12 October 2012

Developing the Series

by R.T. Lawton

Kathleen Jordan, then editor for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, evidently continued to like my Twin Brothers Bail Bond concept because she sent a contract for "The Bond Market," second in the series. However,  before this story could be published, she passed away and Linda Landrigan took over as editor. Linda immediately requested changes in this already paid-for story, which left me in a writer's limbo, wondering if I were starting all over again. And in a sense I was, because it was a brand new relationship between author and editor.

If I wanted to break in with this new editor, I once again had to come up with something interesting and innovative. "The Big Bail Out," third in the series, had criminals employed at a financially troubled company skydiving onto a certain property at night. Yes, all of their parachutes opened and operated as they should, however as these employees had been marked for death, they came to a different and unexpected end. Naturally, as the gatherer of clues for the mystery solving proprietor, bail agent Theodore was on scene to witness their demise and report back the details. In following with The Rules for this series, the bail firm once again made an outrageous profit during the story's resolution. As for me, I got another contract and the series continued to live.

Still searching for innovation, I decided the Executive Secretary for the bail firm had recently expired, presumably of old age, a rarity in this group. The fourth story, "The Bond Servant," therefore opens with Theodore and the Proprietor preparing to conduct interviews with twelve candidates for the position of Executive Secretary. At the end of the day, it seems there is a thirteenth candidate, one who has shown up uninvited, in the waiting room. This interviewee is a tall, thin, cadaverous Hindu with a letter of reference from the proprietor's twin brother. We never do get resolved in the running series whether this twin brother has gone off on his own after an arguement as often alleged, or did the proprietor do away with his business partner twin as is sometimes implied in the stories?

The proprietor is paranoid about hiring the Hindu, whose international police record shows he comes from an old Thuggee family, however all the other top contenders for the Executive Secretary position seem to come to an untimely demise during this story. Only the Hindu is left as the prime candidate. Now, there are several threads of tension to explore and the bodies keep on piling up. As a character tag, the Hindu frequently comes up with sayings of Mahatma Gandhi, but by using them out of context these same sayings acquire a sinister meaning rather than the one originally intended.

Skip to the Bouchercon in Las Vegas, where Linda buys me a drink in the conference bar. I'm overwhelmed and not sure how to act. Actually, I'm probably more prepared to go undercover and negotiate with a criminal carrying a gun. If I make a faux pas in front of him, the worst he could do is shoot me. I sip my drink and try to make conversation with Linda. I inquire if there is anything she'd like to see in my future writing. She suggests a Moriarity type character as a foil for the proprietor of the bail firm.

"You got it ma'am."

Fifth in the series, "The Other Bondsman," introduces Herr Morden, an ex-East German agent who has set up a competing criminal enterprise in the Bay City area. The German word "ermorden" means to murder, but Herr Morden is almost the same phonetically, so....

The proprietor's life, and therefore Theodore's existence, keeps getting more tangled as the series expands to a total of ten stories so far, all of which have the word "bond" or "bail" in the title for easy recognition of the series. You can read the first nine stories ( 9 Twin Brother Bail Bond series) at either Amazon.com for Kindle or at Smashwords for other e-readers.

By now, you may have a fair idea how my brain works when it comes to brainstorming ideas for mystery stories and series progression. There may be more than what got put down on paper, but these are at least the high spots in my mind.

I have three other series going in AHMM (two historicals and a comedy burglar series), and depending upon how "Across the Salween" does in Linda's manuscript slush pile in the very near future, a fifth series may be in the making. Cross your fingers.


  1. I've read some of those stories and what a cast of characters! Nice to know how the series came about.

  2. I love the German villian's name, R.T.--very clever! The Ghandi-quoting Thuggee is also brillant. Good piece on your writing processes--always an interesting subject.

  3. Great article - I'm always interested in how people come up with long-running characters. And I agree, the Ghandi-quoting Thuggee is my favorite.

  4. I've read a number of stories in that series, too. And the Ghandi quotes always send a chill up my spine.


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