Saturday, August 4, 2012

Watching The Dark Knight Rises From the Heart

Scott D. Parker

I read Jay’s take on The Dark Knight Rises on Thursday (read it now) and agreed with a lot that he said. We saw the same film, but I think we left with a different emotional impact. 

When I enter a movie theater to see a film for the first time, I rarely bring my brain. Other than my eyes and ears, I bring the one thing that suits me best for watching a movie: the heart. In this way, I allow the filmmakers to envelop me in their world, with all of its sights, sounds, and storytelling. It takes a pretty drastic film** to bring out my brain and start fussing over the details. It was with my heart that I watched John Carter this past spring and was so enthralled with the world of Barsoom that I overlooked its flaws. Yes, I saw them on subsequent viewings but that did little to change how I felt about the film when I first saw it in the theater. Ditto for many of my favorites films throughout the years. Sure, I can snark on and on about how so many bad choices were made with Return of the Jedi, but, when I sat down and re-watched it again recently with my boy, I became 13 again. (Well, I was 97% a thirteen year old; I still cringe with some of Han Solo’s antics.)

To date, I have seen The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) only once. In the week leading up to the film, I re-watched Batman Begins and The Dark Knight because, after I had seen the third installment, there would never again be a time when TDKR would be new and unexpected. Oh, and SPOILERS abound here, so, like Jay wrote on Thursday, if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to be spoiled, bookmark this page and come back later. Bookmark his, too.

The trailers for TDKR pretty much indicated something I suspected: that Batman would not survive. When Batman responds to Selina Kyle’s comment “You have given them everything,” with his own “Not everything. Not yet.” I pretty much guessed—no, expected—Batman not to survive. So I was ready. As good as it is to watch/read a big story with a hero you know will survive (Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones, Frodo, every other superhero film), when you have a story in which your main character either dies of sacrifices himself (Batman, Harry Potter), the stakes are raised.

And my heart swells. It grows inside of me and gets me so wrapped up in the story that I let the narrative just sweep me along. That’s how I got with TDKR. This story is Big. As Jay pointed out, director Christopher Nolan aimed for the stars with this film. He wanted an epic and he delivered one. We can quibble about the details, but the epic size of the film—no, of the entire trilogy—was monumental. Let’s also note that the scope of his trilogy was enhanced greatly by the death of Heath Ledger. The actor’s death gave an exaggerated quality to that second film that was more than the sum of its parts. Don’t get me wrong: had Ledger lived to see the film open, word of mouth would still have made its way to non-comic book folks to get them to see the film, it just may not have been the groundswell it actually was.

Back to TDKR. Jay is astute in his observations on the new movie. Gary Oldmans’s Commissioner Gordan and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Officer Blake do provide the everyman quality to this story that you don’t normally get. Now, up until now, I didn’t really care that I didn’t have it because, you know, this is about the billionaire Bruce Wayne and all of his rich friends. Perhaps it’s a testament to Nolan’s craft is that he gave me something I didn’t know I wanted. I really, really enjoyed Gordon-Levitt’s role in this film, where he came from and why he did what he did. I could watch an entire film about Officer Blake (Gotham Central anyone?) and be happy. Tom Hardy’s Bane was a good adversary to Batman from a physical standpoint. Hey, he broke Batman’s back, didn’t he? And, yes, he lacked the intellectual capacity from the comics (I was a little disappointed that Bane was, like in “Batman and Robin,” just the muscle), but he physically commanded the screen for me. Whereas Joker, in The Dark Knight, talked on and on about anarchy, Bane was putting it into effect, and that proved quite scary. Michael Caine was called on to remind the audience of the tragic origin of Bruce Wayne-as-Batman. Yes, he cried a lot, but he was supposed to cry a lot. He failed, in his mind, Bruce’s parents and failed to keep the darkness away from Bruce. I think I’d be crying, too.

Another thing Jay finds lacking in TDKR is sub-text. Since all the characters stop what they’re doing and tell the audience how they feel, there’s no room for subtlety. There’s no room for the minds of the audience to put two-and-two together, to think on a line of dialogue or a character action later, while driving home from the theater, and then have that spark of understanding. Tis true, I’ll agree, but this is, after all, a giant comic book movie. Harry Potter, Frodo, Luke Skywalker: they all talk about what they’re going to do and then go do it. I didn’t have a problem with the characters in TDKR doing the same thing. It allowed me to experience the film viscerally rather than intellectually, and allowed me to get wrapped up in the final scenes with all the emotional baggage that had crept into me in the first two hours and the first two movies. 

And I loved the ending, the one with Alfred sitting in that European restaurant, and seeing what he saw: a happy Bruce Wayne, a smiling Bruce Wayne, that had finally emerged from the darkness of his parents’ murder and the darkness of Batman that threatened to engulf him and destroy him from the inside. And, yes, my tears flowed. 

