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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

RAFFERTY DOWN UNDER PART 2

 
RAFFERTY DOWN UNDER
PART 2
INTERVIEW WITH BILL DUNCAN

In Part 1 of Rafferty Down Under the illusive authorial fugitive W. Glenn Duncan was finally tracked down and brought in for questioning about his cult favorite private eye, Rafferty. Along the way we learned W. Glenn Duncan’s son, Bill Duncan, is not only republishing the original series of Rafferty novels, but has been writing Rafferty novels of his own, which are set to appear in 2018. Now it’s Bill’s turn under the bright lights of the interrogation room…
********
Can you give us a brief biographical sketch of Bill Duncan?

Well, I was born at a very early age. Okay, that’s my one joke out of the way, and I promise to not to make any more. Maybe. Our family moved to Australia from the States when I was seven and I just did the usual kid things on both sides of the Pacific. Once here, we bounced around every couple of years—Mum and Dad always said they were gypsies at heart—even living on a farm for a few years.

After school I went to University and graduated with degrees in Architecture. Spent the next 20 odd years working my way through various roles in the construction industry, and believe me, some of them were odd. I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. Maybe it was the writer bubbling away underneath trying to tell me something, maybe the gypsy genes, maybe a combination of both. Got married early, though the marriage didn’t last, and have two wonderful adult kids now.

Three truths and a lie about me:
At six months old, I had travelled more miles by air than by car.
Member of Mensa.
Have never fired a gun.
Once crashed a car into the top story of a two story house.

Were you a reader growing up? If so, what books did you enjoy?

Yeah, definitely. I read very early and Mum and Dad still love telling the story about me throwing my kindergarten teacher for a loop, resulting in them being called down to the school to be admonished, “You didn’t tell us he was a reader.”

I wish I had a great story about devouring The Collected Works of Tolkien by the time I was eight, and it being my springboard into the heady realms of writerdom but the truth is my tastes weren’t that exotic. As a young boy, I was drawn to true-life adventure—explorers, early pilots crossing oceans and undiscovered lands—that kind of thing. The first fiction I remember reading was a Hardy Boys book, and it lit a fire inside me. I devoured the series and loved every one of them.

Later on my reading spanned a few genres, mostly led by Dad’s reading tastes. Memorable reads from those times were Brian Lecomber’s work, Tales of the Black Widowers by Asimov, and Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky. There’s definitely a thread of adventure there, but what impacted me most was the humanity of the characters. What would they do? Why are they doing it? How far will a person go when pushed?

When did you realize your dad had written this series of cool detective books?

I was in high school when Dad retired from being a commercial pilot and turned his hand to writing. I remember the early days of him pounding away at the typewriter, but mainly I was trying to work out how I felt about being the only kid I knew whose father had a commercial photocopier at home. This is the eighties, remember.

I read a couple of the short stories he had published in AHMM and Mike Shayne and the first novel (non-Rafferty and unpublished) he wrote, and I remember the day when he told me Ballantine picked up Rafferty’s Rules. I was away at University when it was released so, though I knew what he was doing, I wasn’t close to it at the time. I was always proud to be able to tell my friends about my father, the published author, but I didn’t really understand the reach or the impact of the books until much later.

Did you read them immediately or did you rediscover them again later?

I read each book as they were released and have come back to them time and time again—as I tend to do with books I enjoy. Which probably explains why my TBR pile is still too tall for me to jump over.

How did your dad feel about the Rafferty books?

I know he really enjoyed writing them—both the process and the result—but felt badly let down by the movie adaptation of Rafferty’s Rules. Having seen it, I have to agree with him. Dad has always been the kind of guy who would decide he was going to do something, and then just go get it done. I’m not sure if he realizes how big a deal it was to pick up writing as a new career and see the success his books had, but it’s been a huge inspiration to me as I look to follow a similar path.

When and why did you decide to revitalize the Rafferty books?

