I Imagined Nancy Drew Married to One of the Hardy Boys (50 years later).
If you picture a mature Nancy Drew married to one of the Hardy Boys for decades, then you will have a mental image of the Sleuthing Silvers, a fictional Baby Boomer detective couple.
Barb and Bernie Silver specialize in cases, as their motto states, “where age is an edge.” For example, in their first investigation—“The Mystery of the Missing Reading Glasses”—they went undercover at a retirement facility plagued with a deadly opioid problem. I have now authored 11 short stories featuring the Silvers, a second career I started at age 74.
The seeds for this new beginning took root when I was a Fellow at Stanford University‘s Distinguished Careers Institute in 2016. At that point I had been a trial lawyer for over 40 years. Supplementary education for a life change is one of the attractions of the Stanford program.
A literature class I took on the development of the mystery genre examined works ranging from Sherlock Holmes to modern police procedurals. The class began with what was arguably the first mystery novel, The Moonstone, written in 1868 by Wilkie Collins. Like many television shows today, that novel was serialized into episodes eagerly awaited by the reading public.
I wanted my second career to be unrelated to the first, so that I could bring to it a fresh approach. That newness has worked well, because I feel the same excitement about being a mystery writer that I felt when I was a young lawyer.
Because I was a total unknown as a mystery writer, I needed to seek out a new angle for my protagonists. Writing about a detective who was a retired policeman with an alcohol problem was not going to set me apart. I knew of no Baby Boomer detective couples, however, so that field was wide open.
My thought was that Baby Boomers would enjoy seeing themselves as the heroes of the stories, because older heroes are rare in contemporary movies and books. Judging from reader feedback that I have received from Sleuthing Silvers followers on Facebook, the Baby Boomer hero idea has worked.
Frequent reader feedback is a positive result of publishing online rather than in a print publication. I originally thought that I should seek publication in mystery magazines, but my kids convinced me that reaching people was far more likely online than in print. That has proved to be the case: in less than two years, I have been able to build an audience of over 3000 followers by providing the stories free of charge on the website www.thesleuthingsilvers.com.
The stories consist mainly of dialogue, and they have fast-moving plots, well-suited for television. Converting the stories into a series of 30-minute episodes on a streaming service is my ultimate objective.
However, I am not looking for yet a third career as a screenwriter. Instead, I am working with two much younger writers who have the skill and experience to write a TV pilot.
Working with these younger screenwriters has had another benefit: they have inspired me to bring into the Sleuthing Silvers stories the element of intergenerational cooperation. Several of the stories involve crimes in the world of art, for example, and, for those investigations, the Silvers have teamed up with a younger art history professor at Stanford.
That team has worked effectively, but not without some intergenerational tension. For example, when the art professor thinks he is complimenting Bernie Silver for being spry, Bernie complains that “spry” is a microaggression, not a way the younger man would describe one of his peers. Notwithstanding such occasional bickering, the intergenerational angle has proved popular with readers, and has added younger readers to my target demographic .
Indeed, the intergenerational angle has worked so well that Barb and Bernie have discussed adopting a new motto, “Intergenerational Ingenuity.” The popularity of shows like Breaking Bad and Only Murders in the Building demonstrates that audiences like to see cooperation between characters of widely differing generations. The Sleuthing Silvers look forward to handling many more cases with characters of all ages.
Ron Katz was a trial lawyer for more than 40 years before he started writing mystery stories. A Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of the Harvard Law School, he was a Fellow at Stanford University’s Distinguished Careers Institute in 2016. Here’s a recent NBC interview with him about the Sleuthing Silvers.