Monday, July 30, 2012

Real Books That Don't Exist

The Edgar award winning author Jorge Luis Borges wrote about The Library of Babel, a library that is said to contain every book that was every written and will be written. 

In that spirit I wanted to take a look at some of the books that are in the crime fiction section of The Library of Babel.  But here's the kicker, there are indications that these books actually exist.  We know this because they were talked about in interviews or mentioned in publicity material.  They are real books that you can't read.

Every reader reaches a point in their life when they do the math of how many years left to live and how many books that are out there.  What makes it even more daunting is knowing about a book from a favorite author that you may never get to read.

Blue at the Back of My Head by James Sallis

In an interview years ago Sallis made mention of this book that he was working on.

I've also the opening chapters of a novel with the working title Blue At the Back of My Head, set in Arizona,...

Bottomfeeders by James Sallis

In the same interview, and the very same comment, he also talked briefly about another work in progress that was further along. 
...and about half of one called Bottomfeeders, a comic novel about a cop killer, a take-off of sorts on The Seven Samurai.

Others of My Kind by James Sallis

In an interview with Craig McDonald Sallis talked about yet another book that was being working on.
-"I also wrote the draft of what will become my next novel, which is a non-genre novel called Others of My Kind."

-"it's the first time I've written a novel from a female point of view.  And I didn't do it intentionally. I was walking again, and the voice in my ear was 'I', 'I', 'I' and it's a female 'I', so I had to write from a female point of view.

Unnamed series by Lynn Kostoff

In the author bio of the hardback of The Long Fall there is mention of this:

...and is at work on the first novel of a projected series featuring a patrolman from the North who's transplanted to the Myrtle Beach Police Department

Maybe this one became Late Rain?

The Work of Hands by Lynn Kostoff

The Work of Hands, which is set in 1986 in the Midwest. Its protagonist is a Public Relations man who cleans up scandals and fixes things. He believes he can always find a way to escape the consequences of his actions, but that belief is sorely tested when he has to clean up the aftermath of a large food poisoning outbreak. When this one is completed, I’d like to see what Ben Decovic and the others are up to.

Ken Bruen's children's book

Bruen's kids book was mentioned in at least two separate interviews a couple of years ago but there was never any information about it. I can't be the only one curious to read it.

-I wrote a children’s book, was assaulted on most all sides by

-‘Nearly killed me, honest to God. It seemed a natural progression from Priest, Cross and Sanctuary (the most recent books in the series) that the ultimate evil might appear. Never again though, too spooky. But it yielded a children's book which I wrote to rid meself of the demons of the Devil.’

The Dydak's by Duane Swierczynski

Years ago I had the opportunity to interview Duane Swierczynski. I asked him about a pair of minor characters that seemed like a missed opportunity, something to come back and explore later.
Brian Lindenmuth - The crime scene cleaners, The Dydak’s, were mentioned and seemed like a great source of material, but they never really made an appearance. I couldn’t shake the feeling that they had sections that were cut, are you thinking of perhaps using them at some later time. I know, it’s not really a question either, but would you care to comment.

Duane Swierczynski - I thought I might circle back to the Dydaks in THE BLONDE, but the situation never came up. However, they will be back in their novel. Sooner than you may think.

Whacker by Charlie Huston

Similarly, when I interviewed Charlie Huston we talked about a character that had appeared in two of his short stories.

Brian Lindenmuth - I love love love Det. Elizabeth “The Whacker” Borden. She might just be my favorite character of yours. Please for the love of everything holy tell me that we’ll get a novel with her.

Charlie Huston - That’s the plan. For me, anyway. The next trick will be getting a publisher interested. But, yes, I have a novel in mind. Basically the story of how Detective Borden got to be who she is. Which is basically the meanest, dirtiest, cruellest, most self-serving law enforcement officer ever.

Damn, now don't you wish you could go read those books right now.  I contacted some of the authors mentioned here to try and get some information on these lost titles that still haven't seen the light of day.

