Monday, December 29, 2014

The Body Snatchers Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

Ed here: This is the best Sabina and Quincannon novel yet. Not only a fine mystery but a compelling (and often spooky) look at San Francisco history. 
How did your new series develop?
Bill invented the characters for a 1985 novel called Quincannon.  At that time Quincannon was a U.S. Secret Service agent based in San Francisco and Sabina was a “Pink Rose” operative for the Denver branch of the Pinkerton Detective Agency; they met in Silver City, Idaho while he was investigating a counterfeiting case and she was working undercover on a fraud matter.  In 1986 Bill brought the two together as partners in S.F., for a collaborative, cross-time novel with Marcia, Beyond the Grave, in which Quincannon solves part of a mystery in 1895 and Marcia’s contemporary museum curator sleuth, Elena Oliverez, solves the rest through reports she finds in an antique desk.  In 1988 Bill began an ongoing series of short stories featuring the duo.  Some seven years ago Marcia asked if she could try her hand at a short story of her own featuring Sabina.  This turned out well and led to a collaborative short story, then to the series of novels.
Collaborations are difficult for many writers. How do you divide the work?
Collaborating has almost always been a pleasure, with each other and for Bill, with other writers.  In the C&Q series, we work out the plot in segments, then Marcia writes the Sabina chapters, Bill the Quincannon chapters.  There is usually some final polishing necessary to make sure everything hangs together, which Bill does because the characters were his original creations. 
The Body Snatchers Affair seems to be somewhat more serious than the previous two novels. Was this your intention?
Not really.  The storylines, of which there are two or more per novel, dictate the tone.  Essentially the books were intended to be, and we hope are, mysteries with no little emphasis on satirical, tongue in cheek humor – the primary reason we added the “crackbrain” who believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes to the mix.
From time to time horrific affects have crept into your mysteries.  Body Snatchers have some really chilling moments. Do you plan to continue with this?
Again, any elements of horror are dictated by the storylines, not planned.  The very nature of body-snatching, as well as the threat of a Chinese tong war, are what make Body Snatchers somewhat darker than the other books in the series.
Any cable tv interest in this series?  It's dark, it's funny, it's surprising and it's filled with the kind San Francisco history that both Ambrose Bierce and Jack London dined out on.  Carpenter and Quincannon seem perfect for the tube. 
Nary a whisper or a whimper.  Neither of us had much luck with H’wood.  But thanks for the compliment.  The most enjoyable part of writing this series is the research into the history of San Francisco and environs in the 1890s – and the most difficult part deciding what to put in for verisimilitude and what to leave out to avoid slowing the pace.
What's next for Carpenter and Quincannon?
The fourth in the series, The Plague of Thieves Affair, has been delivered to Forge and should be published in January 2016.  Teaser:  one of the plotlines concerns the bogus Sherlock’s true identity.  We have one more novel under contract, as yet untitled, which we’re about to start writing.  Whether there’ll be others after that has yet to be determined.

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