Good day, book people. I hope everyone is having a wonderful week. If you’re like me, you’ve probably read quite a few books that are part of a series. And also like me, you’ve probably wondered how the author determines when or if a series should end. Today, I’m pleased to welcome Charles Salzberg, author of the Henry Swann detective/noir/mystery series including the latest release Swann’s Down, and he’ll be discussing the author’s choice behind continuing or ending a series. Thank you, Mr. Salzberg, for taking the time to stop by today and sharing with us. I hope you all will enjoy Mr. Salzberg’s information, read more about Swann’s Down, and add this series and book to your TBR list.
All good things (and some bad, though they seem to take much longer) must come to an end.
For those of us who write series, it’s sometimes difficult to admit when the end is near.
Some writers, when they start a book already have a series in mind. You do this for several reasons. One, because you like the character and enjoy writing about him or her. Two, because your editor flatters you by insisting you keep going. Three, because there’s unfinished business when it comes to the character. And four, and this is probably the most important reason of all, you’ve actually amassed a hardcore fan base that demands you keep going.
In terms of the latter, it’s not really the fans who determine the longevity of your series, but rather sales. I have a number of friends who, after the third book in their series (publishing “wisdom” is that a series needs at least three books before it catches on if it’s going to catch on) were dropped by the publisher. It rarely has anything to do with quality. It’s almost always an economic decision. If you’re lucky, and it is a matter of luck because editors and agents tell us that once you’ve started a series with one publisher it’s very unlikely that another one will pick up the series. This, too, is an economic decision. Unless you come armed with the rights to the previous books in the series, the new publisher will have no control and no long-term economic interest in the series.
It’s too bad because by the third book most authors have finally begun to figure out their main character. They know how he or she thinks. They know how he or she will react in certain situations. And if you’re a good writer you can see that your writing and story-telling is getting better with each installment. Your characters stop existing in a fictional world but start to exist in the “real” world. I know, I know, people are committed for this tenuous hold on reality, but writers may be the exception.
In my case, the Swann series came about by accident. Not only did I have no intention of writing a sequel, but I had no intention of writing another crime novel. You can tell by the title of that first one. It wasn’t Swann’s First Song but rather, Swann’s Last Song. Would I have used that title if I had any inkling that it would be anything other than one and out? Not a chance.
So, what happened? I won’t go into the checkered history of the manuscript, that it sat in my desk for almost twenty-five years before I decided to send it out again. The reason was the ending. Or rather the non-ending. Detectives are supposed to solve the crime, putting a chaotic world back together. But in the original Swann, the detective follows all the clues but it doesn’t lead him to the solution. Instead, he finds that the world doesn’t make that kind of sense. In fact, the world is in a state of chaos, and although we do find out who committed the murder that sets the book in motion, it has nothing to do with all the clues Swann follows diligently, across the continent and then across the world.
But when I agreed to change the ending, a publisher agreed to publish the book. Meanwhile, I was onto something else. But when the book came out and was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel, my world changed. I didn’t win, but I did get pissed off enough to care myself to keep writing them until I won something or ran out of catchy titles.
Swann’s Down is the latest in the series and most probably the last. I’ve learned to never say never, but I am pretty certain about this. First, I think I’ve taken the character about as far as he can go. And I want to quit before the books become formulaic, which would pretty much take the fun out of writing them. And they have been fun.
Swann has been good to me. He’s allowed me to write about all sorts of things I was interested in. The world of rare books. The art world. The crazy world of Hollywood. Broken Hearts. Collectible photography. The world of rare artifacts. And now, in Swann’s Down, the spirit world. He’s allowed me to write about ethics and morality—especially in Swann’s Down when he’s hired to find a missing witness who might give an alibi to a notorious hitman.
But now it’s time to move on to other things, other characters. I love the world of crime simply because it allows me to write about anything I want, especially human nature. I’m halfway through a novel with another PI, one who’s very, very different from Swann. And I had so much fun writing the complicated, evil character of master burglar Francis Hoyt, that I’m seriously thinking of writing a spin-off centering around him. And there’s more.
With so much on my plate, I’m not sad about leaving Henry Swann. He’ll be fine without me. And I want to thank him for opening the door into a literary world I never would have found without him.
And so, Henry, it’s not goodbye, because he’ll always live in those five books and also in my mind, but rather, “it’s been a fun ride, pal, and see you around.”
Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in New York magazine, Esquire, GQ, Redbook, The New York Times Book Review and other periodicals. He has written over 20 non-fiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA, and Soupy Sez: My Zany Life and Times. He is author of the Shamus Award nominated Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair, nominated for two Silver Falchions, Swann’s Way Out, Devil in the Hole, named one of the best crime novels of the year by Suspense Magazine. He was a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and he teaches writing the New York Writers Workshop where he is a Founding Member. He is a member of the MWA-NY Board.
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on Tour May 1 – June 30, 2019
When Henry Swann is asked by his quirky partner, Goldblatt, to find a missing psychic who’s swindled his ex-wife out of a small fortune, he just can’t say no. Although he doesn’t actually expect to get paid, he figures it might give him a chance to finally learn more about his partner’s mysterious past. His search takes him into the controversial, arcane world of psychics, fortune tellers, and charlatans while raising questions in his own mind about whether or not there is an after-life.
While working his partner’s case, he’s approached by a former employer, attorney Paul Rudder, to track down a missing witness who might be able to provide an alibi for his client, Nicky Diamond, a notorious mob hitman who’s scheduled to go on trial for murder he claims he didn’t commit in a week. Swann’s search for the missing witness, who happens to be the defendant’s girlfriend, takes him from Brooklyn to a small beach town across the Bay from Mobile, Ala. But what does she really know and will she even come back with him to testify for her boyfriend?
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Number of Pages: 300
Purchase Links: Amazon | BN.com | Goodreads
Praise for Swann’s Down:
“Psychics, double-crosses, missing persons–Charles Salzberg’s latest Henry Swann book has it all. Swann’s Down is a gritty, no-frills PI novel that brings to mind greats like Reed Farrel Coleman’s Moe Prager and Michael Harvey’s Michael Kelly. Whether this is your first Swann adventure or the latest, you won’t want to miss the brass-knuckle punch that is Swann’s Down. Trust me.”
~ Alex Segura, author of Blackout and Dangerous Ends
“From Manhattan to Coney Island to the steamy shores of Alabama, Charles Salzberg delivers a top-flight mystery with his latest Henry Swann outing. Highly recommended.”
~ Tom Straw, New York Times bestselling author as Richard Castle
Swann’s Down gives readers two intriguing mysteries for the price of one, as skip tracer Henry Swann pursues a woman who might alibi a murderer and a psychic who swindled the ex-wife of Swann’s partner. Shamus Award-nominated Salzberg does a superb job cutting between the two investigations. I kept turning pages to stay with both chases as the suspense increased to the very end. Whatever is going on, Swann is at the center of this story. His wry wit, quotes from authors and philosophers, genius for questioning suspects, and dark past make him a character readers will follow anywhere as he seeks his quarry. This is another thrilling addition to this excellent series.
~ Rich Zahradnik, Lights Out Summer, winner of the 2018 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Private Eye Novel
Henry Swann dives in where others fear to tread in Swann’s Down: Fast. Funny. And Smart. This time out, Swann crosses paths with a psycho hitman, a phony psychic and Swann’s mysterious partner, a disbarred lawyer. Who could ask for more? I hope we’ll see a lot more of Swann in the future and that this isn’t Swann’s swan song.
~ Paul D. Marks, Shamus Award-winning Author of White Heat and Broken Windows.
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