Monday, September 01, 2008


As of today, I am 24 chapters into the latest draft of THE LOVERS, the Charlie Parker book that will, with luck, be published next year.  It's always a slow process for me, this act of rewriting.  I tend to limit myself to one chapter each day, even as I am aware that the clock is ticking and my delivery date is looming.  If I work faster, I skim the material.  One chapter a day is the most that I can do while still maintaining concentration.  At the moment, I'm trying to make sure that there are no gaps in the narrative (or rather that I'm aware of the gaps that do exist, and can work to plug them on the next draft), while also adding texture to characters and scenes that were sketched instead of fully drawn in the earlier drafts.  I like this part of the writing process, even if my progress is frustratingly slow.  This is the book coming together, flawed and incomplete yet moving gradually toward something that will ultimately, I hope, be less flawed.  

 I'm also trying to get a handle on what kind of book THE LOVERS is.  In a recent interview, I said that each book I write seems to be a reaction to the one that preceded it, and I suppose that's true of THE LOVERS.  Where THE REAPERS was fast and linear, with a very straightforward narrative, THE LOVERS is more complex, more allusive.  A lot of it concerns events that have happened in the past, and a large part of the second half is taken up with one character revealing, over the course of a single evening, the truth behind the death of Parker's father.  I want to see if I can retain the reader's interest by juggling the desire to find out 'what happens next' with gradual revelations about what has gone before.  

In THE LOVERS, Parker is working in a bar in Portland, as he no longer has a PI's license.  (The bar, incidentally, really exists.  It's called The Great Lost Bear and maybe, when the book is eventually published, it might be fun to have an event there.)  Parker uses his enforced retirement from the PI business to begin a different kind of investigation: an examination of his own past and an inquiry into the death of his father, who killed himself after apparently shooting dead two unarmed teenagers, an investigation that eventually leads to revelations about his own parentage.  

Meanwhile, a troubled young woman appears to be running from an unseen threat, one that has already taken the life of her boyfriend, and a journalist-turned-writer named Mickey Wallace is conducting his own investigation into Charlie Parker in the hope of writing a non-fiction book about his exploits.  And, haunting the shadows, as they have done throughout Parker's life, are two figures: a man and a woman, the lovers of the title, who seem to have only one purpose, and that is to bring an end to his existence.  Eventually, the lives of all these individuals will intersect.  At least, I hope that they will.  That's where the rewriting comes in.

The plan is to have the new draft finished by the end of this week, and then I'll take a couple of days to do some other stuff.  I've agreed to write a regular column for a South African called Something Wicked, mainly because I like the guy who edits it, and he's agreed to pay me in beer next time I'm in the country.  I have a short story to write for The Irish Times, to be delivered at the end of September, and I've also agreed to do at least one interview with another writer for the paper.  After that, I travel to the US and Canada to do three festivals (Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver) and Bouchercon in Baltimore, and while I'm on the road I'll keep working on THE LOVERS, fitting in some final interviews with the professionals who have been helping me with my research.  All things going well, THE LOVERS will be delivered at the start of November.

Then I'll just have to figure out what to do next  . . .

This week John read

Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
Christopher's Ghosts by by Charles McCarry

and listened to

The Lady and the Unicorn by John Renbourn
Lay It Down by Al Green
The Week That Was by The Week That Was


Yossarian said...

Wowzers John, that sounds like it's going to be an absolute BELTER! Sounds like you've "evolved" (I'd say revitalised, but it's not like they've ever been lacking vitality!)the whole series once more. I was unsure (for, oh, at least five seconds) about Parker being a "mere" citizen, but it doesn't sound like it's going to matter one jot.
I can honestly say there is no other book I am looking forward to reading as much as this this one. As ever, I am slightly in awe (and not a little jealous) of your talents! I, however, am still the better guitarist.
Bring it on...

Mark Philpott (excitable Bookseller).

Fiona said...

Thanks John. Sounds like a) you've a lot to be getting on with and b) this book will be at least on a par with the others. I'm really looking forward to it.

I'm hoping to make it down to Dun Laoghaire this weekend. In any case, have a lot of fun. It looks like there'll be a few good events.

normski-beat said...

The Lovers sounds awesome so far, can't wait.

I am about to go back to Every Dead Thing and start the series from the beginning again. There are very few books I read twice but the Parker series is exceptional.

Thankyou for them.

TomH said...

The non-linear aspect sounds interesting... shuttling between past and present, tying up loose ends while explaining the genesis of it all.

And it's always a pleasure reading about how it's done.

Thank you John.

Fred de Vries said...

... a journalist-turned-writer named Mickey Wallace...

A mix of Mickey Spillane and Irwin Wallace?