English-born Mark Pryor is a prosecutor for the City of Austin and, in his spare time, writer of the popular Hugo Marston series., The books follow Marston, head of security for the US Embassy in Paris and proud Texan, as he solves crimes and encounters danger in the narrow Parisian side-streets. Pryor’s fifth book in the series, The Reluctant Matador, comes out June 2nd, and takes Marston to Barcelona to solve the mystery of a young woman’s disappearance. Mark Pryor is also the most Texan Brit in Austin since Robert Plant left town. You can find copies of all of Mark Pryor’s novels to date on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
– Guest post by Mark Pryor
You know what Texas represents to many English people? The entirety of the United States. It’s true, if absurdly reductionist, that for many people of my generation (born and raised before the Internet) America was a place of cowboys and wide-open spaces, a place where gun-toting good guys rode across the plains and cooked over campfires at night. It was a place where desperate entrepreneurs struck gold, or oil, and where a man could be who he wanted to be, no limits, no restrictions. It’s an old-fashioned portrait of a much more complex place, I know, but even today Texas has that special aura surrounding it, to me and my English friends who come out to visit.
The creation of my series hero, Hugo Marston, didn’t consciously tap into that vein of thinking but as I’ve gotten to know and develop him, and as I look at the way he conducts himself in each story, I think it’s clear that he’s very much a throwback. Sure, he wears a hat and cowboy boots as he walks the streets of Paris, but it’s more than that. He’s a handsome man but he describes himself as a watcher, not a player. And that brings to mind the steely-eyed gunslingers of my childhood, the men who saw right and wrong and acted accordingly, no matter the risk.
And so I wonder if I would’ve written Hugo the same way if I still lived in England, or even in my home of ten years, North Carolina. I think not. It may not have occurred to me to make him a Texan. And what a shame that would have been because there’s something special about the hat and the boots, about the sartorial swagger belonging to a quiet, kind, but strong man from Texas, a crime fighter who carries a badge and a gun, but who fights crime in a foreign city.
I’m often asked about that apparent disconnect, the fact that an Englishman writes a series about a Texan living in Paris, France. To me, it’s not a disconnect at all. It’s just the way things are, and perhaps the way things should be. After all, every book in the series has been written right here in Austin, a place known for being a little weird and a place that’s still Texan enough that a man, even an author, can do his job the way he sees fit, no limits and no restrictions. The old-fashioned way.
And this brings an end to May as Texas Mystery Writers Month. Up next, June is International Crime Fiction Month! Look out for reviews and top lists of international crime fiction, recent and classic, and an interview or two. We’ve also got plenty of events coming up, so keep an eye on the now-entirely-up-to-date events page on the MysteryPeople blog.