The Book: A Company of Rogues: a Michael Crandon Mystery-- Being the Misfortunes of a Retired Jewel Thief, a Young Con Artist, and a Romance Writer
That pretty much sums it up. Michael Crandon is a retired jewel thief living in 1930s London. He prefers to live a quiet life, having given up thieving after a heist went horribly wrong, and wants nothing more than to lie low, drink tea, knit, and go about his business--consulting for other thieves who need advice. Until one day, an old 'friend' shows up on his doorstep saying that the emerald necklace Michael had tried and failed to steal five years before has been taken, and his old enemy who worked with him on the original heist, thinks he took it and is out for Michael's blood. If that's not bad enough, young Will Reilly, a budding con artist, shows up at Michael's flat on the run from the same man who after him. Michael's quiet existence is shattered beyond repair, and he's forced to do something about it before he can go back to the life he had come to enjoy. So he decides (with much grumbling) to enlist the help of Reilly, his Russian friend, Victor, and Justine Aberline, a romance writer and Michael's sweetheart, to find the necklace before his enemies can catch him.
So, yes, I'm writing another mystery novel, but it is totally different from Anthony Maxwell. In fact, Michael is probably the polar opposite of Anthony in every aspect, which is what makes writing him after Anthony so fun. I've wanted to write a story about a jewel thief for a while--little did a know, that a jewel thief like Michael Crandon would cross my mind however. I had in mind that dashing rogue, but Michael is the cautious homebody, who never takes unnecessary risks, and might even come across as a coward on occasion.
I'm not really sure if I would consider this story a Noir, it doesn't have all the components of the actual genre Noir, but it's got the reluctant/antihero (for Michael is very much that) and the kind of underlying feel of dreariness, along with the theme of human feelings/condition. However, Michael's narration has a definitely sarcastic and witty undertone. It's definitely more of a character driven mystery than "A Case of Poisons" which was a plot driven mystery. There's a lot of realization and soul searching in Michael's story, and will be much more as the series progresses. There's underlying themes of insecurity and trying to come to terms with yourself. There's also the typical storylines I love to write about such as friendship, true love born of a natural easiness between Michael and Justine (as in, they KNOW they will always love each other, and don't worry about that at all) and of course father-son angst and fluff as well.
Michael is the protagonist and narrator of the story. He's an ex-jewel thief, and now consults for other thieves for a price to make his living. When he's not consulting, he's enjoying a good cup of tea or knitting, which relaxes him.
Reilly is a young budding con artist (though he's not very good) who got on the wrong side of Michael's old enemy, Randall, and was forced to seek help from Michael who he had heard offered thieves advice. Michael's not sure what to think of the young man, but Reilly tries his best to get into his good graces.
Justine is Michael's sweetheart, having met him while researching for one of her novels. She's also a romance writer under the pen name 'Phyllis Paperwhite'. She often helps Michael fix his problems, and enjoys random forays out onto the streets in disguise.
Randall is Michael's old enemy, having been the man who ruined the original heist of the emerald necklace and thus forced Michael into an early retirement. He's a rich London celebrity whose random fits of rage are the only thing that betray the evilness under the rich playboy exterior.
Dowd is a corrupt Scotland Yard inspector who nearly tracked down Michael's involvement in the first heist, but without any proof, could not convict him. In possession of a sadistic mind (and toadies who are just as bad) he enjoys tormenting Michael in the hopes he'll catch him at doing something illegal.
And now for a special treat, I'm going to share with you the first chapter! Please note that this is still in it's first draft stage, so content is subject to change. If you see any typos or have any suggestions, let me know! I'd like to get some feedback.
In which an “old friend” comes to visit
I hate it when old friends are presumptuous enough to come visit. Especially when the visit consists of more of a plea for help than a social call and the old friend never was a friend to begin with. There are so few people from my past that I would actually consider friends that I can’t even remember them. But that morning someone who considered himself my friend—despite any denial on my part—made himself present at my door as I was having my tea and toast which is a sacrament in itself. But that was where this all started, and what led me to eventually take up a pen and write this chronicle at the bidding of a writer I know. I do not presume to be as good a wordsmith as that certain lady writer who holds my heart, but I have found it hard ever to say nay to anything she told me. Perhaps my only weakness at the end of the day.
But my writing endeavours are not important. What was, was that I was interrupted in my morning tea when I had just taken up the paper to read by a knock on my door. It firmly stated on the plaque outside my door that my hours of operation were 11 AM to 5 PM and usually my clients paid attention to that, due to my occupation, perhaps; however old friends don’t think they need to follow hours of operation when visiting apparently, even when turning up at my office. The fact that it was also my residence was irrelevant.
I got up anyway, looking at my watch and griping that it was only 8:30 but opened the door anyway, for money was money and I was always short of it.
