I’ve always said that when you write a continuing protagonist in a long-running series, you have to make a choice right from the beginning how much you’re going to allow them to change.
Keeping them static does have its distinct advantages, I must admit. For one thing, it doesn’t matter which book a new reader picks up first, as they’re not going to encounter any big spoilers for earlier stories. It’s also a lot easier for the character not to age significantly, although I think most readers accept that book-time works at a far slower rate than real time.
When I began writing the Charlie Fox series, I knew right from the outset that Charlie herself was going to develop and grow from book to book. Part of the fascination with the character for me is being able to set her personal as well as professional challenges in each story. I like to take her on a personal journey—one that she will learn from and grow in some way—quite apart from the dramatic events of the book.
At the beginning of the series, in KILLER INSTINCT, Charlie was not yet working as the close-protection specialist she later becomes. She was still very much an amateur when it came to her involvement with crime. By that I mean that she didn’t work for any kind of agency, private or government, who were paid to investigate. She gets caught up in events and has to deal with them as best she can to find a way out, protect the people she cares for, and to survive. It turns out to be very good training for what comes later.
Charlie is a little more raw at that point in her life, she’s still looking for direction and purpose after being kicked off the Special Forces training course she’d fought her way onto, and then being thrown out of the army altogether. At the start of that story she’s on the way back up from her lowest ebb, and I included a nod to her then-job working nightclub security in the latest outing, BAD TURN.
Read the rest of this article over on By The Letter Book Reviews.
I know, it’s a bit of a shocker, isn’t it? And this is not something I’ve come to lightly, but nevertheless, the decision remains—I’m going to tell people not to read my books.
OK, let me be clearer about this. I’m going to tell people not to read some of the books in my Charlie Fox series, depending on what they’re looking for from the series and the character. That sound better?
You see, I started writing the first novel in the Charlie Fox series back in the mid-1990s. That first book, KILLER INSTINCT, took a long time to come to publication, and when it did I never realised what the character was going to grow into.
I’ve always said that when you write a series, you choose either to let the character change and develop as time goes on, or you keep them in stasis, unchanging from the first book to the tenth, to the twentieth. Robert B Parker managed this brilliantly with his Spenser PI series, and Lee Child does it equally well today with his Reacher series. It doesn’t really matter what order you read the books, because you won’t really be missing any pieces of the overall story.
On the other hand, I really wanted to watch my character’s journey, to see her go from self-defence teacher to close-protection specialist with all the hazard-bumps in between. Charlie is a product of her nature and her experiences, and that fascinated me as much as the situations in which she found herself.
And change she has, over the course of the twelve books in the series so far. She is not the same person at the end of FOX HUNTER: #12 that she was at the start of KILLER INSTINCT: #1. Or even at the end of RIOT ACT: #2.
So, if someone who hasn’t read any of the series before decides to see what Lee Child was talking about when he said, “If Jack Reacher were a woman, he’d be Charlie Fox,” then the kind of character they’re likely to be interested in is the one who first makes her move into the world of close protection.
And although Charlie is training for that work during the events of HARD KNOCKS: #3, it’s not until the start of FIRST DROP: #4 that she’s actually on her first real job in Florida, minding the teenage son of a successful computer programmer.
TRIPLE SHOT comprises the first three books in the series, plus a bonus short story, Last Right—a tale of betrayal and revenge set on the Mexican border.
ANOTHER ROUND comprises the next three—FIRST DROP: #4, ROAD KILL: #5, and SECOND SHOT: #6, plus another bonus short story, Tell Me, featuring CSI Grace McColl who takes centre stage in the new standalone, DANCING ON THE GRAVE.
If you want to read about Charlie in bodyguard mode, then my advice in the future will be to start with ANOTHER ROUND. These three books really show Charlie getting into her stride as far as close-protection work is concerned.
But if you want to meet the character in the raw, when she’s still on her way back from events that brought about the end of her military career, when she’s still rough around the edges, has yet to discover her real killer instinct and is even, yes, more vulnerable, then TRIPLE SHOT will reveal that side of her and more. It also introduces her relationship with Sean Meyer, her former army training instructor who became her lover and her boss.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very proud of the early book in the series. When KILLER INSTINCT first came out, the Yorkshire Post declared it, “the best crime debut for years”. The New York Times said, “The bloody bar fights are bloody brilliant.” But I am aware that the storylines and settings are simply very different from Charlie’s later exploits. So if that’s the character you want to read about and enjoy, try joining her at book three or four instead.
Because let’s face it, there is a pretty good precedent for starting at episode four and working your way backwards…
This week’s Word of the Week is bleeding edge, meaning at the very forefront of technological development. The phrase has its origins in the 1980s, and is used to describe something right on the cutting edge of innovation.