Being an incorrigible romantic / naïve no-hoper, I have a fairly jaundiced take on market-driven publishing. I won’t, for example, be reading the Jane Austen / zombie novels in this lifetime, and nor will be I be reading any other half-baked, crass, formulaic horseshit, or not unless someone pays me to review it. The reasons for this include my being a literary snob and life being too short, but there’s also, I think, the fact that I have an in-built resistance to simplistic, short-term answers to complex questions. There’s also the fact that, other than our kids, books are the most precious things we have the capacity to create, and if you disagree with that then you’re probably best off visiting another blog.
Put simply, books are not just another commodity. You can argue the case for music, art, sculpture, theatre and so forth at your leisure, but books are unique. If Western scholars had ‘rediscovered’ great symphonies or paintings in the chambers and galleries of the Muslim world during the 12th and 13th centuries, would the Renaissance have flourished as a result? It’s possible, but unlikely. Books are the thing, and even though the format might change from parchment and scroll to book and digital screen, there is nothing quite like a book for offering up a comprehensive breadth and depth of information, be that information trading in emotion, psychology, logic, philosophy or technology.
I deal for the most part in fiction here at Crime Always Pays, so with that in mind, and one eye on the market-driven publishing model currently holding sway, let me ask this: where would the world be if JM Barrie, say, had consulted market trends before writing PETER PAN? Or Kurt Vonnegut and SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5? Or JD Salinger and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE? Or Jim Crace with QUARANTINE, or William Golding with THE LORD OF THE FLIES, or Milan Kundera with THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, Nikos Kazantstakis with ZORBA THE GREEK, John Fowles with THE FRENCH LIEUTENTANT’S WOMAN? How much would have been lost had Flannery O’Connor’s editor suggested she needed a few vampires to brighten up her tales? THE BUTCHER BOY, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, GONE WITH THE WIND, MOBY DICK, AMONGST WOMEN, RIDDLEY WALKER … You catch my drift. Great books are not written with one eye on the latest Nielsen results. Great books are the product of a singular vision unpolluted by any concern other than that of the story itself. That most of the books above (a very personal list, and one taken from glancing at the shelves around me, but you’ll have your own variation) became bestsellers despite the marketplace and not because of it is something to celebrate; and it’s pertinent too that they’re the kind of bestsellers that aren’t here and gone in six months, but consistently sell across decades and generations.
Speaking of which, and going back to Glenn Harper – my Kindle-only novel CRIME ALWAYS PAYS has virtually nothing in common with the above list of books other than it’s available to read in the English language (I can’t even claim a paper-and-ink connection), being a modestly humorous crime caper set in the Greek islands. Given that its predecessor, THE BIG O, was written to contain the absolute minimum of death and violence for a crime novel, it does have a very tenuous parallel with the novels mentioned above, in that it has no interest in following trends and suchlike. Which may explain why THE BIG O sank like the proverbial granite submarine on publication, and why its Kindle-only follow-up currently languishes (as of Saturday evening, January 30th) at # 49,163 on the Kindle charts.
But lo, there’s a ray of light, and it comes all delightfully Glenn Harper-shaped. Quoth Glenn:
Good news for those who, like myself, don’t own a Kindle (and thus have up to now not been able to get Declan Burke’s Kindle-only crime novel, CRIME ALWAYS PAYS). Kindle is now available as an i-phone or ipod-touch app (free), and Crime Always Pays is quite legible on an ipod-touch screen (plus it’s only US$1.25. PLUS Kindle is now also available as a free downloadable application for the PC, and soon to be available for Mac. Is this Kindle-strikes-back, after the rollout of the iPad?Erm, I dunno. But if you want to make an incorrigibly romantic pessimist a happy-ish man, feel free to let all your iPhone-wielding friends and family know that CRIME ALWAYS PAYS is available in all sorts of new formats (techie details available here). All nods, winks, links and plugs welcome.
Meanwhile, apologies for the rant, and it’s back to capering about a-top the organ grinder’s organ (oo-er, Missus), and working on a story that features the bare minimum of radioactive werewolves. Wish me luck, people …