Little did I expect the face that presented itself to me, however. I was almost of a mind to shut the door again, but perhaps it was the utmost look of pleading on the man’s face that made me keep it open just enough to hear his tale of woe. I was an idiot because of that If I had known even a fraction of what would follow I would have shut the door and bolted it into the bargain.
“Michael Crandon,” he said, relief clearly showing in his expression and the relaxing of his figure as he saw me. “I feared you had moved on, it was only luck that I heard you were living in this flat now.”
No luck of mine. “Frank Hobbles,” I stated in return, looking him up and down. “I didn’t think to see you again.” I took my old acquaintance in with the practiced eye of one who can take in details quickly. He was fatter than when I had last seen him, though he had never had my slim frame even then, and he had the look of a man who was harried mercilessly on normal occasion, and I had a feeling it was not from a demanding wife. I took a guess he was working as a clerk or secretary—which ink stains on his cuffs also indicated—for a particularly odious personage. Even now he was looking over his shoulder as if he expected someone to be following him. He clutched his hat in both hands and was wringing it nearly out of shape.
“Might I come in, Michael?” he asked, pleading creeping into his voice ever so slightly. I did my best to ignore that. I knew exactly what happened when one’s old acquaintances stop by to visit. But as I said, money was short, and he looked like he would be willing to pay the price for my services. Thrice, perhaps, if I was feeling particularly surly after the chat.
“All right,” I told him.
“Oh, thank you, Michael!” he said, another flush of relief washing over him, but I stopped him before he could come in the door, holding up a hand.
“It’s five pounds at the door for consulting fee,” I told him firmly.
“But surely, an old friend…” he began.
“It’s for my tea budget,” I told him. “If I can afford nothing else, I at least like to keep a stock of tea. That and knitting relax me.”
“You’ve changed since the old days,” Hobbles said as he grudgingly fished for a wallet and handed me my five pounds before I let him in the door and closed it behind him.
“You haven’t,” I muttered as I led him into the kitchen where my tea was cooling. I resumed my seat to finish my breakfast as we talked. I didn’t bother to offer him tea, though he poured himself a cup anyway, much to my chagrin. I had a bit of comfort knowing it was cold by now, however.
“I do apologize for coming here,” Hobbles said. I decided to give him that. “It was just that I had no where else to turn and my news will mean as much to you as to me. And when I heard you consulted now, I thought you might be able to help me.”
I suppose I should introduce the reader to my profession, if one could actually call it that. I was a retired jewel thief, and I was quite good in the day. So good, in fact, that other thieves wanted me to help them on heists. This is what got me into trouble in the first place, but I’ll explain more about that later. In short, there was an accident, everything went wrong, and I retired to live a quiet life away from authorities who thought me responsible for crimes I didn’t commit. I would have been content living my life thusly, settling down with a good woman—I had one in mind—but I couldn’t get a respectable job with my past, and I was living on the streets. That was when I started my side job. A lot of thieves knew my notoriety and they would seek me out for advice on their heists. I began charging, and within the course of a year, I had become a criminal consultant—an occupation of my own making—and a well known one at that, being, safely, the only one. I became so well known that I had made a tidy enough sum to rent my flat which was an awful shabby place, but it was clean and it was my home, and the landlord didn’t ask any questions as long as I got my rent to him on time. It was a good job, something I knew how to do with confidence, and usually kept me as a neutral party which was perhaps even more important.
However, I knew that blessing was not likely to continue when Hobbles had to open his gob again and explain why he was here, blurting it out all in one go as he always had when trying to get something important across.
“Charles Randall is back, and he’s out for your blood!”
I like to say I am not a very excitable person, and I usually try to keep a very impassive, sardonic attitude toward life. I had learned to calm my nerves from my years of thievery, but this surpassed all my training and I spat tea over the table, with my surprise. Frank Hobbles wiped some from his face with his handkerchief, that flustered clerk look on his face again, as he glanced across the table at me as if I would spring up at him. Likely to his disappointment, I was done with my outburst and poured myself another cup of tea.
“When and why?” was all I asked.
Hobbles reached over and took up the paper I had never gotten to read for his arrival. He unfolded it and presented the front page to me, the headline clearly obvious: __ EMERALD NECKLACE STOLEN! THIEF ON LOOSE IN LONDON!
“The necklace’s gone, Michael,” Hobbles said quietly as I took the paper and hurriedly read through the report. “It’s gone, and Randall thinks you stole it.”
I cursed, vehemently wishing that I had bolted the door in Frank Hobbles face as I well knew I should. But before the story can progress, the reader must first hear an explanation as to why this news caused so much trouble for me.
Also, I have released my formerly "secret" Pintrest board of Michael Crandon goodness, so you can now view that here and see all the awesome pics of the people I found who actually look a lot like my characters as well as other things from the book. I'll be posting more about Michael soon and will be writing a post about reluctant heroes as well in honor of him.
Pintrest board: http://pinterest.com/artfulscribbler/michael-crandon-co/