When I published the tenth Inspector Green novel, None So Blind, in 2014, I thought ten was a nice round number to end a series on. I wanted to experiment with new characters, settings, and story styles, but unlike some other writers of long-running series, I didn’t retire the inspector or kill him off. Which turned out to be a good thing.
I’ve greatly enjoyed my new Amanda Doucette series and many of my readers accepted her without much complaint, but many muttered wistful asides like “I do miss Inspector Green,” and “are you going to bring him back?” I was not surprised; we all get attached to a series character we like. But what did surprise me was that, after a few years, I missed him too. So, a couple of years ago, when Dundurn and I discussed future books, I raised the idea of inserting an Inspector Green novel in between the next two Amanda Doucette books.
Time will tell if that was a good idea. Will old fans have forgotten all about him, or will they be delighted to find out what he’s been up to? Will fans of Amanda accept this digression from the evolving story of her life?
I also wondered whether I would have trouble reconnecting with him and his fellow characters after spending so long in Amanda’s world. It had taken me some time to get familiar with Amanda and to hear her voice when I started writing a scene. Would she now overpower Green? That turned out to be a needless fear. The minute I started writing the familiar settings and characters of the Green novels, I felt them gather around me to share their voices and their feelings. It was like walking into the living room with old friends. I could almost hear Green saying “It’s about time!”
The real creative work came in trying to figure out what I should do with those intervening seven years. That is, what changes I should make in their lives and in the police services in general. The real world had changed a lot in seven years. It had been a time of massive social upheaval, from the Black Lives Matter movement to the #MeToo and gender equality movements, as well as the intensifying far-right pushback. And recently, the pandemic had turned daily lives upside down.
I decided not to pretend that Inspector Green picked up where he left off, but instead, five years later. At the end of None So Blind, I had moved him out of Major Crimes into an administrative position which left him chafing at the bit to get back to solving cases. I had also left his daughter Hannah musing about becoming a police officer herself. So, five years later, when The Devil to Pay picks up the story again, Hannah is a rookie patrol officer and Green is eager to watch her adventures over her shoulder. And possibly meddle.
I also wanted to address some of the social changes that had been emerging. Over the years, as policing and my own awareness evolved, I had added female officers to the cast. In The Devil to Pay, I also added more diversity in the form of a young detective, and as a bonus, injected some youth into the mix. In addition to Green and his aging friend and colleague Brian Sullivan, a long-time series regular, I now had a young investigative team – Hannah and Detective Josh Kanner – which added fresh energy to the series and an enjoyable new path to explore.
The pandemic also presented a challenge, as it has for all writers of contemporary fiction. I was writing right through the middle of it and had no idea when it would end and when normal life would return. We still don’t know! How much did police investigations and court cases change as a result of pandemic measures? What about interviewing witnesses and conducting house searches? Could I safely assume none of those restrictions would be in place by the time the book came out? I did, and I was wrong. But I put the pandemic into the book as a backdrop and an influence on people’s lives and livelihoods, so I hope I found a middle ground.
So far, the early feedback on the return of Green has been positive. At least a hundred people attended my virtual launch in October, and many readers, both on social media and in person, have expressed delight at reconnecting. Some have even expressed the hope that there will be more to come, incorporating Hannah and Josh as key players in future books.
As I’ve learned, never say never.
Barbara Fradkin is a retired psychologist who is fascinated with why people turn bad. She is the author of the Amanda Doucette series and the critically acclaimed Inspector Green novels. She lives in Ottawa. Read more here.