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The Evolution of the Series (4): Secret Song


Secret Song (RC #4) was the third of the stories written (just before Cold Tears, RC #2). After writing two novels about psychopaths, I was ready for a "smaller" story, but wasn't sure how to do that and maintain the tension. After all, how does one top Mic Boyd or Bobby Lee Paget for evil? Clearly, another serial killer story ran the risk of going stale.

As for the series, I knew what I wanted to do. I would develop the character of the Carter's daughter, Mirabelle, as well as incorporate Raven, Shane, and Doc Hoag into the Carter's extended family. The relationship with Sheriff Shug Shively, and Richard's continuing rise in importance as a deputy was well in hand, that is to say, I had conceptualized it. I also intended to introduce a new character, who would play an increasing role in the stories. So I saw the way forward.


But back to the problem: how was I to write a "smaller" story, without disappointing the reader who would buy the book expecting to find the same level of peril and tension? I decided to write more of a mystery this time. It also occurred to me that many mystery/detective/police procedurals were too linear in plot development, whereas in real life, investigators spend a great deal of time judging what is part of the crime(s) and what is not. Also, deputies seldom are able to concentrate on one crime to the exclusion of others.

Secret Song involves an old (solved) case. The recent return of an ex-con occurs almost simultaneously with the recovery of the body of his victim. One can only imagine the passions ignited by such a coincidence in a small community.


 Writing out a bare outline of the plot, I began to imagine how my regular characters and others in the community would react. I had to continue the overriding theme of the series, obsession. This story began small, but didn't stay that way. At the risk of sounding like a latter-day William Blake, my characters began telling me how they would react and what they would say.

The tag line for this story might be: "Unspeakable evil does not require evil intent."