Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Case of the Looking-Glass Mirror - An Experiment in Murder Mysteries with the Help of Lewis Carroll

Charles Dodgson with Pen in Hand
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson never wrote a detective adventure story, but I thought he might be of help for me in creating the fourth novel in the Jonas Watcher Detective Adventure Series. I chose Through The Looking-Glass for the template for my novel because it was the lesser known of the two Alice in Wonderland stories. Additionally, it contained characters that could act as blueprints and it had "a most marvelous" villain in the form of  the Jabberwocky. My only obstacle was to be sure that I committed no plagiarism. This was actually quite easy because Through The Looking-Glass is to be used as a template not to be copied but a reference.

Gene Poscham and Company

I already had my title, and oddly enough I hadn't gotten it from The novel by Lewis Carroll, but from another author; Agatha Christie. The title came from her novel, The Mirror Cracked. I must confess the original title for the fourth book started out as The Case of The Broken Mirror, but it wasn't quite working for me. While I was musing about the novel and looking for inspiration I was staring at my bookcase. No need to guess, I spotted one of my three copies of  Through The Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There and the idea for the fourth novel leaped out at me. 

My first task was to start building my outline for what has become The Case of the Looking-Glass Mirror.  I chose the double reference to the same object because I decided to use that concept throughout the book. The question is can I make consistence use of the concept without making the storyline seem artificial. I took a look at the Table of Contents of Through The Looking-Glass as I prepared my outline. 

Through The Looking-Glass

Outline for 
The Case of the Looking-Glass Mirror

Chapter 1 - Those in Glass Houses
Chapter 2 - A Conservatory Garden
Chapter 3 - A Bespectacled Entomologist
Chapter 4 – Welcome to My Parlor
Chapter 5 – Twins in The Forbidden City
Chapter 6 - The Sheppard's Asylum
Chapter 7 - One for Professor Unoeuf
Chapter 8 - Lieutenant Lyon in search of a Unicorn
Chapter 9 - A Paladin in the Night
Chapter 10 – Return to the Glass House
Chapter 11 – A Return to Sanity

As you can see that while I used the table of contents as a blueprint, I didn't duplicate it but rather used it for inspiration. Some of the titles of the outline will survive and become book chapters and some will be altered as I write the book. I am sure that most chapter titles will show an obvious connection to Through The Looking-Glass and others will be more difficult to ascertain where the hell they came from. For now, trust me, there is a connection, however tenuous. At the writing of this post, I have completed Chapter 5 in the outline and I am working on Chapter 6.

Jonas Watcher in
The Case of
the Looking-Glass Mirror
For the overall story, I have established the tie in to the murders, and a number of the story elements that will be carried throughout the book are defined. I now just remains for me to finish the outline and get started writing the novel. I will leave you with a possible image that I am considering for the book cover.  It is very tenuous at this time. I do like the color scheme, and the references to Through The Looking_Glass but I have just started and as I work on the story other images will come to me and I will try them out. Part of the fun of writing a novel in the research is that while I search the web for information, I also search it with the same terms, but I look at images and videos. They too are a great source for ideas when writing a novel and with coming up with a plot for my next novel. Of course for me at this time, I am working on book 4 of the series and I have three or four more waiting in the wings.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Case of the Jade Dragon - Have Gun Will Travel

Tales from the Bayou
After I finished The Case of the Bourbon Street Hustler I had already decided the next story would be based upon a scene from the television series Have Gun Will Travel. While Jonas has some characteristics of Paladin, he is by no means the same character. Both men are for hire, and both live in San Francisco, and they both travel about the United States on assignments. There could be more similarities, but there are a dozen other characters that share similar storylines. Jonas is younger and from a different era.

