Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Reed Farrel Coleman, Guest Blogger
In the first book in the Moe Prager series, Walking the Perfect Square, Moe describes himself as nobody’s hero. Of course, that’s not quite true, but it is very revealing about Moe’s character. It is, in fact, the echo and sway between how Moe sees himself and how other characters perceive him that gives the series some of its subtle, underlying tension. There is no drama without tension and to keep a series engaging, you must keep threads of tension running through the books. There’s obvious tension in mystery/PI novels that revolves around the central crime or crimes: Who was murdered or kidnapped or blackmailed? Who is the victim? Why was it done? What obstacles stand in the way of the PI, the cops, or the amateur sleuth? But it is the tension that exists between regular characters in a series that gives a series continuity.
While Moe is less than accurate about being a hero, he is spot on about something else. He calls himself a stumbler. As a cop, he never made detective—this fact is central to the early books in the series—and having spent his ten years on the job in uniform, Moe received no training in how to actually solve crimes. Uniformed cops do the grunt work. Detectives solve crimes. So Moe doesn’t quite know what he’s doing. He’s quirky and unconventional not out of a sense of whimsy, but because he doesn’t have the skills to do it any other way. That’s the thing about Moe, he does it his way and it works. He’s lucky in his work and that’s why people come to him. In the Moe books, he’s almost always the client’s last choice. They’re desperate. A typical Moe client might say, “We’ve tried good. Now we are trying lucky.”
Thank you, Reed.