Wednesday, July 20, 2005


I should say a bit more about what this is. I have mentioned KING OF THE ROAD once or twice elsewhere, but anyone chancing on this blog wouldn't know what I'm talking about. It is the final instalment in a trilogy which started with DEADFOLK and went on with FAGS AND LAGER. This will be the last one with Royston Blake and Mangel. I said I'd do three when I first spoke to Serpent's Tail, and I'm sticking with it.

You know, I do feel a bit uncomfortable using the word "trilogy". I think it's been hijacked by a certain type of fantasy novel over the years. You think "trilogy", you think "Tolkien". I've got nothing against the old duffer, but I just don't write that kind of stuff. If the word doesn't conjure up images of goblins and wizards, it makes you think: Uh oh, this guy's up his own arse. He'll be talking about his "work" next, and referring to himself in the third person. Well, I promise I won't do that. Charlie Williams is not pompous at all about his work.

Nevertheless, I still say that what I've written is a trilogy. There's no other word for it. It's not a series. A series, in the novelistic (and TV, and movie) sense, is a device where you pick up the same character(s) or setting time and again, and use them as tools to construct some new story. I have no interest whatsoever in that. What interested me, from some moment during the writing of DEADFOLK, was progression. I wanted to take Royston Blake and Mangel and see what would happen with them over a period of time. The world moves on and certain types of folks get left behind, while others have their moment in the sun. This is what I've seen over the years, and this is what I wanted to write about. But you can't do that and go on forever. I think you have to put a cap on it, otherwise the sense of progression gets severely diluted. And for me, that was three books tops. Start, middle, end. Intrigue, crisis, catharsis. Acts 1, 2, 3. A trilogy.

Shit, that turned into one self-absorbed post. I only meant to say "Er, that's KING OF THE ROAD - Mangel book three and final." I guess what I'm trying to say, in my convoluted and arse-about way, is that I am very excited at the prospect of having this trilogy out there. Until I had KING OF THE ROAD written and edited, I was worried that I might get run over by a bus. Now it doesn't matter, so I guess I'll stop looking both ways.

I still hate the word "trilogy" though.

(Mind you, it's better than "quartet".)


Anonymous said...


In many ways Mangel seems to me to be the anti Shire (in the Tolkien books) It is like the Shire in some ways, English, insular, distrustful of outsiders, with few people leaving, or aspiring to a life outside the community. It seems that Mangel could be how the Shire would have turned out if Merry, Pippen and company didn't liberate it from Saruman and the orcs.

Pat (showing my fantasy geek side) Lambe

Jenny D said...

I think you should embrace the term trilogy! I love, love, love trilogies, and I never understand why crime writers and "literary" writers and everyone else hasn't picked up from the fantasy genre what a great thing they are. Denise Mina's "Garnethill" books were a trilogy, and look how well that worked--I completely agree with you about the crucial difference between trilogy and series. There are other crime trilogies too, aren't there? I'm vague on details, but Philip Kerr's Berlin novels come to mind. (Also I second Pat's comments about Mangel and the Shire...)

Charlie Williams said...

Pat and Jenny,

Interesting comparison. I must admit, I haven't even looked at those Tolkien books for at least twenty years, so the memory's a bit dim. But I'll take your word for it.

I think most fantasy books are on a bigger scale than crime books, so the trilogy can give them a sort of epic-ness that covers a lot of space and time. Crime books are usually concerned with a smaller locale, so maybe they're not so much reaching for scope. (Uh oh, my "talking-out-of-my-ass" lights are flashing...)

Whatever, I agree with you. There should be more crime trilogies. And there are some already. (Ken Bruen's "White Trilogy", although it is actually 5 books.)

Jenny D said...

You know, another disturbing trend is that "quartet" has mostly given way to "tetralogy" for a four-book set....