Was this supposed to be the end?
That’s what a lot of people asked me when I originally released Bad Religion independently a few years ago.
When the story ends, I leave Nick in a precarious place, beholden to Nikolai Karpov. Elaine is fairly well damaged both physically and emotionally. Was there anywhere to go beyond that?
But Bad Religion was never about the end of Nick. one reviewer insisted this was a trilogy, something I never said. (I did say I had three books in the can when Northcoast Shakedown was originally published. That’s not the same thing.)
In reality, I had a series of about a dozen novels mapped out. I even knew about Nick’s last scene that gave him an ambiguous ending. He is severely wounded and tells the woman who eventually becomes Mrs. Kepler, “I got him.”
Alas, that never happened. I had an idea for Kepler #4 involving an abandoned amusement park. It involved a female friend whose husband commits suicide. I got four chapters into it and realized it was just another book where Nick sleeps with a client or a witness or Elaine (or all three.) I abandoned it.
Yet Nick demanded closure. Characters are funny like that. So I wrote Gypsy’s Kiss, a reworking of a short story I didn’t like very much. Yes, Gypsy, a call girl, wants to end her career with Nick as his last client. It’s clear from the get-go that she’s hoping Nick avails himself of her final trick, but she says, “Whatever you want.” Nick, having too much respect for a woman who took a bullet for him, tells her to make a bowl of popcorn and put on a movie. They’re going to have a good ol’ fashioned date night. It takes a violent left turn, but in the end, Gypsy provides Nick with the place I wanted to end the series.
And that was it. After a while, I took down the Kepler books and moved on.
Until she intervened. She is now my wife and gave me what-for for taking down the Kepler novels. She loved them. She wanted more. So now I’m writing an untitled Kepler novel taking place in the wake of Katrina. And she’s reading the chapters as they’re finished.
Also, interest in Holland Bay, the Wire-meets-87th Precinct novel I wrote years ago, prompted me to resurrect both the Jim Winter name and Nick Kepler. As Claybourne Press was already publishing the Compact Universe for me, I asked if they wanted Nick, too.
Gypsy’s Kiss will be rereleased as soon as TS Hottle‘s Homefront Arc is published. As that story originally did not have a paperback edition (It’s a very short novella.), I’ll be combining that with the short story collection formerly known as The Compleat Kepler.
This new Kepler will get shopped. Where, I don’t know yet. But Kepler is back. And there’s more to come.