The entire idea for Hardwick came at 5:30am a couple years ago.
I was out for a run on what was a very chilly morning. It was dark, and I lived on a quiet street. I could run for several minutes without seeing any evidence that anyone was awake or active. Sometimes it felt like I was running at 2am or something… just the glow of street lights and a few lights coming off of houses.
I always run with music or a podcast in my ears. It helps me take my mind off of things and zone out. Besides, the crippling silence of those early morning runs can make me feel uneasy.
Usually, when I go for an early morning run, there’s a point where the silence and calm is broken by a car that turns down the road in my direction. I can’t hear them coming. The headlights suddenly shine on me and I’m shaken, alert to the idea that there are other human beings that might be out and about this early.
Then, as my brain tends to do, I start thinking about something horrifying.
I imagine that someone could hit me with their car and keep driving, and nobody would see it. Or they could drive past and pump me full of bullets. I’d collapse on the side of the road. And it wouldn’t matter if they were life-threatening wounds or not, because if I can’t move and I lose blood fast enough, I’d be dead before anyone would notice.
Am I scared that this is going to happen? Not in the least. I still go for early morning runs.
But as you run, your mind continues to spin. And I’d start thinking about how terrible it would be if that happened to someone. Of course, if that happened to someone, they might have done something to deserve it… or they made an enemy of the wrong person.
Then, I thought, what if they victim couldn’t see who did it? He’d be running one moment, and then on the ground the next!
And here comes the big climax of the brainstorm…
Finally, I settled on an image of a runner who is gunned down on the side of the road during an early morning run. His body is lying in a heap on the cold concrete, and he is shivering from the cold as the life starts leaving his body… and he smiles.
That image is what launched Hardwick.
Because suddenly, I was fascinated. This guy is not surprised that he was shot down like that. And he’s smiling because – even though he was shot in the back and never saw it coming – he knows exactly who did it and why.
As I ran, I kept replaying that scene over and over again. My mind started to roll through different possibilities… different suspects… and so on.
I never wrote that story, exactly.
My second episode, Domestic Affairs, from Season 1, loosely comes from that setup. But I never wrote it the way I thought of it.
Maybe I will someday, but that’s not the point.
The point is this: I was never fascinated with the death itself. But in the little details of that particular death scene, I became enraptured with the story. I didn’t care so much about how he was bleeding out, or the position of his body as he fell, or any of that other gruesome stuff that so many murder/thriller authors are obsessed with.
I wanted to know why.
Since that day, I’ve started with the death scene in each of my books. I don’t come up with the scariest or the darkest mysteries. But I do my best to come up with a cool story behind each case.
Cool stories come from the details. And sometimes, the details can come from a simple activity, like an early morning run.