“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.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gonz, Baby, Gonz

A strange old week, folks. First off, heartfelt thanks to everyone who left a comment on the post below, and those of you who got in touch privately, promising to pledge money should I decide to go ahead and self-publish BAD FOR GOOD / A GONZO NOIR. The reaction was, for me, phenomenal: I’d have been delighted with twenty or so responses, and over the moon with thirty. To achieve more than double that gives me serious pause for thought, especially as so many people made multiple pledges (or pledged for multiple books). What began as a whimsical notion is now a practical option. But there’s more to it than hard cash. For someone struggling to have themselves heard, as most writers seem to be, that kind of support is literally invaluable.
  What I need to do now is spend some time researching the project meticulously, ensuring my figures are right, investigating the amount of time and energy the project will consume, and – most importantly – ensuring that there’s no possible glitch that could result in someone making a pledge and not receiving a book.
  I also need to take on board more experienced voices than I, some of whom have cautioned against the amount of work involved in self-publishing, which will by necessity eat into my own writing time; some have very kindly suggested that BAD FOR GOOD / A GONZO NOIR is too good to ‘waste’ on self-publishing; while others have stated in no uncertain terms that self-publishing at this point in my ‘career’ (koff) would prove hugely detrimental in the long term. Now, I’m not sure how much more detrimental a self-published book could be when compared with no published books at all, but the advice was well-intentioned and has been accepted as such. I’ll keep you all posted as to how it’s panning out; and again, many thanks for all the support.
  Meanwhile, in a not-unrelated matter, John McFetridge has taken my tentative suggestion about starting up a writers’ co-op and given it legs. In fact, he’s started a writer’s co-op, established a website, and already there seems to be a real buzz building around it. Seems to me that the real gonzo noir could well be coming together as we speak; I’ll be getting behind the project 100%. For more details, clickety-click here
  Finally, I got an early look at ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ movie this week. I’m one of the very few people, apparently, who wasn’t overly impressed with the novel (I didn’t make it past page 120), but I tried to set that aside for the duration of the movie. What struck me most forcibly about it was how quaint it all seemed, if not old-fashioned: the wealthy industrialist Vanger commissioning Blomkist to investigate the disappearance of his niece was in effect the opening chapter of THE BIG SLEEP; the island where the disappearance took place has only one bridge in or out, making it a locked-room mystery; at one point, Blomkvist is called into a drawing room before the extended Vanger family, and I half-expected the (Nazi) Col. Mustard to be denounced as the killer, the foul deed taking place in the library, with a spanner. Apparently Stieg Larsson dotted the novel with references to Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, et al, which suggests that the book is intended as an homage to the Golden Age of mystery writing; that’s all very well and good, but it hardly makes for cutting-edge fiction, nor movie. Michael Nyqvist, playing Blomkvist, is a terrific actor, and acquits himself very well, but I found it hard to believe in the chemistry between he and Lisbeth Salander; indeed, I found the character of Salander entirely artificial, an impenetrable and unlovely IT idiot savant given sullenness, body piercing and chain-smoking in lieu of any real rebellion. For a movie that runs almost two and a half hours (quite long for a movie thriller), there’s precious little by way of depth of characterisation; meanwhile, the most interesting aspect of the story, the establishment of a pro-Nazi organisation in neutral Sweden during WWII, was given only a cursory nod, just enough to taint the bad guys with evil. The story also suffers from the usual faults associated with the gifted amateur sleuth: despite the fact that the local cop has spent 40 years obsessing on the disappearance of Vanger’s niece, for example, Blomkvist finds a new lead almost immediately on taking the case; and it still makes no sense that an obscenely wealthy man, who could afford any investigator on the planet, would choose to employ a man whose name has been very publicly disgraced for getting his facts wrong. As for the more modern aspects of the movie: there’s a nasty and graphic scene involving Salander that leaves a bad taste in the mouth, all the more so that it’s unnecessary in terms of establishing character; and there’s far too much emphasis (not to mention trust) placed on the internet as a source of ‘clues’ whenever the story needs to be shunted along.
  And that’s my two cents.

  This week I have been mostly reading: CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell (superb); THE MERCHANT OF VENICE by William Shakespeare; NAMING THE BONES by Louise Welch; and EARTH IN UPHEAVAL by Immanuel Velikovsky.