“Lonely Hearts”: Resnick at the Beginning

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A quick check on AbeBooks.com suggests that copies of the Viking Press, 1979, first edition of Lonely Hearts, in fine to very fine condition, signed, can be snapped up for between $350 and $450. Whereas, anyone wishing to read the same novel on kindle, can do so, from today until June 26th, for a mere £1.99, thanks to Amazon’s Start a New Series promotion.

You pays your money, as the saying goes …

One of the questions I used to get asked quite regularly in those far off days when my publishers used to send me out on tour, my American publisher Henry Holt especially, was did I always think Lonely Hearts was going to be the first of a series? The answer being, well, yes and no. Yes, in that most of my formative pulp days had been spent working on series so it was what I was used to. [Even the novelisation of Herbie Rides Again sprouted Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.] And no, in that it had been hard enough to get this one book published, how much harder was it going to be for a bunch of them? Also, I should add on the plus side, the two most obvious [to me] and relevant inspirations for the novel were both television series, the long-running Hill St. Blues and my own relatively short-lived Hard Cases, which was, in most respects, Hill St. relocated to Nottingham and centred around the probation service rather than the police.

Which sort of takes me to a second frequently posed question: who, if anyone, is the character of Resnick based upon? To which the response used to be, he’s a lot like Captain Frank Furillo from Hill St. Blues, but dressed like Peter Falk in Columbo. A more specific model, following the Peter Falk example, would be the wonderfully fallible, hard drinking and sentimental Sgt. Valnikov, as played by Robert Foxworth in Harold Becker’s film The Black Marble, based on Joseph Wambaugh’s novel of the same name.

Like Furillo, I saw him initially as a kind of middle-management copper, holding together, through a mixture of firmness and inspiration, a fairly disparate group of younger officers. As the series developed, however, Resnick stepped out increasingly front and centre, in part due to the fact that I was increasingly enjoying writing about him, and in part down to the positive response to him from readers.

But here’s a little taste of Charlie as he initially appears at the beginning of chapter two …

Standing under the shower, Resnick massaged shampoo into his hair as vigorously as he dared: eyes closed tight, face tilted upwards, he lowered the temperature of the water until it reached minimum. When he looked into the mirror, his breath came back to him a mixture of German beer and sweet pickled gherkins. He was the usual eight pounds over on the scales. Cats swayed around his bare legs, slid under his feet as he pulled on his dark grey trousers, dark grey socks.

And this is the first impression of him from the social worker, Rachel Chaplin, with whom he becomes involved …

He was an overweight man in his early forties, whose narrow eyes were bagged and tired, and who couldn’t find the time to drop his tie off at the cleaners.

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Charlie Resnick’s Beginnings

A week ago now, as part of the Derby Book Festival, I was at Mickleover Library, taking an amble through the beginnings of the Charlie Resnick series, beginning with Lonely Hearts and finishing, as it did last year, with Darkness, Darkness. Along with answering questions as well as I could – and there were a good many – I read from both of those books, starting with Charlie’s first ever appearance, one of the cats sitting on his head as awakes, and ending with his attendance at the funeral of a former miner, both friend and one time foe.

Beginning to end, 1989 to 2014, and, for Charlie, on the surface anyway, not a great deal seemed to have changed. At the end, he’s not so very different to how he began …

He was an overweight man in his early forties, whose narrow eyes were bagged and tired, and who couldn’t find the time to drop his tie off at the cleaners.

… just older.

If only to remind me of those far off days when, as a teacher, I would ask whoever was sitting at the end of a row, to pass along the handouts to their colleagues, I did the same here – the handout at attempt to show the principle influences that went into Resnick’s creation.

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Social Realism to the right, Police Procedurals to the left …

Any questions on a postcard – or the contemporary equivalent.

On the Road Again …

… as Willie Nelson would say. First up, a trip close to the heart of the East Midlands, otherwise known as Derby, on Monday, 1st June, when I have the honour and pleasure of taking part in the first event of the Derby Book Festival. The venue is Mickleover Library, the time 2.00pm, and I shall be talking about the Charlie Resnick series – how it began and why it’s finishing – as well as reading from the first of the novels, Lonely Hearts, and the last, Darkness, Darkness.

More details here … http://www.derbybookfestival.co.uk

And then on Friday, 5th June, and closer to home, I’m the guest reader at the monthly meeting of Ware Poets in Hertfordshire. I had the pleasure of reading there on a previous occasion – some 25 years ago – and it’s nice to have been invited back.

Venue details: Ware Arts Centre, Kibes Lane, Ware, SG12 7ED.