That decision was made in late 2016, after I’d already completed the first draft and a major rewrite of False Gods, and went hand in hand with my decision to indie publish. My original intention was to head down the traditional publishing route, and to target Dad’s old agent with my first query when the MS was ready.

In the end, what pushed me down the indie path was finding the online reactions to Rafferty, from people like you, Kevin Burton Smith, Bill Crider and Cliff Fausset. I knew from the words, and the obvious passion for the books, there was a market out there. I also realised it was unlikely a publishing house would be able to stop looking for the next ’69 Shades of the Girl with the Salamander Tattoo Gone on the Train’ blockbuster long enough to resurrect a few old PI books languishing on their backlist.

I figured, too, if there were fans from 30(!) years ago, then there were likely new fans who hadn’t caught up with Rafferty the first time around. So, Dad and I discussed the idea of revitalizing his books and he gave me the go ahead.

To test my theory about the publishing house, I floated a trial balloon past Ballantine, and Dad’s old agency, by approaching them for a rights reversion of Dad’s books, and telling them what I was planning to do. Neither of them blinked, they issued the reversion, and it saved me the hassle of writing a query letter.

When did you make the decision to write a new Rafferty adventure?

In 2014, I suffered a deep bout of depression with the end result being I had to walk away from my previous career and business. As I was starting to come out the other side of the black cloud, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could reinvent myself in a more sustainable way. I’d always been drawn to writing and dabbled with it from time to time—starting a novel and never carrying on with it, writing non-fiction pieces for business, and similar things—and long dreamed of writing full-time, but had never followed through.

At the same time, and probably because of where I was mentally, I thought a lot about legacy. In particular, what happens to the intangibles when we’re no longer here. Like Dad’s Rafferty books. It seemed a helluva shame all the work he’d done and the magic of his creation might just disappear with his passing. It didn’t seem fair and I decided to do what I could to make sure it didn’t happen.

In 2015, with those two things in mind, I knew this was my chance to see if I could do the work necessary to become a writer and I needed get my ass in gear and give it my best. Six months later I had completed first drafts of two 100,000 word novels. The second of those was False Gods.

How did your discussion with your dad go when you said you wanted to continue his Rafferty series with the new novel False Gods?

He was really supportive, but tempered his enthusiasm with cautionary tales of the author as income-producing business. As far as the opportunity for Rafferty to hit the streets once again, he gave me carte blanche to do anything I wanted with the settings and the characters—move Rafferty to Australia, bring him into the 2000s, or anything I wanted to do.

I think he saw this as a way to make the new stories easier to write. However, one of the appeals of Rafferty has always been the voice of the time and place. I’m also an unabashed child of the 80s, so Rafferty remains—and will remain—a Dallas P.I. firmly rooted in the late 20th century.

Did your dad have any notes, partial manuscripts, or other story fragments for other Rafferty books?

There are no unpublished works. Mum and Dad moved several times since the nineties, so there weren’t even notes or compendiums for the published books. I rebuilt each one by scanning the actual mass-market paperbacks and compiling them from scratch. This process allowed me to get into the timelines of all the stories, confirm Rafferty’s rules (and their somewhat random numerical basis), the weapons he owns, and a bunch of other details. It was a great way for me to really inhabit Rafferty’s world, which I hope gives depth to the new books.

Have you written other fiction before Rafferty: False Gods?

I’ve written bits and pieces over the years, but the only fiction I’d ever finished was the first of those two novels I mentioned. It’s a book called Finding Karol and the archetypal first novel: highly cathartic, strived-for literary fiction, and self-compared to Jodi Picoult and Paul Theroux. It got some traction with Australian agents, but didn’t get across the line to a deal, and is currently in hiding on my hard drive.

How did you learn the process to republish the Rafferty books?

Standing on the shoulders of giants was, and remains, the key. When I first started looking into the idea of indie publishing, I stumbled upon the writer/marketing site of Joanna Penn, which led me to the similar sites of Nick Stephenson and Mark Dawson. The three of them, and their generosity in sharing the lessons they’ve learned over years of trial-and-error, gave me the confidence I could make this work, and a lot of the blueprints to follow.

