Today’s guest post and book giveaway comes to us from private eye writer Bill Duncan.
To get your free copy of Rafferty’s Rules, simply go to the author’s website, click on the reddish-orange line at the top where it says “Get the book that started it all for FREE”, and follow the directions.
Check out these endorsements!
“Sometimes it seemed W. Glenn Duncan’s Texas P.I. Rafferty had a rule for everything, but the fact remains that most of them were a hoot. And, of course, a further irony is that “Rafferty’s Rules” is, in fact, an Australian football term for “no rules at all.” – Thrilling Detective Website
“I have all of the Rafferty titles in my collection. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff over the years, but the Rafferty books are a mainstay. I think they’re terrific!” – Paul Bishop – Author of LIE CATCHERS
“Duncan truly captured the pure essence of the definitive smart-ass private eye in his character Rafferty. Take part Sam Spade with a little Mike Hammer, mix in some Spenser and you have an awesome character.” – Cliff Fausset
With that said, let’s hear from our guest blogger! 🙂
KEEPING THE STORY ALIVE
I came to writing late; didn’t start writing my first book until a couple of months before my forty-seventh birthday.
It wasn’t until a breakdown and the spiralling grip of depression forced me to walk away from my business, take a long hard look at a life I hated, and try to rebuild it from the ground up that I took the notion of writing seriously.
But, long before my awakening—some thirty years—my father would go through a career change of his own, leave behind the world of corporate aviation, and unleash his own muse. Neither of us knew it then, but that decision would end up saving my life.
Dad hung up the phone and tried to digest what his New York agent had called to say.
Fawcett Gold Medal wanted to publish his book, Rafferty’s Rules.
They liked the story about the fast-talking, wisecracking Texas P.I. with a penchant for sarcasm. An ex-cop, Rafferty had a rule for everything—from how to deal with clients to not mixing nudity with hot coffee. He’d been fired from the force for blowing away a junkie holding ten-year-old Vivian Mollison hostage in a burger joint robbery gone bad, but now, fifteen years later, Vivian’s parents wanted him to track down the outlaw bikers who drugged and sold their daughter.
Dad shook his head, still trying to comprehend it.
He was going to be a published author.
It would make the the long hours in front of the typewriter, the false starts and dead ends, and all the previous rejections worthwhile. He knew it wouldn’t catapult him into Stephen King’s league but, dammit, his book would be published. Saying that out loud felt good. And, if his luck held, there was the possibility of more books to come. A movie? Maybe, but he wasn’t going to get ahead of himself.
As it happened, there were more books. After the release of Rafferty’s Rules, FGM signed Dad to a two-book deal, with Last Seen Alive and Poor Dead Cricket pitched into the churning cauldron of mass-market paperbacks the following year.
Rafferty’s Rules had been released in the US and Canada and, by all assumptions, was selling well. The publishers wouldn’t ask for more otherwise, right? Back then, the internet was ‘boffins only’, so any connection between a fledgling author and fans was to be interpreted by the flow of royalty checks more than personal contact.
And anyway, Dad wasn’t perturbed by the publisher’s lack of requests for his involvement in the publicity machine. He’d rather stay in Australia and write than travel overseas and shake hands and sign books, anyway. Besides, early discussions about possible movie deals were taking place by international air-mail letter.
FGM turned the dial to eleven and contracted Dad to deliver three more books. Wrong Place, Wrong Time; Cannon’s Mouth and Fatal Sisters were all on sale within four years of the launch of Rafferty’s Rules.
Sales must have been strong—the royalty checks were still coming—and Dad’s work was gaining peer recognition. Fatal Sisters won the 1991 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original. His character was on the rise. Discussions for the movie adaptation of Rafferty’s Rules grew serious.
Then, out of the blue, FGM informed his agent they weren’t interested in more Rafferty books. A blow certainly, but nothing that thousands of other authors hadn’t dealt with before. Besides, there was the movie—now in production—to come. The possibility of renewed interest in the characters, and maybe a new book follow-up, lingered on the horizon.
The movie launched. Direct to video. And it sucked. Big time.
In sunny Queensland, Australia, Dad thought to himself, “If no-one likes this stuff anymore, then why am I wasting my time?”
And that seemed to be the rather ignominious end to the short-lived career of a fictional Dallas PI named Rafferty.
I needed to do something with my time. I could feel the clouds of depression lifting and, after six months of good therapy, and medication, I was almost ready to make an effort again.
My breakdown meant that I couldn’t go back to my previous career, not if I wanted to stay healthy, and so I started thinking about what I wanted for my new life.
I’d always had the urge to write, seemed to remember that I wasn’t too bad at it back in my school days, so maybe there was something there to explore.
But, what to write? Where to start? And why?
For all Dad’s effort, it didn’t end well for him. Yeah okay, he had some fun while he was writing, and he made a bit of money, but it all spiralled to an insignificant and frustrating end for him.
It seemed such a waste, all that hard work and creativity lost.
With my recent mental health issues, and Dad showing the early signs of dementia at the same time, I’d been thinking a lot about legacy.
Dad’s work deserved better than to just be forgotten in the mists of time.
I wondered, “What happened to the Rafferty books?” My copies were well-thumbed and I would go back to them year after year. The stories held up well and they were always a fun read. Someone else must have liked the books, too. It couldn’t have been just me.
