My wife and I had some good friends over for dinner on Saturday. They asked me to tell them about my latest novel Sable Shadow and The Presence – as yet unpublished. I ran through a synopsis of the novel and explained the key messages. They listened attentively, and when I finished, Barbara said, “I’m glad it has a happy ending.”
I said, “Well, it’s not exactly a happy ending, but it did turn out a lot better than the key character might have expected.
“Barbara said, “It seems to be the fashion in fiction these days that every novel has to end in tragedy or at least in a down beat conclusion.”
I don’t know whether it’s true that fiction is in a depressed mode nowadays, but I know I couldn’t write a novel that ended badly for the characters. In the first place, literature is supposed to be thought-provoking and entertaining. For me, tragedies are not entertaining, and the only thoughts tragedies provoke are gloom and doom. So, I don’t do outright tragedy. Yes, bad things happen to some of the characters (sometimes as a result of their own doing), but I give them the chance to make at least a partial recovery. I think the average reader is more interested in the how and why of the recovery than s/he is in the tragedy itself. We all know that tragedies happen; what we’d like to know is how people recover from them. My view on writing about tragedy is probably influenced by my attitude toward life. I’ve had my share of hard knocks, but I’ve managed (with God’s help) to get past the knocks, and I think that most people can do the same. For example, a friend of mine referred me to a YouTube video of a man who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. He had been a very keen golfer. Now, he’s back playing what looks like very good golf standing on only one leg. It’s amazing that he can keep his balance while swinging his driver on one leg!
If I look back over my novels, Fishing in Foreign Seas could have ended very badly for Jamie, who is the lead character. He could have lost his wife and his job. He did lose the big order which he thought would make of break his career, but his wife forgave him, and his career was actually boosted by his efforts to win the order.
In Sin & Contrition, none of the six characters had their lives unfold as they had hoped and expected. But, when I interviewed each of them at the end, they all felt – to varying degrees – that the good aspects of their lives outweighed the bad.
Efraim’s Eye ended rather badly for Efraim, the terrorist, but, so far, no readers have really lamented this. Paul thought he would lose Sarah, the woman he intended to marry, but when he gave up Naomi, he was able to get Sarah back. Naomi gave up Paul and her job, but she got the kind of life she really wanted in Israel.
In The Iranian Scorpion, Robert was condemned to die by hanging is a prison in eastern Iran, but at the end we find him planning a trip to Dubai with his girlfriend.
I suppose I am what you might call an incorrigible optimist.