Despite being fictional, literary characters are near and dear to our hearts. But sometimes, those fictional characters turn out to not be so fictional after all.
SHERLOCK HOLMES in The Sherlock Holmes Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
INSPIRED BY: Dr. Joseph Bell
Arthur Conan Doyle met surgeon Dr. Joseph Bell in 1877, when he served as his clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. After writing several popular stories about consulting detective Sherlock Holmes (who really needs no introduction), Doyle admitted that the man was at least partially inspired by Bell’s super observant ways and his ability to make large assumptions with little evidence. Apparently, Bell was quite proud of the connection and even went on to help with police investigations in Scotland alongside Sir Henry Littlejohn, whom Doyle also cited as an influence. In a letter to the author, Bell even joked, “You are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it.”
Have spent the last several months re-editing the Muckraker books. That would be Murder So Wrong, Murder So Strange and Murder So Final. This was my first time to return to a book and look at the results with a critical eye. While there were changes made, the most obvious will be new covers, overall I really (still) liked the story. I think this round of tweaks does improve the reader experience and hopefully will increase the popularity of this series. The new look is not available yet but will be shortly.
These books were written with a co-author; Stanly Nelson. We share backgrounds, both being from Oklahoma, and also a love of newspapers. Me as a reader and Stan as an editor-writer on several papers. The books are about a time in Oklahoma City when two major newspapers battled for the market with very distinct and opposite perspectives. We both lived during those times and enjoyed the competitive energy that was created by the warring groups.
Many of my books are based on actual events that I experienced or people I have known. The main character in the Muckraker books is Tommy Jacks, a recent journalism grad who is having his first encounter in the real (and very dangerous) world of cut-throat reporting. His mentor in the story is Taylor Albright, a fish-out-of-water New Yorker trapped in the totally different world of middle America. Taylor is cynical and totally without fear. Tommy both admires Albright and hates him. It is a relationship with many facets.
The Albright character was based on someone I knew at the time. He was an abrasive, smart, and fearless columnist for the new paper trying to carve out a market against an old established publishing empire. The real Albright pushed the boundaries of acceptable journalism until he was fired. Anyone who read his columns knew he would soon be gone. He offended everyone. One week he would be cheered by one side as he attacked the other side and the next week it would be the opposite. He seemed to have a desire to have people hate him. I liked him. Of course he never wrote about me in his columns.
After he was fired, I helped him put out his own very small circulation tabloid—I owned a printing company at the time. Eventually he alienated all of my employees and we parted, although we were still friends. Never heard from him again.
I’ve mentioned before how important it is to me to have an element in my books that comes from my own experiences. Obviously (or maybe not?), I have not experienced the murders and general mayhem I write about; but the places and the people are familiar to me. In the Vincent Malone books I use Santa Fe almost like a character—something familiar and comfortable. Having often been in Santa Fe and experienced its unique, quirky qualities, helps me make them real to the reader. I know the atmosphere and it helps me feel comfortable with the characters by placing them in those surroundings.
The Muckraker books take place in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. I grew up in Oklahoma City and definitely knew every part of that town. Way into my twenties it felt like home. Then something happened, no doubt, something to me. It started to feel different, less comfortable. I felt like I didn’t belong there. Wasn’t sure where I did belong but definitely not there. Why would that happen? Cities change, but that’s not the most likely reason. It’s people. I changed and Oklahoma City stayed the same. Eventually we moved to New Mexico and it felt comfortable. I was a stranger, but felt at home.
Places have an energy to them that either fits a person or doesn’t. Not sure what it is but I know when someplace is good for me almost immediately and when it isn’t. Houston and LA were good for me; New Orleans and Dallas were not. The good place list includes my current home Denver; but it has been amazingly cold recently so San Diego is sounding very nice.
The Muckraker books brought back a lot of memories. Triples was a real place, so was the Denny’s on Classen Boulevard Albright frequented. That was where I met the real Albright by accident. Deep Deuce in The Bootlegger’s Legacy was an area I knew. I was known to visit a few of the bars that hung on past their prime in that part of town. All familiar memories with history—even some bad history.
So I write about things known to me as I tell stories that are total fiction. The real gets mixed in and creates a sense of knowing even though much of the story is only imagination. My books are about characters. We can all relate to them as they try to solve a mystery or untangle a past action; make-believe based on real people. They are flawed, but I hope they are people you can care about. The locations add texture to the story, but it could occur most anywhere—as long as the writer can capture the real feeling of the place and can help the reader feel that uniqueness.
Below is a sneak peek (don’t tell anyone) of a couple of the new covers coming for the Muckraker books. I’ll let you know when the updated books are available.
Thanks for being a reader!