Reading for TGB

The working title for Tobias's book is sort of awful, so I'm not even using it in my own head. If I'm brutally honest, I've been thinking of it as TGB, which stands for The Goldfish Book. That's weird on a few levels, I'll admit, not the least of which is that so far there are zero actual goldfishes in the story. There's a reference though, so I'm not just grabbing random words out of the ether, I promise. Maybe one day I'll explain the story behind the fake/real working title, but it won't be any time soon, because it definitely won't make sense to anyone who hasn't read the manuscript. 

Either way, TGB has required a lot of research. Like, a lot a lot. Way more than Loose Cannon or Bad Judgment has required. With Church's book, I mostly did cultural research, both for Church, who is half Puerto Rican, and for my bad guy, who is Russian. There was some research into the juvenile justice system and the process of parole, but some of that I already knew because in my twenties, I'd worked in a place like the one Church ends up in. Mostly I read a lot of books and articles with Puerto Rican or Russian narrators and writers, but I also met up with a few people to ask a ton of questions. One of the folks I interviewed was a lovely Russian woman from the local university who not only let me pick her brain for several hours on a million different topics tangential to Russian culture, she fed me cookies and gave me excellent tea. 

TGB has some similarities--I've got some Haitian-American characters, so I've been doing reading on that, and I've already spoken with a woman who specializes in Caribbean literature and culture for the Ethnic Studies department of the local University. She also answered a million questions, also with graceful patience for my ignorance. I still have some small questions I'll need to answer sooner or later, but stuff like that crops up over the course of a book, and none of them will greatly alter plot or anything, so they can wait until the end, when I have a whole list and can bug someone only once.

I've been doing a ton of research into private detectives, too, and let me just tell you that the movies are dirty rotten liars when it comes to that field. It's fascinating, but it's also a little scary how little actual regulation there is in most states. 

There are a couple other subjects of inquiry for me at present, but there are spoilers involved that I'm not ready to divulge. So you get a truncated list, sorry.

Research reading for TGB this week:

1.I'm going to start The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (I'm a little embarrassed to admit I've never read it before.)

2. I need to finish Tell my Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston, which is apparently not wholly without problems depending on who you ask, but it's amazingly interesting. It's creative non-fiction about her trip through the two countries and the things she learned about the culture on the way. The detail is staggering. Talk about movies and TV misrepresenting a thing, though. It's probably no surprise that a predominantly white pop culture likes to turn a black minority culture into stupid, insane, and/or violent villains, but all the same, anyone who does a lick of research on the subject of Voodoo will quickly realize how skewed the portrayal in the US media usually is.

Up until now, my biggest exposure to the subject of Voodoo had been an episode of Due South, which I vaguely remember as being earnestly respectful, especially for the mid-90's, but I can't make any claims about how accurate it was. That's both because I saw that episode a long time ago, and also because that show was very firmly magical realism. People were talking to ghosts all the time on Due South, and it was sometimes hard to tell fantasy from reality even before the suspect in a murder was a Voodoo practitioner.

3. Finally, I'm reading Police Procedure & Investigation: A Guide for Writers by Lee Lofland, and it's amazingly helpful. Best book on the subject I've ever waded through, and there have been a few.

I'm not sure anyone's going to feel tempted to run out and pick any of these up for a bit of light reading (Hurston's book should be your first stop, though, if you do), but even for those of you who never look them up, I thought you might be curious about the research that goes into the writing process all the same. ;D

Sidney Bell2 Comments