Your marketing plan is an example of doing things right. Do you have a background in marketing or learn on the fly?

Thanks for saying so. Obviously, I’ve got you fooled. It’s still very early days, but I feel like I’m on the right track. I’ve no formal background in marketing, so it really is learning on the fly. There’s a huge wealth of experience and opinions out there, with easier access than ever before. Not everything will work for everyone, so it’s important to assess with a critical eye and implement what seems to be the right thing for you and what you want to get out of your marketing. And if it doesn’t work the way you hoped, change until it does.

If you are flying by the seat of your pants in the publishing world (like many of us) what lessons have you learned from your experiences?

There’s a few...

Trust your gut—I knew that there was a new life for Rafferty and that the stories would resonate with, and entertain, both existing and new fans. The feedback I’ve already had has proven this was the right call.

Stick to your values—I’m pretty pedantic. Bill’s Rule #1: Any job worth doing is worth overdoing. Levity aside, making your work the best it can be is the writer’s side of the contract with readers. Great covers, professional editing, and thorough research is every bit as important as good storytelling.

It’s not life or death—Notwithstanding the above, it’s easy to get bound up in trying to make everything perfect. It never will be. Neither will any minor error be a catastrophic disaster that stops you dead. Do the best you can with what you have to hand at the time, move on, and try to do a little better tomorrow.

This is the best time in history to be a writer—We have access to unprecedented technology allowing us, as individuals, to run global businesses with a laptop and an internet connection. The barriers to entry have never been lower, so grab the opportunity with both hands and run like hell.

What’s the next case for Rafferty?

False Gods will be out in 2018. I’ve already drafted book #8, with the working title of Blood Angels—however, I’m a little concerned about the repetitive religious language so the title may change. I’m currently working through the manuscript edits. At this point, I’m aiming to also release it in 2018. 

Down the track, I’ll also being playing with different versions of all the books—paperbacks, audiobooks, boxsets, and who knows what else. Beyond that point, I’ve got nearly a dozen written what ifs ready to be explored, and I’m sure many more will emerge out of the ether. Whether they all grow in to full Rafferty books is yet to be seen, but I won’t know until I pitch myself into their rabbit-holes. February 2018 is my due date to pull one out of the pile and get started on a new exploration and see where it takes me.

What I do know is that I’ve had an absolute ball on the journey so far. It’s been a great thing for Dad too, to finally get to see the impact of his books on readers, something that wasn’t available to him during his run with the traditional publishing industry. So, I’m up for continuing the ride, if you are. Jump in and ride shotgun with me in this rusted, duct-taped, ’67 Mustang and let’s hit the streets.
*****
Thanks to W. Glenn Duncan and Bill Duncan for making the effort and taking the time to answer some long held questions about the Rafferty series and to fill us in on plans for Rafferty’s future...

TO VISIT THE
RAFFERTY P. I. WEBSITE
CLICK HERE

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT
THE RAFFERTY SERIES ON THE
THRILLING DETECTIVE WEBSITE

THE RAFFERTY SERIES
Rafferty's Rules (1987)
Last Seen Alive (1987)
Poor Dead Cricket (1988)
Wrong Place, Wrong Time (1989)
Cannon's Mouth (1990)
Fatal Sisters (1990)
COMING SOON
False Gods (2018)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

RAFFERTY DOWN UNDER PART 1


RAFFERTY DOWN UNDER
• PART 1 •

Somewhere, jockeying for position in my top five favorite tough guy private eyes, you will find the six book Rafferty series by Shamus Award winning author W. Glenn Duncan. Like author John Whitlatch, who I previously posted about, W. Glenn Duncan has been an enigma to his fans for many years. A former journalist and pilot, Duncan lived in Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Texas, and California, before disappearing into the proverbial wilds of Australia with his wife and three children.

Since the 1990 publication of the last Rafferty book, Fatal Sisters, a hardcore cult of mystery fans has grown around the paperback original Rafferty series. Whenever knowledgeable hardboiled gurus talk about favorite, overlooked, or forgotten private eye series, Rafferty is always mentioned at the highest levels.

