Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tim Hallinan is Back: Notes from Exile

An apparition.

Our dear Tim has come back to visit. He’s gotten tons of accolades for his Junior Bender series and now his latest Poke set in Bangkok is out —FOR THE DEAD—and of it is said:  “A wondrous work, emotionally complex and stirring, with an excellent plot and perfect characterization. I don’t know how Hallinan channeled this from his inner self, but this book is superb. In fact, the whole series is extraordinary.”—Maddy van Hartbruggen, For Mystery Addicts

Thanks for joining us Tim and welcome ‘home’!

It's soooooo nice to be back on MIE, and thanks to the ever-generous Cara Black for suggesting that I take her weekly spot to weigh in and tell you what's up in my world, now that I no longer pester you here once every week.

First in my heart, of course, are the Los Angeles Dodgers. Biggest payroll in major league baseball, talent at every position, and incapable of getting a runner home from second base. They hold the most melancholy baseball record I can think of at the moment: they're the team who, in a single season, most often got the bases loaded without scoring anyone. It was so bad that one writer suggested to opposing teams that the best way to beat the Dodgers was to let them get three men on base every inning.

Dodger center fielder, Yasiel Puig, 0 for 12 in post-season 

On the other hand, there was some good baseball news, and her name was Mo'ne Davis. What a lift she gave to my spirits.

Mo'ne, bringing it.

There is a world outside of baseball, and in it there's been yet another military coup in Thailand, the twelfth since 1932, when the constitutional monarchy was put in place. This one is especially heinous (in my mind) because it was, in essence, a coup against the nation's voters. The Democratic Party, the major party of the traditional Thai elite, has not attained power by, you know, winning an election since 2000, and it was becoming evident that they never would, so the Army (which is commanded by the elite) took over, and the head of the Army retired his uniform and proclaimed himself prime minister.  (See, a general isn't supposed to be prime minister, so this change of clothes avoided a violation of the constitution.  Wouldn't want to violate the constitution after illegally seizing power, would we?)

Coup troops restoring order. See all the disorder?

In a country with a long tradition of free speech, the coup outlawed protest of any kind. There was a brief rash of individuals sitting around eating sandwiches and reading Orwell's 1984, but they got arrested. So people left 1984 home and just sat around pointedly eating a sandwich, and they got arrested. Now the rule is (honest) no group of people numbering more five or more can just sit or stand around, with or without sandwiches.

Enemy of the State.  This guy was dragged away moments after this picture was taken. Honest. 

Oh, and the coup's motto is "Be Happy."

Junior's Latest Adventure

A bit closer to home, my Junior Bender series has been bought for NBC television by my favorite comic in the world, Eddie Izzard.  The deal for a weekly series was announced about a month ago. As happy as I am about this, the thing I probably like best is that I sat all by myself in Santa Monica, laughing as I wrote about Junior, and in London. God only knows how many thousand miles away, Eddie Izzard read it, and he laughed, too.  When I finally reach those pearly gates (fingers crossed) and I'm asked, "So?  What did you do?" I'll be able to say, "I made Eddie Izzard laugh."

Eddie, not laughing.

Last and certainly not least (the Dodgers can claim that honor), the sixth Poke Rafferty book, For the Dead, comes out today, November 4. This is Miaow's book, and I can (and will) say that I have a special feeling for it. Reviews have been phenomenal, and William Kent Krueger said, “For the Dead is not only a fast-paced, compelling tale, but also, on every level, a fine literary read.・And Edgar-winner Wendy Hornsby described it as, "Beautiful, scary, and heartbreaking all at once. Read it and weep."

Miaow's book.

When and if I ever stop writing the Poke novels, the character I'll miss most is Miaow.  She's been my favorite character to write, ever. I put whatever I had (and then some) into this particular book, and I hope it pays off in enjoyment on the reader's end of this long equation. Please let me know whether you like it.

Thanks to Cara, Jeffrey, et, al. for letting me hang my sign here this week.  See you all again, I hope.

Tim for Cara—Tuesday


  1. Hi Tim, congratulations on your successes -- well-deserved if I may say so, sir! Is this the Poke book you were agonising over when we last saw each other at Bouchercon in Cleveland? If so, see, it all worked out beautifully in the end.

    And I love your comments on the latest coup. I shall be very careful what I read when I next eat my sandwiches in public ...

    1. Hi, Zoe -- I've missed you! This is indeed that book, which was SUCH a bastard in coming that I missed the deadline (by four months) and there was no Poke Book in 2013 -- first time since I started. But It's done now, and so is the next (which I also like, will wonders never cease?) and I'm 50,000 words into the new Junior. Please do be careful. If I could get away with the look, I'd buy an ornate fan, possibly with pearls on it, and hold it in front of my face as I eat my sandwich, Hope to see you soon.

