When you write a series described as ‘Blade Runner meets Bogart’ there’s bound to be a lot of influences. The funny thing about writing is sometimes you have to sit down and think hard about all that your work touches on, and where the influence comes from. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an ‘original’ writer. I don’t spend time trying to reinvent the wheel or stagger readers with some far-out idea they’ve never encountered before. Everything I’ve published is instantly familiar, yet I’d like to think it’s immensely enjoyable as well. I take great delight in taking careworn archetypes and cliches and reinventing them in accord with my particular brand of writing. Whether or not I’m successful isn’t my call to make. Fortunately my readers have been kind to me so far.
Which brings me back to the Troubleshooter. A lot of people immediately compare the character of Mick Trubble to Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, written by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. The character of Mike Hammer has also been mentioned.
I must confess something upfront: I have never read any of those books, nor seen anything more than clips of the many films featuring those characters. That may seem a travesty to some since Mick Trubble obviously owes a lot to his private eye forebears. I can’t deny that fact simply because the noir/private eye character established by those greats has become so fixed in movie and literary culture that it’s an instant cliche: every private eyes seems to chain smoke, drink hard, have a personal code of honor and bad luck landing a steady woman while somehow solving cases with the odds stacked against them. In my novels the ever-present fedora is actually dubbed a Bogart, a direct nod to the man who cemented the archetype in cinema.
So without reading the books or seeing the films, the shadow of those literary and cinematic greats still casts a heavy shadow on my own work. But since I wasn’t directly influenced by those things, what pop culture and literary works did have an impact on creating the world of Mick Trubble?
Quite a few, actually.
Tracer Bullet: Calvin and Hobbes
I’m a big Calvin and Hobbes fan. I read the strip when it was still in the newspaper. Which is also an indicator of my age, I guess. I was just a kid when Calvin’s noir alter-ego hit the press, but I recall first reading the strips in high school. Bill Watterson didn’t use the character much, but his spoof of the noir detective was spot-on. At the time I was more into illustration than writing, but I clearly remember wanting to create a similar character after reading the hilarious strip.
Devil In a Blue Dress (film)
This extremely underrated film is probably when my interest in actually writing a private eye story started. Denzel was in top form as Easy Rawlins, the private eye featured in the many novels written by Walter Mosley. Really great film that for whatever reason was largely overlooked in Washington’s sterling career. Definitely worth a look for fans of the genre. And the movie ultimately led me to:
The Easy Rawlins novels
I credit Walter Mosley for igniting my interest in writing my own private eye series. His books featuring private eye Easy Rawlins are masterpieces in the genre. I’ve read just about every book in the series and enjoyed the vast majority of them tremendously. Even the few misfires are still better written than most of Mosley’s contemporaries. His way of creating characters and breathing life into them pulls you into the sultry, soul-filled world where they reside. Mosley is a painter of words, and the detective genre is his canvas.
There’s not much to say about Blade Runner that hasn’t been fully stated before. It’s the rare science fiction film that was not only groundbreaking for its time but still resonates and influences film and literature today. The city of New Haven definitely borrows from the dark, foggy, rain-slicked Los Angeles featured in Blade Runner. And like the film, the technology in the Troubleshooter isn’t heavy on crisp, clean futuristic design. Although cars fly and synthetic humanoids roam, the city is still grounded in the dismal reality of crime, corruption, and economic hardship. The mood is somber, nearly bleak, but civilization still thrives. Blade Runner set the standard for the cyberpunk dystopia, a vision that now appears almost prophetic.
Cowboy Bebop takes jazz, noir, Westerns, martial arts, and space opera—blends it and pours over your chilled senses. It’s the best anime series I’ve ever seen. Each episode is worthy of repeated viewings, and rightly so. It’s a definite influence on work and in particular Havenworld, the expanded world in which Mick Trubble and New Haven thrive. Readers have yet to explore the world outside of New Haven, but trust that it is coming. And there will be definite nods to Cowboy Bebop, particularly in the upcoming novel about a ragtag band of Nimrods (bounty hunters) called Nimrod Fusion. But the grit and feel of the lawless, freewheeling world of Bebop can still be felt in the Troubleshooter books as well. It is probably the main reason I decided to blend genres instead of writing the a straightforward old-school private eye book.
Harrison Ford (Han Solo, Indiana Jones)
It hardly seems fair that one actor claims the mantle of two of the most iconic rouges in cinematic history. But Harrison Ford is that man, and his portrayal of Han and Indy are definite influences on the character of Mick Trubble. Fearless with a bit of Han’s selfishness, wisecracking with a lot of Indy’s toughness, including the ability to withstand a lot of punches in the face. Harrison Ford perfected the imperfect hero, the courageous rebel, and that plays a lot into Mick Trubble’s wisecracking yet oddly heroic antics.
Dieselpunk is a niche culture that’s quickly grown in popularity. Like its counterpart steampunk, it takes a certain era of history (in this case mainly WWI & II) and ‘punks’ it by adding speculative elements or alternative versions. I previously called my genre blend ‘dystopian noir’ (although dystopian pulp would probably be a better label), but after I learned about dieselpunk I found it to be very similar to what I was doing with the Troubleshooter. Now I purposely make sure to add in additional dieselpunk elements to my writing. Who knows? Perhaps one day my work will be pointed to as an example of what dieselpunk is all about.
And there you have it. I haven’t the room to properly list every influence on my Troubleshooter writing, but this covers the main bases. Hope you enjoyed this little nostalgic stroll. See you next week when The Most Dangerous Dame Drops.
Catch up with all things Troubleshooter at the official website.