Last week I went on a business trip to Jersey (one of the Channel Islands) and while I was there I finally met – in person rather than via email, blog comments, Twitter and so on – my lovely beta reader Roy. I can’t remember now quite how it all started, but when I was writing “The Man in the Canary Waistcoat” (the second Sam book), I talked about needing someone with a fresh eye to read the first complete draft for plot inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Roy – being a writer himself – stepped up to the plate and did a sterling job. More fool him, because of course I went back to him with the third book – “Worm in the Blossom” – and he did even better this time, spotting all sorts of problems and weaknesses. “Worm” would not be half as good without Roy. But one suggestion he made that I did not take much heed of at the time is that Sam is just too good: every hunch he has is proved right, every lead he follows goes well. And when we met last week, Roy laughingly reminded me of that.
As a result, the idea that Sam might be too perfect has been on my mind this weekend, and something strange has happened. I’m so keen to make sure that he gets at least something wrong that in every scene I have tackled the poor chap is making an absolute pig’s ear of everything. He missed something that Wilson spotted, he’s on the trail of completely the wrong crime, and he’s annoyed Martha. I’ll leave him to stew for a couple of days and then see if I can get the balance a bit better between Sam the Perfect and Sam the Bacon-Brained (that’s lovely Regency slang for “foolish”).
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