Hard-Boiled or Cozy

I’ve just completed my tenth book. All of them have been mysteries with graphic language. The first book was a treasure hunt centered on a family’s unusual history; and how that search, and the mystery behind it, changed the main characters. All of the other books have been murder mysteries. The Bootlegger’s Legacy was the building block for the other books in style, if not substance. I have described all of the books as being about unique (I hope) characters who are flawed but likable, experiencing some kind of conflict with bad or very troubled, people. The character development and dialogue between characters is an emphasis—there is humor, romance (no sex scenes) and no graphic violence-although, there are murders.

Except for the language choice, some people have described the stories as “cozy mysteries”. I think this may be due in part to my newsletter where I discuss cooking and my favorite recipes. I like cooking—so sue me. And, of course, the Vincent Malone books feature a B&B prominently in the story. So, hey, maybe these are cozy mysteries with a few f-bombs.

In an on-line interview I was asked why I used gritty language in TBL.

My goal was to tell a story about people. Some good ones and some bad ones. Many of the characters in this book are definitely “gritty” and the language they use is part of their character. This book has bootleggers, gangsters, drug dealers and, of course, some nice people. Even the nice people, under stress, can be very expressive.

The Bootlegger’s Legacy definitely set the tone for the other books. The language in all of the books was about authenticity. The characters were real to me (okay I know that is strange) and that was how they would talk, at least on occasion. Bad guys use bad words—it’s part of being bad. Good guys use bad words if someone is trying to kill them—it’s part of being very stressed and unhappy that someone is trying to kill you.

Much of the language is attributed to the personality of the character. In the Muckraker series, Joe Louongo never stops cussing—he is a foul mouth, street smart lawyer who works the under-side of society. Foul language is language to Joe. He doesn’t even notice the words might not be appropriate.

The Governor of New Mexico, Jerimiah Johnson, in the Pacheco & Chino series is a direct speaking no BS type of guy who has forgotten how to moderate his speech. He is direct and foul—so what! That is who he is, and he will not change.

The tenth book Four Corners War will be released September 3rd. All ten books share many aspects; with gritty language being one. The shocking part to me is that it all happens without much forethought. I just start writing and this is what happens.

I had an outline of TBL which did not include the bootlegger back story. It was going to be a misadventure by two “normal” guys trying to accomplish a drug deal in Mexico to fix their financial problems; and how it all went bad. It was going to be a humorous look at how two “good” guys got involved with a bunch of bad guys and didn’t get killed. I thought it was an original story idea—but, of course, we have all seen a ton of movies more or less with that same plot line—only different. I thought it was original because I knew those two guys—really. But the guys I knew never actually did anything—they just talked about it.

I wrote several chapters and realized it just didn’t flow. It was my book and I was already tired of it. It was flat, uninteresting story telling. But something happened. I introduced the bad guys; and wow, the whole story took on a new life. The bad guys were a hell of lot more interesting than my bland, clean speaking Okies. I was inspired. I tore up the chapters I had done and started over with a new vision. I opened with a prologue of the evil gangsters talking in a bar. Foul language, foul people, foul topics—it all seemed a lot more interesting to me and I hoped, my future readers (if there were ever any). The story took off, I enjoyed writing it—and more importantly I enjoyed reading it.

That experience with TBL led to the Pacheco & Chino books; and, yes, some foul language. It just seemed right to me. I know I get criticism from some reviewers who think I should be able to write without using words that offend them—and to them, I apologize that they were offended. But for me, the characters and circumstances dictate the language. All of the books involve very stressful situations and some very bad (or amoral) people. The language becomes part of the story to convey the stress, anger, disappointment, fear, love, hate and even joy that high tension situations can bring about.

Without those evil gangsters and their foul language introduced in The Bootlegger’s Legacy, all of the books could have been G-rated cozy mysteries. I guess that might have been better, but somehow that would not have been me, and I don’t think those characters would have felt as authentic.


Pre-orders of books allow the book to be promoted before being released-obviously. I’m sure the people who know what they are doing, no doubt, already have the book ready long before the release date. Those people also would have advanced copies out to potential reviewers. Not me. My small working group use the release date as a target date to get the damn thing finished. Yes, it’s no way to run a railroad. But so far we have always gotten everything in place on time—although under pressure. The next release is Four Corners War on September 3rd. And we are pleased with ourselves in that everything is ready to go on September 3rd—we are done.

If you haven’t already consider checking out the pre-order on Amazon for the e-book, please do. The pre-orders give me a nice boost at the beginning of the launch and helps with various Amazon programs. If you are more interested in the paperback, it will not be available to order until the 3rd.

Thanks for being a reader!

Published by

tedcliftonbooks

Ted Clifton, award winning author, is currently writing in three mystery series—Pacheco & Chino Mystery series, the Muckraker Mystery series and the Vincent Malone series. Clifton’s focus is on strong character development with unusual backdrops. His books take place in Southwest settings with some of his stories happening in the 1960s, 1980s and current times. The settings are places Clifton has lived and knows well, giving great authenticity to his narratives. Clifton has received the IBPA Benjamin Franklin award and the CIPA EVVY award--twice. Today Clifton and his wife reside in Denver, Colorado, with frequent visits to one of their favorite destinations, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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