There be spoilers here.
I don’t write with an agenda.
There’s nothing here that is meant to convince you of anything. That’s not what I’m about; I’ve learned a while ago that people are mostly set in their ways about the topics that I’d want to sway them on (guns, gender relations — though now that I’m married I don’t really care about this one as much, taxes, etc). My stories aren’t meant to have some deep seated message; I’m not writing Aesop’s Fables. I’m writing stuff that I enjoy and one of my favorite things is going back through it when I’m editing and finding parts that make me laugh out loud, or sneaking in little digs at annoying people, or inside jokes. The idea behind my writing is that it should be entertaining and fun.
In the Cigars and Legs series the protagonist is a pretty tough guy despite having a heap of bad luck thrown his way. He was going to school for engineering; he joined the Air Force; he served in Korea. Even before he begins the story as a Gawain-like character he is experienced, he’s had to kill, and he’s been hurt. There’s the mysterious break-up with his high school sweetheart, too — we don’t know what happened (okay, I do), but we know he’s a deeply romantic man who has been utterly broken. Broken enough that he hadn’t been home since he was eighteen, and he’s nearing thirty when the book starts.
So we’ve got a fighter pilot who comes home and finds one of the best friend’s in the world to him was murdered and nothing is really being done about it. He’s a man of action, and he gets into high gear trying to find out just what happened. During the course of this he meets the romantic interest.
She’s no slouch, either; I wasn’t interested in writing a dumb, helpless female character. She’d be too flat, and Audrey Carmen is anything but flat. She’s got bad habits, she’s something of a bad girl (by 1950s standards — today she’d be a prudish square), but despite all that she’s extraordinarily feminine. She’s got the shape (curves — again, by 1950s standards), she lets Ron be the man, she’s the loving female. Sometimes she’s got a smart mouth, but not to the Emma Stone Queen of Sarcasm level that a lot of female characters have now. She’s not a bitch.
His enemies are some evil guys. They’re running drugs, whores, weapons. They are corrupt. But they’re not standing off to the side twirling their mustaches. They have lives, families, things they care about besides money and getting laid. They don’t see themselves as that evil; most of them got caught up in the whirlwind and couldn’t stop.
It’s set in the 1950s because that’s when I wanted to set it — there’s the possibility of racial tension, mentioned by Ron pretty early when it comes to his dead friend, and how he was the opposite of that. He briefly covers why, in his mind. It’s touched on again a time or two. But there’s also a real lack of technology to help Ron: he’s got a lot of guns that work pretty well, but recording devices for audio and pictures? The 50s might as well be a different world when it comes to that. At one point I think he gets a lunch-box sized tape recorder and he had a ridiculous and expensive (by any standards) camera. At the time I believe the camera he uses was a few hundred dollars, which is a couple grand now.
Another interesting side-bit: The Miranda Warning didn’t exist yet. Miranda v Arizona wasn’t until 1966, twelve years after The Boots Are Red opens. The public interaction with the police today can be pretty horrifying if it goes wrong. Back then you didn’t have any protection at all.
In the Sword of Nalin books, the main three heroes are scientists tossed into an extraordinary circumstance (and one tag-along bratty woman). They’re not in the best shape, they’re not trained fighters. They’ve got way less experience than Ron does, and the circumstances are a lot more dire. But they want to be heroes with every bit of their being. They are driven, and now they face the opportunity. They face it like men, and they screw up all along the way as they try to learn their surroundings.
The main female character, Zern, is strong, and smart — but not as strong as she thinks she is. Her primary role in the beginning is helping to guide them to keep them from dying stupidly. Like Ron, she starts out pretty well broken. She has to come to terms with her inflated sense of worth, bred into her by her lineage and position. She screws up, too.
The villains there are a varied bunch, and again — they’re not just twirling their mustaches. Aria wants justice and is blinded by that and her love of her own skin. The cult of the Beloved want to return things to the original order and gain their own power; they believe and they are committed, and that makes them dangerous. The same could be said of the good guys.
It’s the commitment and the facing of odds that make it worth writing about. It all comes down to a battle of wills, wits, and raw strength. This doesn’t mean they never need any help. Just the opposite: They do need help, and they’re committed enough to their path to ask for it, or demand it if need be. Sometimes they might beg.
Ron appealed to me in many ways because he’s very driven. He’s also the embodiment of masculinity in many ways, without being a cartoon parody, a He-Man. He’s still got emotions, desires, and all the rest of the things that make up being a person. He’s not a perfect physical specimen, the world’s best shot (or anything). He’s a realistic man with an intense, burning desire to solve the case.
There’s no message hidden in his cases, I’m not trying to bullshit people with some sneaky political gems. Ron gets a case and he must solve it. My job is to make it interesting and worth reading, to make you care about him solving the case, to make you hope the right people live and the right people die, and not hope all of us end up on an island suffering each other’s company for all eternity.
So buy a book.