‘The acrid smell of cordite hung in the air like an accusation. The shot still echoed in my mind, blasting away her smile. Her eyes were open and glassy with death. It was a mistake to pick up the gun, I immediately knew it as my finger curled around the trigger but what choice did I have?’
How my debut novel, ‘Deadlights’, actually came into existence is a mystery in itself. One day, the image of a hand gripping a gun popped into my mind and I wrote down the first four sentences. Nothing much happened after that. What I mean is, years passed. The sentences served some hard time in limbo and to keep out of trouble they became an idea. Freedom was restricted to a piece of ripped paper folded within the pages of a notebook.
Eventually, the idea saw the light of a laptop and I settled on a title. I resolved on how I wanted the novel to end at a very early stage, I had a beginning and an end, so far so good, what next? Ah yes, the middle. The majority of my brainstorming is done with good old-fashioned pen and paper. Naturally, I appreciate the expediency of writing on a laptop when the mood takes me but I do enjoy wielding a pen with chaotic abandon… arrows, doodles, question marks (lots of those), smiley faces, ticks, crossings out, even sentences (if I am lucky) litter pages in my notebooks.
While it will be evident that I am a fan of Raymond Chandler’s writing, I am not trying to emulate him (who could?) nor pay homage to him. I wanted to write my own crime story. If I was asked to choose a subgenre to describe ‘Deadlights’, I would like to coin it as noir ultra.
The use of language and pathos in Greek tragedies, Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’, Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ and Shakespearean tragedies have stamped a lasting impression on me. Those writers operated at such an elevated level that their works have stood the test of time. There is tragedy and a bleakness in ‘Deadlights’ that the humour cannot temper but I do not view it as a nihilistic story because the main character believes in doing the right thing.
Cade and I know each other well. We have not gone out for a drink or indulged in a poker night, in fact, we have not even met. If I was in a scrape, Cade would not hesitate to jump in…once he had finished his whiskey of course. I like Cade although I have a funny way of showing it. I think that is why he does not speak to me. He will take on a case with the best of intentions and events will quickly snowball. His life was much easier before I started interfering. I would never say it to his face but I admire him. Where others stumble, fall and stay down, he hauls himself back up. He is loyal, brave and has values. Cade believes he is funnier than he really is. No one is perfect. And that is what he has to contend with, people who have darkness in their souls – they lie, cheat and kill with impunity.
I met David Headley (DHH Literary Agency) at the 2012 Winchester Writing Conference. I had no expectations other than it was a good opportunity to receive feedback from a professional. A third of ‘Deadlights’ had been written and I had no firm idea of how the story was going to progress. The three opening chapters were proferred at the altar of the literary agent. My first impression of David was that he exuded a similar aura to the Winston Wolfe character in ‘Pulp Fiction’. He was disappointed that the book was not finished. A literary agent signing up an unpublished author with an unfinished novel is probably akin to a Grand National winning jockey saddling up a donkey to defend his title. Yet, David made the effort to contact me again during the Writing Conference. Having someone in the industry showing interest in my work was a tremendous boost. Whilst I was enjoying developing the story, it is hard to be objective when the characters lived in my head.
I work full time and often I am too tired to write during the week so I kept plugging away when I was not falling asleep in front of my laptop and being judged by an empty wine glass. I attended the 2012 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and briefly spoke to David who was loitering with intent. Anyone who has endured the London Waterloo train station slalom will tell you it is hard enough to avoid missing a train let alone notice someone you know but David and I crossed paths again. He asked me if I was still writing. I checked to see if I had a tracker upon my person.
Slowly, the jigsaw was being formed, the missing pieces were appearing. It was a unique feeling finishing ‘Deadlights’. The warm glow was cooled by the considerable amount of time I spent trying to proof the work. Rooting out typos, repetition and anomalies required a discipline and patience that tested me. I applaud professional editors, I do not know how they do it (unless they are robots sent from the future to kill us).
While publishers have not taken up the option to pin ‘Deadlights’ to their mastheads, the feedback was positive. The words ‘too noir’ were often stated. I took that as a compliment and think noir ultra sounds infinitely better. It is my simple wish that the reader enjoys the story and roots for Cade no matter what the odds are because he is one of the good guys and we need people like him.
I recently finished the sequel to ‘Deadlights’ and I can tell you Cade has been keeping himself busy so let me sign off with words of wisdom from the man himself… Cade’s Thirteenth Law: There’s always a broad involved.
With the mystery and intrigue of a Raymond Chandler for the modern age, fused with the grittiness and hardboiled attitude of Robert Rodriguez’s groundbreaking film Sin City, this brutal and stunning noir crime story, which reads like a graphic novel brought to life will leave you gasping for breath by the time you reach its shocking conclusion.
Deadlights is one man’s battle to stay righteously afloat in a sea of sin, but nothing will stop him from achieving his ultimate goal: Revenge.
You can buy Deadlights from the Kindle store here: Buy now
Follow Mark on twitter: @Giacomin_Mark13