“The Black Fedora” was one of those ideas which came about in the most unusual and unexpected situations, handed to me on a plate as the saying goes.
I had been invited to a wedding in a small Welsh town back in 1990. The church was crowded but one of the congregation immediately attracted my attention, a chap in his twenties, dressed in black from the tip of a wide brimmed fedora down to his boots. Unbelievably a cigarette dangled from his mouth! Before the service started the vicar came down the aisle and asked him to remove his headgear and sternly told him that smoking was forbidden in church. I discovered later that the “cigarette” was just a slip of rolled up paper!
Later at the reception I made a point of singling out this black clad guy. The fedora was back on his head and the imitation cigarette in his mouth. I had already designated him as a character for a book but had no idea in what role nor a plot. His name was Martin and he was absolutely delighted at my idea. In fact, he insisted on loaning me his fedora for an unspecified length of time.
So I worked on a plot and “The Black Fedora” was published by Sphere in 1991. It was highly successful and was reprinted in the same year.
However, there was a real life sequel about a year later. I was invited to take part in a stage show in Llanidloes, Powys, a mixture of various unrelated portrayals. They wanted me to act the part of the “Man in the Black Fedora.” Martin was behind this idea and he wanted his hat back in the most dramatic fashion. As I stepped on stage he appeared with a pistol in his hand, demanding the return of his headgear. I handed it over and then, from out of the small audience, another black fedora whizzed and landed at my feet amidst cheers from those watching. This time the hat was mine for keeps, the drama arranged by Martin unknown to myself. What a night!
This novel is a mixture of crime, mystery and horror. One of my favourite characters was born and next month we shall look at its sequel.