Thanks, Bill

June 8th, 2008

Phnom Penh — Just at the time I needed it most, as I was about to hang up my fingers for good, The Big Thrill, which is the online magazine of International Thriller Writers, has run an absolutely terrific piece about THE FOURTH WATCHER (and moi) by Bill Cameron.

Not wanting to cost them any click-throughs, I’ll give you the URL rather than quoting the piece. I guarantee this to be a noncommercial, pop-up free, virus-scanned site. ITW is a rapidly growing organization that numbers among its members virtually every major thriller and mystery writer around.

And me, of course.

Bill’s piece is here.

16 Responses to “Thanks, Bill”

  1. Stefan Hammond Says:

    Now that is one succinct block of controlled-explosive praise, and a heartfelt one. Congrats, Tim.

    Knowing how much you put into your work, and the way you approach it, I feel that the writer captured a sine-wave-sized chunk of what I know to be an anarchic process, and that’s not easy to do. Stuff like this is what keeps the fingers flying.

    But come on, Tim, we know you’re not gonna “hang up your fingers for good.” Like Tom Sizemore said to Robert Deniro in HEAT (different medium, I know, I’m gettin’ away with it, ya hear?): “You know me, Neil, I’m in it for the juice.”

    BTW, Neil Macauley, Deniro’s character, was based on a Chicago criminal writer/director Michael Mann knew of, as a crime-fan, writer and Chicago native. Mann’s habit of observation drove that character, and that line, much as you’ve done with Rafferty.

    You’re in it for the juice, and when you get feedback like this, you know you’re getting it right. I’ll brew up a cup of Trung Nguyen java-juice and toast ya here in rainy/humid Hong Kong. Muy bueno, amigo.


  2. fairyhedgehog Says:

    That’s an excellent review which I’m sure is well-deserved. Congratulations!

  3. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hey, Stefan — I’ve taken FIVE DAYS OFF, which is a first since I started writing, back in the Pre-Cambrian era. And there have been times during the (attempted) writing of this book when I thought whatever talent I may have had, had deserted me permanently. (Note comma for clarity.) But you’re right, it is an anarchic process, which I suppose is why I attempt to impose a kind of rigid order on it, and why I get nervous when, as now, I abandon that order. But I agree, it’s a terrific piece and it gave me the creative juice to write the first three paragraphs of Part Three of MISDIRECTION this morning.

    And thanks for being so generously supportive, fairyhedgehog. Deserved or not (and who am I to say?) it sure felt good.

  4. Lisa Kenney Says:

    Excellent review and having read the first two Poke Rafferty books, I agree completely. Bangkok is as much a character in these books as Poke, Rose, Miaow and a special favorite of mine, Arthit. I love learning phrases, like “Farang” and hearing snipits of Thai philosophy and observations about westerners.

    I must say, I’m glad to know that you are giving yourself a tiny break. How many novels have you completed at breakneck pace, without a break?

    Well done!

  5. Larissa Says:

    Tim, I agree with all the gushing praise-but I don’t agree with you getting too wigged out over five days off. While it may be unheard of, creating or creativity or whatever is not usually all that prone to the S word (schedule) I applaud your ability to structure your mind and work even when you don’t feel like it but at the same time, everyone needs a page break once in a while. I know, i’m to the point of sad attempts at puns. I’m going now. Just wanted to drop in.

  6. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Lisa and Larissa —

    Thanks to both of you for the support. As Lisa knows from an e-mail, I tend to go straight from one book to another, although that’s not as heroic as it sounds: I usually get a bunch of ideas for the next book while I’m finishing the current one, so all it requires is typing THE END and then starting to fool with the new idea, just noodling around with it on the keyboard.

    I do it because I love to write and because I’ve had experiences in the past where, when I stayed away from the evolving world of a book too long, there was a door there when I came back, and I had to figure out how to open it before I could get back in. But this book presented problems on a new order of magnitude, and I didn’t have the tools to deal with them. I was sleeping two hours a night, sitting down at the keyboard with dread, etc. In fact, I read so many books, in sheer self-defense, during this period that I’m going to put up a new reading list today or tomorrow.

    Anyway, I’m writing now, and maybe it’ll be good. But if it isn’t, I’m not going back to that place. I’ll just write the next scene I know how to write.

    Thanks again. It means a lot to know that you guys are out there.

  7. Stefan Says:

    @Larissa: i’m unforgiving of bad puns but “page break” is top-shelf.

    Tim’s work-ethic is laudable, but there are other writers (some you’ve told me about, Tim) whose work habits are downright scary. I’m in awe of Graham Greene, who treated his job like an office gig: sitting down at 8:00AM, working until lunch, working through the afternoon and knocking off at quittin’ time. For some people, I guess that works.

    I cannot write without the carrot of the paycheck and the stick of…oh, pick any stick. i have a fulltime writing/editing gig. I got more stick than a punji pit.

    But still i hem and haw, troll the Net for weird stories, gossip with my co-workers, whatEVER. As a result, I’ve developed an almost automatic way of getting written what needs to be written, on time and on spec.

    But it ain’t art. It’s a job. I couldn’t write detective novels, or indeed, any fiction this way. I *have* gotten to that astonishing point where the characters begin to talk, and i’m sure any fiction writer knows what I mean. You can’t shut them up. It’s magick with a “k”: something rooted so deeply within us…scientifically I guess I could say that all writing is observation and once you’ve created these characters, years of observation fill them with personality and that’s what does the talking. But I don’t know. All i know is they Will Not Stop Talking.

