Mannix, McGarrett, McMillan, and More

In 2013, my system of nonfiction writing and editing fell apart. Thirty years of operating doctrine were suddenly called into question. As part of that, a client or two had shown up favoring book approaches that depart from the think-tank and governmental-analytic modes.

And yet -- I still believe that Reality, quote-unquote, needs to be conveyed in all its complexity and contradictions. Books with a few hundred footnotes bolster credibility. This website will continue to celebrate authors and methods that embody a search for truth while they avoid one-dimensional treatments.

In a society of dwindling attention spans, tiny screens, and micro-jitters, context and complexity would seem to be more precious than ever. But do you imagine that a whole landscape, or a sequenced saga, can be conveyed with the tools -- fact sheets, zap-texting, power-points, Twitter feeds, 15-second video intrusions -- relied upon by business operatives?

When you force-feed a plate of information quickly, or break a whole into 30 pieces over a week’s time, you are typically working against context and wisdom. Claiming an audience, even one a writer thinks he or she knows, by accumulating “likes” and sprinkling birdseed is likely to fall short. You’ll learn more from five lunches and five phone conversations, using a mix of long-time colleagues and new contacts that judge the draft chapters less than stellar.

Meanwhile, the book needs to be assembled. What to do? How do we avoid the pressure to collapse our scope and narrative? How can a whole story be told -- via nonfiction print book, e-book, or calm and cool website with connected chapters and essays -- in ways that both attract and hold your audience? Obsessed with that inquiry, and also needing a fresh design for a modern history project, I went to where tens of millions of Americans are still paying attention.

Accurately Dramatized?

From May 2013 to November 2014, I absorbed between 500 and 600 detective radio and television episodes. Starting with Sherlock Holmes, I spent time only with fictional characters that have endured for decades (leaving out all but one newcomer since 1980).

Rather than read the Conan Doyle originals, I stuck with the video versions of Messrs. Holmes and Watson, Lestrade and Moriarty. A few other novels -- by Charles Dickens, and by Laurie R. King, who 20 years ago helped Sherlock Holmes find married contentment with detective Mary Russell -- were accessed in audiobook form.

I come out the other side of Suspense Radio and crime-drama DVD-land urging the diligent nonfiction writer to zero in on four things: CHARACTERS, DIALOGUE, PACING and PLOT. Complexity and contradictions can be "accurately dramatized" after you get to know some mix of Malden, Mannix, Marlowe, Marvin, Mary (Russell), McGarrett, McMahon, McMillan -- along with greats whose actual or character monikers don’t start with an M.

No, I’m not out to become another Ed McBain or Leonard Freeman (it’s way too late for that). I remain a nonfiction book editor. I still gravitate toward writers who are searching for evolving truths in a documentable way. If you are writing a novel, Gregorsky is too real-world to be your editor.

All the same, this website begins its second decade by bringing in crime fiction principles and classic media in ways I never thought plausible. The experiment will run until 2017, and longer if clients and collaborators buy in. That’s why you shouldn’t expect a page or two of "tips." More like Trips -- because we can't travel from the realms of Reality, all the way to Escapism, and back again, several times, without doing a lot of literary rending, blending, and up-ending.

So what’s on tap? A new series -- not TV, just text -- showing two mostly fictional characters in an intense exchange. This exchange constructively clashes the surreal and escapist realms of the Scriptwriter (TSW) with the documented-trends devotion of the globally aware Futurist (FTR).

www.ExactingEditor.com/Detective-Nonfiction.html

We nonfiction types never get to use it, but here's the disclaimer: "Any relation between my two characters and any real person, alive or dead, is meant benignly." As composites, "TSW" and "FTR" aren't even initials, but professional codes. Every other item in their dialogue -- including economic events, media products, and the quotes from an e-mail and Business Week -- is real. I serve as choreographer and transcriber, and am not fictional.

Also see -- www.ExactingEditor.com/Detectives-Part-One.pdf


-- Frank Gregorsky, November 2014