by Chris Karlsen
Silk is a big departure from the historical romances I usually write. I never thought I'd want to write a story where the protagonist is a police officer. As a retired police detective, I never wanted to relive my career through my characters. That said, I do enjoy reading a good cop story. My favorite authors in the genre are Connelly, Sandford, and Wambaugh. I do have two books that are romantic thrillers. Those involve nautical archaeology and artifact smugglers. But I'd never done a true suspense/thriller.
Silk had an unusual origin for me. I had the idea for a killer in my head. I didn't want him to be a slasher brute of a killer but one more cunning. I used the Phantom of the Opera as general concept. I wasn't doing a tragic figure like Andrew Lloyd Webber's but a man who doesn't start out a killer or wanting to kill. But, he's a man capable of killing. I wanted to show his descent into madness.
|Silk by Chris Karlsen|
I started on the story and after a few weeks put it away in a drawer. I needed someone who possessed exceptional logic and perceptiveness to counter the killer's cunning. The story needed a protagonist capable and determined to overcome any obstacles to catch him. While writing Knight Blindness, one of my historical romances, Detective Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone came to me. He popped into my head with such a strong presence. I knew everything about him before I put one word on the page. It is rare (for me anyway) to have a character that powerful in my head from the beginning. Normally, they evolve into these crystal clear characters as I write.
William Everhard, the killer in Silk, is a man of wealth and influence, a man who is on friendly terms with Queen Victoria. Both Bloodstone and Everhard had to be equally interesting in their own right and equal in intelligence for the cat and mouse aspect to work. Det. Bloodstone doesn't have Everhard's power or noble station. Instead, I made him a war hero. Where Everhard is friends with the queen, Bloodstone is the recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest medal a soldier could receive. It was, and is, the equivalent of the Medal of Honor. Named for Victoria, the queen awarded it for 'Extreme valour in the face of the enemy.' Whereas Everhard is an arrogant man, Bloodstone is a humbler man. He doesn't view himself as a hero. To him, he was simply doing what was necessary in time of battle. Where the wealthy Everhard is elegant and a man who always presents himself as a noble, Bloodstone is a rough around the edges type of man. He's a man who won't look for a fight but won't walk away from a challenge either.
To play off Everhard's deceptive nature, I wanted the reader to walk the crime scenes with Bloodstone to see what he keys on and have a sense of his analytical thought process.
I used both men's POVs. I wanted the reader to get insight into what motivated the two men and also see how they viewed the world around them. To me, it was important to give each a life with friends, associates, likes and dislikes. Characters don't live in a vacuum so fleshing them out in this way IMO is important to this story and to thrillers in general.
To me the best thrillers are those where the protagonist and antagonist are well matched. Professor Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes or Auric Goldfinger and James Bond are perfect examples of worthy opponents. The reader is also given access to the personal lives they lead.
Excerpt of Silk:
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He wrapped an end in each hand and pulled. His fingers crept up the silk and he tugged a bit harder still. The material pressed deeper into the flesh of her neck. Bright pink dotted her cheeks and radiated down to her jaw. The veins in her temples popped out and pulsed in time to her heartbeat. She moaned, pushed her hips upward and writhed against him. Her soft pubic hair tickled his testicles. Isabeau’s unsubtle way of letting him know she wanted him inside her. He obliged.
Her hands encircled his wrists. She tugged hard outward, harder than usual. A choked sigh escaped her. He paid no attention. This was standard. Isabeau always insisted he maintain pressure until she signaled for him to release his hold. In the past, when she reached the edge of consciousness, she’d beat along his upper arms. This time she thrashed her head back and forth, something he hadn’t seen before. Her eyes bulged in an unattractive way and she clawed at him. Her nails gouged the skin on his hands, drawing blood.
She hurt him and he wanted to slap her. He almost let go of one end of the scarf to do that. Instead, he pulled tighter. Isabeau tried to insert her fingers into the spot where the material crossed over. Her mouth opened and shut, soundless and fishlike. She swatted at the mattress wildly. Red-faced to the point of being near purple, she bucked beneath him.
She fired his blood with her lack of inhibition. Never had she responded with such intensity. Raw power surged through him, primitive, animalistic. He pumped hard. Ready to climax, William clenched his fists, twisting the scarf one last turn. Odd, feathery touches tapped his biceps, feminine and subtle grazes, and then she went limp. Spent, he released his hold and collapsed on top of her, his heart pounding while he caught his breath.
Isabeau didn’t move and her head stayed turned to the side. She hadn’t cried out the way she normally did when sated. Perhaps she was disappointed with his effort. He gave the thought a mental shrug. At the end of the day, it really didn’t matter. He’d arrange for her departure first thing in the morning.
William rolled over and slung a sweaty arm over his eyes. He tried to decide which was worse, telling her tonight the affair was over or waiting until morning. The idea of doing it after such a rambunctious sexual endeavor seemed bad form, but he wanted to get it over with. He turned onto his side, prepared for histrionics, caterwauling, great tears and verbal abuse.
“Isabeau, look at me. I’ve come to a decision and it will likely distress you.” Nothing. She didn’t stir.
He shook her by the arm. Still no response. William let go and her arm dropped listless to the mattress. He raised her arm again and let go. Again, it fell listless. He straddled her and patted her cheeks. Nothing. Her head twisted without resistance first right then left depending on the direction of his pat. He slapped her harder. Nothing. Vacant eyes stared fixed on the ceiling. He bent an ear to her chest. Nothing. William leapt from the bed, snatched a silver mirror from the dressing table, and held it under her nose. Nothing.
William hurled the mirror against the wall. He raged and paced along the side of the bed. “I will not allow you to make my life a nightmare. This was your doing. I told you to leave me alone.”