Origin Story: Why I Created a Thrilling Pulp Crime Series, and, Yes, I Will Quote Neil Gaiman again!!

So how did I come around to wanting to write a thrilling pulp crime series for kindle and other ebooks?

Sometime last year, I got a hankering to write a thriller. The problem was, I didn’t know if I was cut out for it. Sure, it’s a big market, and I love the work of David Morrell and F. Paul Wilson, but I tend to write about outsiders and oddballs, kids from the rough side of the tracks, and, occasionally, exploding fat people. A lot of thrillers use the mystery tradition of writing about professional folks in dangerous lines of work (it creates instant conflict!): cops, hitmen, detectives, private eyes, doctors and nurses and forensic scientists, soldiers, etc.

But I don’t write about professionals.  Not often. And while I can write about soldiers, I was planning on that for another project, a stand alone novel. I needed something different.

I hashed out some ideas with Erin over donuts and hazelnut coffee at a donut shop called . . . THE DONUT SHOP. While crunching on a bear claw, I realized that the thriller market has fuzzy boundaries. To me, it is a weird amalgam of other markets, including some that don’t exist anymore. Crime, horror mystery, some SF, and a long dead pulp market known as “Men’s Adventure Fiction.” I’ve certainly written a lot of crime, horror, noir, and pulp stuff.  I love Jim Thompson, Cornell Woolrich, and James M. Cain and ol’ Hammett and Chandler. And I’m a massive fan of Joe Lansdale, Tom Piccirilli, Norm Partridge, Weston Ochse and other modern practitioners of literary pulp. And I’ve been accused of writing masculine fiction for years!

Plus, within the mystery tradition, there are also “amateur” sleuths and heroes who get involved in the adventures, usually regular folks who have the odds stacked against them.

Pulp fiction and underdogs? Now we were talking Doc Ridler’s language! I’ve been publishing short stories about these kinds of folks for a decade!

But I also wanted the lead to be a series character. Someone who got into one big mess after another, and scraped his way out. The trouble in these kinds of series is finding a hero or antihero that gets into the kind of trouble you want to write about. I don’t know if I could stand writing about serial killer after serial killer, which have dominated much of the field (they are the zombies/vampires of the thriller world).  How could I make sure each novel lets me write about junk I love?

And I thought about something Neil Gaiman had said when he was given the opportunity to write a monthly comic book. He knew he couldn’t “write super hero stories for toffee!”, and feared he’d be boxed in with the conventions of the medium, and maybe not be able to write fresh, new and enjoyable stuff every month.

So, to help ease his anxiety, he created a character that would allow him to write as many different kinds of stories as possible, one that provided almost limitless panoramas, so if he wanted to write historicals, horror stories, super hero pastiches, mythological stories from different cultures, etc., he could do it.

And thus was THE SANDMAN born. Whatever else Morpheus is in that series, he’s a tool for telling stories. (And, no, Gaimanverse, I did not just call Morpheus a tool, so knock of the Death threats!).

It was a great trick, but could it work for a noirish thriller? I didn’t want to go bananas and make the series crazy epic like THE SANDMAN. But what if I went in reverse? What kind of character would get stuck in all the weird and freaky stuff in real life, on the dark side of the tracks, in the dime stores, pool halls, and hole in the wall bars of the city? Erin often said my noir stuff read as weird as any Twilight Zone episode, and much of my madcap escapades in punk rock are stranger than fiction. What could I mine from my own experiences to make such a character take shape?

A journalist?

Correction, the world’s worst investigative journalist, one with an attitude and sordid past that makes Lindsey Lohan look like Mother Theresa. One who’s history and contacts would send out on leads to wherever I wanted to go. One who is perpetually stuck with the stories no self respecting journalist will touch, yet are full of the weird stuff of life I dig. And one who is trying to outlive the shame of his past, be a better person, and rolling snake eyes most of the time.

Dude! I am so there!

Now, if I wanna to write a novel about comic book heroes and freaks at conventions, or about the often shit-stained life and times of road comedians, or a cult of D&D geeks who worship Gary Gygax as a god (Monk/Bard: nil), guess who I have to call?

Spar Battersea, former country-punk singer of The Knuckledusters, shit disturber extraordinaire, currently freelancing for the community page of the Dismas Dispatch and trying to stay sober.

His first major story?


About ridlerville

Jason S. Ridler is a historian, writer, and improv actor. He is the author of A TRIUMPH FOR SAKURA, BLOOD AND SAWDUST, the Spar Battersea thrillers and has published over sixty stories in such magazines and anthologies as The Big Click, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Out of the Gutter, and more. He also writes the column FXXK WRITING! for Flash Fiction Online. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. He lives in Richmond, CA. Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jason.ridler.56
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