The Rafferty series has been compared to both Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels,  which began a few years prior to the first Rafferty book, but had not yet become the bestselling phenomenon it is today. Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole premiered the same year as Rafferty’s Rules and also found itself being compared to the Spenser formula. Other series, including Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar books, followed a similar pattern.

The Rafferty series, however, broke away from the pack to establish its own original niche in the pantheon of great private eyes. The series became known not only for the spot on philosophy of the frequent quoting of Rafferty’s rules, but also for the great interplay between the tougher than tough Rafferty and his even tougher sidekick, Cowboy. Tougher than both of them, though, is Cowboy’s wife—the delightfully height challenged, Mimi. Each of the Rafferty books had an added depth of social conscious, dealing with problems that are still pertinent today. 

Attempts have been made to trace Duncan for interviews or simply to find out more information about the author and his series—all eventually running into a dead end down under. Casual and in-depth Internet searches fail to provide any extensive or definitive information. Most recently, Lee Goldberg’s Brash Books tried to locate Duncan to obtain the reprint rights to the Rafferty series. Those efforts also ran aground on the coast of Austrailia and the search eventually abandoned.

When I wrote my original blog post on the enigmatic John Whitlatch in 2009, it prompted an unexpected response from an individual who had worked with Whitlatch in the insurance industry. When I reached out to the respondent, he provided me with a wealth of information on Whitlatch, which was previously unknown to genre mavens. I wrote and posted an article to document the details, causing a minor Internet run on used copies of Whitlatch’s novels—likely inflating prices by a few bucks for those late to the party. 

Recently, I experienced a similar out of the blue response to a blog post I’d written regarding my admiration for the Rafferty series. Bill Duncan, son of W. Glenn Duncan contacted me to ask if he could quote my blog post as he was preparing to relaunch his father’s Rafferty novels in e-book format. The relaunch of the Rafferty series was great news, but I was also excited when Bill told me he was also taking over the reins of the Rafferty series, writing a new adventure—False Gods—which is great news for new readers and long term fans.

Bill graciously agreed to pass some specific questions on to his father related to the Rafferty series, and to also answer some questions himself about the upcoming Rafferty reissues and the soon to be released new Rafferty novel...
******
INTERVIEW WITH W. GLEN DUNCAN

What can you tell us about your background, your reading interests, and how you began writing?

I was an avid reader growing up and read anything I could get my hands on. Studied journalism briefly in college before serving in the US Navy. After getting out, I went back to journalism and worked as a radio reporter in Dallas in the first half of the sixties. The whole job was being out and about, talking to and observing people. Dallas was a busy town. There was always something going on. And I had a car and could go anywhere I wanted to get a story. I was like a kid with a doughnut.

In 1964, I was inside the Neiman-Marcus building as it burned in the famous five-alarm fire, and I was the only reporter there. Everyone else was too chickenshit to come inside. Stanley Marcus, the store’s namesake was there too, and every five minutes he’d jump on the mic to say, “We’ll be open tomorrow morning at 8am for business.”

I learned from that situation that the best thing to do was to get to someone who’s close to the story, and let them tell you the story. There’s an enormous vat of interesting stories in everyday interactions if you’re aware. If your ears are good enough, your pen can be good enough too.

What type of books do you enjoy reading and was there any book in particular that inspired you to begin writing?

No one book in particular inspired me, but I’ve always liked mysteries, adventure and aviation-related stories. Writers I’ve enjoyed reading are Wilbur Smith, John D. Macdonald, Stephen King and Robert B Parker.

Did you do any other writing before the Rafferty series or did you jump right into writing Rafferty’s Rules?

Rafferty was the third full-length novel I’d written. The previous two weren’t published. I did have a handful of short stories published...

