This series of crime mysteries features the eponymous Mark Kane, the thinking man’s private investigator, and Lucy − his go-to girl Friday, secretary and best friend. And while the independent nature of each has resulted in a somewhat unconventional personal relationship, their interdependence − both on a personal and professional level − is a given. So, although Kane may not often vocalize his appreciation of Lucy’s valuable contribution to his success, they both know the score; and although Kane may be content with the status quo, Lucy has plans of her own. Her not-so-hidden agenda doesn’t include marriage, but it does include getting away from the windowless downtown office (or 'the mausoleum', as Lucy refers to it).
John Hemmings is a lawyer and writer of crime fiction with a one hundred percent record − not one of his clients has been executed -- yet! Some of his stories are inspired by actual cases he has worked on, but names have been changed to protect the innocent – and sometimes the guilty!
Each of his books features Boston private investigator Mark Kane, or simply Kane as he is known to most people, and his longtime companion Lucy − a slightly oddball couple with a somewhat unconventional relationship.
"I write for enjoyment − the sort of books that I hope have broad appeal in the mystery/detective genre; the kind of books I like to read myself − and as a family man I write for all ages − the sex private (even private eyes like a bit of privacy!), the language tempered. Take a look at those movies from the thirties and forties: Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart. The lack of strong language didn't take away anything from the air of menace those guys exuded. Of course, they wouldn’t have talked like that in real life, but then a movie or a novel is not ‘real life’.
"I have tried to make the stories as realistic as possible, although these books are intended as entertainments, so a little 'poetic license' and the invoking of a 'willing suspension of disbelief' is sometimes required. As for 'character development', this is a series told in real time; so while each book is a standalone story, as the reader progresses through the books more is gradually revealed about my protagonist and his sidekick. Readers sometimes ask me what Kane & Lucy look like; but as to their physical appearance well, that's the beauty of books over movies - they look just like each reader imagines they look.
“In writing this series I think it only fair to acknowledge my debt to that master of the detective genre, Raymond Chandler. Whilst I could never hope to produce narratives of such accomplishment, nor produce such a memorable hero as Philip Marlowe, in writing this series of novels I have nevertheless tried to be true to Mr. Chandler’s concept of what a private detective novel should comprise. I have adopted his famous guidelines, not simply because I admire him as a peerless writer of private detective crime fiction but because I believe they truly encapsulate everything that a good crime novel should be, namely:
It should be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the dénouement.
It should be technically sound as to the methods of murder and detection.
It should be realistic in character, setting and atmosphere. It must be about real people in a real world.
It should have a sound story value apart from the mystery element: i.e., the investigation itself must be an adventure worth reading.
It should have enough essential simplicity to be explained easily when the time comes.
It must baffle a reasonably intelligent reader.
The solution must seem inevitable once revealed.
It should not try to do everything at once. If it is a puzzle story operating in a rather cool, reasonable atmosphere, it cannot also be a violent adventure or a passionate romance.
It must punish the criminal in one way or another; not necessarily by operation of the law, but if the detective fails to resolve the consequences of the crime, the story is an unresolved chord and leaves irritation behind it.
It must be honest with the reader.
As for the hero, Chandler also had firm views. The morality of the detective is paramount. In his essay, ‘The Simple Art of Murder’, he wrote:
‘Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor – by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.'
If Mr. Chandler were alive today it is doubtful that he would be impressed by my clumsy attempts at writing crime fiction, but I hope he would be satisfied with my attempts to carry on a fine tradition.”