“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 5, 2009

A GONZO NOIR: Shine On, You Crazy Diamond

All three regular readers of Crime Always Pays may or may not remember A GONZO NOIR, a novel I posted to the web last summer, just for the hell of it. The latest update is that the novel – now in a more conventional manuscript format – is on the verge of going out to publishers for the ritualised mass rejection, before I publish it via Lulu just in time for the Christmas rush. Bon voyage, my pretty, and may you find a fair wind at your back as you round the Cape of Good Hope …
  It’s always a strange time when a book goes off to the meat market. My experience of writing the books is that they generally kick off in a euphoric mood, convinced as you are that it’s the best thing you’ve ever written, and possibly the most interesting combination of words every committed to paper, parchment or papyrus. Roughly halfway in, there’s a point where you sit back and wonder whether it’s actually the most contemptible piece of effluent ever concocted, but by then you’ve invested too much time to flush it, and so you soldier on. By the time it’s finished, the relief is such that it gives you a second wind for a redraft, and off you go again, to ever diminishing returns.
  Anyway, at some point it has to go off to the publishers. Naturally, this is the moment when you’re seized with panic, because it’s so stupid / clich├ęd / useless that the unfortunate person who has to read it may well decide it’s actually worth their while taking out a hit on your life, on the off-chance they might have to read another one of your books, which you were cunning enough to submit under a pseudonym …
  Oddly enough, I feel okay about A GONZO NOIR. Odder still, I feel okay about it even though I’ve sent it out to nine or ten people, terrific writers all, asking for a blurb. ‘Isn’t that a bit previous?’ says you. ‘Aren’t you supposed to wait until you know the book is being published before you start tarting yourself out for blurbs?’ Well, yes, it is – but I thought it might be an interesting experiment to compare the reactions from the writers with the reactions from the publishers. I also thought it might be interesting to blog about the result, on an ongoing basis, just for the hell of it.
  One of the reasons it might be interesting is that A GONZO NOIR is radically different to the kinds of stories I’ve had published before (a private eye novel; a crime caper), and I’ve said as much to the potential blurbees, and given them the get-out clause of backing out of their generous offer to read the m/s if it’s not their kind of thing.
  So, while I’d be hopeful of getting some positive feedback, there’s a good chance I’ll be getting some negative vibes too – and not just from the publishers. Anyway, it could be fun to blog about, especially on those quiet days when Declan Hughes hasn’t been nominated for another award.
  I don’t think it’d be fair to mention the potential blurbees’ names, by the way, because, well, because it somehow feels like it’d be bad manners. But I’ll blog about their reactions, and name names, when the results start coming in. I should say in advance that I know some of them personally, and that I’d made no secret of the fact that I think they’re terrific writers – but then, I only know them because they’re terrific writers, so maybe that’s a moot point. Anyway, we’ll address the log-rolling issue if and when it comes up.
  Incidentally, if you’re reading this and you happen to be one of the generous souls who blurbed THE BIG O, and you’re wondering why I’m not asking you again, it’s because you’ve already done more than enough to aid my bid for world domination, and I don’t want to become a pest.
  I have a good feeling, folks. While I was printing out the m/s on Monday afternoon, to get it copied and bound for sending out to the potential blurbees, I got an email, from someone who shall remain anonymous for now, but who was nearly finished reading AGN, which featured the words ‘brilliant, brilliant stuff’. A coincidence, certainly, but a very timely one.
  Anyway, once it was all printed out, I started reading it. And I’m about two-thirds through at this point, and still enjoying it. Which is very odd. I don’t think it’s ‘brilliant brilliant stuff’, or anything like, but I’m glad I wrote it, and no matter what happens with it viz-a-viz publishing, I’m as proud of it as I am of THE BIG O or EIGHTBALL BOOGIE. A small thing, as the man says, but mine own …
  Oh, a small thing – I’m thinking of changing the title to BAD FOR GOOD. It’s ripped off from an excellently cheesy Jim Steinman number, and I think it sums up a lot of what I find attractive about crime fiction, and it certainly makes sense to me in terms of the main character. Anyway, BAD FOR GOOD – yay or nay?
  Finally, in a strange week of oddities, there’s this – or these, I should say. As all three regular readers may remember, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt last year declined to publish CRIME ALWAYS PAYS, the sequel to THE BIG O. Boo, etc. Now this and this have popped up, which suggests that (a) my Jedi mind-trick is coming on a treat; (b) there’s a Declan Burke out there about to usurp my thunder; (c) I’ve stepped through some kind of rip in the space-time fabric and come out as a Declan Burke who’s getting published; (d) someone’s screwing with me. If anyone can enlighten me, I’d love to hear about it … especially if it’s another Declan Burke.
  Knowing my luck, he’ll be the unholy offspring of Declan Hughes and James Lee Burke, and I’ll forever be known as ‘the other Declan Burke, y’know, the guy with the blog …’.
  Until then, I leave you with the immortal words of Jim Steinman. “If there’s something I want / Then it’s something I need / I wasn’t built for comfort / I was built for speed / And I know that I’m gonna be like this forever / I’m never gonna be what I should / And you think that I’ll be bad for just a little while / But I know that I’ll be bad for good / (whooo-hoo-hooooooo) / I know that I’ll be bad for good …”
  Roll it there, Collette …

18 comments:

Gerard Brennan said...

