In The Devil’s Wind (Seventh Street, Sept.), Goble melds genres with his 18th-century pirate-turned-detective hero, Spider John.
How did the idea for the series come about?
Mostly as a result of tossing the themes and elements of books I love into a blender and seeing what happened. My challenge involved making Spider John someone readers could like, and cheer on, as he goes about solving his puzzles. I envisioned him as a good man caught up in a horrible profession, not because he ever wanted to be a pirate, but because he could not avoid it.
Has Hollywood gotten pirates right?
No, real pirates were people, not caricatures, and they had widely varying degrees of literacy and moral sense. While some of them were caught up in piracy because they were given a choice of join up or die, they nonetheless made their living by killing people and stealing their stuff. I understand the romantic view, though. Pirates often lined the pockets of merchants by selling them stolen goods that the merchants could then resell at a higher price ashore, thus providing a boost to the economy. Pirates often served political purposes, too; the bloody pirate who robs French ships might be viewed favorably by the English, and vice versa. And the whole idea of people who flout authority and go off to do their own thing has an attractive appeal, too. It’s like Robin Hood. It tickles the rebellious streak in all of us. But in the end, we’re talking about murderers and thieves who spent much time in hiding and living in fear of the noose. That’s not a very glamorous or admirable lifestyle.
How do you avoid Jessica Fletcher Syndrome by having John encounter whodunits routinely?
Jessica Fletcher Syndrome didn’t stop fans from tuning into Murder, She Wrote every week. If people like the characters and the stories, they will accept some implausibility and keep coming back. I am fortunate in that crime and murder and unsavory characters are frequent occurrences in a pirate’s life, so even as Spider tries to leave piracy behind, he’ll keep running into bad people and bad, bad things. My job will be to make Spider interesting enough to make readers want to follow his adventures. I promise to not write the same damned book over and over, too. Spider John will remain essentially a good man who got caught up in a horrid occupation, using his fighting skills, and his own cunning, to survive scrape after scrape, and solve murders, as he tries to get back to his beloved wife, Em, and his young son. Think of it as The Odyssey but with flintlocks, cutlasses, and murders to solve.