There have been many articles written about how to be a successful writer. Of the ones I have read, all have mentioned that you can’t be a good writer without being a reader. My advice to people who want to be writers is to read voraciously in the genre you are interested in. I have read over a thousand mysteries, starting with my dad reading them to me before I could read. That was actually one of the ways I learned to read.
Reading mysteries helped me develop a character and a style that is comfortable for me. It is a style that combines many aspects of several different authors. But my main influence was Robert Parker and his private detective, Spenser. I used the name Spencer, with a letter change, as an homage to Parker’s Spenser.
I have many favorite mystery authors, but when it comes to Spencer’s character there are only a few who influenced me, those being Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler. Spencer is smart, but not quite as ingenious as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot who can sit in their favorite chaisr and ponder a problem. Spencer has to go out and “shake the trees until something falls out.”
I love the hard-boiled detectives Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe and have reread the Hammett and Chandler books many times. Spencer would like to think he is as tough as Sam and Philip, but he’s not. He has a gun and is a sharpshooter and has used that skill when necessary, but he would rather not carry his gun. He can fight but would rather avoid one. Early on in the series, my publisher termed Spencer a “soft-boiled private eye.” He has his hard-boiled moments, but generally he’s pretty easygoing. And he makes mistakes. He’s not nearly as perfect as the others.
Parker’s Spenser has a woman in his life—Susan. And except for a time away from Susan, Spenser has a pretty stable relationship. My Spencer has Rosie, and the relationship through the series is not at all stable. Spencer is not willing to commit to Rosie, and in one of the books you find out why.
My Spencer has a good relationship with the police. His father was chief of police before an untimely death that makes up part of the plot in Change of Address. And there’s Sergeant Powolski, Stosh, who is like a favorite uncle to Spencer. And his relationship with Rosie is complicated a bit by her being a detective working under Stosh. Parker’s Spenser also has police contacts, mainly Detective Belson, and Sherlock Holmes has Inspector Lestrade.
But one main difference between Spencer and the other detectives is as the series goes on you learn about his personal life. I got to know the others as detectives, but the authors revealed very little about their private lives.
Spencer is flawed in some ways. He makes mistakes and heads down wrong paths, and his relationship with Rosie is not always secure. But he does one thing well—he always solves the crime.
When I write I always pick up one of my mentors and read. They give me a general landscape that I want Spencer to walk in.
The next blog will be an interview with Spencer Manning. I’ll solicit questions from the Spencer fans on my mail list. So, if you want to be a part of the interview, go to RickPolad.com and “Join Us” to receive news about the interview and Spencer updates.