211. Raven Comes Aboard

New month, new year, new novel.

Today we begin the second year of this website. In the Serial half, Jandrax, my first novel, published in 1978, just wrapped up in a serialized and annotated form. I spent enough time and effort explaining the decisions behind the text that it has become something of a how-to for new writers.

Today, in Serial, we begin the novel Raven’s Run. This time I plan to keep most of the commentary over here on the AWL side, but we’ll see how that works. I make no promises.

Raven’s Run was written in the early 90s, roughly speaking. I never kept a writing diary, but it was fashioned after events from my 1987 and 1988 trips to Europe, but not written until after I had finished Symphony in a Minor Key. Early 90s is as close as I can come.

I spoke of Raven’s Run in 24. Following the Market. Notice that I haven’t put a tag on that reference. You don’t need to go there, since I am covering the same ground today, with a fair amount repeated.

*          *          *

Some people say write what you know. Some say, follow your passion. Some say find your natural readers. Others say follow the market, write what the reader wants to read, position yourself just back of the leading edge of the latest trend.

I only followed the market advice once, when my science fiction and fantasy work was hitting a brick wall for sales. I decided to write a contemporary adventure story. It was something I had wanted to do anyway, from the beginning. After going to Europe I had enough material to start.

By today’s standards, Raven’s Run would probably be classed as a thriller. Ian Gunn, the protagonist, is an ex-PI, sort of, now assigned to the State Department, waiting for his first posting. Despite that, there are no spies involved (except in the prolog), and the detecting is minimal, so not espionage and not a mystery. An adventure, because a girl falls into his life (literally) in chapter one, bringing troubles with her. In terms of the time it was written, it would have sold as a men’s adventure. That sounds like a Mickey Spillane woman bashing story, but in its day men’s adventures were filled with a wide range of character types, some quite civilized.

I had always wanted to write my own equivalent of Travis McGee.(see 49. The Green Ripper) Who wouldn’t? Neither detective nor spy, he went his own unique way and provided adventure for a generation of readers. But McGee was too much of con man for me, and he wasn’t enough of a loner. His buddy Meyer accompanied him in every other story. My guy, Ian Gunn, would be younger, better educated, but very much at odds with the world his education had prepared him for.

So I wrote it, and I liked it. When it was finished, I sent Raven’s Run to my agent. He was full of praise, especially for the exciting opening chapter. Then he said, “. . . but I’m afraid I can’t sell it. The bottom has completely fallen out of the men’s adventure market, and nobody is buying.”

So much for following the market.

Raven’s Run is now twenty-seven years old. I am not referring to the date it was written, but the the date of the internal action. It exists in that limbo state between contemporary fiction and historical fiction, not quite fully one or the other. That provides both problems and opportunities, some of which I will talk about in future posts. For now, I’ll simply note that the prolog which forms today’s post in Serial was added to place the main novel in context.


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