RARA-AVIS: Reply to questions:Sullivan,Blumenthal,Doherty

From: First Gemini ( firstgemini@earthlink.net)
Date: 02 Jan 2002

My apologies for the delay in this reply.Holidays and my son's wedding intervened.The last two novels in the series,A Fistful of Empty and Mexico is Forever were written with one eye on the trajectory of my commercial viability.By the time I arrived at book no. 5 I had serious doubts about how long I would have the opportunity to be published.Sales had never been good and hadn't grown at all.Early publisher enthusiasm
(paperback sales ,foreign rights) had dried up.I had always wanted to write a version of the Maltese Falcon, my favorite hardboiled tale.I figured that it was as good a time as any.I wanted to return to the story of what you do when someone kills your partner and explore it from the perspective of a man more connected than Sam Spade.His pursuit puts people he cares about in harm's way.Samantha decides that she won't play the sap for him.Anyway it's a tale of loss . After that was released my publisher decided to pay me off to get out of our contract rather than publish the next book.I now had 5 different publishers for the six books.I couldn't see the wall for all the writing. I wrote Mexico as a swan song.Five years later ,I was invited to write a short story with a long enough word count that I could contemplate wrapping up the loose ends of the Haggerty series. That story "Lost and Found" also allowed me to return to one of the Haggerty short stories I had written with a loose end(Mary, Mary, Shut the Door). Lost and Found is a story of redemption after loss and was the way I wanted to end the work featuring Leo Haggerty.
     Leo started out with the kind of infirmities you accumulate if you really do practice the violent arts.I had wanted him to be of the
"regular guy" school of protagonists, not a superhero.Arnie was always a counterweight to Leo.A man of great moral clarity . The courage of his convictions made him capable of great violence.Leo struggles to achieve that kind of clarity throughout the series.Bergson wrote : Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought. That was Leo's quest at all times.Arnie and Leo pursued a dialogue about the morality of violence throughout the books.Imagine Lew Archer with Mike Hammer for a partner.
     After writing the Haggerty books, I switched to writing short stories. They provided me with a way to explore narrative options and genre types that I hadn't tried before.My sons both worked as private eyes for a couple of years during college.I saw ways to explore old issues from a new perspective and entirely new issues as I watched two middle class suburban youths encounter the meaner streets.I started with a short story based on their experiences and hope to do a novel using the Ellis brothers.
     Being a psychologist and writing detective fiction are two sides of the same coin.Only the mysteries change. In the therapy hour, it's why do I do these self destructive things? In the forensic arena it's Do we accept the pedophile's claim that there are no other victims?.Being a therapist teaches a great respect for the power of language.The right words at the right time can heal people.It's not a big jump to the power of the written word and it's ability to enthrall.As a forensic investigator you learn that the devil and everyone else is in the details.Building a case is often described as the process of piling up a big wall of small facts and then pushing them over on someone.That approach helps immeasurably with plotting.Being a therapist and a forensic investigator gives you first-hand experience with the lies and evasions people use to avoid confronting the truth about themselves That's enormously useful in understanding how to peel back the layers of motivation as you develop character. Finally being a therapist reminds you that living people always escape the trap of our theories, are always surprising us and that our fictional characters should do the same if they are truly alive.
     As for the "intensive grilling" it's very gratifying to find that people remember the books and think well of them.I hope that I have answered your questions.

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