Google … Rafferty.
Some website called The Thrilling Detective.
Never heard of it.
“At first sniff, it may smell like Spenser with a cowboy hat, but take a good whiff: W. Glenn Duncan’s Dallas, Texas private eye RAFFERTY was actually a blast of fresh air in what was rapidly becoming a glut of sensitive, soul-searching, overly politically-correct cookie cutter P.I.s in the late eighties. Of course, it helps that Dallas ain’t Boston.”
What the hell?
Someone comparing Dad’s writing with one of his heroes, Robert B. Parker? And a list of Rafferty’s Rules compiled from the books, too?
A bit more poking around cyberspace and I found other people who’d spent their time to comment on Dad’s books. Paul Bishop. Cliff Faussett, Kevin Burton Smith, even friend of the Crime Cafe podcast Bill Crider.
There was a fan base out there.
I hung up the phone and stared out the window.
Dad had no idea about the life that the Rafferty books took on once the web lurched from the early dial-up days to its current form of giant, instant, sharing community.
I heard the surprise in his voice as I told him about the positive feedback from genre lovers. A bunch of pride in there, too, and rightly so. He gave me a parting comment about “needing to buy a bigger hat” that almost brought me to tears. Him too, I think.
Before our throats had started to constrict, we’d discussed my interest in writing a new Rafferty story. I didn’t go into a bunch of detail about what I had in mind, hell, I don’t think I was really sure myself, but somehow I knew it was what I needed to do.
“Hell,” he said. “I had my fun with him and if you can make some money out of him too, go for it.”
I had some reading to do.
The cursor blinked at me and the blank Scrivener file loomed out of the screen.
I’d finished reading all six Rafferty books again the previous week, studying them harder than any school assignment. They lay on the desk alongside the laptop looking like they’d sprouted colourful Post-it-Note feathers.
I took a deep breath, flexed my fingers, and placed them on the keyboard.
If you’re in there, Rafferty, now’s as good a time as any to let me know.
C’mon. C’mon. I don’t know where, or how to start this. You’ve got to be there somewhere. I can’t do this by myself.
My fingers twitch, then start tapping.
“You’re my last hope, Mr Rafferty.”
Her last hope? Gimme a freaking break. I know it says Private Investigator on the door, but this is the real world, not a Mickey Spillane story, lady.
Kathy-Lee Rossiter sat straight-backed in my office and looked around like she thought she might catch something.
I had typed THE END on the new Rafferty story—FALSE GODS—a few weeks previous, still finding it hard to comprehend what I’d accomplished.
I’d finished—actually finished—writing a 100,000 word book.
I’d rediscovered my love for words.
And, somewhere along the way, the clouds had peeled back to the horizon, and I could feel the sun again. I knew the dark clouds would always be there, but playing with words enabled me to keep them out on the fringe and not gathering overhead.
I was now doing what I knew I was meant to do with my life and was loving every moment of it.
Turned my thoughts to that other side of being a writer: getting the story into the hands of readers.
I first wanted to be sure I wasn’t stepping on any toes—legally speaking—so I sent an email to Dad’s old agency to confirm the current state of his contractual rights, mentioning my new story in passing.
I waited, harboring a tiny hope that the agent might be interested in a new manuscript that comes with a six-book backlist, but the agent’s response was curt and cool.
Don’t they know there are fans out there? Don’t these people keep up-to-date with the web-platforms of their genre?
A plan started to form.
I rolled out the same approach to the rights-holding publisher, and told them exactly what I was planning. They didn’t blink and, two weeks later, all the rights to his creations were back with Dad.
It was time to get to work.
I had pressed the button marked “Publish” and was freaking out.
Would this thing called indie-publishing work? My gut told me the fans were there, and I re-read their comments and reviews while I tried to stay calm.
They were out there. They had to be.
The re-launch of Rafferty’s Rules—in ebook format for the first time—happened on August 8th. Downloads started slowly. A couple of hundred in the first week, a few more the second. Three weeks in, downloads were in the thousands, the book was ranking in Amazon’s top 10.
The fans were there. They’d kept Rafferty alive.
Doing my little bit in his resurrection had kept me alive, too.
And Dad—for the first time in his author career—got the chance to hear directly from his fans.
Although we lost Dad in mid-2019, his creations will live on as long as I have breath and there are readers of crime fiction out there.
What’s next for Rafferty and his new custodian?
The eighth book, Wright & Wrong will be out on March 9th. The ninth, London Calling, is in planning and should be out before the end of the year.
I’ll be doing my bit to keep the Rafferty’s, and Dad’s, story alive for as long as I can.
You can get the first book in the series, Rafferty’s Rules, for free by signing up to my newsletter. Go to www.raffertypi.com and follow the link at the top of the page.
If you’d like to connect with me on social media hit me up on the links below. I’d love to chat all things crime fiction with you.
Born an hour north of Dallas, Texas, Bill Duncan joined his family when they moved to Australia in the mid-1970’s. He didn’t have a lot of say in the matter, being only seven years old at the time.
He went on to study Architecture at university and spent 24 years working in the design and construction industry before starting his author career.
Three truths and a lie about Bill:
- At six months old, he had travelled more miles by air than by car.
- Member of Mensa.
- Once crashed a car into the top story of a two-story house.
- Currently homeless and travelling around Australia in a 2016 VW van.