Steve Hockenmith on Life in the Slow Lane






That’s part of the reason I haven’t had a new book out in a few years. (The other reason: These days, I’ve found, editors respond even more slowly than I write.)

It took me a year to write my first novel, Holmes on the Range. Now, with twenty books under my bulging belt, I’ve gotten a little faster.

A novel the same length? About 85,000 words? Requiring lots of research and outlining? At my new, comparatively blistering rate, I could probably crank it out in . . . oh, let’s say eleven months, three weeks, six days, twenty-three hours, fifty-nine minutes. Give or take a minute.

I know I should write faster. How am I going to become the new James Patterson at this rate? That guy puts out three new books in the time it takes me to eat a Tootsie Pop. (In fairness, I eat Tootsie Pops slowly, too. I’m not one of those lunatics who cheat and bite it after three licks.)

Yet despite knowing that I need to develop the proverbial need for speed, I’m boldly going in reverse: I’ve embarked on my slowest, most drawn-out book project yet. Eleven months, three weeks, six days, twenty-three hours and some-odd minutes? Ha! That would be writing at warp speed compared to this. I don’t think I’m going to finish this book in less than a decade.

Which isn’t to say you’ll have to wait that long to read it. A chapter appeared in AHMM two years ago under the title “The Last Noel.” Another appeared in AHMM last year as “Do Not Open Till Christmas.” And now a third—“The Grown-Ups Table”—is appearing in the magazine, as well.

All three take place in River City, Indiana, in the days leading up to the same Christmas. And I guess it’s one messed-up Christmas, because I’ve written another crime story about it, as well. Hopefully it’ll pop up in AHMM one of these days . . . followed by a fifth River City Christmas story and a sixth and a seventh . . .

Ten should do the trick. Or maybe a dozen. That would have me finishing the book, at the earliest, in 2032.

Maybe by then we’ll all have holographic wreaths and sentient A.I. trees that decorate themselves. I leave it to someone writing for Asimov’s or Analog to explore that. Me—I’ll be writing about Christmas crime for Alfred Hitchcock . . . for a very long time.

Steve Hockensmith is the author of the Holmes on the Range mysteries, the Tarot Mystery series and a variety of other novels and collections. You can learn more about him (and how he’s managed to write so much despite being sooooooooo slow) at


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5 responses to “Steve Hockenmith on Life in the Slow Lane

  1. I’ll look forward to this! And to the adventures along the way!

  2. Love the Tootsie Pop reference! And you know I love your Christmas stories. Looking forward to more.

  3. Thanks, friends — hope your holiday seasons are off to great starts (and that you’re both writing much, much faster than me)!

  4. I just read “The Grown-Ups Table.” Very good. I loved the reason Cryptique drank coffee.

  5. Nice job, Steve. Love the characters, plus the format makes for fun speculation as to the furure.

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