Monday, January 28, 2008
My novels #17: A Murder in Marienburg
A MURDER IN MARIENBURG [Black Library, 2007]
Marienburg is the greatest port in the Old World, a melting pot of cultures and races, a centre for trade and commerce, a den of the worst kinds of thieves and villains. When he is made a captain of the watch, ex-Imperial army officer Kurt Schnell soon finds his promotion is a poison chalice. His watch station is int he worst part of town, his men are scum, strange creatures prowl the streets at night - what more could possibly go wrong?
DAvid Bishop is a well-known author of cult fiction, with several novels to hisname. In his first foray into the world of Warhammeer the rotting underbelly of Marienburg is exposed for all to see as corrupt watchmen, crime lords and worse all vie for power.
I took most of 2006 off writing novels after finishing my 16th tome in January that year. I'd bashed out nine novels in 27 months and my enthusiasm for prose was getting burnt out. Instead I concentrated on other forms of writing, particularly the MA in screenwriting I was studying for at Screen Academy Scotland in Edinburgh. I needed some time away from novels to recharge the batteries. Writing up to 100,000 words of prose is a marathon, not a sprint, and you can't run too many marathons back to back without suffering for your sins.
All nine of those novels I'd written back to back were for Black Flame, an imprint of the multimedia empire that is Games Workshop. They had brought me into contact with Lindsey Priestley, an editor for another GW imprint, Black Library. Lindsey liked my writing and expressed an interest in having me write a novel for her line of books. Being a good freelancer, I'm always looking for new markets and new challenges. The Black Library fiction splits into two areas - the science fiction of Warhammer 40,000 [40K hereafter) and the fantasy stories of Warhammer.
Having worked a lot in science fiction, 40K seemed an obvious fit for me. But I found the density of continuity daunting and was worried my style of storytelling wouldn't work in the 40K universe. By comparison, there were plenty of under-explored nooks and crannies in the Warhammer fantasy world where I could tell my kind of tale without upsetting too many space marine fans. Ideas for characters and contexts were thrown around, before we settled on what I would write.
To my mind, A Murder in Marienburg was a police procedural set in a fantasy amalgam of Amsterdam and Hamburg. There were elves, magic, a classic Warhammer monster species and all the things to be expected in a Warhammer novel - battles, seiges, death and honour, blood-soaked victories won against impossible odds. But in my head I was writing a crime novel set amidst all of that. As a consequence, I'm not sure how Warhammer my first foray into that world was. I told a good yarn, but it may not have been quite what reader Black Library readers were expecting.
A Murder in Marienburg was a long book, close to 100,000 words. I'd only written one novel to that length before, my Nightmare on Elm Street tome. Fortunately, this time I had considerably more plot and no shortage of characters. But I soon discovered that while a sprawling cast of thousands provides plenty of useful cannon fodder, giving every single character a distinctive, memorable personality can be struggle. Live and learn, that should be the freelance scribe motto.
Whatever the merits and flaws on my book, it did enough to merit a second story about Captain Kurt Schnell and his cohort of watchmen. A Massacre in Marienburg will be my 19th novel when it's published in December 2008, and moves closer to the Warhammer tradition - there's definitely more war in this story. In the meantime, A Massacre in Marienburg remains in print and can be found in book stores, unlike most of the tomes that preceded it.