It Could Happen to Anybody
Mike Shayne 
Mystery Magazine 
Sept 1983
Wally the Dumb
Alfred Hitchcock’s 
Mystery Magazine
April 1984
The Gray Mercedes
Mike Shayne 
Mystery Magazine 
July 1984
Alone at Sea
Alfred Hitchcock’s
Mystery Magazine 
Sept 1984

Did you use an agent to sell the Rafferty series or did you go directly over the transom to the publisher?

Used an agent. Weirdly, though, it was an agent I hadn’t queried. I received a note from an intern, or assistant, who’d pulled Rafferty out of the slush pile at the agency where she worked and read it in her own time. She got in touch and told me the manuscript wouldn’t go anywhere at her agency, but she enjoyed it. However, she also thought it was the type of thing another agent she knew was looking for, and suggested I contact him.

Did you plan for Rafferty to become a series character or did you write Rafferty’s Rules as a standalone and the publisher asked for more?

Rafferty was written originally as a standalone, but it was a helluva lot of fun seeing where the characters took me in the subsequent books.

The Rafferty books were some of the last titles to be published under Fawcett’s iconic Gold Medal imprint. Were you aware of the storied Gold Medal history when you were being published by them?

Not really.

Did Gold Medal contract for the full series or go from book to book?

They took Rafferty’s Rules first, then did a two-book deal for Last Seen Alive and Poor Dead Cricket, then a three-book deal for Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Cannon’s Mouth, and Fatal Sisters.

Did the Gold Medal choose not to continue the series after Fatal Sisters (Rafferty #6) or did you choose not to continue because of other demands on your time?

When I finished writing Fatal Sisters, I had written six books in four years and I was ready for a break. Fawcett had also refused any new Rafferty stories due to declining sales, so I decided to take some well-earned down time.

My youngest daughter had moved out of the house, Val and I were enjoying being kid-free again, and my passion for sailing had grown to the point where I was refitting sailing boats and we were taking months-long cruises up and down the East Coast of Australia. By the time I was ready to get stuck back into Rafferty, the movie had been released. I was so disappointed with what they’d done, I decided to stop there and then. I always believed when it stops being fun, it’s time to stop. And it was.

Were you surprised to win the Shamus Award for Rafferty’s Rules?

Yes, very. And flattered. 

Did you socialize with other writers’ groups such as Mystery Writers of America or Private Eye Writers of America?

No. This was the mid to late eighties, and Australia might has well have been on another planet, as far as communication was concerned. All correspondence between the agent and me was still by typewritten letter!

How did Rafferty’s Rules come to be sold as the basis for the Lorenzo Lamas action film, Snake Eater III—His Law?

The film production company expressed interest in securing a film option to Rafferty’s Rules in the late eighties. ’88, ’89, somewhere around there. I don’t remember if they approached my agent or if it was the other way around. It took forever to reach an agreement on the contract. With 20/20 hindsight, maybe I should have known it would turn out the way it did.

The production company originally said that they wouldn’t use Rafferty’s Rules as the basis for a Snake Eater film, but in ’91 they exercised their option and, unfortunately, we all know what happened afterward.

Did you have any other involvement in making the movie?

Hell, no. Does it look like it? I sincerely hope not. Truth be told, although I’ve always been a proponent of the “Take the money and run” approach for Hollywood enquiries, the complete disaster the movie became is a solid argument for getting involved. 

A lack of information from my agent on exactly how the story would be used also factored into my hands-off approach. If I’d known how much they were going to screw it up, I would have fought for Rafferty.

What prompted you to move to Australia and was the move before, after, or in the middle of writing the Rafferty books?

We moved to Australia in 1975 after watching the debacle that the US government had become with Nixon and the Watergate affair. We wanted to give the kids a better place to grow up and Australia reminded us a lot of the way the US used to be.

Were you ever aware genre fans and publishers were trying to track you down?

Honestly had no idea until Bill told me what he’d found in speaking to you and a few of the other contacts he’d made. We’d been living aboard a boat for 15 years too, mostly away from any sort of public life and far, far away from the internet. The whole idea of social media (what the hell is that, anyway?) and having an online “presence” bores me to tears.

Have you continued to write while down under?

