So I have this tattered yellow notebook of the spiral variety from high school, the kind which sheds chads of paper at the faintest rustling. As an aspiring author, I used to write down snatches of dialogue, plot ideas, and my first clunky attempts at scenes. There might be a few opinions in there as well about unattainable girls and other matters social, the dark nights of the soul that a prep school kid believes he’s suffering through.
But one scrawled thought stayed with me all these years. It asked: What if there was some group devoted to cleaning up criminals who got off due to loopholes in the justice system?
A cool, high-concept idea. But high-concept ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s when they collide with the right character that they actually have the legs to turn into a story. And writing a tale about another off-the-tracks loose cannon? Well, it seemed banal.
So I finished high-school. Went off to college. Studied in England while completing my first thriller. I was fortunate enough to sell that book. I published a second. And a third. And then, one day, I met the character to go with that decade-old scrawled note.
I don’t recall the precise moment, but I remember the thoughts striking, one after another: What if there was a guy who was one of the most ethical law enforcement officers you could imagine? Maybe his father was a con artist and this guy spent his life craving the straight and narrow the way a preacher’s son might crave a card game. And then, what if something awful, truly awful knocked him off course? Wouldn’t that be a vigilante we’d be more interested in? One who started from a position of vigorous moral authority? One who doubted his actions at every step, who never gave in fully to the dark urges, who might even, at some point, change his mind?
And Dray. Dray was my answer to every annoying cop’s wife I ever read in a book or saw on TV or film—the hysterical ones who always complain that the job’s killing her husband. That’s he’s taking too many risks and why can’t he just stop caring so much, damnit, and focus more on home.
Andrea Rackley, she ain’t like that. She’s a sheriff’s deputy, tough as hell, a resource in her own right. Quite often, she’s more level-headed than her husband. Their relationship is one I admire, and it taught me about marriage before I was married. They banter and argue, fight and make up, but always, always get a kick out of each other.
I wrote four Rackley books: The Kill Clause (2003), The Program (2004), Troubleshooter (2005), and Last Shot (2006). They’re old friends of mine now, Tim and Dray. They’re family. And I’m glad that you’ll have a chance to see them arguing through the particulars of a case, staring down danger, doing what they do.
The Tim Rackley e-books will be available for $2.99, but only for a limited time:
“THE SURVIVOR is the greatest book yet, from one of the best crime novelists in the business. It opens fast and never slows down. It kept me up all night—I just couldn’t stop reading.” – David Finch
Fellow Comic Book Geeks and Batheads,
Wanna get your hands on a signed variant cover of BATMAN: The Dark Knight #10? (It’s a really cool sideways front-and-back cover of David Finch’s insane Batman/Scarecrow image).
One lucky winner will receive a rare, limited edition of TDK #10, signed, sealed, and delivered.
All you have to do is pre-order my latest novel, THE SURVIVOR, in any format from any store. Whether you download it to your kindle, order it from B&N, or buy it from your favorite independent bookstore, you will be entered to win this limited edition comic. Simply email your proof of purchase to HurwitzContest@kayepublicity.com.
Not a comic book reader? You can still enter to win! Just promise to give the comic to the kid next door. Or to your grown cousin who just got back from Comic-Con. Or to the middle-aged lady on the subway who we all know secretly digs Batman, too.
Entries must be received by Friday, August 17th. The winner will be announced on Monday, August 20th.
This is an email response I wrote to an acquaintance who, having survived a personal crisis, was debating turning some of her writings into a book. I thought my response to her questions might prove helpful to other folks out there debating if they should write a book.
Strung together journal entries won’t work. They might make for a blog, but not a book. To write a book you have to write a book that is clearly a book and adheres to all the conventions and requirements of being a book. This is a shit-ton of work and will take drafts and time and sweat and blood until it’s either good enough to submit or you give up. As one of my writer buddies says: One of these will happen first.
