Wednesday, April 09, 2008

OFFICER DOWN by Theresa Schwegel

The Book: Theresa Schwegel, OFFICER DOWN. St. Martin's Minotaur, 2005 (first edition). Inscribed by the author: "Clair -- if it wasn't for you... Thanks. Theresa M. Schwegel." Fine condition.
First read: 2003
Owned since: 2005

The open-ended inscription on this is another mark of Theresa's genius, because it could (and probably does) mean all kinds of things. If not for me, the book wouldn't exist? Nonsense. If not for me the book would be even better, and would have won the Anthony for Best First Novel as well as the Edgar? Quite possibly.

I've blogged about this book before, but I don't want to discount my role in its creation, either, because I'm proud of it. Theresa and I met through the good offices of yesterday's author, Scott Phillips, who thought I might be able to advise her on an early draft of this book. It had originally been a screenplay, and the draft I read showed its origins: it was well-paced and action-driven, but the main character, in particular, needed some rounding out.

Through multiple drafts, with me and other editors, Theresa created one of the most memorable protagonists in crime fiction. Samantha Mack ("Smack" to friends and colleagues) is a Chicago cop bent on self-destruction. She drinks too much, she has issues with authority, and she's having an affair with a married homicide cop.

Smack and her partner, Fred, corner a child molester in an apartment building; Fred is shot, Smack is hit on the head and knocked unconscious. When she recovers, Fred is dead -- and Samantha herself is the prime suspect in the shooting.

Desperate to clear her name -- and also to get the child molester, who's still on the loose -- Smack turns to her married lover, Mason Imes, while ducking an Internal Affairs detective who's trying to tell her things she doesn't want to hear.

Officer Down is told in the first-person, present tense, so the reader learns what happens as Smack does. It's another measure of Theresa's talent that this works; it's something I regularly advise writers not to do, but Theresa pulls it off. That's why (or at least one reason why) she won the Edgar.

Off to Boston for an overnight trip, so tomorrow's post will be late.

Five Random Songs

"Smarter," Maria McKee. My theme song. "I need somebody smarter than me/Need to exercise my vocabulary..."

"Size of Sorrow," Tears for Fears. I am not ashamed to love Tears for Fears, but this song verges on self-parody.

"My Old Man," Joni Mitchell. When I was in college, Blue and Carole King's Tapestry were essentials in the record collection of anyone who wanted to be taken seriously as a Woman. Is that still true? Do girls still buy this record? I hope so.

"History Song," The Good, the Bad & the Queen. Tom Ehrenfeld turned me on to these guys, who make a unique combination of rock, world music, and electronica -- it's hard to describe, but this song is a sort of dreamy-pop rendition of a Gypsy Kings piece, with some weird avant-garde stuff at the end.

"Having a Blast," Green Day. It scares me that they play Green Day on the classic rock stations now. How old am I?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

LOL on Green Day as classic rock. And Officer Down sounds great. I'm going to get it.