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Story Behind the Story #58: Murder at Midnight

Murder at MidnightIf you are going to write a series, here is my advice: Love your protagonists. Without that affection it’s hard to engage with such novels. But the characters from the previously published Midnight Magic held that affection for me. It is 1490, in Italy. On one hand you have the elderly philosopher, Mangus, who hides his radical rationalist thinking (this is the Renaissance, after all) behind the notion that he is a magician. What he really does is tricks. Then you have his youthful apprentice, Fabrizio, who is very superstitious, and wants very much to believe in magic. What he really does is get into trouble. Together they proved a pair of engaging sleuths. It was a pleasure to write about them.

Midnight MagicInto the mix, besides the plot to overthrow King Claudio, is the new invention of multiple type printing. In the day, there were those who considered printing diabolical. Indeed, the term, “Printer’s Devil,” is a holdover from those days. And what is a printer’s devil? My dictionary defines such a person as “typically a young boy, serving at or below the level of apprentice in a printing establishment.”

Fabrizio fits the bill.

Murder at Midnight, however, is a prequel to Midnight Magic. When I wrote Midnight Magic I had no idea I was going to write such a tale. The tricky part about writing a prequel is to make sure nothing contradicts what I’d already set down: age, appearance, certain relationships, etc. Going back in time is complex. Not so much set in stone, but set in print.

Naples, in Italy
Naples, in Italy

Strictly speaking these books are historical fiction, set in Italy (there was a geographic Italy then, but not a nation state). And it takes place in Pergamentio, a city which doesn’t exist at all, though it is somewhat like Naples. Nor are any of the characters based on real people.

In this sense I think of these books almost like musical comedies, with sets and costumes to create a mood, but with only a causal relationship to historical veracity. The intent was to compose something fun to write and fun to read.

I think I succeeded.

Venice, in Italy
Venice, in Italy

Indeed, I’ve liked these characters so much there are plans to bring this dynamic duo back. Last I heard, Mangus and Fabrizio were traveling to Venice to solve a crime. Now Venice is a very real placeā€”I once lived there. And I can tell you it’s truly, well, magical.

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