“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, August 7, 2011

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

One man. One hospital. This town ain’t big enough for the both of ’em …
Yep, it’s ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, a whimsical black comedy about blowing up hospitals, and Liberties Press has been kind enough to give me three copies to give away to the readers of Crime Always Pays in the run-up to said tome’s official launch on August 10th. First, the blurb elves:
Who in their right mind would want to blow up a hospital?
  “Close it down, blow it up – what’s the difference?”
  Billy Karlsson needs to get real. Literally. A hospital porter with a sideline in euthanasia, Billy is a character trapped in the purgatory of an abandoned novel. Deranged by logic, driven beyond sanity, Billy makes his final stand: if killing old people won’t cut the mustard, the whole hospital will have to go up in flames.
  Only his creator can stop him now, the author who abandoned Billy to his half-life limbo, in which Billy schemes to do whatever it takes to get himself published, or be damned . . .

  “A harrowing and yet hilarious examination of the gradual disintegration of a writer’s personality, as well as a damned fine noir novel … Burke has outdone himself this time; it’s a hell of a read.” – Scott Phillips, author of THE ICE HARVEST
  So there you have it. To be in with a chance of winning a free copy of ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, just answer the following question:
What’s your favourite story-within-a-story novel, and why?
  Answers via the comment box, please, leaving an email contact address (and using ‘at’ rather than @ to confound the spam munchkins), by noon on Monday, August 8th. Et bon chance, mes amis

23 comments:

Rick Ollerman said...

This is a strange book and I'm not sure how likable it is, but Jack O'Connell's "The Resurrectionist" has a story within a story that's so strong after a while you're not sure which story is the "real" one.

rick at ollerman dot com

Jerry House said...

I'm going old school with Walter Scott's REDGAUNTLET, which has the great "Wandering Willie's Tale" incorporated in it.

Jerry House

house_jerry at hotmail.com

seana said...

I don't actually need to win a book, but my favorite story within a story book is Don Quixote. Even though the stories exasperated me at times, in the end I finally came to love the novel.

Richard L. Pangburn said...

My favorite? I know a lot of good ones, but my choice must be:

Joseph Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS. Conrad was a favorite read of both William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who said that he learned the structure of his own story-within-a-story used in THE GREAT GATSBY by reading Conrad.

The narrator of Conrad's novella presents the story within the story but frames it with his own story. The one story is action, direct narrative, life itself, while the other story is most usually reflective, marked by recursive thinking and conscience, the greater consciousness.

HEART OF DARKNESS is one of those layered and timeless works, autobiographical and artistic at the same time, an engaging story on the surface while also a work of social criticism revealing the human condition, nuanced and full of deeper transcendence, and beautifully written.

I own a remarkable fine copy of the first American edition, published back in 1903. The volume is entitled YOUTH, but it consists of a trinity of novellas, HEART OF DARKNESS being the middle one, preceded naturally by YOUTH and followed by THE END OF THE TETHER.

It isn't exactly young man, middle man, and old man, unless you consider it in terms of consciousness. And then it becomes a treasure.

Kathy said...

My favorite story with a story is THE CANTERBURY TALES. It's actually several tales within the overall framework. I taught this piece to high school seniors for many years; the students enjoyed it and it never grew old.

ksales1023 at gmail.com

Malcolm said...

Would you believe Hamlet? The inside story -- the play within the play -- blows the king apart and blows his cover at the same time. In addition the inner play reveals the crime before the eyes of the perp. The whole damn thing is ingenius.
Well, all right. It ain't a novel.

Malcolm.

malcolmtobey at comcast.net

Nigel martin said...

I'm going for one of Ian Rankin's early Rebus novels, The Hanging Garden.

Between investigating a Nazi war criminal living quietly in Edinburgh, a local hardman doing business with an eastern Europen prosrtitues-racket, as well as dealing with his own daughter's involvement in a serious road accident, it's a case of so many stories all going off at once, no idea what's main plot, sub-plot whatever, it's a real maze...

Classic Rankin storytelling - total control all the way, he makes you care about each character, some very scary ones here. It's just top-drawer writing by any standard. Maybe one of the best in a brlliant series.

