What Took Me So Long?

January 16, 2013

FROM  A LIFETIME OF MYSTERIES TO A FIRST NOVEL.

I don’t know why I never wrote a novel before.

It was thirty years ago when I first got involved with mysteries.  I was a young playwright in New York when a techie friend asked, “Do you have any ideas that would work on a laserdisc?”  For those who don’t remember, laserdiscs were large, frisbee-like DVDs that were supposed to replace the VCR.  They had two audio soundtracks and you could instantly go to any frame or scene on the disc.  There had to be some cool way to use them, right?

“How about a mystery?” I finally said.  “You can go to individual frames to see clues, and use different soundtracks with the same video to create different storylines.”  It sounded like a workable plan.

The result was “The MysteryDisc”, and that launched my mystery career.  From then on, I was the go-to guy for interactive mysteries.  “Clue VCR”, “Nancy Drew Online”.  You name it and I probably worked on it.

One of my favorites was “Abel Adventures,” an online serial I created for Prodigy.  Every day you would read a new chapter about Tom Abel, a travel agent who led tours around the world and always ran into murder.  And every month, a new mystery would begin.  The series lasted for several years, basically until Prodigy went out of business and AOL took over.  That shows you how long ago this was.

“Abel Adventures” was always in the back of my mind, through my years of writing for TV and putting out countless volumes of Encyclopedia Brown-type mysteries.  It seemed like such a fun concept, combining exotic locations with a light mystery.

And then, like the way many things happen today, social media came to my rescue.  Kent Holloway, an old fan, tracked me down on Facebook, told me he had started a publishing house and asked if I had any ideas for a novel.  Tom Abel came immediately to mind, only now his name would be Amy Abel and she would have adventures and a love life that Tom could never dream of.

I was extremely happy with the way “Rally ‘Round the Corpse” turned out.  But now that I’m working on the second, I’m discovering the difficulty of my premise.  In every book, I have to send Amy off with a group of suspects and a victim.  Then I have to deal with international police and local customs.  Finally, I have to bring the mystery home to Greenwich Village, in order to spend time with Amy’s mother, Fanny, a character everyone seems to love.

I didn’t realize how hard this would be to do over and over.  So, in retrospect, I might have gone easier on myself and picked a simpler premise.

My days are now filled with writing novels, which is probably where I should have been all along.  It’s what I always dreamed of as a nerdy kid, to be like Agatha Christie or Rex Stout and spend my life spinning new stories for a well-loved detective.  Well, make that two detectives.

In addition to continuing Amy’s adventures, I’ve been brought in by Obsidian Press to continue writing the Monk books, a series of novels based on the Monk characters from the USA TV series.  I just finished the first, “Mr. Monk Helps Himself”, which will be out this June.

I guess the moral here is, “Be careful what you wish for.”