Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bristol 2009: Natural Born Shillers?

I was a bit ambivalent about the Bristol Crime Fest this year, I have to say. On the one hand, it’s always terrific to meet up with people you only see once or twice a year, if you’re lucky, some of whom dandered out for a bite to eat on Friday night (L to R: award-winning blogger Peter Rozovsky (sans beard), Vincent Holland-Keen, Donna Moore, Ewan (aka Donna Moore’s other half), Cara Black, Chris Ewan, Rafe McGregor, and Your Humble Host). A good night was had by all, although some appetites were rather ruined by Ewan’s mention of Donna’s party piece, which she was gracious enough not to showcase …
  On the other hand, events / conventions aren’t really about the business of writing, but much more about the business of marketing. I shouldn’t really grouse about that fact, given that I was privileged enough to be asked to sit on two panels, one of which took place on Friday and was moderated by Donna Moore, alongside Chris Ewan, Steve Mosby and Kevin Wignall. The panel went well enough, in that none of the panellists were chucked out any windows for boring the audience to tears, although I did find myself explaining why, exactly, I’d hijacked a mini-bus at the age of 15. Gosh, you get a bad rap and The Man never lets you forget it …
  But I only attended one panel I wasn’t involved with all weekend, and that for about 20 minutes, and that only because I got caught up in Ali Karim’s gravitational pull and he was already headed that way. The panellists were all interesting people, and two of them had published novels set in Greece (Paul Johnston and Anne Zouroudi), which is something I have a personal interest in, given that I’ve been working on-and-off on a novel set on Crete for the last five or six years, but … well, I don’t know. It’s hard to feel that you’re not really discovering anything you wouldn’t from reading between the lines of a back-page biog, I suppose … which isn’t to criticise the writers, because all the panellists I saw were pro-active and engaging. Maybe it’s just the case that writers talking about writing just isn’t very interesting, much in the same way as porn stars talking about sex isn’t very interesting. Or so I imagine …
  By the same token, and maybe it’s just that the dry sherries were in, the various conversations on Friday night were much more fun.
I had a particularly good one with Steve Mosby and Ali Karim (right) about a whole range of subjects – which is to say, of course, that Ali talked while Steve and I nodded occasionally. Still, there was a couple of fascinating topics, not least of which is the new demand in the US for companies which will maintain your on-line persona after your death, updating your Facebook, emailing your buddies, and even keeping your game-playing avatar hale and hearty while you sleep the big sleep. Perverse? Yes. Pointless? Yes. Chunky material for a Phil Dick-style book? Most certainly.
  Anyway, Friday was a good day, given that I bumped into Karen Meek and Norm Rushdie, and Dec Hughes and Brian McGilloway, and Ruth Dudley Edwards, and Maxim Jakubowski and Paul Johnston, and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours bitching about the publishing industry with Rafe McGregor, gentleman that he is. All of which went some way to off-setting the embarrassment I should have been feeling at attending Crime Fest with no book other than THE BIG O to promote, which was first published two years ago, and – technically speaking – has never been published in the UK. For shame, etc …
  Which brings me back to the whole being-marketed-at issue. Would I have been happier with the weekend if I’d had a book to market? Not really. And I should say that I’m not dissing Crime Fest here, because I think it’s a terrific experience, and brilliantly run, and I’ll be back again next year to hook up with like-minded folk. But, to be honest – and I’m probably shooting myself in the foot here – the whole issue of selling / marketing books is simply a necessary evil that follows on from the privilege of being published in the first place. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d imagine most writers would much prefer to live in splendid isolation, tossing a manuscript over the wall of their mansion every year or so to a waiting editor, leaving the whole business of promotion and generalised shilling to people who are trained and / or have a vocation for the selling side of things.
  Hey, maybe there’s a market for a company that could maintain an electronic avatar-style version of writers, 3-D simulations who go on the circuit and promote the books, while the real writer stays home and writes. Any takers?