~ April 13, 2015 ~
Welcome to Dun Linden, Ireland. Please meet Michael McCree and Simon Hart.
Here is a mash-up of the four novels. Although I like the covers for their “old-timey” flavor, I find myself making other graphic representations of the books to go along with the articles I pose here and on Facebook.
Let me say right away that the universe of these books, the Ireland city of Dun Linden, is wholly fabricated. In every bloody detail. And because it’s set in the mid-1920s, I have deliberately left out The Troubles … the years of horrendous confrontations between the Irish and the British, and between Irish fathers and sons. The series is meant to be a romcom, not a representation of grim history.
A couple of years ago, my attraction to all things Gaelic led me to imagine a man named Michael McCree—a roustabout Irishman, a lover of men and a drinker of whiskey, and yet one with some surprising depths and one huge secret. He makes a living out of being smarter than most, quicker, more athletic, and by-god more able to hold his liquor and swive more men.
A man like Michael is only as interesting as the man he sets his sights on. And that unlikely person is a surly, angry, altogether closeted and touch-me-not fellow named Simon Hart. Simon’s a Cambridge-educated private investigator whose partner has been murdered, and he meets Michael in a newspaper shop when turning in an obit notice.
They meet. Fisticuffs fly. And before Simon knows what’s happened, he’s gained a new flat-mate, a new business partner, and a wanna-be lover. It’s the “wanna-be” that drives every novel, from first to latest.
Here’s a nutshell of the first four novels. The biggest surprise is how long it takes Michael and Simon to actually “come together,” in every way. Each book seems to tiptoe to the edge and by the next book, they must start all over again because of their complex personalities.
When I wrote HEART TO HART, I had to keep in mind the future of the two 1920s Private Investigators. I don’t mean their careers, but their hearts.
In the first mystery, Michael McCree seduces a skittish Simon Hart, more uptight about his sexual self than the bluff Irishman can possibly guess, and far more sensitive than Michael has the experience to recognize. His slam-bam techniques work, up to a point.
But the man he finagles into being his flat-mate, the one who trusts him to be his new partner, is far too complex for Michael to bed and then take for granted.
These men’s story grows over the next three books. I need to add that each book is a stand-alone, but the developing relationship really cries out for a reader to start with the first one and continue from there.
This first mystery could well be called “The Case of the Crimson Feather” and introduces several characters who reappear in subsequent novels.
Merely calling him a “homosexual” causes Simon to fall apart in front of Michael’s eyes. The carefree McCree needs to change, and he needs to help Simon see past his angst. But can he? And is Simon capable of sparring with his private demons and seeing himself more truly?
There is a lot of action in this second novel, with the idea of “shadows” coming into play always.
In TO THE BONE, the men are visited by a ghost from Simon’s earlier life, a man named Moshe. Just as he is on the verge of reaching out to Michael, Simon finds himself withdrawing even more, avoiding not just the present but even his past.
But something important begins to cement these men together. Call it Michael’s new-found awareness of Simon’s secret desires. Call it Simon’s slow acceptance of his own complicated sexual needs. No matter what the reason, these two PIs begin to explore matters both in and out of their two large beds. For them, it’s a work in progress. Apart from pooling their talents on PI cases, it also involves bed dowels, silken neckties, and a certain walking cane.
Like its prequel, this novel contains more than one mystery, and the threads come together rather provocatively. The book also contains some engaging private encounters, not the least of which occurs with verses from Omar Khayyám.
Now, finally, THIN AS SMOKE arrives (February 1), and a man from Michael’s past almost pulls the men apart for good.
Dashiell Hammett was unknown to readers in 1924, although the fledgling author and former Pinkerton’s op had a few stories published (“The Continental Op” series). The beginnings of a fictional hard-boiled operative would eventually result in THE MALTESE FALCON. But for now, sent to Ireland to pin down Mafia bootleggers, he renews ties with his old friend Michael.
And Simon does not like this development. Not one bit. Hammett’s presence becomes a catalyst for change, in every way…
This latest novel is more “shoot ’em up” than the others—but what can one expect when Dashiell Hamnmett is on the case?
Throughout the books, Michael and Simon encounter and solve cases which “happen”—from murder to dog-napping—while they struggle with their own personal lives. I’ve found in writing these books that there is a lot of potential for humor, for irony, and for exploring the clues to bona fide mysteries.
Damn, I’m the luckiest author I know. To have conceived a pair of absolutely riveting and pleasing characters who’ve won a lot of dedicated followers.
For those who keep asking … The fifth mystery, MASTERS OF CANE, is in progress. It will include a few interesting facts and some action centering on the turn-of-the-century fad known as “Bartitsu” or cane-fighting which has had a resurgence and is alive and well all over the U.K. and the U.S.
And yes, Simon is still giving Michael a hard time. With and without his cane.
Find the mysteries on my Amazon author page:
And on my AmberAllure author page:
Erin O’Quinn sprang from the high desert hills of Nevada, from a tiny town which no longer exists. A truant officer dragged her kicking and screaming to grade school, too late to attend kindergarten; and since that time her best education has come from the ground she’s walked and the people she’s met.