To mark the anniversary, we're taking occasional looks back at the ten novels in the Hector Lassiter series; revisiting old essays, interviews and the like...
This time out, there are no substantial cameos by historical figures.
There is the return, however, of a particular “heroine.” No woman makes back-to-back appearances of significant stint in the Hector Lassiter series except this one particular female novelist.
Brinke Devlin: What’s her true story and why two consecutive books?
Some of that I’m prepared to share.
Few years back, I was in New York City chatting with the person who casts voices and selects readers for Recorded Books’ unabridged audio treatments, including the Lassiter novels.
We’d finished touring the Recorded Books studios and settled in to discuss Hector Lassiter and how he and all those real, now-gone people who populate the Lassiter series of historical literary thrillers might best be transitioned to audio.
Tom Stechschulte was already a virtual lock to be Hector. When I mentioned there would be shifts in point of view from book to book in the latter going—some presented in third-person, others narrated by Hector—it raised the issue of whether a second reader might be in order. Say, an actress.
I assured the Recorded Books studio director that was not the case, that each novel would likely have a different female character playing against Hector.
That was true up to a point. But across the various novels in the series, there are two women in Hector’s life who endure for more than a single book, or even two.
There was this one formidable woman, in particular, whom I’d already committed to paper.
So far as original publication sequence goes, One True Sentence, the prequel to Forever’s Just Pretend, was the fourth novel about Hector Lassiter, but in this cycle of novels that was never envisioned to take the direct or wholly chronological route that ninety-nine percent of other mystery series hew to, it seemed right that around book four there should be several change ups.
While previous Lassiter novels sprawled across continents and decades, One True Sentence spans a single week in Paris, circa February 1924.
It introduces the woman in Hector Lassiter’s crowded life, the fetching and bewitching mystery writer Brinke Devlin.
Despite the various personal creative challenges I set for myself as its creator, there’s one element that’s remained consistent across the Lassiter series. Hector is, from book to book, confronted by formidable women who leave sometimes dark but lasting marks on his psyche and soul. Simply put, women rule this man’s life.
After entangling Hector with three lovers ranging the spectrum from light to very dark, it seemed appropriate in the middle range of Hector’s saga to present the woman who truly made Hector into Hector. The time seemed ripe, in other words, to reveal Hector’s first and perhaps greatest love.
My central aim in One True Sentence was to depict the romantic figure in Hector’s storied saga. I aimed to portray the woman who most profoundly shaped Hector Lassiter as lover, writer and the shades-of-gray heroic figure readers had come to know in the previous three novels.
Brinke was already name-checked in Print the Legend, but she’d always been lurking in the background. I always knew she was there, waiting to reveal herself. Hell, I’d fully written her story before my debut, Head Games, even saw print.
It is Brinke who at base “creates” the Hector Lassiter his readers come to know. Brinke is a darkly creative woman who pushes Hector from the path of a struggling, often-blocked would-be literary writer to the pulp-frenzied, dark-end-of-the-street crime fiction novelist Hector is fated to be.
|AN EARLY COVER CONCEPT|
FOR FOREVER IS JUST PRETEND
Years before Hector is tagged with his designation as an author who lives what he writes and then commits his turbulent life to the page, slightly older and much worldlier Brinke was already pioneering the scary art of living one’s life to feed one’s noir fiction.
From conception, Brinke was formulated to be très formidable.
I put at least as much effort into shaping Brinke and her back-story as I did Hector’s. Though I never envisioned writing a series about her, I approached the task with the notion I actually intended Brinke to stand as her own series character.