My first blog with this crew, and it starts with failure! I can’t name the single book ... in fact I'll bet only a very focused, self-aware writer would be able to.
This is probably how it goes for many: I wanted to write before I knew how to spell the word itself – so there’s the inspiration part – and wanted to be a writer only much later, in my early twenties, when I had what I believed was a finished MS in my hands. That’s now long gone and my current series is really Phase II of my writing life.
For Phase II, although I can’t name a single book, I can quite closely pinpoint my inspiration down to this series: Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct. In my teens and onward I read every McBain I could get a hold of.
McBain (who started life as Salvatore Lombino, I just discovered) was prolific. If I publish a handful of novels in my lifetime, I’ll die happy; McBain produced a handful of novels/plays/screenplays/film adaptations every year of his writing life, not just as McBain but as Evan Hunter -- his eventual official name -- and a half dozen other pseudonyms.
I haven’t read them all, and probably never will. They did start to feel kind of diluted eventually. But McBain’s Detective/Second Grade Carella (who, unlike me, never aged throughout the series) will always have a place in my heart. So will Bert Kling.
McBain was the master of author intrusion, but that didn’t bother me. Maybe if I’d taken a few writing classes before I started reading him, it would have spoiled the magic for me. Maybe knowing the rules isn’t always a good thing. But I didn’t know the rules, and the books pulled me right out of my world and into his fictitious New-Yorkesque big bad city with all its hellish problems.
Though I’ve retired the 87th, a bunch of them will stay on my shelf as long as I’m around. They were there for me when I needed escape, and I’m sure they did indeed inspire me to write in a particular way, so years later -- when I got back typing after a decade of not -- I gravitated toward the police procedural. It had to be as realistic as I could make it, with a long arc and a durable team of players.
I don't consider my writing much like McBain's, but I’ll end this on a small but delightful story: A few years ago, after many years writing alone, I joined an online critique-sharing site called the Next Big Writer. How’s that for an ambitious name? (It was a good experience, but I eventually burnt out and had to quit.) At one point a fellow joined the site -- briefly -- and went about blasting contempt at every post he read, including mine. It didn’t hurt much, after the sting wore off, for a couple reasons: A) He was right. B) He tacked onto the end of his comments that my writing reminds him a bit of Ed McBain. So there you go, the guy made my day.
BIT OF NEWS NOW: On March 12 I will be on a panel at the inaugural Cuffed International Crime Writers Festival on Granville Island: http://www.cuffedfestival.com. It’s sure to be a fantastic weekend, and hope to see you there!Or check out my other upcoming events on my website: http://rmgreenaway.com