After Rafferty finished, I wrote a few articles for boating magazines.

Have you read any of the Australian crime writers?

I enjoy both Peter Corris and Jon Cleary.

How do you feel about Rafferty making a comeback under the guidance of your son, Bill?

I think it’s great that Bill is repubbing my books, and it’s hard to believe there are still people out there who want to read those old things, but the most exciting part is to know that Bill is writing his own instalment. Really looking forward to the release of False Gods.

Why does Rafferty remains a cult favorite among hardboiled fans?

Wow, I really don’t know. All I can say is that I had a helluva lot of fun writing each story and I guess that probably comes through in the reading. It surprises me that they seem to have stood the test of time, but I believe it’s all down to the relatability of the characters, which was the easy part. Once I got started, the characters and the situations they found themselves in would tell me what they wanted to do next. I just let them be themselves and didn’t force them anywhere.

Cowboy and Mimi were my favorites. Nobody had ever written a couple like that before and I thought it would be fun to see what happened with them. It was. And though mysteries and crime are easy to make plot-driven, I always wanted the characters to be the central focus. There’s no point in telling the reader what happens next when I can show them by making the characters do things that move the action along.

You’ve got to keep the reader interested, and I hope the stories did that. In Last Seen Alive, where Boat blows up (Ed: Spoiler alert) there was no reason to have Jim Belker and his daughter in the scene. But by including the realistic scenario of a father and daughter on a quiet fishing trip nearby, I could increase the drama and tension and get the reader more invested in what’s happening.
******
Thanks to W. Glenn Duncan for the great conversation. In Part 2 of Rafferty Down Under, it’s time to bring Bill Duncan under the interrogation lamps and tell us about the bright future planned for the Rafferty series.

TO VISIT THE
RAFFERTY P. I. WEBSITE
CLICK HERE

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE RAFFERTY SERIES
ON THE THRILLING DETECTIVE WEBSITE
THE RAFFERTY SERIES
Rafferty's Rules (1987)
Last Seen Alive (1987)
Poor Dead Cricket (1988)
Wrong Place, Wrong Time (1989)
Cannon's Mouth (1990)
Fatal Sisters (1990)
COMING SOON
False Gods (2018)
 
RAFFERTY AND THE MOVIES
In 1989, looking to capitalize on his martial arts skills, pretty boy Lorenzo Lamas tried to make the jump from a secondary character on the television prime time soap opera Falcon Crest, to big screen action movie star. Unfortunately, his choice for his first action role was the disasterous low budget B-movie, Snake Eater. The plot played out like an entry in a by-the-numbers men’s adventure paperback series. As Jack Soldier Kelly, Lorenzo Lamas is the leader of the Snake Eaters, an elite division of the Marines especially trained for search and destroy missions. When Soldier finds out a band of backwoods bad-guys have killed his parents and abducted his sister, he returns home to extract kick-ass revenge.

Somehow, Snake Eater spawned two sequels. Snake Eater II—The Drug Buster did a hit and run on the big screen in 1989, almost immediately after the release of the original. In 1992, Snake Eater III—His Law completed the trilogy. There is one remarkable thing about Snake Eater III. While the first two Snake Eater entries were original screenplays, Snake Eater III was based on W. Glen Duncan’s novel Rafferty’s Rules—the first in his Rafferty series.

From a glance at its synopsis, Snake Eater III—His Law would appear to follow at least the basic set-up of Rafferty’s Rules...Vietnam vet Jack Soldier Kelly is hired to find a biker gang called Hell's Fury and extract revenge on the outlaw bikers for the kidnapping, drugging, and rape of a young college co-ed. Even Rafferty’s partner in crime, the slightly psychotic Cowboy (portrayed by stunt coordinator Minor Mustain), gets name checked as an ex-biker turned private eye who teams up with Soldier.

Soldier even gets Rafferty’s love interest, Hildy Gardener (Canadian actress Tracey Cook). However, beyond a couple of well-choreographed martial arts scenes, the movie did the source material no favors.