Those who know me a little better know that I wrote a novel about a film archivist working (where else) at the George Eastman House that gets involved in a murder investigation. It has been through a couple of revisions, but few have seen it because I haven't been completely satisfied with it.
Now I find out (from a non-mystery reading colleague, no less) that the legendary Loren D. Estleman has just released a novel called Frames, about a film archivist from UCLA that inadvertently gets involved in a murder investigation. This is the first novel in an anticipated series, but according to the webpage, the character has actually been around for a decade in short story form.
After I lifted my jaw off the floor, I surprised myself. If you had given this situation to me as a hypothetical, I imagine I would have told you that I would be furious, frustrated at having put all this work into something that someone better has put to page. But I wasn't. I was shocked to find that I was actually relieved. And excited.
I felt a pressure rise from my shoulders. I guess I always felt that a film archivist mystery was the book that I needed to write. No one else would write this book that I wanted to read. And I think that by trying to do that within some self-imposed restraints, the project became difficult for me and the quality suffered. Now I feel that if I never get that book published, at least someone else has done it. Estleman has, I hope, created the book that I want to read.
Not that he has created the book I want to write. But I will definitely read it and compare his idea of what a film archivist mystery should be to my own. It's possible that they're completely different. Although I'm sure his writing is much better.
In the meantime, though, I feel freed. I've been working on a secret project for a little while now. It's a big break from what I was writing before, but it's something I've been having fun with. If the other book gets re-examined a little later, that will be fine. But it doesn't have to be my first book anymore. I can do whatever I want.