The serial has been an exciting experience for readers, TV-watchers and film-goers for decades. In recent years, however, the experience has been tougher to come by. Gone are lazy Saturday afternoons down at the Bijou wondering if your cowboy hero will save his best girl. The serial remains (albeit weakly and, more often than not, poorly done) on television, and to some extent writers are keeping the form alive. Since January, John Grisham has been publishing his latest work, “A Painted House,” in The Oxford American, issue to issue.
For 13 chapters this past May to August, the Mississippi Business Journal has been running “Magnolia in Bloom.” It’s entertained, as well as educated, our readers about the basics of starting a small business. We like to call it “eco dev lit,” which isn’t entirely accurate but is fun to say.
I don’t know if B.F. Gill, who penned “Magnolia in Bloom” for us, would care for our pigeonholing of his work, but we do it with affection and appreciation. And many of you are wondering, “Who is B.F. Gill anyway?” Great nom de plume.
We had a contest to see if anyone could guess Gill’s identity and one person did so: Karen Cummins of Southaven. She was the only reader who correctly guessed that B.F. Gill is, in fact, Phil Hardwick. Congratulations to Karen, who wins a one-year subscription to the MBJ.
So, there you go. Phil Hardwick, author of the Mississippi Mystery Series, also wrote “Magnolia in Bloom.” Here are a few thoughts from him on the project:
MISSISSIPPI BUSINESS JOURNAL: The obvious question first. Why did you use a pen name?
PHIL HARDWICK: I wanted readers to concentrate on the story rather than the writer. It was a bona fide serial novel in the tradition of serial novels because it was written as it was being published. If readers knew the identity of the author my writing would have probably been influenced in one way or another.
MBJ: Who knew it was you?
PH: The editor and publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal, as well as my immediate family.
MBJ: Why did you chose the pen name, B.F. Gill?
PH: In honor of my maternal grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Gill.
MBJ: Did anyone ask if you were B.F. Gill?
PH: Yes. There were four people who asked that. I just grinned and told them that if that were true it could mean a prize for them.
MBJ: How did this idea come about?
PH: I had been thinking about it for several years. There is an extra element of suspense to the serial novel. The reader must wait until the next installment to find out what happens.
Originally, I planned to submit the proposal to a daily newspaper, but since it was a about a business owner and since I already had a relationship with the Mississippi Business Journal it seemed logical to approach them. Joe Jones and Jim Laird thought it over and decided to give it a try. I hope the readers enjoyed it.
MBJ: Did you really write it as you went along?
PH: I submitted the first three chapters then wrote the fourth chapter when Chapter 1 was published. My goal was to stay three weeks ahead. By Chapter 8 I was writing on deadline each week. Now that’s suspense.
MBJ: You have written other fiction, haven’t you?
PH: Yes. I write a series of novellas about a private eye who investigates cases set in towns around the state. It’s known as the Mississippi Mystery Series. It’s published by Quail Ridge Press. There are seven books so far. Writing is my hobby and something that I do away from my real job as an economic developer.
MBJ: What’s your next writing project? Any more serial novels?
PH: Next is number 8 in the Mississippi Mysteries Series. It will be set in — well, that’s a mystery for now. I have no serial novels planned, but one never knows.
Phil will discuss the Mississippi Mysteries Series on “Conversations,” Sept. 8 at 8:30 p.m., on Mississippi ETV.
Jim Laird is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is email@example.com.