Home » On crafting the new Si Reardon thriller Long Waltz

On crafting the new Si Reardon thriller Long Waltz

Long Waltz Cover - novel by Sidney Williams

NOTE: Wicked Horror contributor Sidney Williams is also a novelist. He offers a few thoughts on the writing of his new novel, Long Waltz, in the following essay.

I relegated my first private detective novels to the trunk early in my writing life. I’ve said many times I loved Ross MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, and John D. MacDonald as a young reader, but I decided I didn’t have anything new to offer the detective series.Long Waltz by Sidney Williams

Flash forward, and now the second novel in my detective, sort of, series has arrived. That’s Long Waltz, the follow-up to Fool’s Run. Ex-cop/ex-con Si Reardon is now officially a series character.

The hero of my early detective stories was a failed newspaper reporter, so he morphed into the reporter-protagonist of my first horror novel, Azarius. That was a tale that incorporated some mystery-style plotting with the supernatural in the mix.

A few years ago, I felt I’d matured enough to revisit the detective form. Si Reardon, a cop who’d been to prison, kind of emerged from an idea planned for Kirk Connell, The Marauder, an old comic book character of mine. Si just seemed more suited to tackle a tough case that took shape around a first-act twist I’d imagined.

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One thing that concerned me about my trunk private eye novels was that there was a sameness to them with the hero sort of spinning from interview to interview, amassing details but not deviating far from the detective form.

I set out to build my own template for Si. He might do some interviews, but his bad luck and the chaotic nature of his world would let details emerge out of events and even mishaps.

Fool’s Run became just that for Si, a difficult journey starting from a probably stupid decision made in desperation. Elements of the caper form seeped in.

With Long Waltz, I set out to let Si tackle another situation in similar fashion using his resourcefulness to reel between crises. When a butterfly flaps its wings, who knows what might happens? When Si agrees to a gig, it’s never going to go in a straight line.

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He’s asked to re-visit a missing person case in the opening pages of Long Waltz. A girl disappeared long ago when a movie was being shot in nearby. Now the principles are back for a lower-budget sequel. With everyone in on place, there’s a chance new details can emerge.

The catch is that Si can’t just walk onto a film set and start asking questions.

As I wrote, I recalled Danny Trejo being asked, in an interview about Con Air, if he was excited to meet some of the big stars. He revealed that actually they’d been excited to meet him because they were fascinated by his journey through the California prison system.

Si’s cachet as an ex-con became his entry point. Along with his background working security on films in his hometown of New Orleans, he became an easy choice for the low budget production to beef up security following some strange accidents on set and off.

That allowed Si to bring in Archie and Kenny, his bayou-dwelling sidekicks, and things escalated from there with a spectral presence plaguing Si the whole way.  My horror roots were not completely abandoned. Was she the ghost of the missing girl? A future version of his own daughter with whom he’d like to reconnect? Hard to tell.

Si’s world is chaotic, as mentioned, so while some things fall into place for him, I realized the book would be as much about his inner journey as an unsolved mystery.

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I worked to serve up the same action moments as Fool’s Run but to have Si wind up in a new place personally by the end of the tale even as he accomplished some of his goals.

I deviated more and more from the interview-to-interview nature of private eye stories while keeping Si on the defensive and even picking up a few new details on events adjacent to his case in Fool’s Run.

It was an interesting juggling act. I’m hopeful I did some interesting things with the form.

Let’s just say it was a Long Waltz with the manuscript, a long dance for Si and ultimately a lot of fun to construct. It’s nice to have the final piece in place with the book now on the market. You can grab your copy right here.

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Written by Sidney Williams
Sidney Williams is an author and comics writer. He's a former full-time journalist and has conducted hundreds of celebrity interviews.
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