China Town
For this specific story, the genesis comes from a story where Paladin helps out an elder Chinese gentleman and his daughter at the beginning of an episode. There the similarity ends. This is another case of myThe Case of the Jade Dragon was born. I spent a fair amount of time researching Trains in the 1930s, where they went, what thy were called and the passenger accommodations. I also returned to San Francisco, which I was familiar with from The Case of the Running Bag. I introduced the invisibles in the first book and utilized them in my second book The Case of the Bourbon Street Hustler. In the third book, I wanted to expand upon the development of these characters and strengthen their presence in the series. I should acknowledge Arthur Conan Doyle for the existence of the invisibles as they were derived from the Baker Street Irregulars.
Hop Alley?

I researched the Chinese community in both San Francisco and St Louis. I discovered the history of Hop Alley in St Louis and the discrimination that was perpetrated upon the Chinese in both cities. ChinaTown in San Francisco was much more developed that St Louis and continues to survive today while Hop Alley has all but disappeared from St Louis. I also did a fair amount of research on the mythology of China, and discovered that in is quite varied depending upon the provinces studied.

Admittedly I adapted events in Chinese history and integrated some of my own elements into the mythology I presented in the story. The book is after all fiction. I did take real events and adjusted them for my own use. The families are real enough, the feud was real, but the rest is my fiction.

I used a plane trip on the return from St. Louis to San Francisco. The plane used, the De Havilland Dragon, was quite real and was one of many used as airlines begin to build themselves up. The descriptions of the early airports are fairly accurate also. As I developed the story, it was amazing how many elements just fit together as I was doing research.
The Dragon Flies

I have published The Case of the Jade Dragon and released it for public consumption. As I finish the outline to The Case of The Looking Glass Mirror, I have started writing the fourth book. This venture is a bit of a diversion for me as I am adapting the outline based upon the structure in another book and not using any of the books published material. Travel through the mirrored images of who done its of the fourth book; the next post in this series.

The Bourbon Street Hustler - The Second Novel Born From What Next?

I was still writing The Case of the Running Bag when I realized that Jonas Watcher was going to be more than a single novel character. I had a number of stories floating in the ether of my mind when I recognized that Jonas would be the character to bring all the stories together. It was happenstance that I chose the era of the 1930s to tell the story of the Running Bag in. I had always been a fan of films of detective stories from that era and while I had a Hollywood idea of the period I had no first-hand information. It was then that I remembered reading somewhere that if one wanted to get a better look into a period, that detective mysteries and adventures provided the best window into a time period.
Where's the Bridge?

I started reading more writers that wrote in the period and I started doing more research into the thirties and forties. I realized that I would have to take my research back into the roaring twenties and take a more definitive view of World War I. These were the periods that made the thirties and forties what they were. Research became more focused on the microcosm of the location I was writing about. It was necessary to fine tune not only to a time but a specific place in time to keep from being a full-time researcher. After all, my intention was to write detective stories circa 1930s, not a history of the world. Still, I would have to take side trips in research to import an element that I wanted to employ within the story.

The Bourbon Street Hustler
I have always wanted to go to and see New Orleans, but for the time being finances prevented me from taking a journey there with my wife in the real physical world. The library and the internet became my travel guide to New Orleans of the 1930s. As I looked into the Crescent City I discovered a fascinating mixture of history, multi-integrated cultures, and politics that were distinctly Louisiana. Cajun, Creole, French, and French Canadian, Christianity and Voodoo, and mythical legends Rougarou and Vampires.

New Orleans was an author's version of a miner discovering the mother lode. I could have gotten lost in my research and ended up never getting a story told. It was then that I decided Jonas Watcher would have to make multiple trips to New Orleans. That decision let my trip my story to a single major story, but also opened the gates for a couple of sub-stories. The Case of Bourbon Street Hustler was born and I knew I would be back in New Orleans and the Bayou for more stories.

Ironically while I discovered the riches available in New Orleans, San Francisco was calling me also, and from the oddest of sources; Have Gun Will Travel.  That is the tale for telling in the next blog post. Just how that western series sent Jonas Watcher on his next case.