NO BAD DEED
by M. Ryan Seaver
Private detective John Arsenal can’t tell you what terrible crime he committed to wind up in a sweltering urban hellscape, surrounded by thieves, drug addicts and murderers—only that it was very bad, and now he’s being punished. That’s because in Hell—or Brimstone, as the damned prefer to call it—your identity, your memories, even your name, are stripped away from you.
John is relatively comfortable in his damnation, working easy cases and making himself at home in the grimy squalor of the afterlife. That is, until a mysterious woman appears in his office, begging him to find her missing sister, and promising him the impossible in return—a glimpse of his old life, before Brimstone.
To track down the enigmatic Sophie, John must delve into Brimstone’s darkest recesses, where murderous children run wild in packs, and a strange and terrifying new drug promises to deliver the user to the heights of ecstasy, but at the risk of being snuffed out of existence altogether. All the while, John must grapple with the vivid nightmares that have haunted him since his arrival in Brimstone, and confront the thing he desires and dreads the most—the truth of what he did to deserve damnation.
In the center of camp, one kid was beating with a slow, irregular tempo on a sort of makeshift drum, patched together out of skins stretched over an old rubber tire. He wasn’t playing it so much as he was testing it, tapping this spot and that, checking it for tone. He stood and stalked around to the other side of the drum, lanky and capable looking, and older than the rest, maybe twelve. I watched him working from a distance, and when he spoke, he didn’t bother looking at me.
“What do you want, mister?”
He was still slender like a kid, but tall, and he was working hard on the voice of a young man, or at least had been before whatever had ended his life stuck him in permanent adolescence. He had a smattering of painful-looking acne studded across both cheeks, and the beginning of a patchy beard coming through here and there. It looked like he had made some sort of attempt at shaving at one point, and I felt the stirrings of one of those troubling old half memories as I looked at him—the adolescent frustration of trying to pull a blade across pimply, broken skin.
I stepped closer to the kid and his work, and noticed the other kids glancing cautiously up at him. Him, not me. The captain, I decided. Any conversation I was going to have on this trip, I was having with him.
I always raise an eyebrow when I hear an artist or author say that their great idea occurred to them in their sleep. You dreamed it? I think, Seriously? They feel so convenient, these stories, so easy. Like the universe handed you a pass, letting you off the hook for the actual work of creation and giving you a free ticket straight to the fun part.
That was before John Arsenal, and No Bad Deed. Most nights, just as I’m drifting off my brain will send me a few random messages: Don’t forget to call dad tomorrow, we should start working out, where did we leave our favorite pair of gloves? But on this particular night, just before drifting off, my brain had only three words for me: Detective in Hell.
And wouldn’t you know it, I did exactly what everyone does when a great-sounding idea appears out of seemingly nowhere while you’re trying to get your recommended 7-8 hours of sleep. I got up. And I wrote. The prologue of No Bad Deed came into existence at 1am in the dark of my living room in Boston, me trying to focus my bleary eyes in the glowing computer light before sleep snatched this idea away from me again. Please don’t misunderstand, there was still the inevitable grind, the day-to-day struggle to uncover where, exactly, this story was going. But that first night, the idea just sort of…arrived.
Interestingly, sleep has been a theme throughout John Arsenal’s story, both in No Bad Deed, and in the upcoming sequel. John suffers from nightmares and insomnia, and his relationship with sleep sits firmly in that space occupied by liquor or opiates for so many other literary detectives. Sleep has also become a complicated space for me since that night in Boston. Once a sound sleeper, I’m now frequently woken up at 3am by a persistent nudging from my protagonist. It’s a nudge that says, I’m about to go get into trouble. Are you coming or what? The answer is almost always, yes. Of course I am. My best writing happens this way. I’ve gotten used to this strange routine, just as my husband has gotten accustomed to waking in the middle of the night and finding me missing, the sound of keyboard clicking emanating from the next room. It’s comforting, writing this way, and exciting. The nights I can’t sleep are the nights I feel like I’m still connected to whatever lightning bolt of inspiration struck me that first night that John Arsenal came into my life.
So when people ask me where I got the inspiration for No Bad Deed, I find myself hesitating, knowing what I would have thought three years ago of someone who told me their big idea had been presented to them in their sleep. But then I steel myself, smile, and tell the truth. I say I don’t have a clue.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
I was raised in Rochester, New York, in a house that was constantly full of writers. On nights when my parents and their friends were holding court in our living room, I would practice the fine art of evading the little kids in the next room, setting up camp among the grown-ups, and being quiet long enough that they would forget I was there, and that it was past my bedtime. All my best dirty jokes were picked up this way.
I studied theatre performance at Northeastern University, where I spent a little time onstage, and a lot of time reading plays. I fell in love with Sam Shepard, Arthur Miller, and Nicky Silver. Exposed to plays day in and day out, I honed my ear for dialogue, and learned firsthand that if the writing doesn’t ring true, no amount of brilliant acting would make it right. I wrote my first play (terrible, melodramatic, with characters whose names did absolutely nothing to mask the real people they were based on). I showed it to no one. It’s probably still on my computer somewhere.
John Arsenal and Brimstone came to me during a bout of unemployment, in between searching desperately for a job, and baking more bread than was sane or reasonable for my two person household. The idea came to me in my sleep, demanding to be written, and that’s how the prologue of the book came into existence: In my darkened apartment in Boston at one o clock in the morning, my eyes barely able to focus on the computer screen long enough to get the words down. Sleep has continued to be the place where John Arsenal and I meet up to put the pieces of his story together. I’ve never been prone to insomnia, but John, it seems, is, and has never cared much for my sleep schedule.
In my life before Brimstone, I’ve worked as a telemarketer (I’m sorry) administrative assistant, waiter (badly, briefly), clerk and occasional story-time reader in a children’s bookstore, and professional hawker of everything from magazine subscriptions to national television advertising. I was better with magazines. I now live in Chicago with the love of my life, and my snarling, seven-toed demon-cat, Clara. No Bad Deed is the first book in the John Arsenal mystery series.
Buy link: http://www.amazon.com/Deed-John-Arsenal-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B00NBHJIX4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411230911&sr=8-1&keywords=no+bad+deed
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