    But to get there you’ve got to put in the groundwork, and at this point I don’t have the time to devote to an extended fiction project. I try to keep my tools sharp, and I have a different group of fans. But this is my bill-of-lading for a life in Asia, and I’ll gladly pay it.

    Meanwhile, I’m heartily glad for Tim’s success, and yes Tim, it is OK to take a few days off and let the reactor cool down. Of course you’re working on the next book: for Greene, that meant being at the desk at 8. For you it might mean sitting at a cafe and NOT reading. Doing something different (I think this is the first time I have ever recommended NOT-reading!). Do some cooking. Language study. List your earliest memories. Yoga. Imitate animals. Change the pattern. The next book is there. And you will find it, or vice versa.


  8. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Yo, Stefan — First, thanks for calling out Larissa’s pun. I was in such a state of angst I sailed right past it, and it deserved better than that.

    The good news; I WROTE YESTERDAY. I had a wonderful time writing an exquisitely sad scene in which a man (Arthit, for those of you who know these characters) whose wife is dying goes into his office and discovers how much sadness inanimate objects can give off, an emotional vapor that says When I bought that/was given that/put that there, I didn’t know. I thought the world’s natural state was to be whole, I thought it would remain whole.

    And then he’s called into his immediate superior’s office for a confrontation that threatens his entire career.

    So it’s possible to have fun writing terrible things, and I plan to do more of it today.

    Stefan, you’ll write fiction when you literally can’t think of anything you want more to do, and if you never feel that way, you won’t do it. God knows you’ve got the chops and the technical skills, and enough good stories and fascinating milieus (milieux?) for a dozen novels. You talk more good book ideas in an hour than I have in a month.

    (Back in a time I wasn’t writing, by the way, my wife listened patiently while I spun out some idea for — probably — hours and than asked, “Why are you wasting all this material?” Got my attention, for sure.)

    In the meantime, Stefan, before you embark on writing the Hong Kong “Gone With the Wind,” keep sending out the News of the Wierd.

    Oh, and work ethics, Stefan? Green is a great example, and he just broke my heart with “A Burnt-Out Case,” which I finished yesterday, but the all-time champ has to be Anthony Trollope, who wrote by the clock every day of his adult life and who, if he finished a book with five minutes remaining in the session, simply picked up a clean sheet of paper and started a new one. That’s discipline.

  9. Lisa Kenney Says:

    Arthit is, for some reason, my favorite of your characters. I’m already sad, thinking about that scene.

  10. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Thanks, Lisa, I love him myself. What I wrote in the response to Stefan isn’t really a spoiler, since the reader pretty well expects it from what happens in a scene that takes place about 20% of the way into the book.

    But today the strangest thing happened. I gave Noi that disease when an acquaintance of mine was diagnosed with it. She was an extraordinary woman who actually talked me through the causes, symptoms, and treatment options so I’d get it right. Yesterday I wrote Noi’s death, and this morning I got an e-mail saying that my friend died yesterday. In fact, I read the e-mail about five minutes after I wrote the answer to Stefan.

    Aside from sorrow that my friend has passed on and also relief that she’s no longer in pain, I have no idea how I feel about this.

  11. Lisa Kenney Says:

    I’m terribly sorry to hear about your friend. I keep trying to express how I imagine you might feel about the timing, but I don’t know what to say.

  12. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Lisa, that’s exactly where I am. I’ve finally decided to leave it alone. She was a wonderful person, and the consensus of her many friends is that her passing was a mercy. That’s true of Noi in the book, too, so I’m just writing every day with my eyes on the world that’s unrolling in front of me and not giving much thought to the one that surrounds me.

    But it’s a very complicated reaction.

  13. Sylvia Says:

    I cannot write without the carrot of the paycheck and the stick of…oh, pick any stick. This is exactly how I feel – I can get inventive with sticks sometimes but there has to be something external driving me to finish.

    I’m sorry to hear about your friend and I can understand your confused reactions but it sounds to me like you listened to what she had to say and you were true to her story. That must be worth something?

  14. muns Says:

    (Back in a time I wasn’t writing, by the way, my wife listened patiently while I spun out some idea for — probably — hours and than asked, “Why are you wasting all this material?” Got my attention, for sure.)

    Tim, You’re being way too modest.
    I wasn’t listening patiently.
    I was listening spellbound with your Irish gift of weaving stories AND yes, I AM very glad you are finally investing your prodigious gifts into an art form you love.

  15. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    This comment is from my wife for those of you who skimmed it, and I read it for the first time in Tokyo, on my way back to the States. My plane to Tokyo left Bangkok at 6:50 AM, which meant I had to leave the city at 3:30 AM. My strategy was to go to bed at 8 PM and sleep until 3, but at 9 PM the disco directly below my room kicked in, and didn’t kick out till two. So I left feeling sleepy and cranky and sorry for myself and got to Tokyo and went to the United lounge and opened this comment, and now I remember why I’m going home.

  16. Lisa Kenney Says:

    I’d be anxious to get home to such a supportive partner too. Maybe one of these days, you’ll have Muns guest post and tell us what it’s like to watch your process 🙂

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