Friday, November 7, 2014

The Five Book Plan

By Russel D Mclean

A few people of late have noted that the new McNee novel, Cry Uncle, may or may not be the last to feature the dour Dundonian PI. Its something, I know, that has confused people, so maybe its time for me to elucidate just a little on what that means.

Back when The Good Son was being bandied around as a debut in 2007, an editor expressed interest on the guarantee that there would be more on the way to be written every six months (this editor was then nixed by marketing who believed no one wanted to read about Dundee - - well, that's a discussion for another time). At the time, my agent knew that I had several other plots and my response was, "Well, there's a five book plan." Which there was. I had this idea that one should start structuring novel series akin to an HBO TV series - that is that instead of writing one story at a time, you should try and create ongoing threads to each book, treating each akin to a season of TV instead of pressing the reset button each time.
Cry Uncle - is this the end for McNee?

Chatting to someone recently about the books, they observed that "the first two books seem vaguely connected, but its only in book three you see that something else is happening". This is pretty much on the ball and what I wanted to achieve. Throwaway things came into sudden focus and although book 3, for me, is the one that I would look at again if I had the chance (for some very basic things) its amazing that it achieves its goal of suddenly setting up much larger stakes.

The story has been about McNee and his personal progression, but also about the fate of David Burns, who started as a mysterious background figure and has come into sharp focus since book 3. Burns is one of my favourite characters; a gang boss who calls himself a family man, who believes that he is only doing what it takes to survive in this world, who exists in a state of perpetual denial about the things that he does. The plan was always to bring him and McNee into direct conflict and as book 5 opens, we find that McNee has apparently switched sides to work for Burns. Of course, those who read book 4 will know why this happened.

The Five Book Plan is about telling this story, the story of McNee and Burns. Yes, each book has its own plot, but there's been something larger happening all the way through. Its not exactly as I envisioned it all, of course, but I am proud to say that I think I have achieved the five book plan.

But is this the end for McNee? Will he live? Will he die? Will he go to prison for some of what he's done? Will he have a happy ending? All I will say is that you'll have to read the book and say. I'm not saying whether this is the end for McNee, but I am saying that here, finally, the five book plan has been completed. And I'm rather proud of that.

1 comment:

Kristopher said...

I love series that follow this model. I think it is what John Connolly has been doing as well, although the Charlie Parker series is quite a bit longer than 5 books.