Sunday, June 7, 2009

To marry or not to marry? That is the question.

Handling the progress of a romantic relationship is even more difficult than finding a new way to murder someone.

In mystery fiction, I mean.

In my fourth novel, the one in progress, Sheriff Steve Martinez and Ginny Fitzgerald, my main characters, are rapidly approaching The Watershed in their romance. Ginny wants to legally adopt Tommy, the Ojibwa lad she has been fostering for three years (since A Venture into Murder), and she wants Steve, her squeeze for four years, to become her certified husband so that everything will be wrapped up nice and legal for the informal family unit the trio has become. She thinks, with reason, that Tommy's emotional grounding will be stronger.

But Ginny is a filthy rich widow, with an enormous estate and charitable foundation and a passel of lawyers to administer them. Naturally they are advising a prenuptial agreement to protect the wealth, and Ginny understands their point.

And naturally Steve is balking at that.

"I'm a Lakota," he says. "I need to be free."

"You're about as Lakota as my little finger," says Alex, his state trooper chum. "You're just afraid of commitment."

"I'll never sign a goddamned prenup," says Steve. He has his pride.

The sheriff knows that rich people are different from you and me. It's not just that they have more money, as Hemingway said. They're a culture unto themselves, even if some of them try to be just folks, as Ginny does.

Steve has in his professional life seen all too often what happens when poor marries rich: a terribly dysfunctional family (think "Dallas"). He wants no part of that. What's wrong with the informal, natural togetherness he and Ginny have settled into?

So this is what I have to figure out as the novel progresses.

Should Steve and Ginny split? Sgt. Jim Chee and Janet Pete, so long an item in Tony Hillerman's novels, did. Pete became a high-powered Washington lawyer and Jim remained content to be a tribal policeman and part-time Navajo shaman. That just wouldn't mix.

Jim eventually married Bernadette Manuelito, his fellow tribal cop, at the end of Skeleton Man (2004). But Hillerman wrote only one more novel, Shape Shifter (2006) before his death in 2008.

I think it was Raymond Chandler who said that marriage was the kiss of death for a crime novel. When a romantic couple weds, the sexual tension -- so important to the advancement of the plot -- fades.

Will they or won't they? What will happen to Steve and Ginny? I just don't know.


  1. I don't know the characters because neither the local bookstore or my local library carry your books. As much as I like to buy books in person (touch them, hold them, read a few pages, etc.) I may have to resort to Amazon or something. Grrr.

    Even though I haven't read the books (yet), I can certainly relate to your situation. It happens to me all the time when I write. Luckily, there is a magical strip of road between my home and my office that seems to know all the answers. When I get stuck, the solution often comes to me when I'm driving and almost always in the same exact spot. Weird, huh?

    I'm sure you'll figure out what to do about Steve and Ginny, but if you ever find yourself driving around in East Tennessee, I'll gladly show you the magic spot in the road.

  2. Easy solution. Steve converts to fundamentalist Mormonism!

  3. You should have posted a "spoiler alert" for those of us who are waiting impaitently for the next installment (although I would have read it anyway).
    Initial reaction: don't have them split. There has got to be a solution to make everyone happy. Let's think.....

  4. Ginger Hanson (a.k.a.Mykhal Jaems)June 7, 2009 at 5:27 PM

    I agree with Mike P, don't let them split. Or even better, they could split and then decide at the end of the novel to get back together and you could leave it as a cliff hanger as to what happens with the relationship. Keep in mind you are just postponing the inevitable.

    Have you ever read a John Sandford novel? Davenport has gone thru one marriage and is currently married with a child and is fostering another from one of his earlier excapades. Granted his relationship isn't as main to the story but you could make it work. In this novel Davenport's family is in England for a month b/c his wife's medical job is taking her there.

    So what I'm thinking is, in the next novel, Ginny has to go somewhere (didn't that happen in a previous story for a little while?) and they only have phone/emial/texting as communicating. She could help the solve the case from affar and in the end it could bring them closer. That way you are putting the whole thing off for TWO books instead of dealing with it now.

    Just an idea. Janet Evanovich has been toying with her mail character Stephanie Plum and her main man and another guy she works with for 14 novels.

    You're good at weaving a story, you can figure it out.

  5. I agree, keep Ginny connected with Steve. I actually stopped reading an author when he killed off the main character's lover. I think the interaction between Steve and Ginny add to your stories and the reality of the real world.

    Rained on our trip up north this weekend (needed) so it gave me a lot of time at the Ladysmith library. Working the overnight shift at a group home gives me a lot of time to read. Average 3 books a week. Picked up THE SWEATER LETTER and FLIGHT OF THE GIN FIZZ. Someone at the library must have been promoting GIN FIZZ as it was checked out many times before they went to the scanner system. Miss the check out cards in the back.

  6. Oh, I'll keep the connection between Steve and Ginny, but I need to find ways to increase the tension in their relationship. I do have an idea now what to do next but will keep it to myself.

    Rayjay, Ladysmith must be near an airport -- student pilots were the largest audience for Gin Fizz.

  7. I am looking forward to finding out what happens to them now when I read the book!

    I am reading Gin Fizz at the moment. :-)

  8. I wonder how a copy of Gin Fizz found its way to New Zealand! Maybe an overnighting airline pilot left it on a seat at Auckland airport.

  9. Somebody sent me a yarn the other day, which I can't find in my inbox so will try to relate from memory:

    After weeks of journeying on foot through the jungle, the traveler struggled up the mountain, finally reaching the wise guru meditating at the peak, and begged him, "Oh, wise one, you must help me out from under this curse that's plaguing me."

    The wise man said, "Tell me about it. Tell me the exact words that were used to put the curse on you."

    The man was still for a long while, straining to think back 20 years, and finally said: "I now pronounce you man and wife..."

    But seriously: If Steve wants to be free, then a prenup is the surest way to stay that way (especially since it's Ginny's money he will be free of.) In any case, it's not the prenup that's the issue: How many couples do we know who lived together happily for many, many years -- and then got married. Did any of them end well? Nope.

    I have a good friend who is in Reno at this very moment, marrying the woman he's lived with for 25 years (two lovely daughters, etc.). She was going there for a bowling tournament (I couldn't make this up) and thought this would be a good time to get married.

    Terrific couple. I fear for them.