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Forest Hills author spins mysteries 140 characters at a time

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A Forest Hills wordsmith is celebrating the launch of his third mystery novel as a Kindle eBook — but his fans may have seen it already if they follow him on Twitter.

Robert K. Blechman’s latest novel, “I Tweet, Therefore I Am,” is a laugh-out-loud whodunit that he originally posted in real-time tweets.It completes his hilarious and innovative “Twitstery Twilogy,” which the pioneer of the Twitter Fiction genre describes as “a cornucopia of puns, word play and comic misdirection, stuffed with ‘punny’ dialogue, clever character conditions, and a total lack of adherence to the old ‘rules’ of storytelli­ng.”

When Blechman got on board the Twitter train back in 2009, he wondered if there was an upside to the apparent limitations of communicating 140 characters at a time.

“I conceived a literary experiment: Was it possible to maintain a narrative structure and attract a reading public in Twitter?” Blechman recalled. “Then I coined a new term, ‘Twitstery,’ for the Twitter mystery genre and created a Twitter account, ‘RKBs Twitstery,’ as a container for my first detective novel, ultimately titled ‘Executive Severance.’”

For the sequels to that book, the linguistic alchemist said he decided to up his game. Starting on Jan. 14, 2013, he posted three tweets per day — at 9 a.m., noon, and 9 p.m., and continued tweeting until he finished the entire tale on March 5, 2016.

Since he nixed traditional storytelling, his audacious Twitter adventures seem to satisfy his growing audience’s hunger for the off-beat and macabre, the hilarious and the surreal.

Blechman’s fans couldn’t wait to get his fun, pithy tweets. Eventually, his account was overflowing with praise for his work, and fans were tweeting back that they wanted more. So he decided to repackage his tweets into a more convenient ebook form.

“I collected the hundreds of tweets, assigned them into chapters and decided to release them as two separate books,” he said.

His whodunits depict a continuum of mind-boggling exploits by his protagonist, who is the world’s only tweeting detective. The enigmatic Arkaby seems to channel Mickey Spillane and bits and pieces of other TV and movie detectives that the author likes.

“Unreliable narrator that he is, Arkaby tweets his experiences in real time. And the fact that he tells his story in tweets shapes his interpretation of the crimes he investigat­es,” Blechman noted. “He is a by-the-book procedural investigator so full of himself that he tweets every particular of his investigat­ion.”

In “Executive Severance,” Detective Arkaby attempts to solve the strange murder of millionaire biotech industrialist and bleeding-edge scientist Willum Mortimus Granger, whose dismembered body — perhaps a metaphor for the novel’s own disjointed format — he discovers in the opening tweet of the novel. Arkaby meets up with several Granger family members and associates, including his business partner “B” who only speaks in consonants; B’s mysterious brother, Mr. X; as well as Granger’s second wife Rachel Lehcar; and their attractive daughter, Regna “Regi” R. G. Granger, “both of whose names are palindromes,” according to Blechman.

In book two of the trilogy, “The Golden Parachute,” our unlucky, now-suspended detective is going through a rough patch, until one day Arkaby gets a spooky visit from the murdered Willum Granger (or his ghost?), offering big bucks to find his missing daughter, Regi — but only if Arkaby continues tweeting!

Traveling to the Caribbean, Arkaby finally locates the ravishing Regi, but also stumbles across the now-reassembled body of Willum Granger in a Caribbean medical school autopsy lab.

In book three, “I Tweet, Therefore I Am,” a new murder mystery unfolds after Arkaby and Regi return to the United States with her father’s body. It is up to them to solve this second murder and uncover the secrets of Granger’s cloning hospital, Body Parts R Us. One problem: Arkaby is the chief suspect in the murder.

The author said he began his mystery writing playing off the tropes of the tough detective genre.

“The hard-boiled detective who operates at the margins of society; the beautiful blond who becomes both his muse and his nemesis; various wealthy or well-positioned suspects who all apparently have reasons to kill; unlikely coincidences, duplicates and unexpected plot twists to keep the reader guessing,” he said.

Why a detective story? According to Blechman, the reader participates as co-author, simply because so much is left out of the narrative. “The detective novelist plants clues along the way, as well as false leads or ‘red herrings’ that draw the reader in to anticipate the solution to the mystery,” he explained. “Twitter is also intensely participatory and yet necessarily limited, and so it seemed a natural fit to adopt the detective genre as the driver for my story. Would my hero solve the crime? Would he undergo physical and mental trials? Would he get the girl?”

Blechman said that the through the spontaneity of writing with Twitter, he often discovered things he hadn’t anticipated.

“Sometimes, I would sit at my desk not knowing what to write next. I had a deadline to meet, but nothing was written too far in advance,” he said. “Often, I discovered ideas, wordplay and dialogue that I hadn’t intended when I started and didn’t know where it had come from. I found the discipline, the poetic constraints imposed by Twitter and by my own rigid schedule, forced me to be creative, to call out my own muse. Sometimes, the result was as much a revelation to me as I hope it will be for my readers.”

Updated 1:47 pm, February 2, 2017
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