Unless you’re Whitney Houston’s daughter or the guy who cut his arm off with a pocket-knife, no publisher or agent will be interested in talking to you until you’ve written a manuscript. Since you’ve never written a manuscript, how good that manuscript is will be all that matters. So. Go to your bookshelves and look at all the novels or memoirs or inspirational/self-help books that you’ve read and loved, pick the appropriate format for your story, then start to create a manuscript along those lines. Set a high bar. It will have to be as good as your favorite books on your shelves, the ones that changed your life. As for what angle to take or how to approach it – that’s on you. It’s your life, your book, and your vision. No one else will care to tell you how to approach it, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t be right since it’s your (highly personal) story to tell. Some jackass might tell you it must be second-person haiku but in your gut it’s a first person memoir. Which are you gonna write? Also, people who have experience don’t necessarily know what’s right for you. Your job is to have vision and to realize that vision in ink and paper in a fashion that will make that particular order of words on the pages the one in five hundred collections of words on pages that an agent will stake his or her livelihood and reputation on that month. And then that an editor, from the agent-culled collections of words on pages, will pick from worse odds to stake even more on. This may sound discouraging, but if you’re really a writer, it won’t matter. If you’re really a writer, you don’t have a choice anyway. Be bold and venture forth. And good luck.
I’m thrilled to announce that I will be developing my Tim Rackley books (THE KILL CLAUSE, THE PROGRAM) as a TV series for Sony/TNT. I’m teaming up with my good buddy and talented show runner, Shawn Ryan, who wrote/produced great shows like The Shield, Terriers, and The Chicago Code.
For more information, check out the Deadline article which announced the project.
In fifth grade, I discovered Stephen King, who I used to read beneath the covers and—at times—actually beneath the bed. Thanks to him, I was scared of clowns, rabid dogs, possessed cars, haunted houses, proms, and a vast array of everyday sights and experiences turned just slightly off kilter. His books clicked with something inside me, whatever story-generating impulse lurked in the lizard part of my brain, and I found myself constantly looking at the world around me, thinking, “What’s the worst thing that could happen right now?” Then I’d run the script in my head. Mayhem and destruction, Hitchcockian twists and turns, flights of dark fancy. The thing was I enjoyed it, often a lot more than, say, sitting in geometry or looking out the airplane window. So how I face up to my fears, I think, is by writing. Trying to summon the darkest, most wrenching scenarios I can summon and then seeing if I can wrestle them on the page. Since I’ve gotten older, the things that scare me have changed (except for clowns). When I first became a father, I remember being struck with the realization that I had more surface area to protect now, and so I think my latest books are my attempts to grapple with those new-found vulnerabilities.
You sadistic SOB. I’m a 72 year-old man. I can’t handle too much strain. I have struggled through all of your other books on the edge of my chair and losing sleep, but this new one, “You’re Next” has brought me to the point of distraction. You touched on all the raw nerves in my body: the wife, the precocious child and doing what’s right for our Environment. This is the worst one yet. Like Kat, I hate you. Okay when’s the next torture chamber coming out? Of course I’ll get it. Keep on writing…
Thanks to everyone for coming out to my launch party at Diesel Bookstore. I hope you all enjoyed yourselves as much as I did. For those of you who missed it, here are some pictures of the event…
Some terrific LA crime writers showed up too, including Christopher Rice, Eric Shaw Quinn, Brett Battles, Paul Levine, Andrew Klavan, and Timothy Hallinan. Couldn’t manage to snag their photos.
Stay tuned, I’ll continue to post photos from the road.
In YOU’RE NEXT, Dodge is reading a certain comic. Correctly identify the comic for a chance to win a signed first-edition of the graphic novel VENGEANCE OF THE MOONKNIGHT: Shock and Awe.
Submit your entries to email@example.com by August 31st.
Thanks for reading and good luck!
Please DO NOT post answer in the comments section. Email it to the address listed above.
In Detroit, entire neighborhoods have been abandoned. People aren’t the only casualties of this crisis. It is estimated that over 50,000 dogs, left behind by their families, roam the streets of the city. Animal Control euthanizes 80% of the dogs they catch. One organization has stepped up to help: Detroit Dog Rescue. DDR is trying to build the first no-kill shelter in the city, and Simba and I are trying to help.
