Spring has arrived, and simultaneous with the first daffodils comes the writer with a web-site statement about his latest novel, a sight not as pretty as fresh flowers, not as pretty as frozen winter soil thawing into mud, but every bit as inevitable as the change of seasons. While bears have hibernated, while bees have huddled in a state of torpor in their hives, while vicious and evil extraterrestrial parasites have bided their time in the chest cavities of unsuspecting human hosts, the writer has been toiling away on a book. He has not lazed on a beach in Tahiti. He has not even lazed on the beach he can see from his office window. He lazed for a while on a hallway floor, but that was after he tripped over one of his dog’s toy and knocked himself unconscious.
Why am I referring to myself in the third person? Curious. Hi, It’s me, Dean. Welcome to the web site. Let me tell you about THE HUSBAND.
As a reader, I’m happy to settle down with a story in which the protagonist is a police detective, an FBI agent, a CIA agent, a Secret Service agent, a private detective, or a criminal-defense attorney. They lead lives that put them in dramatic and even dangerous situations, so it’s easy to believe that their stories could really happen. As a writer, however, I quickly grow bored with that kind of set-up because it’s too easy. The narrative is more challenging to me if the lead character(s) are ordinary citizens without weapons training, without the deep resources of governmental agencies, and without experience of the crazed or criminal types who suddenly enter their lives. If they don’t go looking for trouble by virtue of their professions, if instead trouble comes looking for them, and if they don’t have a daily experience of evil to guide them in their responses to it, I am more interested in what will happen to them and how they will cope with extreme peril.
I have occasionally written novels with police officers and detectives as the leads, but most of those were in the first half of my career. These days, when my protagonists are police officers, as Carson and Michael in the Frankenstein books, they tend to be mavericks whose hard experience has taught them to meet the world with an unrelenting sense of humor; consequently, their insistence on seeing the dark comedy in all things makes them unpredictable.
In my most recent novels, my protagonists have been a short-order cook, a baker, a bartender, a house painter, a jobless woman with a troubled past…. I find that I’m comfortable settling into those points of view and that I’m interested in discovering how people with ordinary survival skills, rather like my own, will rise to momentous challenges. In the real world, they do it every day.
Mitch Rafferty, 27, protagonist of THE HUSBAND, is a gardener and landscaper. He has $11,000 in his checking account. Someone kidnaps his wife and demands two million for her return. They know he’s not rich, but they think he’ll find a way to get the money if he loves his wife enough. Are they insane? No. They’re cunning. The resulting story is a runaway-train ride that explores the beauty of total commitment to another person. For the first time in his life, Mitch recognizes the existence of Evil with a capital E; through this recognition he also becomes aware of the mysterious—indeed, magical—nature of life, which had previously escaped him. Great peril can shock us from our settled views and force us to reexamine what we believe about ourselves, about life, and even about the nature of reality.
What would you do for love? Would you die? Would you kill? Mitch discovers that he will do whatever is required of him. I hope his journey enthralls you as much as the writing of it enthralled me. And as always, loyal readers, thank you for giving me purpose and a life.