me.
And now there is Southern Select, the second Dutch Curridge novel. Maybe a simpler story, perhaps better told. Another look inside the man and the place he calls home. Another stab at righting wrongs that he doesn’t want to live with. At making a hard life just a little more easy for people he doesn’t want to live without.
My grandmother would have loved Dutch Curridge, the man and the book. She would have loved Southern Select atching me become a writer. Watching as a group of writing friends and I started a small publisher, Behooven Press, to better pass the books along. As long as there is someone to read, we will continue to put out more stories. It, I finally realized, will never end. If it did, it wouldn’t be magic.