Sunday, June 2, 2013

THE HANGING MAN, an excerpt from Chapter One

When she had known Ali for only a few weeks, the two of them had driven from Algiers into the desert to the south, over and through the red stone hills into a land of glowing sand, white streaked with sunflower yellow. They had left the police station hurriedly, forgetting their map and canteens and after driving for three hours without encountering the village they sought, Patience Quince and her Arab interpreter Ali ibn Mustafa al-Agba were irritable and parched.

“I will perish,” Patience said. “My death will be a permanent blot upon your service record, Ali.”

“Nonsense,” Ali said, and he turned the car off the road, driving across hard flat sand wastes to a dark spot in the distance that dissolved and resolved in the wavering hot desert air until they were close enough that Patience recognized it as an oasis, a cluster of palm trees and large stones. Ali parked the car in a starburst shadow beneath a palm and he led Patience between the rough white boulders to a still blue pond surrounded by rushes within the swaying circle of tall palms. Ali, in his tan linen suit and black civil service necktie, lay on the pond’s bank and bent his face to the surface of the water and drank.

“It is cool and delicious,” he said. “Let it be put down on my service record that I have saved your life, Detective.”

“Let us hope neither of us regrets it,” Patience said, and dropped to the ground beside Ali, snaking forward and lowering her lips to the cool, delicious water of the oasis.

All the usual caveats about this being rough, etc.


  1. Yay! I love it when you post excerpts. I'm madly in love with Patience Quince.

  2. In this book Patience will relate many more stories from her past. Some of them will even be true. Well, parts of some of them will be true.

  3. She has such a strong personality. I hope I can create characters like Patience someday. How is the sequel feeling? Are you thinking of it as a sequel or as a new book?

  4. I worry that I've put too much personality into my detective. Real detective genre fans might not like it.

    I'm pretty far into the sequel now (about 10K words, which is a good running start), and it feels all right. It's different than the first book; the structure is more linear, less compartmentalized without those 13 character sketches, but there are constant flashbacks and anecdotes about the past. So it's just a different book. It really feels like a brand new book to me. The only things that continue from the first book are Patience herself, and the letter from Ali that she's carrying around. And the pistol in her purse, of course. I'm not trying in any way to recreate the feel of the first book; I'm just trying to write a good book that leans vaguely against the structure of a murder mystery. I like it so far, though. That's a good sign.

  5. I'm glad to hear you are liking it. I'll be interested to see what detective genre fans think of it. I am not one of those fans, and I think you're making the detective genre more accessible to me.

  6. I'm only interested in a subset of mystery novels, anyway, and what interests me about those stories is not the criminal investigation. So the part of the novel where the facts are being gathered and the suspects interviewed is hard to write and I am massively fucking with the genre conventions in those parts of the book. So we shall see what people think. I might not be writing for the mystery novel audience, but I don't really want them to shun the books. It's some tricky. But fun.