Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Last of the Shanahans

I expected Bullet Beach to be the last book in the Shanahan series.  It was to be a quiet good bye to the old P.I. with a gathering of some of the regulars at the bar after the last mysterious thread of Shanahan’s life had been tied up.  The end would reflect the romance that brought and kept Shanahan and Maureen together all those years. Ten books. A nice, round number
Through all the adventures, I played up age – old age to be specific – as a major aspect of Shanahan’s character. It was one of the qualities that made him distinctive.  The other thing I did, sometimes well, sometimes not, was deal with a social issue against which the fabric of the mystery took place.  Shanahan didn't preach. The story had to carry the burden of any moral or philosophic theme. Having some social relevance was important to me as was recording slices of time in Indianapolis history. I wanted my stories to have a sense of place and time.
Then a couple of things happened. Perhaps the one with the most personal impact was that the parity between my good health and Shanahan’s changed drastically and suddenly. Many have had it worse, but I hit a brick wall at 70. A string of health problems changed the way I lived. One of the truths that came from those experiences was the realization I had not taken Shanahan very far into old age.  Or, at minimum, I had not given him the challenges that many people his age face. I wrote a novella that put a mystery against the fabric of age and disability as I had done with social issues in previous books. It worked. It’s not a bad novella.  Maybe some day it will be published. However there were other issues gnawing at me, and I felt I had only made a light-hearted story of it — a mere costume change in Shanahan’s life, rather than an examination of what it meant to suddenly loose a significant number of faculties and still deal with living. And still, there were issues beyond his own that needed tending.  
Killing Frost, the unintended 11th book, came out of this re-examination. And, from a personal, writing perspective, it exploded on the page. I couldn’t work fast enough to keep up with my thoughts.  The fact that typing itself was a physical challenge didn't help, but couldn’t stop me.

I’m pretty sure that my publisher, Severn House, thought Bullet Beach was the last Shanahan as well, though no one announced it. Thank goodness.  I felt strongly about this new book and, as it happened, a reasonable publishing date put it at the series’ 25th anniversary.  It seemed to me that it was meant to be. 

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