Re: RARA-AVIS: D. Lynds: Work habits

From: Dennis Lynds (
Date: 29 May 2005

> To answer your question, I wasn't crazy about the multiple viewpoints in
Cassandra in Red. I prefer a straightforward single point of view throughout a novel. However, the book was very well structured, with Dan Fortune's narrative interrupted by alternate chapters giving background on the various characters. I can see that this technique, which I understand was your innovation, served the very useful purpose of presenting information and developing characters to an extent that wouldn't have been possible (in the same space) had Fortune had to go dig it all up.

    What I was after were ways to make the characters both deeper and broader than is possible in the standard detective novel, point up the theme more forcefully, and especially avoid the mind-numbing endless series of interviews that constitute most detective novels. I tried to use techniques that are more common in more cutting edge mainstream fiction. In most of these set pieces the intention is to turn the wordy and passive interview into an action story all its own that reveals both facts and character without showing the detective doing the tedious interviews to gather all the information revealed in the set piece. If you look carefully you'll realize that most of these scenes are actually stand-alone short stories. My design was to suggest these scenes were Dan himself speaking, and if you take a close look at them you'll find they are very much in Dan's voice. A few in other novels are Dan telling a seemingly unrelated story that emphasizes the theme of the book and the attitudes of various characters, again in Dan's voice. In Cassandra In Red there is one section that is purely in Dan's imagination, and one reader particularly liked that section. Anyway, I can't remain static in my writing, and I felt and still freel the average mystery novel is in paralytic rut. (Oddly, experiment began with the invention of the hardboiled form---Hammett's extremely distant third person narration in Maltese Falcon, almost a camera-eye narration---but seems to have been lost with the exception of a writer here and there such as Jim Ellroy.)

> One of the things I found interesting about Cadillac Cowboy was the way
the heavy turned out to be a rather sympathetic character, and the fairly colourless woman with whom Morgan was instantly infatuated wound up the opposite of the way she started.

    That's what writing is all about, isn't it? Doing the unexpected, making you think. The colorless woman is that way because she has a colorless life she is struggling to escape without actually knowing it. It takes Dan and the cowboy to make her realize she wants and needs "life" in her life. That it is better to "live" than exist, no matter how briefly.

> My question about protagonists wasn't very clear. I really just meant,
when you first come up with a certain storyline or theme, do you immediately think of it as best suited to a particular one of your established characters? On rereading your answer, I see you generally start with the need to write a book featuring a certain character and go from there. So I guess I wonder whether you sometimes have to save ideas for the next instalment in another series because they just don't seem to fit the series you're working on. Having only read one book in each of two series, I don't know how all your series are distinguished thematically.
> Yes, I have saved stories for specific protagonists, especially in the
Buena Costa County series. As for thematic differences in my various series, there is some, but probably not a lot. They are all my books, so my themes occur in all.



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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 29 May 2005 EDT