Created by William J. Reynolds
At last! The wait is over! Omaha, Nebraska finally has its own private eye! All you protesters can go home. Sorry about the pepper spray.
Actually, the aptly-named NEBRASKA is a former P.I./wannabe writer named Nebraska, who came out of retirement to solve the murder of his ex-partner. Now he does some "private-eying" to pay the bills, while working on his version of The Great American Novel (which he often refers to, rather sardonically as just "THE BOOK") or when he's not trying to figure out his relationships with various women.
There's his estranged wife, Jennifer. They're separated, but they have what they call an "understanding." Then there's his girlfriend, Koosje VanderBeek, who is a psychologist. And there's OPD cop Kim Banner whom Reynolds had originally envisioned as the romantic interest.
But that's the way things go. In fact, when he wrote the first book, The Nebraska Quotient, Reynolds cheerfully admits he wasn't planning on a series. He was content with "having a little fun with the PI genre--borderline parody, I sometimes call it--and so I did things I probably wouldn't have done if I'd thought I'd be writing Nebraska books and stories ten years later. Like name him Nebraska. Like get rid of a supporting character that I really liked. Like give Nebraska a backstory that is sometimes difficult to cling to. And so on."
Still, for all his defense, this isn't a bad series at all.
Nebraska is an engaging, and affable character, a decent, down-to-earth
kinda guy, and the setting is definitely fresh.
The truth is, Reynolds was a real contender, an up-and-coming
detective novelist in the 1980s, but he was dropped by his publisher
when his sales didn't quite meet their expectations (see below).
The Omaha native, who currently resides in Sioux Falls, South
Dakota, holds a B.A. in political science from Creighton University
in Nebraska, and has worked as managing editor of The Ambassador
magazine and as the creative director of a Sioux Falls, South
Dakota advertising agency.
FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH
- "When I finished the sixth Nebraska book, Drive-By,
I had the dickens of a time getting it published. Putnam expressed
'disappointment' with sales of my previous book, and we failed
to come to terms...My agent and I were dismayed when Putnam charged
$21.95 for The Naked Eye -- pretty spendy in 1990 -- and I believe
that had a lot to do with "disappointing' sales".
"We showed Drive-By to virtually every publisher
in the game, and heard multiple variations of one theme: Love
the series, love the book, would love to publish it, but won't.
Several editors said P.I. novels were in decline, contrary to
what most booksellers said. One opined that, since most mystery
readers are women, books by women are all they want. (I still
haven't figured out whether that's more insulting to women or
"During this time, I had lunch with a friend who is a successful
publisher of regional non-fiction books. I joked that I should
hire him as a consultant and publish Drive-By myself; he called
a few days later with an offer for the book. Seems he had for
some time been interested in doing fiction, and expanding beyond
the upper Midwest region. It appeared, at last, in 1995, published
by Ex Machina.
"One of the nicer things about working with a small press
is that your book stays alive longer; with the majors, it's as
good as dead within six months. Ex Machina markets and sells
Drive-By even unto this day, but since the distribution was not
all it might have been, some people don't realize there is a
sixth Nebraska book.
"Please note that (I) was not completely indolent during
this spell, though I did pull away from the genre, except for
some short stories...I taught at a technical school. I consulted
on some local political campaigns. I wrote a software manual,
magazine articles and advertising copy, plus some non-fiction
books, the latest of which is coming through the pipe as we speak.
"Now it seems there might be new life for the Nebraska books:
An electronic publisher has expressed interest in issuing the
six books on disk. I've been busy the past few weeks preparing
the manuscripts. Once that's off the plate, I intend to return
to a novel I'd started before getting involved in my latest non-fiction
project. It's a mystery, though not a Nebraska -- and since I
dislike discussing works in progress, I'll clam up about it now.
"Will there be more Nebraskas? Who knows? Never say never,
and so on. It is, in the end, as much a mystery to me as to you."
(William J. Reynolds)
- "The Two-Ninety-Nine Alibi (February 1986, AHMM)
- "Guilt Enough to Go Around" (September 1986, AHMM)
- "The Lost Boys" (1994, The Mysterious West)
- "Schuld genug für alle" June 1987, Alfred Hitchcocks Kriminalmagazin,)
- William J. Reynolds
Page dedicated to Reynolds on the Creighton University/Nebraska Center for Writers.
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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