“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.

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.

8 comments:

adrian mckinty said...

Dec

Sounds like a good plan. Publishing houses are more than ever run by accountants and those in fear of accountants.

As you and I have discussed before, if David Mitchell had obssessed about his "market" before writing Cloud Atlas he would never have written it.

Declan Burke said...

Adrian -

Correct and true, squire. CLOUD ATLAS is the best piece of pure storytelling I've read since Rushdie's THE ENCHANTRESS OF FLORENCE.

I think it'd be best for the industry in the long run if the marketeers, accountants, et al, only came on board once a book is written, and not before. Otherwise it's all going to end up in a vicious circle of ever-diminishing returns. Except, ironically, this being the current publishing model, the returns will be ever-increasing.

Cheers, Dec

Donna said...

I also didn't care for the two Stieg Larssons I've read. I blame some of my dislike on the fact that I found the translation really clunky, but it was also very slow, I found parts of it unbelievable and I didn't like Salander at all. I read the second one because people I like and whose judgment I trust really loved the first one and I thought maybe I'd read it in a bad mood or something :o) But I just have to conclude that it's not for me. I don't think I'm a very good judge - I also didn't like SHUTTER ISLAND :o)

Good luck on the Gonzo Noir project - whatever you decide.

bookwitch said...

But we ARE quaint, my dear...

Anyway, it was obviously wasted on you, but you are forgiven. The nasty, graphic scene is essential for the rest of the trilogy.

We aren't meant to like Lisbeth in the ordinary sense. That's aspies for you.

Dana King said...

We're pretty much in agreement on DRAGON TATTOO; Not to speak ill of the dead, but Larsen had a gift for going on too long about things that didnp;t deserve it (such as the history of the Vanger family for the six hundred fucking years), and not spending enough time on things that merited it. I did like the Salander character though I thought Blomkvist was kind of two-dimensional.

As for publishing, do your research. I don;t know enough to say, but maybe somehting like what you worked out with Hag's Head for THE BIG O is the way to go. As I said, not a recommendation, but keep your options open.

Declan Burke said...

Donna - I think you're right about the translation, it feels very clunky ... but then, so does the storytelling.

Ms Witch - With regard to Salander's 'likeability', I don't mean she has to be nice, and likeable, aspie or not; but as a main character, she needs to be compelling rather than repelling. Fine, maybe it all makes sense by the end of the trilogy, but a movie - moreso than a book, perhaps, although I'd argue the point - needs to be self-contained.

Dana - All options are on the table right now, and that's where they'll stay for the foreseeable future. I'll keep you posted ...

Cheers, Dec

Uriah Robinson said...

Dec and Donna.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- very disappointing.
The Girl who Played with Fire- much better.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest- the best of the bunch.
It was a great pity Stieg Larsson never lived to complete his ten book decathlon as I think the last five might have been exceptional at the rate of improvement between one and three.

John H said...

I must say that the movie you described didn't seem to be the book I read. The points you bring up don't relate back to the book very well. For instance it took Blomkvist months to come up with the new lead. The internet stuff is very plausible and true at the time and to this day. My wife read the book and it took her 2 weeks to read the first 137 pages then she burned through the rest in 2 days. BTW the ugly scene and the ramifications in many ways define the Salander character. And yes the next 2 get better and better.

v-word=krousse maybe something to do with the Nazis

congrats on getting on that top 50 list