Tuesday, November 11, 2008


It's my great pleasure to introduce this week's Man of Mystery, Sam Reaves. He's not only a great author, but also a really nice guy.

Sam Reaves has written seven Chicago-based crime novels, including the Cooper MacLeish series, the Dooley series and the forthcoming stand-alone Mean Town Blues.

In some circles, he's known as Dominic Martell. Under that pseudonym, he penned a European-based suspense trilogy. Although he's traveled widely in Europe and the Middle East, he's lived in the Chicago area most of his life. Besides being an author, he's also worked as a teacher and a translator.

Amazon link for Sam's book: http://www.amazon.com/Mean-Town-Blues-Novel-Crime/dp/160598003X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225393219&sr=1-1

And now, I give you Sam Reaves.

Genre fiction is all about fantasy fulfillment. Maybe that’s what separates it from literary fiction. I’ll never concede that the essential difference is the quality of the writing—a lot of genre fiction is exquisitely written, even if more of it is not. Genre fiction can certainly display all the literary virtues, even if those virtues are not the point. And there’s no sharp line between genre and literary fiction. Isn’t Wuthering Heights a romance novel? And doesn’t, say, Mystic River have some claim to literary seriousness?

But if the mission of literary fiction is to tease the drama out of everyday life, genre fiction has to have that element of fantasy fulfillment. It’s obvious with romance novels and sci-fi/fantasy, but crime fiction relies on it, too. In a traditional mystery, justice is always served in the end. Now there’s a fantasy for you—that’s an element notably lacking in real life. But even the darker, less formulaic modern crime novel generally serves some fantasy in the reader’s psyche. Some of us wish we were tough guys, with a .38 in the shoulder holster and a wicked left hook. Some of us wish we were daring enough to pull off a big-time heist or a clever con. And did you ever notice how few crime novels involve protagonists in stable relationships? Who doesn’t like to dream of casual sex without ensuing real-life complications?

And then there’s revenge. From The Count of Monte Cristo on, rough justice has been a favorite topic of crime writers. In real life, the system fails us. Killers go free, thieves attain high office, stalkers ignore orders of protection. Who hasn’t fantasized about taking justice into his or her own hands?

I know I have. But a good crime novel, unlike a fantasy novel, has to at least nod at reality. Crime fiction is rooted in the real world. So a simple fantasy about shooting a stalker doesn’t make a crime novel. Shooting a stalker and finding out that your troubles have only begun is something to build a novel around.

That’s more or less how my new novel Mean Town Blues came about. It started with a simple idea: what if you had a friend who was being stalked, the cops could do nothing, and you just took care of it by taking out the stalker? You’d have to be a certain type of person to do that—say a just-discharged infantryman brutalized by a tough tour in Iraq. And you’d quickly find out that the cops are not stupid. But just shooting the stalker does not make a novel. What if you shot him only to find out you’d killed an organized crime figure and set off a mob war? Now we’ve got complications galore.

That’s the answer to the eternal question, “Where do you get your ideas?” You start with a fantasy. You give it a twist. And then you just watch what happens...

That’s genre fiction, and that’s why people like it.


Sam's website: http://www.samreaves.com/
Sam's blog: http://conjecturesandrefutations.blogspot.com/
Amazon link for Sam's book: http://www.amazon.com/Mean-Town-Blues-Novel-Crime/dp/160598003X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225393219&sr=1-1

We invite you to leave a comment or question below for Sam about ideas, fantasies, or whatever you like.


Morgan Mandel said...

Hi Sam,
Welcome to Acme Authors Link.
I hope you have a great time here.

Morgan Mandel

Vivian Zabel said...

I enjoyed the information you shared, Sam. My imagination is my friend, and it leads me to some strange places.


Jean Henry Mead said...

I also enjoyed the article, Sam. I always begin my novels with the question WHAT IF? Imagination certainly plays a large role in fleshing out characters and placing them in impossible situations. I found when working in the Poetry in the Schools Program that children's imaginations have been dulled by TV and video games, and that they need intellectual stimulation that we had at their ages.

Dana Fredsti said...

That's probably the best summation of genre fiction and its appeal I've ever come across. And what a great logline for your book too!

Dana Fredsti

Debra St. John said...

Welcome! Well said, Sam. I like the answer to the where do ideas come from. You nailed it. There's always a twist involved. Thanks for being with us today.

Margot Justes said...

Thank you for joining us at ACME.
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Libby McKinmer said...

Welcome, Sam! Glad to see you here.

Libby McKinmer

Deb Larson said...

Hi Sam!
Thanks for being with us at Acme!
I liked the way you described your writing process - or what we all need to do to make our ideas become novel worthy!
Come back and visit any time.
DL Larson

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Enjoyed what you had to say--good information!