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John Harvey’s Going Down Slow

John Harvey’s first novel of his twelve DI Charlie Resnick novels, Lonely Hearts, was named by The Times as one of the ‘100 Best Crime Novels of the Century’. That is accolade one can be proud of! If you’ve never read a Resnick novel a short story is a great place to start, after all it might be short but it’s perfectly formed! We hear from John Harvey, best-selling author of the Resnick series as he introduces his new short story; Going Down Slow.

Over to John:

‘Funny thing about short stories, writing them, that is: much as I enjoy the process, more than almost anything else, in fact – we’re talking weeks, after all, not months – it takes someone to request one before I’ll set the time aside.

Which was what happened ten years ago, 2004, when I was asked by my Finnish publisher for a story to appear in the magazine they were preparing for distribution at the Helsinki Book Fair. A Resnick story it had to be, as those were the books they were publishing, and if I could find room for a little jazz – maybe even a reference to cinnamon buns? The Fins are crazy for cinnamon buns. Oh, and one other thing, no more than 1,000 words. Which would make it a very short story indeed.

I’d thought before of a character called Peter Waites, a miner who had been active in the Miners’ Strike and with whom Resnick had struck up an unlikely friendship, and that friendship became the basis for the story. I managed to squeeze in some jazz, as requested – the story was called ‘Well, You Needn’t’, the title of a composition by the pianist, Thelonious Monk – and even the semblance of a plot. Sadly, no room for the cinnamon bun.

Only a little story, but it stuck with me: that friendship stuck with me; little more than a few lines of dialogue, but they rang true. And when, much later, I began exploring the possibility of writing a novel partly set during the Miners’ Strike, I knew Resnick and Peter Waites were going to be at the heart of it, somehow.

The novel, ‘Darkness, Darkness‘, begins with them, with Resnick on his way to Peter Waites’ funeral, before tunneling back thirty years to when events placed them on diametrically opposite sides of the picket line, opposite sides of the fence. Of all the books I’ve written, I think it’s the one that means the most to me, the one that, to my eyes, comes out best.

So when my publisher suggested I write a short story as a kind of prequel, my immediate response was no, sorry I can’t, it’s all there. All there is. But then, gradually, I thought, maybe yes, there is something more, something quite important to say – to show – about the relationship between the two men, and a new story would give me the chance to fill in a little of what had been happening in Resnick’s life, personally as well as professionally, since he last appeared in print.

Thus, ‘Going Down Slow‘, which not only has references to the Strike and its aftermath, but looks also at one of the other themes of the novel, that of male violence directed towards women, often women with whom the aggressor has been emotionally linked. As an introduction to the novel, I think it works well, and I think – I hope – it’s worth reading in its own right; the pleasure of Charlie Resnick’s company aside, there’s room for more than a smidgeon of plot, even a brief mention of jazz, but sorry, still no cinnamon bun.

John Harvey
London, March 2014
A big thank you to John Harvey for introducing his new short story, Going Down Slow featuring Charlie Resnick. Find out more about John over on his website.

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