Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Time for the Gold Watch

Endgame – After considering killing off his hero, Lee Child is handing over the writing of the Jack Reacher Novels to his brother, Andrew. Would you consider killing your protagonists, and how do you envisage ending their careers?

- From Frank

The short answer is yes. I have, in fact. I won't tell you which books, though - that would ruin things.

I will let on with a smaller spoiler, though. Although he is not a protagonist, per se, Officer Anthony Battaglia is a significant support character in my River City series. Mostly, he provided some comic relief along with his partner, Officer Connor O'Sullivan, especially in the first three books. They had the patrol cop banter down, each affecting a caricature of their own ethnic roots to rib each other.

A curious thing happened as I approached the fourth book in the series, And Every Man Has to Die. See, in addition to River City novels, I've written many short stories set within the universe. Most of the stories were written before the novels, though some were published around the time of the first two books. For context, the first book in the River City series, Under a Raging Moon, was published in 2006 but the novel is set in 1994. Point is, even though many stories were written before this, quite a few of them actually take place later in the timeline.  

One example of is the story "No Good Deed," published in January 2005. It is narrated by Connor O'Sullivan, and set in the summer months of either 2004 or 2005 (I forget which at the moment). The story details an off duty altercation Sully stumbles into and the fallout afterward. But the salient point here is that the reader learns through the course of this story that his partner, Anthony Battaglia, died some years ago. There aren't a lot of details, as the focus is elsewhere, but the death is made very clear.

Flash forward to 2011 in real life. That fourth River City novel, And Every Man Has to Die (story set in 1998 - are we confused yet?) is published. One of my good friends, Jill Maser, was aghast to read an early draft and learning that the "man" in the title is, in fact, Officer Anthony Battaglia. She told me I couldn't kill Batts, and she listed several stellar reasons why. She was right, and I told her so. But the die was cast. See, I'd already killed him back in 2005.

I didn't kill him for shock value or for fun. I did it for that strange reason I think most writers will understand - because I knew it was what happened. Sounds odd, I know, but I just knew. Probably beneath that knowledge lay some subconscious ideas that the impact of such a death on the various characters would be far-reaching. Exploring them would be interesting, and difficult. If I had those subconscious ulterior motives... well, I was right about that. But Jill was right, too - the comic relief that Sully and Batts so easily provided has been impossible to replicate elsewhere, and because it has its dark moments, perhaps the series is poorer for that.

But I can't help it, folks. Batts died. That's what happened.

To finish off the post, I'll say one thing about envisaging the ending of the careers of some of the major characters in the series. I've already written one - Thomas Chisolm survives to retirement, leaving the job in 2003 (so the next River City novel, Dirty Little Town will be the last for him as a patrol cop). Of course, that doesn't mean he has to disappear entirely. He has a post-retirement adventure in Chisolm's Debt, for example.

But what about the emotional core of the series, Officer Katie MacLeod? She's been on patrol for ten years, and let's face it - she's been through hell. It's been a hard decade for her. Over the course of the last two books, she's talked about promoting to detective to get a change. Will she follow through? You'll know in the next book, Dirty Little Town.

As for the endgame with Katie, I am pleased to report that I know exactly how her career will progress and where she will be at the end of it. And for those who see her as something of a beacon of hope in a series that can get a little dark at times... rest assured, she will never lose faith.

She's stronger than any of them.


As long as we're talking River City, I should end with a reminder that the sixth book in the series, Place of Wrath and Tears, is now available.

It is the nightmare of every community – a school shooting.

When a disturbed teenager masterminds this terrible event, everyone in River City is plunged into the darkness that surrounds it. The students and teachers try to survive, and the men and women of RCPD try to save them. But when things go horribly wrong, everyone seems to be looking elsewhere for someone to blame.

Officer Katie MacLeod is among many who discover that the nightmare doesn’t end when the shooting stops.

Takes place in 2001.


Susan C Shea said...

See, Frank, you're a bit of a softie too! Chisholm and Katie live!

Frank Zafiro said...

Hoisted on my own petard. :-)

Susan C Shea said...