(Today’s guest blogger is Glenn Muller, author of Torque. Glenn’s experience as a driving instructor, weekend racer, and murder trial witness add authenticity to his debut thriller, Torque. Currently working on his next novel, he lives with his wife in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. Torque is available through major online retailers as a paperback and in popular e-book formats. For more information, please visit his website.)
Most successful creative writers are avid readers first, and the books they absorb in their formative years stay with them. As an English kid, I got huge dollops of Robin Hood, King Arthur, and Biggles – an RAF pilot of WWI. All are icons of chivalry, and defenders of the downtrodden and damsels in distress.
I graduated to Ian Fleming, John le Carre, Alistair MacLean, and other such authors with heroes who tended to get the snot beat out of them but still had the grit to prevail and save the world. The protagonists of these novels are more three-dimensional, meaning they have flaws: a characteristic I recognized as important when developing my own fictional folk.
I also enjoy the cynical first person narrative style of the private eye, as done by the economical Raymond Chandler and the slightly more eloquent Elmore Leonard. Inner monologue can be very efficient and therefore tempting, but I write in the third-person omniscient so I worked hard to maintain that intimacy without locking the reader into one character. I also feel that stories with uber-mysterious and infallible villains are cheating. I mean, why should the bad guys have it so easy? With my recently released novel, Torque, I made sure that every character got his or her chance to screw up, and a couple of them really did me proud.
The cast of Torque includes a detective, a police sergeant, and a coroner which are all common figures in crime novels. Modern authors like Neil Cross (Luther), Ian Rankin (Rebus), and Peter Robinson (Banks) provide plenty of reference on how to write such characters and their associates. Writers of this genre must read Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, of course, and I certainly paid my dues in full here.
But influences aren’t restricted to books only. While some people eschew the television, it is a great way to absorb the content of a book within a couple of hours, and I’ll readily admit to having watched whole libraries worth of programming. Now I know that this next bit will date me, but in the 1960s a series of novels by Leslie Charteris spawned “The Saint” who was one of the first sophisticated vigilantes of the small screen. Though hardly flawed, Roger Moore as The Saint wasn’t afraid to follow his convictions and get his hands dirty while righting a wrong. The stick figure on the cover of Torque is, in part, a nod back to that show.
No matter what the medium, a writer must remain open to new influences to stay relevant. A quick example is that damsels are rarely in distress anymore. In fact, these days most women seem to take care of their own problems quite nicely, a facet that injects humour into the attempts at gallantry by Torque’s main character.
And on that note, I’m going to say thank you very much to Dean Lombardo for gallantly letting me play in his yard. Dean, it has been a pleasure.
Ciao for now!