“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “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 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 / clichéd / 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 …