Now that the final installment of the Charlie Hardie trilogy is out, you probably think you know everything about our friendly neighborhood house sitter/prison guard/spaceman. Au contraire! Sure, a little more of his origin has come to light, but you don’t know the origin behind the origin. Not unless you were standing behind me, reading over my shoulder. (Which would have been creepy.) For instance, I’ll bet you didn’t know that…
Originally, Charlie was supposed to be a character readers have met before. In its earliest incarnation, my idea was to bring back a security guard named Vincent Marella from Severance Package and send him off on his own boozy, violent, sun-dappled adventure. Shaken and depressed from the events of that novel, Vincent takes a trip to Santa Monica for a few days using some insurance money. Of course, trouble follows him, as he’s a loose end in this international conspiracy. I kept the part about going out west part, but scrapped the rest.
Fun & Games was almost set in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. Although L.A. inspired the original idea, for a while I’d convinced myself it was better to stick to my own turf. In this version, Charlie would have been a house-sitter, only he’d be watching a cabin up in the Pocono Mountains—isolated and drunk, as one tends to be in the mountains. And then eventually he’d make his way back to Philadelphia for the big showdown with the Big Bad (who weren’t quite the Accident People—and there was no Mann yet). But SoCal continued to tug at my soul… and the Pocono Mountains soon became the Hollywood Hills, and the Philadelphia morphed into Studio City. And I’m glad I did, because…
The opening scene was inspired by a random turn. On vacation in L.A. with my family during the summer of 2009, we were driving up the Pacific Coast Highway. As usual, The Bride was driving; I was navigating. Tiring of the gorgeous Pacific Ocean—really, you can only tolerate so much beauty—I looked at the map and suggesting heading north on Route 23, which would take up from Malibu up to Thousand Oaks. Route 23 turned out to be Decker Canyon Road, which snaked back and forth and up and down all the hell the way up to Mulholland Drive and down the other side. By the time we reached Thousand Oaks, the Bride was ready to hurl. But I was giddy-excited; I knew I had to set a story on that road. Back in the hotel room, I wrote three pages of what turned out to be the opening of Fun & Games. I don’t think much changed between that draft and the published version.
Fun & Games was intended as a standalone. But John Schoenfelder, my then-editor at Mulholland, asked if I’d reconsider making it the start of a series. The thought had crossed my mind; having a house sitter for a hero meant I could drop him anywhere in the world where he could get into all manner of trouble. But then I’d have the Die Hard/Taken problem: how many times can the same thing happen to the same damned guy? John and I met up at a noisy Irish pub a few blocks away from his office and brainstormed other things/places that Hardie might guard. (Let me tell you: Irish whiskey fuels all kind of outrageous notions.) Soon the idea of a linked trilogy started to appeal to me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it during the train ride back to Philly. The next morning I woke up early, cranked out a loose outline detailing where the three novels might go… and that’s more or less where the trilogy ended up going.
Sure, it’s a trilogy, but it’s meant to fit together as one big-ass novel. Fun & Games has 34 chapters, Hell & Gone has 33, and Point & Shoot has 33. Put them all together and you’ve got 100 chapters, which was my plan all along. I’m hoping Mulholland does an omnibus edition somebody so I can do a little surgery here and there to make it one fat pulp epic, chapters 1 through 100.
Each novel tackles at least two subgenres. Fun & Games is my Hollywood/couple on the run novel. Hell & Gone is my prison/bloody trail of revenge novel. And Point & Shoot, I can finally reveal, is my buddy cop/road trip novel. (I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you’d read the first 10 chapters or so, you’ll know what I’m talking about.) If I were to write any more Hardie installments someday, I’d probably make them different subgenres, too. Like a Western/comedy of manners Hardie. Or a pastoral romance/fantasy Hardie! Maybe it’s for the best that I’m not planning any other Hardie novels at the moment.
Each Hardie novel is dedicated to a different David. Fun & Games was always meant for my good friend David Thompson, who passed away at a crazy-young age. (I wrote some of the final chapters in Houston while attending his memorial.) We both loved slightly absurd, over-the-topic action sequences; I’d like to think he’d enjoy the ones in this series. Hell & Gone is dedicated to my long-suffering agent, David Hale Smith, because I knew he’d appreciate a character with oversized testicles. And finally, Point & Shoot is for my friend and writer David J. Schow, whose work was (and remains) a huge inspiration. Plus, he didn’t have me killed for swiping the pun right off the back of his Hard Case Crime novel Gun Work. Anyway, three Davids. Weird, huh? If I do write any more Hardie novels, I’d better meet a few more Daves.
Point & Shoot is available from Mulholland Books (ISBN: 978-0316133302).