After graduating from Iowa State University in 1981, I started thinking, as everyone who ever graduated with a degree in English has, about writing a book. Over the years, a novel took root in my mind, and sometime along the way, it started to find its way onto paper. Or I guess that I should say that it started to find its way into a file as a Word document.
By 1999, the book had slowly grown to six or seven chapters. Each one independent of the other. It had haunted me for over a decade. It was dark. It had a vague and foggy feel that I spent a lot of time unsuccessfully trying to develop into a plot. The chapters and the events seemed unconnected. My strategy was to write a book that came from my stream of consciousness, and when the flow of my consciousness pooled, it would all come together on its own. It was a book of conspiracy, conflict, espionage, deceit and murder, and I had no intention of resolving any of it in the end. It was to be a masterpiece of literature.
So it lingered for years, slowly going nowhere. In January of 2015, my wife Denise and I traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico to pass the cold winter months in the tropics, and I sat down one morning with the resolve to finish my book. I began writing a flashback of a young police officer riding in a patrol car with his training officer, in the darkness, careening through a snowstorm down residential streets late at night, en route to a fight in a flophouse called the Prairie Hotel. As the chapter progressed, my young officer took on his own personality. By the end, he had found a place in my head where he still lives and breathes, and I realized that Max didn’t belong in my original novel: Max had his own story to tell.
So that chapter was the beginning of its own book. A detective novel. A novel not so deep and menacing. A novel that was going somewhere. In the following chapters Max was joined by his partner on the department, Harlan “Skip” Murray. Then Milton showed up, and Monica, and the four took over. The novel was no longer my story, it was a story of four people bound together and living in my imagination. The next day I woke up excited to see what my four new friends were up to. Max and Skip had won the Powerball. They had opened up a detective agency. They had talked their friend and former stripper, Monica, into being their receptionist. Milton started hanging around. When the dog of a friend of Max’s wife Gloria went missing, Gloria talked them into looking for it, and the story took off. I watched their story, documenting it as it unfolded. And so, in the course of three months, I wrote Max’s, Skip’s, Monica’s and Milton’s story as they searched for the missing therapy dog named Tucker.
But when I finished G&B Detective Agency: Case of the Missing Tucker, my four newfound friends did not quit living in my mind. I wrote about their next escapade in G&B Detective Agency: Case of the Lonelyfarmer.com. And it did not end there. As I write this blog, Max and Skip are in a race with time, searching for a missing stripper, an old friend of Monica’s named Angie. So stay tuned.