Starting off on a completely new project is freeing for me. Harlen Coben once said that writing a series was like painting pictures in which part is already painted for you. Every successive novel fills in more of the painting for the next. Eventually there's not much more to be painted.
It makes writing the next book both easier and harder, in that you don't have to decide who the characters will be, you already know everything you need to about the setting, and the structure of the novel is going to be based on the previous ones. I have to admit that after four Will Anderson books, I need a fresh slate for the next book. While finishing Detroit Shuffle (out in the fall on St. Martin's Minotaur Books), I spent my "downtime" looking for the idea for the next project.
I found it in Chicago. The time frame will be very close to what I've been writing - somewhere between 1900 and 1912. The most famous gambler in the city at the time was a big man with a big personality. He made his bones betting on Jim Corbett to beat John L. Sullivan at 4-1 odds. He owned the most famous betting parlor in Chicago and rubbed shoulders with everyone from the worst dregs of organized crime to the highest stations in society and took bets from all of them. Every reform administration that came along made his saloon a target, and he fought them all off, making millions in the process. Still, when he died in 1925, his estate was worth only $10,000.
Best of all, he was Catherine O'Leary's son. Mrs. O'Leary, as you may recall, was the woman whose cow allegedly kicked over the lantern that started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Big Jim was only two then. He's a fascinating character and was surrounded by people more colorful than I could ever make up.
So ... back to the adventure!