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Master Work

There are writers who continue to polish their work even after it has been published. Louise Erdrich revised her first novel, “Love Medicine,” and published it a second time, many years later. And, if memory serves, the poet Seamus Heaney did the same with one of his collections. I may revise “Say Nothing,” after I have written another book in the series, evolved the main character, and also my own definition of the mystery genre.

The great and famous British mystery writer, P.D.James, has given me courage to continue to experiment and to risk approbation and perplexed responses when “real” mystery genre fans read my book. Nearly ninety-years-old, James has written an extended essay, “Talking About Detective Fiction,” in which she says, “We may not always believe in the details of the plot, but we always believe in the man himself and the world he inhabits.” Plot challenged, most of my fiction is character driven. The mystery genre challenges this weakness or, better said, preference. That said, it is quite possible, according to James, that plot will become less and less important to some mystery writers as the world we inhabit becomes increasingly disordered and less re-ordering or "solving" at the end of a story is possible. To live as an agnostic, without absolute solutions or certainties, is our existential condition. And that is what I tried to illuminate for myself in my unconventional wartime murder mystery. I also worked hard on the language itself, the description, and the political backdrop.

It isn’t absolutely successful; it was an experiment. I sent it out into the world as an experiment. Readers have offered feedback that will be helpful to me in my next attempt. I look forward to the continuing process of deepening my writing and making it better. Not every work can be a master work.

Like P.D.James, I hope I am still writing at age 90. Indeed, I hope I live to 90 in good health with full creative power. That said, every writer knows that the master work is in the writing life itself.
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