by Julie, warm and cozy in Somerville
Gabriel Valjan is a wonderful member of the crime writing community, constantly supporting and promoting other writers. He’s also a terrific writer. I’m delighted to help him celebrate his most current release, Hush Hush, which was released this week.
The Cockroach Left A Note
There’s the old chestnut that every story has been told, and that everything is a variation on a theme. Good riddance, because Shakespeare died at 52, and he damn near broke the language. Will added 1700 words to the lexicon, and then there’s the breadth and depth of humanity throughout his works. Writing anything of substance after him seems daunting.
Which leaves us then with the matter of style, that distinctive quality without a name.
I write mysteries.
Crime fiction is a harrowed acre, the subject as old as Cain and Abel. There are only so many ways to commit homicide, and motivations are as basic and complex as the human psyche. I’ve concluded that in the effort to distinguish him or herself in the endeavor before the blank page, the writer is a cockroach.
Allow me to explain.
I believe that what will come to mind to most of you is the image of Kafka’s iconic character, but there is another cockroach that describes the writer who wants to make their mark. His name is Archy, or when he’s writing, archy, in lowercase. Like most writers, archy tries his best to tell a story. He pounds on the keys all through the night and tries to communicate his vision of imagination, which he leaves inside the typewriter for his friend in the morning. Archy, however, has one unique problem that writers and musicians understand. Archy is unable to hit the sweet note, incapable of capitalization, until one day he lands on the shift lock key. Archy’s friend and coconspirator is a cat named Mehitabel. As humans, we writers don’t share archy’s difficulty with dexterity, but the metaphor is the same.
We each strive to be unique, different on the page.
I write the Shane Cleary mysteries, set in 1970s Boston. Corruption and murder are my trade. What makes my mysteries different is that I lace them with humor. It’s not the ha-ha brand of wit, or the banter popular in film noir. I can’t describe it, but it’s there. I use humor to defuse tension and to expose a wry view of the world. If I didn’t do that, the world would devour Shane Cleary like Goya’s painting of Saturn Devouring His Son. In my latest episode in the series, HUSH HUSH, Shane confronts issues that remain relevant today: racism, social injustice, and moral bankruptcy.
All is not dark, though not cozy either. Shane’s conscience is Delilah. He almost always listens to her, though he sometimes misunderstands her.
Delilah is a cat. Shane, like most writers, hammers away at the keyboard.
She, like Archy’s friend the cat, helps him strike the right key.
CAPITALS AT LAST.
Writers, what do you do to make your writing unique? Do you use humor, and how? Readers, do you enjoy humor in your mysteries? I’ll give away a copy of Hush Hush to a commenter.
About the Book
Shane Cleary is living a comfortable life. He has money. He has a girl.
But a visit from a friend shakes up his status quo. Chess may be the metaphor, but the case is one that lifts the lid on problems nobody in Boston wants to talk about.
Murder. Race. Class. It’s all Hush Hush.
Neither the crime nor the verdict is simple, and yet it is Black and White.
Shane will need more than a suit of armor if he wants to play knight. Can Justice be found? And at what cost?
About the Author
Gabriel Valjan lives in Boston’s South End. He is the author of the Roma Series and The Company Files (Winter Goose Publishing) and Shane Cleary Mysteries series (Level Best Books). His second Company File novel, The Naming Game, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery and the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original in 2020.
Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/38FvxSn
Maya Angelou said, “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.” That’s been my experience too. Thank you for your post and thanks to the Wickeds for introducing me to your work!
Thank you for stopping by. I agree with Maya, too. Did you know that she’ll be on the quarter now?
Gabriel, your book is on my Kindle. It has been assigned the role of my reward once I complete my current outline. I can’t wait!
I was surprised the first time I was told I write humorous mysteries. I never intended it. I love how you describe your humor as a “wry view of the world.” I think that nails it! Our characters need that “wry” outlook to survive.
Congratulations on the new release!
Oh, thank you, and I hope you enjoy your time with Shane. I see humor (not sarcasm) as a defense mechanism.
I love humor in mysteries.
I agree, and humor and comedy are difficult to write. Thanks for stopping by today.
Sounds like my kind of book, Gabriel! Like other essentials, humor ranks near the top of my list. With the custom metadata feature in Scrivener, I track the use of humor in scenes. In Aeon Timeline, I can see where humor (and the other essentials) show up. Imagine a subway map where the dots cross at central hubs and you’ll have a quick visual of how that technique helps me track humor.
I’ve not used Scrivener, and I had no idea that you can track humor. Thanks for letting me know. I hope you give Shane a try.
I just downloaded Shane—thanks! If you decide to get Scrivener, let me know. Once learned, the app helps you track the beats in a mystery, hard-boiled, cozy, etc.
Congratulations on the new release, Gabriel, and welcome back to the blog!
My Country Store mysteries come out funny, mostly in the actions and dialog of a couple of characters, but I didn’t try to make them that way! I can’t write humor if I try, but sometimes it emerges on its own.
