I set the Thomas-and-Sandy mysteries in early 1960’s New York because, with the perspective of a generation, that time and place was particularly resonant and evocative for me. Turned out I wasn’t the only one. Fifteen years or so after Badger Game appeared, someone had the same thought and it turned into Mad Men. Too bad you can’t copyright a gut feeling.
Reviewers say that the Thomas-and-Sandy stories (like almost all of my crime fiction) are puzzle mysteries in the classic tradition. They’re right. Locked rooms, subtle clues, offbeat suspects and colorful characters all turn up. More fascinating than any locked room enigma for me, though, is the insoluble puzzle of human relationships. Thomas and Sandy have radically different backgrounds, mind-sets and emotional make-ups, but they happen to love each other and their different approaches to logic and judgment complement each other when they deal with the problem of good and evil presented by a murder.
In his famous essay “Murder is My Business,” Raymond Chandler dismissed puzzle mysteries as artificial confections that have nothing to do with the real world of criminal mayhem. Real murder, Chandler said with breathtaking eloquence, is the work of professional criminals on “mean streets,” and down those streets must go “men who are not themselves corrupt, who are neither tarnished nor afraid.”
Well, yes and no. Murder is actually the ultimate amateur crime, routinely committed by people who couldn’t knock over a 7-11 or hijack a truck filled with contraband to save their lives. It is committed not just on mean streets but on sunlit avenues lined with fashionable stores and in quaint, Greenwich Village byways. Down those streets go people who are tarnished and who are afraid – and who do it anyway. People like Thomas and Sandy.