This thought came about because of a recent review of The Blackness from an American reader –
‘I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the first four books of Patrick C Walsh’s detective series. What I like most about these books is the way the cases are solved through good police work. Not some gun toting, super cop who kills more people than he saves. These books are good easy reading.’
Firstly I’d like to say that I loved the review and always check on Amazon for any new reviews from time to time. I’ve found that reviews can really help in improving my books but, if I’m honest, a positive review can also lift a writer’s day and increase their motivation to finish the next book.
What struck me was the reviewer’s comment about the type of policeman my main character Mac Maguire is and that made me wonder why Mac is the way he is.
There is probably only one part of Mac that I could honestly claim I recognise as coming from myself and that’s his love of puzzles. I’ve always liked crosswords, the really tricky cryptic ones that can reduce you to banging your head off the wall when you can’t get the answer. The puzzles Mac loves and lives for are contained within a police crime file and are much harder than any crossword puzzle. He’s generally fascinated by people and why they do the crazy things they do and he’s even more fascinated by what happens in what we might call the ‘murder space’. In the murder space laws and logic break down and people die through others malice, envy, madness, lust, negligence or sometimes through just plain bad luck. This is where Mac is at his best.
The reviewer was right in that Mac isn’t exactly an action hero and he would hardly have been described as such even before he was cursed by constant pain. His forte is reading people and he’s a detail man too. At times he likes nothing more than doing a case review and looking into all the nooks and crannies of a case in the hope of finding that crucial clue.
Mac is obviously a product of my own unique life experiences and influenced by the writers that I’ve particularly liked reading throughout my lifetime. The great thing is that, because of this, only I could have written Mac Maguire as the character he is. I’m sure that this is true for other more famous characters like Marlowe, Spade, Maigret, Morse and, of course, Jack Reacher.
So does that make Mac any better or worse than any other crime buster? Of course not. I’ve compared him to the action hero Jack Reacher because in many ways they are polar opposites but that’s what I love so much about crime fiction, the differences. If you made a graph and put say Agatha Christie and the cozy country house murder on one end and the hard boiled school of American crime writing Hammett, Chandler, Spillane and newer writers like Lehane, Connelly and Coben on the other end I’d guess that Mac might be somewhere in the middle. Some of the things he has to see and think about can be gruesome but I don’t really want the reader to wallow in gore. I’m hoping that it’s more about the puzzle and how small clues can gradually pile on top of one another as we follow the characters through the layers of the mystery.
So there’s a spectrum of characters and approaches to crime writing and the wonderful thing is that they’re all valid and equal just different that’s all. In my opinion that’s one of the reasons why people love crime fiction so much. And as for Jack Reacher? I must say that my partner in life absolutely adores his books as do most of the book buying public to judge by sales. Personally I’m more a Simenon man but I must admit to having a major soft spot for Lee Child as he’s not only a very nice man and from my home town but is a mad Aston Villa supporter too!