I agree that humor is best organic, and I find it surfaces naturally when characters start speaking to you (and the reader). I see that, as Maddie Day, your Batter Off Dead (A Country Store Mystery Book 10 is just around the corner (Release Date 2-22-22). Congratulations!
I need to go out and get this third book. I love humor, but I don’t know that I’m good at it. I can’t try to be funny.
Congratulations on the new release Gabriel. I’ll have to go pick this up. I love humor in mysteries, but I’m not sure I’m good at it.
I hope you enjoy Shane. Thank you for stoppy by.
First, congratulations on your newest Shane book! Second, Archy and Mehitable for the win! My mother loved them when she was a child and shared their adventures with me as part of my introduction to reading and writing. I enjoy reading (and writing) humor that grows organically from a character’s viewpoint, especially if it’s ironic, sly, or even bleak.
Yeah, I’m glad someone knows archy and Mehitable.I was worried I’d be too obscure. Thank you.
Congratulations on your book release!
Humor is as essential to life as oxygen. Without it the seriousness of life would doom us all. It’s what lifts one’s spirit even with the smallest hint of it. After all, laughter is the best medicine of all. 🙂
Love humor in the books I read – from the real subtle kind where you read it and then after the next sentence it hits you making you smile.to the burst a rib kind. It has to be in the right spot and work seamlessly into the story.
“Hush Hush” sounds like an amazing book making it land on my TBR list. I would love the opportunity to read and review. Thank you for the chance! Shared and hoping .
2clowns at arkansas dot net
Congratulations on your new book! Sounds like a really fun read! I love having some humor in mysteries as it kind of breaks up the darkness in what’s going on in the story plus gives me something to look forward to when turning the pages.
Exactly. Humor is like a ray of sunlight through the darkness. Thank you.
Big time congrats on your new release, Gabriel! I wish I could weave humor into my books. Instead, I rely on my protagonists’ unusual day jobs, like literary agent and record store manager, to bring the uniqueness.
Humor is hard to write. I remember record shops. I must be old.
Congratulations, Gabriel. No pressure here. But I read Hush Hush too fast. (It was that much fun.) Can I have another Shane Cleary mystery soon, please?
Thank you, Mally. I’m working my way through #4, LIAR’S DICE.
After reading your post, I MUST get your books. Humor does indeed help one through the seriousness of life, for example, “ask for me tomorrow and you’ll find me a grave man.” I haven’t thought of archy in a long while, but I love that spunky little author. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, and I hope you enjoy Shane. Amazon has generous samples in the Look Inside feature.
I wonder if e.e. Cummings was influenced by Don Marquis and his creation of archy and mehitable? So thinking, I ended up down a rabbit hole and really enjoyed learning more about Don Marquis and of course, archy. There is a listing of Don Marquis’ quotes that I throughly enjoyed and two of the quotes spoke to me: “Ideas pull the trigger, but instinct loads the gun” and “There’s dance in the old dame yet.” Thank you Gabriel for the introduction to archy and friends and best of luck with your series. Humor is always welcome in my reading.
Thanks for writing, and I’m glad you made a new discovery. Whether ee knew of Don is a good question. I know that EB White wrote about Don for The New Yorker.
Congratulations on the new book! I loved reading about archy! My father was very funny so adding a bit of humor to my writing seems to flow out naturally!
Thank you, Sherry. I think humor is vital to good health. We all need to laugh or smile more.
I love humor in my reads as long as it’s not to silly and over the top!
I agree, Stormi. Context is everything, and a little goes a long way.
I love humor in my mysteries. In just about anything, really.
I agree, Mark, and humor can reveal lots about a character (and author).
I love humor in the books I read. When reading a Murder mystery, it’s nice to have some levity to lighten up the.story.
I agree, Dianne. Nobody wants to stay in the dark forever.
I do believe justice can be found. What cost? I think secrets will have to be unearthed as painful as that could be but staying in the dark is never good. Come into the light where things look a lot better.
Shane, put on that armor to be a knight but also be strong and bring your courage along because you will need it.
Love mysteries. This book sounds and look like a good read. Would love to read & review in print format.
Look forward to learning more about you and your books.
What makes my writing unique? I get my ideas from daily life, use humor, tragedy, unexpected death, happiness, forgiveness and of course an OH MY here and there and unusual names and like to make readers go MMM… who really done it??
Yes, I do enjoy humor in my mysteries. Thank you for sharing.
Congrats on your book! Sounds like a great read! Yes, I enjoy reading humor in mysteries. It helps lighten up the feeling of the book.
I so appreciate people who can insert humor in mysteries! I love a good laugh! Thanks for the post, Gabriel, and I’m looking forward to your book!
Thank you, Karen, and I hope you enjoy HUSH.
I LOVE humor in mystery. Life is grim enough and I read as an antidote.
I agree, Barbara. Reading offers us sanctuary from the world.
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