Lynn Kostoff responded:
#1: author bio/Long Fall

At the time, I had been making notes on a crime novel using Myrtle Beach, SC, but that setting was basically where the novel would end; none of the characters in LATE RAIN were in it, except for Ben Decovic. The novel, whose working title I now can't remember, was set in a fictional rust belt city, Ryland, Ohio, an amalgamate of some of the iron and steel cities in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania where I grew up. That novel centered on the relationship between Ben Decovic, a homicide detective, and his cousin, Michael, who was the mayor of Ryland and coming up for re-election. I wanted to use some of the elements of what had happened economically, psychologically, emotionally, and culturally to that part of the country. Michael Decovic had started off as faithful to his blue collar roots and then become corrupted. Ben accidently discovers just how corrupt his cousin is. The corrupt scheme would ultimately result in good for the area,  so I was trying to explore how much a person could compromise and still consider himself "good" and true to self and principles.There were a number of other complications to Ben uncovering the scheme. By the end of the novel, he was going to walk away from his job, home, history and start over in Myrtle Beach. I eventually decided to create Magnolia Beach rather than use Myrtle Beach for the setting because of all the sprawl and development clutter which complicated consistency of description and became a constant headache. I did some very rough drafts of this novel, probably around 180 to 200 pages, and eventually set them aside and just put Ben Decovic in Magnolia Beach and in his patrol car and started LATE RAIN.


THE WORK OF HANDS for way too long has been my albatross. I had done two completely different versions of the novel for Crown after A CHOICE OF NIGHTMARES came out in 1991. I was just finishing a long (500 page) new draft of the novel when my editor got downsized, and Crown cancelled the book and my contract. At that point, having already drafted over a thousand pages with the three drafts, I just set it aside and forgot it. I worked on a couple other novel projects and was not happy with them or where they were headed. At that point anything resembling a writing career had pretty much evaporated, so I decided to jump blindly into a new project and wrote the opening line to THE LONG FALL and had no idea what it meant or who the characters were. The longest draft of THE LONG FALL was 450 pages (Jimmy Coates got in quite a bit of trouble), and I eventually decided to streamline the plot and brought it in at its published length of around 230 pages. I had never quite forgotten THE WORK OF HANDS during all this and kept messing with notes and ideas for a new version. I eventually started a completely new version of the novel right as LATE RAIN was accepted. I have done two drafts now and am closing in on finishing the third draft of the novel. I hope to have it done by early to mid-fall and in the hands of my agent. The new version barely resembles any of the earlier drafts, but hopefully I'll be able to ditch the albatross on this retelling.

James Sallis responded:

1.  Found out there wasn't enough story in the box.  (The idea, for me, was schematic and too limiting.)  Significant parts of it found their way into the story "Concerto for Violence and Orchestra," a few bits and pieces into novels.

2.  Stalled out at 80 pages or so, mainly, I think, due to relocation, life changes, and concentrating on the Lew Griffin novels.  Still claim from time to time that I'm going back to it.  Yeah, right.

3.  Will be out next year from Walker, No Exit and others.  The draft was completed about the time I wrote Drive, but there were structural problems.  This one, I knew I'd get back to, and finally -- after four or five other novels -- did.   
Ken Bruen responded:
The children's book became a trilogy, and is at the cross roads of
Will it be a TV series?
published first in book form.
1st time ever I got to tell my agent
You decide!
He's currently ..... deciding
Finally Duane Swierczynski responded:

Wish I had something more exciting for you, but the Dydak project is as dead as Dillinger. For a while there, I thought a spin-off might be fun. But this was before we saw a whole wave of crime-scene cleanup stories, including Charlie Huston's excellent MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH. Which kind of killed it for me.

But who knows… maybe they'll have a cameo in a future Philly-set novel.
 Are you guys aware of any other lost novels?  Novels that were mentioned in interviews or publicity material but never were released?

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Fascinating and glad they responded.