John Lawton is internationally known for his masterful historical spy novels, and joins us this evening, September 20th, at 7 PM for our Noir at the Bar at Threadgill’s, an evening of readings from our favorite authors while drinking some favorite brews. John Lawton will be joined by fellow Brit Zoe Sharp and Americans Rick Ollerman, Mike McCrary and Jesse Sublett.
Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz
Spy fiction, while excellent in the hands of those who’ve lived the secretive professions they explore in their tales of espionage, can benefit from the same hindsight (and declassified documents) that bring clarity to the history books. I appreciate the authenticity brought to spy fiction by those with personal espionage experience, yet I feel just as impressed with those who bring this shadow world to life through research and creating powerful characters.
Such is the case with John Lawton, whose gritty espionage thrillers perfectly evoke Cold War politics and carry on the legacy of the early spy fiction masters. First known for his Frederick Troy novels, a historical series set during WWII, Lawton has written several acclaimed stand-alones. He is now two books in to his new Joe Wilderness series, which unlike his previous series, features a working class character comfortable on both sides of the law (and both sides of the Berlin Wall).
NOVELS AND SHORT STORIES: Advice and Opinions On Two Forms of Writing
by Rick Ollerman
A friend of mine recently asked me about a problem she’s having writing a novel. She writes mostly short stories and I write mostly novels and while she says she has the ending “set” and a solid beginning, she’s struggling with what comes between. Endings aside, she wanted to know if I ever struggled with the last two thirds of a novel.
The short answer is no, I don’t, but that’s because the process of writing a novel is different than writing a short story. A short story should be something that you can hold in your head in its entirety. You can’t do that with a novel, it’s just too damned big.
When I write a short story I need to know the point I want to make before I begin. I need to know what I’m writing to, what the thing is I want to say. It could be the expression of a mood or an emotion, the consequence of an action, or the classic twist the reader shouldn’t see coming. In the case of a forthcoming anthology based on the music of The Replacements (Waiting To Be Forgotten, 2016?), the point was derived from one of their songs.
This is not so for a novel. When I begin a new book-length project I start with a concept that usually comes from asking “what if” or “how come” sorts of questions. Those answers give me the characters. Put them together and I can write the opening. When people ask the seemingly eternal but silly question about what’s more important, characters or plot, there’s no real answer because both are needed to write a good book. In fact, I’d offer the formula “characters + plot + setting = good book,” assuming of course that the book is well written in the first place.
Zoë Sharp will be one of our authors at our upcoming Noir At The Bar, an event celebrating the magical mixture of author readings and brews. Noir at the Bar takes place at Threadgill’s South and begins at 7 PM, Tuesday September 20th. Her latest book features Kelly Jacks, a former Crime Scene Investigator turned crime scene cleaner after being framed for murder. Meike Alana caught up with her for this interview bout her latest, The Blood Whisperer.
Meike Alana: At one point, a character tells Kelly Jacks that she may not have a dick but she certainly has balls (a great line, by the way). Can you tell us a little bit about how you developed a character as complex as Kelly?
Zoë Sharp: Well, I’ve written eleven novels in the Charlie Fox series, but there are other stories I want to tell that wouldn’t be a good fit in Charlie’s world.
The idea for The Blood Whisperer came about because I was intrigued by the idea of writing a series of standalones⎯which sounds like a contradiction, I know. They would be individual stories, with different main protagonists, but all strong female characters who were, for whatever reason, slightly on the wrong side of the law. So, where the first reaction of a ‘normal’ person when confronted with the kind of danger Kelly faces would be to go to the police, for her that isn’t an option. She has to rely on her instincts to keep her alive.
Kelly very much evolved as I wrote the book, which is how I like to develop characters. I know some people write complicated biographies before they begin, but until a person walks onto the page for the first time, they haven’t really taken shape for me. Her interest in free-climbing, for instance, began as a method of escaping from the four walls of her home, a way of finding an additional sense of freedom having endured being in prison, but it quickly became an integral part of the story.
“The idea for The Blood Whisperer came about because I was intrigued by the idea of writing a series of standalones⎯which sounds like a contradiction, I know. They would be individual stories, with different main protagonists, but all strong female characters who were, for whatever reason, slightly on the wrong side of the law.”
Noir At the Bar will be back in action Tuesday, September 20th at Threadgill’s South. Along with local author, musician and man-about-town Jesse Sublett, we have two authors from outside the state and one from Britain. This could be the closest we come to being classy.
Rick Ollerman hails from Florida, where his latest book, Mad Dog Barked, takes place. Rick has his feet firmly planted in the hard boiled tradition to tell his two fisted tales. Mad Dog Barked gives us hard drinking and harder living private detective Scott Porter, who becomes the caretaker of a first edition copy of Poe’s “The Murders In The Rue Morgue” that draws the attention of old school gangsters and several other nefarious types.
Our first author from across the pond is Zoe Sharp. She is best known for her series character, Charlie Fox, who is often described as the female Jack Reacher. Her latest is a standalone, Blood Whispererthat deals with a wrongfully-imprisoned-crime-scene-investigator-turned-crime-scene-cleaner who is framed for murder. Zoe doesn’t tour the States often so catch her while you can.
John Lawton is an American who writes about Britain. The Unfortunate Englishman is his second book to feature Joe Wilderness, an agent for MI6 (or so we think, it’s a little complex). Come out and see why he is a MysteryPeople customer favorite.
Noir at the Bar takes place at Threadgill’s South (off of Riverside.) Our next Noir at the Bar is Tuesday, September 20th, at 7 PM. Recent books by each author will be available for purchase at the signing. We’ll be giving out books left and right, so come prepared for wonderful readings and some free reads!