For every “Like” we receive below, I will donate $1 to the cause. The more likes, the more donations, so please help spread the word. More information can be found Sirens of Suspense. Thank you for your help and support.
From time to time, I get emails or letters from readers taking issue with the language I use in my books. Usually it’s holy-than-thou nonsense claiming that my use of this word or that offended their pure eyes to such an extent that never again shall they check a Gregg Hurwitz book out of the library. I like responding with four-letter declamations because, well, I’m witty like that.
But the other day, I got an email that struck me for its civil tone. I’ll like to share it here and include my response.
I just finished reading They’re Watching, which was absolutely awesome. It’s the first book that I’ve read of yours and I look forward to reading the rest of your books.
However I wanted to write you about something I find very dismaying. In your novel you frequently use God’s name in vain and I can’t understand why someone so educated finds it necessary to do so. Surely there are enough curse words in the English language that can be used as exclamations instead. I am an avid reader, since I’ve been keeping track of books I read in a database I’ve read 1104 books to date, I only mention this to show that I’m not a book a year reader. I’ve written to a bunch of authors regarding this matter and have received a response from some stating that the majority of people speak this way and they are merely just trying to make their characters realistic. A poll was taken that determined that 83% of Americans are Christian. So I believe it is the loud, vocal minority that speaks this way, especially Hollywood, and not the silent majority.
So I just thought I’d speak up for the silent majority. I think you are an excellent writer and taking God’s name in vain in your novels adds nothing to the story and leaving it out would take nothing from it. In fact, John Grisham and Brad Meltzer are authors who do not take God’s name in vain in their novels. So you see it also isn’t a requirement to become a famous author. I know you already are famous, all I’m saying is that it wasn’t a requirement for them to get there.
Just something I hope you’ll give some thought to when you write your next novel.
To which I replied:
Thank you for writing. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the book, and I also appreciate your civil and thoughtful tone in conveying your issue with the language I use. Since you took the time to express your question, I’d like to answer it thoroughly.
To begin with, the percentage of Christians is indeed close to what you claim. The last demographics show Christians at 76% in 2008 (though continuing to decline). So — a clear majority. But conveying what is pleasing to a majority isn’t really the aim of a writer or artist. It is writing what is true and offers a veneer of verisimilitude. Indeed, as other authors have stated in their answers you, I do want to write in a manner similar (though not precisely similar) to how people really talk. And there’s no telling what will offend folks — whether they compose the majority or minority. If I eliminate seeming religion-referencing exclamations in favor of sharper swear words, that will upset people too (and has — I’ve received those emails as well).
Lastly, as one of the few Jewish kids in my Jesuit High School, I had the advantage of approaching religion — and the commandments — from a relatively fresh perspective. And what I was taught (and what makes sense to me) is that taking the Lord’s name in vain doesn’t really refer to a frustrated utterance, but rather using God’s name in pursuit of hypocritical, manipulative, or un-Christ-like aims. Like a preacher swindling his flock. Like waging an illegitimate war in the name of God. Like a cult leader abusing members in the name of Jesus. This makes intuitive sense to me. I understand why this would be more offensive to the moral parameters of a religion rather than naming God or Jesus in an utterance. I’ve always taken someone’s declaiming, “Jesus!” to be shorthand for nothing more than “Jesus help me!” or the like — not offensive to my mind.
That said, I do feel compelled to add that when I’m writing characters, each comes with his or her own morality which I allow them to express in full, whether that be in action or language. I’ve written rapists and serial killers and cult leaders and psychopath businessmen. And I’ve written my share of protagonists who are flawed and imperfect and, I hope, three-dimensional — who sound and act as we do. And in painting this ever changing cast, I try to make use of not just one moral perspective — nor just the moral perspective of the majority — but the vast and sundry approaches to life and language that characterize the human condition.
All best to you and thank you for writing,