I like the title A Gonzo Noir, but wouldn't cry into my pint if you changed it. Bad for Good ain't too shabby.

RE the mystery Amazon pages... WTF?

gb

Corey Wilde said...

I like both titles but give a slight edge to A Gonzo Noir.

I wish I hadn't watched that video. I think I need therapy now. Is Steinman wearing Seinfeld's puffy shirt?

seanag said...

How about Bad for Good: a Gonzo Noir?

As to the mystery of the Amazon postings, I think you ought to just drop Houghton Mifflin a line, or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, as I think they now call themselves, and tell them Amazon is selling it so they may as well get their printing presses rolling.

Good luck on your adventure with all this.

Donna said...

And it IS brilliant, brilliant stuff. Whoever said that has excellent taste :o)

I rather like Bad For Good, but then I also like Gonzo Noir. It suits it. After all, it's so Gonzo that after reading it you feel as though you've turned into Hunter S Thompson overnight. So I'll go with seanag's option.

Declan Burke said...

Sorry, Corey, I should have given a warning about the Steinman vid ...

Seanag / Donna: Bad For Good: A Gonzo Noir sounds like a good idea to me ... Nice ring to it.

Gerard - No idea on the Amazon pages ... probably something HMH had pre-booked yonks ago, before they decided against going with the sequel. Or maybe there's some people in there who think they're still publishing it ... I wouldn't be surprised.

Cheers, Dec

bookwitch said...

I vaguely remember it. How about you two?

I go with Seana's title. You don't want to lose Gonzo altogether.

Funny, I feel like that every time I write a post on my blog. Didn't realise real authors ever doubted themselves. ; )

Anonymous said...

Dec,

Go with Gonzo! He was, after all, the thinking man's Muppet.

As for Jim Steinman?
Well, he's just the thinking man's Meatloaf!

Haydo

ps. was it so long ago, or does it just seem so?

Rafe McGregor said...

The very best of luck, Dec. I like Seanag's idea for the title.

Dana King said...

I think Seana nailed the title for you. And I'll buy the American version of the unpublished work; it's less expensive. Apparently they place a higher value on vaporous fiction in the UK than we do.

Declan Burke said...

Much obliged, folks ...

Haydo - sorry, squire, but it's not only all that long ago, but it's even longer ago than you think ... take off the rose-tinted specs, man.

Rafe - I'm with you on Seanag's title ...

Dana - It's actually a post-modern meta-fiction ... I publish a novel of blank pages, and you write in the kind of story you think I'd tell. We're planning to give away crayons with the sequel ...

Cheers, Dec

marco said...

Another vote for Seana

critical mick said...

That novel is so full of good lines. Rip off one of 'em and let AGN and BFG go.

On an unrelated note, Spinetingler results are in. "Peter Rozovsky: Detectives Beyond Borders - WINNER" Excellent news, and well deserved!

2009 also saw Declan Hughes, John McFetridge, and Brian McGilloway nominated. Sound all around.

http://blog.spinetinglermag.com/?page_id=7

Bob said...

Definitely Bad for Good: a Gonzo Noir.
And, if I'm not mistaken, this is the second time that Steinman has featured on CAP. Disturbing trend that, even if the last time it was the only good song he ever wrote.
BTW Alex Barclay won Crime Fiction Award at IBA tonight.
This is your commenting correspondent signing off...

seanag said...

You know, I am really hoping that after the merger of Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt that the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing. And I just hope which ever hand has the authority has just given a big thumbs up on rushing the book to print. That would be one of the better outcomes of all the publisher mergers that have gone down in recent years.

Declan Burke said...

Seanag - wouldn't that be hilarious? I'd imagine it's something like that, although more along the lines of the hand that has the authority not telling the smaller hand that they're not running with Burke's magnum opus. Mind you, I'm still hoping there's another Declan Burke out there ...

Bob - Jim Steinman is a genius. A little off-beat, perhaps, but if you ever get to read A Gonzo Noir, you'll understand why I picked him. Ta for the tip-off on the IBAs, by the way ...

Cheers, Dec

Peter Rozovsky said...

A propos of Jim Steinman, did anyone ever tell him that it's not over til the fat guy sings?
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Not Anon: Deborah Lawrenson (bleeping machine...)

Still laughing at your description of the oddly euphoric anticipation of the worst that accompanies the sending out of the MS. Love the idea of blogging about the feedback from all sides. This is the stuff that writers always want to know and don't usually find anyone honest enough to do it. Good on you.

By the way - too late to post in the appropriate comments - re: Greek novels. Have you come across Paul Johnson's crime novels set on a Greek island, featuring a Greek-Scottish detective? Sound appealing? No Irish in there, I grant you, but you can't have everything.

Declan Burke said...

Hi Deborah - Yep, Paul Johnston, a smashing writer ... I think only one of those novels is set on a Greek island, the others are on the mainland ... They're being reissued this spring, incidentally.

Cheers, Dec