T. Jefferson Parker may have won three Edgar Awards, two of them for Best Novel, but he maintains his focus on what he considers his primary responsibility, “to tell a good yarn.”
Parker’s fifth Charlie Hood novel is about to be released and, with each one, he thinks his job has gotten just a bit harder. “It’s more difficult to write a series than a series of stand-alones, in my opinion. There’s just so much to account for. It strikes me that the Charlie Hood novels are actually just one giant novel broken up into pieces. I didn’t plan it that way. It just seems like one thing leads to another, that there’s a kind of an action-reaction in fiction as in physics.”
Some authors seem to have a knack for putting their characters into no-win situations. Parker’s fans would undoubtedly agree that he has honed that knack. He said, “I think a novel gets interesting when you push the characters into untenable, no-win situations. I’ve always thought that the most interesting protagonist is the one who, as Walter Mosley so beautifully put it, is ‘always outnumbered and always outgunned.’”
A protagonist being outnumbered is one thing, but being placed into a situation where that character may not be able to decide what’s right and what’s wrong can have devastating effects on the character. Here again, Parker has honed his skills with all of his characters.
“I think morally complex novels are wonderful because they reflect our morally complex lives. Some people don’t want a morally complex novel—they want a clear hero and villain, and nice, neat, well-behaved story. Those don’t fully interest me.”
For instance, in his latest novel,The Jaguar, the main antagonist is a drug kingpin who appears to be all-powerful in the opening, but as layers of his character are peeled away, is revealed to be trapped by his own wealth and power. As Parker puts it, his character is “driven by ambition” and, having “surrendered to violence” years before lives in fear for his life.
Charlie Hood fans can rest assured, there is one more novel coming after The Jaguar. Parker is also interested “in the way our nation has changed since 9-11” and by how those changes affect even small communities. That sounds much like an author’s muse at work.
Coming up—a review of The Jaguar.
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