Thursday, May 24, 2012

Howard Browne's Paul Pine Novels

"I hear he's improving."

So said Raymond Chandler himself in a BBC interview with Ian Fleming back in the day when the two were on top of the world with James Bond and Philip Marlowe. Chandler had just released Playback, Fleming's Goldfinger was in proofs, and Ray also talked about what would later become Poodle Springs where he has Marlowe married and wasn't really sure what to do next. Of course, Chandler died before finishing that book and Robert B. Parker completed it. But Chandler uttered the quote above after Fleming talked about his enjoyment of Howard Browne's Paul Pine novels. Everybody who reads PI stories knows the Pine books were Chandler clones--and good ones, too.

One can almost see Chandler's tongue planted in cheek when he says that line, and you know that he knew what Browne was up to. How could he not?

If you have never had the opportunity to read Howard Browne's Paul Pine books, very soon you'll get your chance. Haffner Press is releasing the books and we are very excited to hear of this development.

I have, so far, only read Halo for Satan, which I picked up at a used bookshop one day many years ago. In the introduction, Browne states that he wanted to write a story where the identity of the murderer hinges on a clue that no reader would be able to guess or predict. And he was right! It's been used time and again since but you'd never know it while reading the book and you'll marvel at how poorly such a twist has been handled by others and how smoothly Browne pulled it off. Granted the clue is based on the prejudices of the time it was written, even Browne admitted so, and it will surely cause much weeping and gnashing of teeth from the PC crowd, but it's a heck of a thriller and anything that offends the PC crowd is OK in my book.

Paul Pine is a Chicago private investigator; in Halo for Satan, he's hired by worried parents to track down their missing daughter. He gets conked on the head a few times, engages in the usual hokum, and solves the mystery. But it's so well-written and so engaging that such a bland premise takes on new life and you cannot help but stay glued to the page.

I am very excited to be able to get my hands on all of the books in one collection. Hurry, Santa, hurry!

Friday, May 18, 2012

E-Book Experimentation, or: Back to the Drawing Board

For the last few months I've been releasing as a serial The Rogue Gentleman, featuring the adventures of globe-trotting thrill-seeker Steve Dane. I designed the stories to be read in one or two sittings and wanted to see if readers would support this new format.

Well, bluntly, the entire experiment has gone over like the proverbial lead zeppelin Tommy Page once joked about.

This has been discouraging, to say the least, and has caused some delay in the fourth and final episode in this first set, but it's almost done and should be out shortly. Nobody is complaining that it's late, so I'm not in any rush.

Unfortunately my other ebooks, steady sellers throughout 2011, seem to have suffered but I have no way of knowing if they've been affected by the serial or not. I can't imagine why, but you never know. The folks who have bought the older books have not come back for the newer ones.

So here's what I know: full-length novels sell.

Serialized books, at least my books in this case, do not. Perhaps you will have better luck should you go that route. Perhaps the idea of paying, overall, $4.00 for a story isn't appealing. I have no trouble selling some titles for the usual $2.99, so maybe that is truly the sweet spot price point.

It's been a fun experiment, and happily one that the new world of ebooks allows an author to attempt. It could have gone like gangbusters as we'd hoped, but that isn't the case. I also have the freedom, when the results are not what we'd like, to go back to what we know works.
Proposed cover for the collected set.

So once The Rogue Gentleman #4: The Hard Way is done, and released, I will wait a few months, withdraw the serialized versions, and re-release it as a full novel along with a sequel that is already in the can. Steve Dane will continue with single-title, fully-contained stories.

I think we will all be much happier that way.

After The Rogue Gentleman II it will be time to turn my attention to the next book, where I plan on going back to my hard-boiled crime roots with a murder mystery called Kill Fever. I also have plans to bring back Mr. Pierce from Justified Sins, which I know some of you will be excited to hear, but that won't get done until 2013, more than likely after I finished Kill Fever.