  2. Are you often surrounded by grape vines when you write? It makes you look like a Greek God (or is it just more attractive to your Muse...?)

    As for baseball... don't get me started. I think there is nothing on which media spends more time and has less worth than the endless cycle of overlapped baseball-football-basketball (translate 'football' as appropriate for your U.S. / non-U.S. location). But maybe that's just me... :-) That said, yes, Mo'ne Davis' story this year was probably THE sports-story stand-out for the year. But that's because it wasn't a sports-story, it was a human story.

    As for "For the Dead," we really didn't need it. Your head was already 10 sizes too large for your hat, and this novel's reception over the coming months is going to make you insufferable. Saint Munyin is the only one who will be able to put up with you. I thought Queen of Patpong was your peak. Apparently you were just exploring the foothills and still have many climbing excursions ahead of you. The great thing about a series of novels about the same characters is that novels in the series can be great on their own account, but they also get a "meta-boost" from everything that's come before them in the other novels in the series. That's certainly true here. Much of what's come before in the earlier novels pays off in a BIG way in "For the Dead," and anyone who skips it will be missing out on one of the novels that's bound to get many nominations this year.

    And I'm not just saying that because you have cute baby pictures either.

    1. Everett, you contributed a lot to this book -- you and Alan and Marie -- and a copy will probably be thrown at your head via Priority Mail today. This book was the hardest ever -- I actually did miss a whole year in the Poke publication sequence because this one WOULD NOT solve itself, but it was worth it and it reinforces something I actually already knew, which is that there's no relationship between how hard (or easy) it is to write a book and how good (or bad) it is. Something to remember.

      Especially satisfying to hear you compare this, relatively favorably, with QUEEN. They're both origins stories (as was HERBIE'S GAME, and there's something about them, I think, that is especially satisfying for a writer -- going back in the life of a character he or she has been writing in the present and discovering all sorts of things. To disagree with you on one point: this was the best World Series I ever saw.

    2. I loved the World Series! But then, I love baseball.

      I have a lovely copy of FOR THE DEAD sitting at my side, and I cannot wait to read it.

      And, yes, I could not agree more with this: "There's no relationship between how hard (or easy) it is to write a book and how good (or bad) it is." Nor (in my case) is there a relationship between the quality and the existential rages it might provoke while writing it. :D

    3. Tim: I suspect the reason "origin stories" are so satisfying is that it usually means that you're seeing the character CHANGE in a big way. i.e., you have to ask yourself, "How did this character get to be the way they are?" That implies that, in an earlier time, they were different. And seeing characters actually CHANGED by their experiences, not just "going through their paces," is what it's all about, for readers and writers both.

      Or, I could be all wet. :-)

    4. Lisa and Everett -- Lisa, no correlation at all. The worst ones to write can be the best ones to read and (terrifyingly) vice-versa. Everett, what's so revelatory about the origin stories is that when I write them I know all this stuff as though I'd researched it when, in fact, I'm seeing it for the first time as it scrolls across the screen. In THE HOT COUNTRIES, for a reason I won't reveal, Miaow actually tells the story of how, at the age of two or three, she was abandoned on the street. I never for a moment stopped to think about it: it was simply there, as though she'd told it to me or I'd actually been there. This is high juju. I don't pretend to understand it, but it's dazzling when it happens.

  3. Congats, Tim! I'm greatly looking forward to For The Dead! I can see you smiling AFTER the Edgars next year!

    1. Michael, thanks so much. Wouldn't it be amazing if we competed for the Edgar? Wouldn't it be awful? No, it would be amazing. You guys coming to Bouchercon?

  4. Tim, Welcome home. I giggle with glee for every one of your MOST deserved successes. When I heard you on NPR last summer, I did the happy dance all day. Your news here is just splendid. Except for the baseball. Your phrase "There is a world outside of baseball..." brought to mind The Universal Baseball Association, J. Henry Waugh Prop." Do you know it?

    I hope we will see you at Bouchercon. We can all go outside and eat sandwiches together and blow raspberries in the direction of the ocean and Thailand.

  5. Annamaria -- can't wait to see you. It's already kind of a stormy Bouchercon -- might actually be more interesting than Thailand -- more conflict, anyway. I don't know that baseball allusion, but I'll bet it leads to something good -- love the sound of it. Names that begin with an intial and a period always remind me of side-parted hair.

    1. Tim, UBA (1968, by Robert Coover) is the best baseball novel ever, and the great existential tale. I think you will love it. It is an underground hit, beloved by those of us who have read it every once in a while over the years. Go here to learn more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Universal_Baseball_Association,_Inc.,_J._Henry_Waugh,_Prop.

  6. Hey, Tim, you make me laugh too. Something I can assure you I sincerely appreciate in these pre-Bouchercon days. See you there. I'll be the one in the Groucho glasses. And eat your hearts out folks, I already have my own autographed version of FOR THE DEAD.