ANATOMY OF A SERIES

With the recent publication of MURDER ON BROADWAY, the third book featuring Mike Fargo as a New York City detective working in the 1920’s, I knew that I now had an ongoing series. One novel, two novellas published since November of 2012 and more to come. I’m self-publishing them on Amazon, a departure from my previous four decades as a writer, a decision I fully explained in my last blog, Why Indie. . .Why Now?

As for the series, it had a rather innocuous beginning. A number of years ago I was returning from a meeting with an editor in New York City, riding the train back to Dutchess County and thinking fiction, when an idea suddenly popped into my head. Why or where it came from I don’t know to this day. A ‘what if’ in one line. I quickly took out a note pad and jotted it down.

What if there was a murder at Yankee Stadium in 1927 and Babe Ruth became the prime suspect?

So here I was, thinking about what could happen if the most well-known and mythical baseball player of all-time had been a suspect in a murder – in the very same year he had hit his epic 60 home runs. As with many ideas, this one went on the back burner for awhile because I had other projects under contract. But the idea never fully went away and, gradually, I began outlining what would eventually become the novel, MURDER ON MURDERER’S ROW. I created a detective, Mike Fargo – originally called Mike Fiscus – and continued to flesh out the plot and characters. Once I had enough on paper and some free time, I began to write, eventually completing five chapters before contract work again took me away.

I spent nearly two years ghostwriting a family memoir, for which I had to conduct extensive interviews with a family of seven. After that, I had a time-consuming sports project called Yankees by the Numbers. Once that was done I decided to dig in and try to finish the novel. As I wrote I began enjoying it more and more. I had always loved the Roaring Twenties and my research only made me love it more. In addition to that, I quickly found that I enjoyed allowing my fictional characters to interact with real people. The Babe, of course, was innocent of the murder, but he became a major character in the story as did, to a lesser extent, Mayor Jimmy Walker and the actress Mae West. I also put my characters in real venues of the day, such as Yankee Stadium, the Cotton Club in Harlem and the famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel. All in all, it was a fun experience and, for reasons explained in my previous blog, I decided to publish it myself.

But what next? Like most new Indie authors I began reading about ways to market and learning which self-published genres worked best. Series fiction seemed to have as good a chance to succeed as anything. I had also read that even conventional publishers were asking some of their mystery writers to pen novellas in between their novels, which might come out just once a year. The purpose was to keep reader interest in their main character. And when a good friend, one who knows the business well, suggested I think about a novella or two, I took his advice. With the novella, a lost art now making a comeback, I could put a book up at a lower price and get Mike Fargo back in action much more quickly than with a second novel. I described the process involved in another previous blog, Novel to Novella.

So that’s what I did. First came DEATH OF A FLAPPER, which I set in 1922, and then MURDER ON BROADWAY, which takes place in 1925. Mike Fargo is now surfing the 1920’s and has appeared three times – a series. What comes next? Hopefully, a larger audience, those who enjoy reading about America’s past and about an old school detective who doesn’t call on CSIs and DNA testing to solve his cases. And he sure can’t make a quick call on a cellphone. Now I’ll probably go back to the long form, the novel, and work on a plot that I had begun before switching to the novella. But who knows, maybe the idea for another novella will also pop up. Either way, The Mike Fargo Mysteries is now a series, one I hope will continue to grow. And to think, it all started with a single one-liner that came to me on a train.

What if there was a murder at Yankee Stadium in 1927 and Babe Ruth became the prime subject?

 

-Bill Gutman