I wrote this novel in 1993, sort of by accident. I was working on my doctoral dissertation (an exploratory sociological study of private investigators) and one of my advisers suggested I should consider including a chapter comparing the work of real life private investigators and fictional ones. I wasn’t a fan of mystery of detective fiction and didn’t see any value in such a chapter, but you don’t argue much with your dissertation advisers.
So off I went to the Literature Department, where I tracked down a professor who taught a course in mystery and detective fiction. We set up an independent study program, she gave me a reading list, and I spent a semester reading detective novels. They all seemed a bit silly to me; the characters might be interesting, but most of the cases and the investigative approaches were pretty loopy. With each book I picked up, I found myself thinking “Hell, I could write something like this.”
So I did. I think it took me a couple of months, while still working on my graduate studies. I sent off the manuscript and St. Martin’s Press bought it. I still had to write a paper for my independent study, but when I showed the book contract to the professor, she just laughed and gave me an A. It’s hard to argue against a good grade and an advance. I began to grow fond of the detective genre.
My editor at St. Martin’s asked for another novel with the same characters. So I started working on a second novel. But the format (alternating First Person narratives) felt forced and awkward a second time. I decided the characters would work better in short fiction. I wrote some short stories and published them mostly in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (some of which can be found in Dog on Fire). I suggested a short story collection to SMP, and my editor seemed receptive to the idea. But then she decided to go to law school and her replacement wanted to develop her own stable of writers. The project became ‘orphaned,’ as they say in the publishing biz.
And that was that. The first run of Lightning in the Blood sold well and I earned a bit more than the advance. But I had no desire to write a second novel with the same characters.
After I published Dog on Fire I decided to revamp LitB and release it as an e-book. At first, it was something of a painful experience. It was like the literary version of looking at your high school yearbook photo.
But since I hadn’t read the book since it was published (nearly two decades ago) I found I was able to read it as a reader. Normally I dislike reading anything I’ve written; I tend to see only the flaws. But I found myself actually enjoying parts of the book.
In the end, I decided to update LitB a bit. I removed references to outdated technology (it was written in an era when there were relatively few cell phones, most of which were about the size of extra large bean burrito, and were carried either by doctors or assholes who wanted people to know they could afford cell phones) and examples of 1990s slang. Other than that, it’s the same book.
And hey, considering I wrote it in my spare time, it ain’t bad. It should be available for the Nook and the Kindle by the end of the week, and for other formats at some point in the near future.
(Also…the new cover art features a photo by our own Lynn Longos.)