Nigel

Peter Rozovsky said...

I've already read Absolute Zero Cool, and I loved it, in part because of the way the story within the story takes over. So I won't enter the contest. But I will nominate The Thousand Nights and a Night, the first parts of which are not just a dizzying set of stories within stories, but sometimes of stories within stories within stories.
======================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Adrian Carty said...

Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

Paul said...

"Where's my cow" in Terry Pratchett's Thud. I love Pratchett, and using a children's story to hold the main character onto his own reality as he was being possessed by a demon was great.

paulpaire at yahoo.com

Robert Collins said...

Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. Two interlocking stories: who killed Miles Archer, and who's got the falcon? If that weren't enough, there's also an internal anecdote about a man who is almost accidentally killed, abandons his family and job, moves to another city, and then recreates his old life.

Michael A Todd said...

Favorite story-within-a-story novel - KING SUCKERMAN by George Pelecanos.

Why - Funk, Drug deals gone bad, psychopathic criminals, debate over where to stock Hendrix record, flawed heroes, old west style revenge, and a blaxploitation movie. What more could you ask for?

Spam munchkin confounding E-mail - Lightbeeraintbeer 'at' gmail.com

David Baynham said...

There are some really great ones. "At Swim-Two Birds" by Flann O'Brien. But my favorite is Robert Coover's "The Universal Baseball Association", because it turns a mundane story about an accountant and his game playing into a mythological story that encompasses the myths of the world, tragedy, farce, comedy.

Alan Cranis said...

For me, THE TIME MACHINE is the first and favorite that comes to mind when considering a story-within-a-story. Especially since H,G.Wells thought to carry the format to the very end of this unforgettable novel.

Alan Cranis
acranis at Yahoo.com

Darlynne said...

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, the newest title in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, is completely a story-within-a-story: The fictional Thursday Next is dealing with a downturn in readership of the real Thursday Next's books (she's been remaindered) and a border war between Racy Novel and Women's Fiction. Brilliant.

Audi A6 Turbocharger said...

Great, great post! It’s something I have never thought about, really, but it makes a whole lot of sense. Thanks for sharing

Noel Bannon said...

'The Gargoyle' by Andrew Davidson (2008). A fabulous story with an unlikely hero, that mixes past and present in a way that leaves the reader genuinely confused as the line between reality and the past intertwines and blurs. The back story becomes as/more interesting than the main plot. A memorable read. Can love survive death?

Declan Burke said...

AND THE WINNERS ARE:

David Baynham, for invoking Flann O'Brien AND baseball;

Michael Todd, because KING SUCKERMAN was the first Pelecanos novel I read, and which blew me away;

And Richard L. Pangburn, for choosing HEART OF DARKNESS, one of my favourite books of all time, and an absolute masterpiece.

Thanks to everyone else who entered, and for the interesting suggestions - Hamlet, in particular - although a special thanks goes to the very thoughtful Audi A6 Turbocharger. And there was me thinking the Audi A6 Turbocharger didn't care ...

Cheers, Dec

seana said...

Cool. Although I did have a soft spot for Audi.

Richard L. Pangburn said...

Cool is right word, and many thanks.

My mailing address is:

Richard L. Pangburn
404 Tom Greer Rd.
Bardstown, KY 40004
USA

Alasdair Verschoyle said...

Really enjoyed reading Absolute Zero Cool. I'm not a major crime fiction reader but this one got my attention due to the interaction between Karlsson (who prefers to be called Billy) and the author. A very different kind of read!
=====================
Alasdair Verschoyle
www.irishbooksdirect.ie

Richard L. Pangburn said...

Just checking: I emailed my address back to you, though I have had some trouble with my emails getting blocked lately. I also posted my mailing address above three weeks ago.

I know it takes a while to get over the ocean, but I'd have thought it should be here by now. Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading it when it arrives.

Richard L. Pangburn

Richard L. Pangburn said...

Just wanted to say thanks, for I received a copy of the book today (well, Monday), and I'm about to read it.

No doubt I'll be posting a review of it by Wednesday on my blog and adding another at Amazon to those already there.

Keep up the good work.