“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “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. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

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?

19 comments:

Donna said...

I agree with you on the whole marketing and promotion thing. I just can't do it. I don't even like being on panels - although it's made easier by being on there with lovely people like yourself. My main reason for going is because I get to spend time with people I now consider friends, who I only get to see once or twice a year. And it's lovely to meet new people who you know are going to become friends.

And thank you for your discretion on the party piece - although it would have been even more discreet NOT TO HAVE MENTIONED IT AT ALL! Ewan is a dead man.

bookwitch said...

Not that I was there, or anything, Declan, but you're wrong.

What is Mr Rozovsky doing sitting on my chair?

Donna, please tell us/me about it. Or maybe not?

Ali Karim said...

It was good seeing you Declan and Capt Mosby, that was worth the price of admission alone -

Keep up the good work, from one niche worker to another!

Ali

Stuart Neville said...

I'm regretting that I didn't go, even though the timing wouldn't have been right. Perhaps next year.

And shame on Peter Rozovsky for betraying the Cause of the Beard! Boo, Wilkinson Sword! Boo, Gillette! Viva la Whiskers!

Peter Rozovsky said...

I have to say it was a thrill to be part of Uriah Norman Rushdie's first public appearance since the lifting of the fatwa against him for squiring around so many beautiful women and making the ayatollahs jealous.

Donna's party piece? You mean the one where she— Oh, shit. You mean I wasn't supposed to mention that?

I respect Stuart Neville enough not to filch the ARC of The Twelve that I saw at No Alibis today, but I'm keeping the clean look. Unless Arlene Hunt tells me not to.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com

Peter Rozovsky said...

Maxim J.'s panel with you, Donna, Paul Johnston et al. touched on some intimidating but vital issues of technology and copyright protection. Maybe that's what writers ought to be talking about more at conventions, the sort of thing that would enhance the value of the discussion. Perhaps the organizers could consider such a panel next year. Perhaps you could chair it.

As for the group photo, I don't mind being seen without a beard, but viewers should know that despite the optical illusion created by my leaning forward and into the picture, I am not Quasimodo.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com

seanag said...

Judging by how the sexiest Irish crime writer contest is going, I think all anyone needs to know about marketing can be learned by figuring out how John Connolly is pulling his tremendous lead off...Maybe just by being the sexiest, but I don't think so.

Declan Burke said...

Peter - Maxim introduced me as an 'expert' on the internet and blogging and whatnot, which was gilding the lily quite a bit ... I'm just as fascinated and bewildered by it all as everyone else. I don't think I'll be chairing any panels on that class of a caper any time soon, although I appreciate the shout-out.

Cheers, Dec

Declan Burke said...

Erm, Seanag - at the risk of coming over (ooer, missus) all fifth-form, I have absolutely no interest in learning more about John Connolly "pulling off his tremendous lead" ... although tremendous I'm sure it is.

Seriously, though, you're right - John Connolly is brilliant at connecting with readers. It helps that he writes excellent novels, but he does seem to have a rare quality when it comes to communicating with a readership. He puts in the hours, gets on planes, goes out to meet people ... I particularly like his blog, and the way it pulls back the curtain to allow everyone to see his creative process at work ... For me it's a model that every writer should take a good long look at ...

Cheers, Dec

marco said...

And shame on Peter Rozovsky for betraying the Cause of the Beard! Peter,
you let us all down

Peter Rozovsky said...

Criminy! Yesterday I visited a bookshop kept by a guy who's completely bald, but does anyone say a word? No. But let me shave off one measly beard, and the naysayers and haters are out in full force.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com

Josephine Damian said...

I divide published authors into two categories: those that are in for the writing (love to write/hate to promote), and those that are in it for the attention (hate to write/love to promote).

I tend to disdain the attention whores who rather be out and about getting the pat on the back, and respect those who rather keep the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

seanag said...

Actually, I haven't read Connolly, though his blog sounds interesting. I am just curious why he currently has 60 votes while his nearest follower, Mr. McKinty only has 25.

Nice new photo up at the top by the way.

Declan Burke said...

Hi Josephine ... There's actually three categories, the third being 'authors who are only in it for the money', like me ...

I don't know about 'attention whores' ... I mean, if attention is your thing, there's a hell of a lot easier ways of going about it than writing books. As for the pat on the back - hey, if it's a good book, it's a good book. And you're forgetting the reason why most people start writing in the first place - so complete strangers won't think they're dorks, as their nearest and dearest do.

Except for me, of course. Did I mention that I'm only in it for the money?

Cheers, Dec

Declan Burke said...

Seanag - If I may, can I recommend that The Book of Lost Things be your first Connolly? It's terrific.

As for the voting ... As I mentioned above, John Connolly has a wonderful way of connecting with readers. In the present case, he simply went on the John Connolly forum and left a link to the 'Sexiest Writers' bit on CAP. Hey presto, etc.

As far as I know, he's the only contender to have done so. And I don't begrudge him a single vote, especially as he suggested people might want to vote for me, too.

Did I mention that I'm only in it for the money?

Cheers, Dec

seanag said...

He's a marketing genius! And I will read Book of Lost Things. I think I even have a copy. And very politic where it comes to the host of the contest as well.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, you may be no expert, but I think that at least as much as we need experts, we need folks with brains who think seriously about the various issues involved. And you surely are that.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is Just as Much Fun Without a Beard"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com

Peter Rozovsky said...

“ … 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.”

Here’s hoping you have not yet had to use this service.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
“Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

seanag said...

Although that sounds macabre, I have already come across one non-creepy version of this. I was following the blog of a poet who died of colon cancer last year. Every once in awhile, I get the news that his blog has been updated. Although it takes you aback at first, it's his life partner posting some news about his work--not in any sense trying to be him. Sometimes it feels a little odd keeping him on my blog roll, but basically it's a nice thing.