Because finally, a superhero story ended. Don’t get me wrong. I love comics and read the new ones and re-read the old ones, but it’s great to have an ending. And it was a happy ending. It’s a good thing, too, because this trilogy is very “of its time,” that is, dark, almost oppressively so. Which is why I so reveled in the ending. The bright, sunlit ending of a great trilogy and a very good movie.
There will be another Batman and he’ll have to live in the shadow of this interpretation, and, either way, I’ll be there, in that theater, waiting for the new Batman film. There will also be time enough to re-watch The Dark Knight Rises and pick it apart from a structural, writerly standpoint. Heck, even I, in the theater, said to my wife, “Now, just how did Bruce get himself across the ocean to Gotham from that prison cell?” (I didn’t dwell on it because the entrance was awesome.) But for now, I am basking in the thrilling, emotional, heartfelt conclusion to this version of Batman.

**Lest you think I’m a deluded Bat-fan, I nearly walked out on “Batman and Robin” back in 1997. I didn’t, but it was years until I saw it again. And lest you think I think Batman should only be dark, far from it. Two cases in point: One, the old stories from the 1970s I’ve been reading. Batman is still a brooding figure, but he smiles, he has a bit of a sense of humor (current New 52 version doesn’t), and much of the emotional baggage is not present. Two, I absolutely love the animated Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon from 2008. All the humor, all the corniness, all the flat-out fun of a comic book that is alive and moving. I really, really hated that it was cancelled to make room for—yet another—dark interpretation. Sigh.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Fly

By Russel D McLean

There is a fly buzzing round my flat.

It won’t leave.

 And it won’t stop long enough for me to swat it.

 I’m sitting here, trying to work, and it buzzes past my face, or stops on the computer screen just long enough for me to lose my train of thought and then he’s gone again. The fly won’t stop buzzing. I’ve left the windows open, and every time he goes near them I think, at last, he’s leaving. But he doesn’t. The fly stays in the room. And buzzes.

I was thinking earlier that perhaps the fly is a metaphor for something. Perhaps the constant buzzing of email and text that distracts us from our real work. It seems a good thing to talk about, but I know its been done to death. All the time you hear people complain about how modern technology actually reduces productivity because it makes itself seem overly important with all that buzzing. Yet no one seems to do anything about it.

But this fly isn’t a metaphor.

And I think he’s not so much buzzing as laughing. Because he knows I can’t leave this chair.

 People always ask about how I write and work full time. Its about discipline, really. Its about getting the arse in the chait and staying there. I have a target every evening. A minimum of 1k words. Why 1k? Because I have a rule – if I start writing, I cannot leave the chair (even to go to the bathroom) until I’ve written 1k of whatever project I’ve started on. (It is a redraft, then it becomes a page count thing – I have to do a minimum of five pages before standing) Sometimes this will take twenty minutes. Sometimes an hour and a half.

But the point is that the rule makes me buckle down and write. It makes me have to ignore the flies – both literal and metaphorical – and it makes me get the damn job done.

In the case of a blog post like this, I have a different target. Its tough to write 1k words every week on a random subject. So I limit myself to 500 and then say that if I do less than 1k then I have to still write on another project that evening.

So this evening, before the fly, I wrote 1K words of a book tentatively titled MOTHERS OF THE DISSAPEARED. It is now 23K deep, and I know what the ending will be.

500 words.

And all I can think about is the fly. And how, the second I hit my target, I’m going to the damn kitchen and getting out the fly swat.

Yeah, laugh away Mr Fly, you’ve got what’s coming to you.

Even if I am 35 words short.


Russel will be launching his new-look website early next week at a new domain name. In the meantime, check out the preview here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Another week, another post unrelated to crime fiction by Jay Stringer

Now that a safe amount of time has passed since the release of The Dark Knight Rises, I thought I'd offer up my thoughts on it. Still, if you're someone who has yet to see it and doesn't like the idea of spoilers, give this post a miss, eh?

How to solve a problem like The Dark Knight?

That's a question that must have given Christopher Nolan more than a few sleepless nights. The 'problem' here being that the 2008 film -even with it's rough edges and flaws the reveal themselves over repeat viewings- set a superhuman standard for comic book films. How to follow it? Should it be followed? How to cope with the tragic loss of that film's main asset?

None of these questioned troubled me all that much. Despite Nolan's insistence on only planning one film at a time, and The Dark Knight's looming shadow, it always felt to me like the middle act of a story. And I had utmost faith that the man at the helm would finish out that trilogy by hitting all the right notes.

Did he succeed?

No. Not for me, anyway, though you'll find numerous glowing reviews elsewhere. And also, it should be said, not for lack of trying. None of the problems with The Dark Knight Rises are down to a lack of ambition or effort. It's a film that reaches for the stars, and it should be applauded for that, just as it also deserves fair criticism for stumbling in the attempt.

But first, let's talk about some positives. The film looks amazing. I can think of few films that have been so masterfully shot, with such total control over the screen. There are also passages in the film that are just about the most immersive experience Nolan has ever crafted, which is no mean feat for a director often noted for creating cold and clinical worlds. Two of the actors -Gary Oldman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt- put in perfectly human performances that carry the film through many of it's roughest patches. A third performance of note is put in by Anne Hathaway. Her Selina Kyle may never be as convincingly human and real as the other two, but who manages to sell us completely on the idea of the words most famous comic-book cat burglar. It's a performance from a slightly different film to Oldman and Gordon-Levitt, but it's a very strong one nonetheless.

And Tom Hardy's Bane is interesting. I wouldn't say he ever convinced me that he was a character who was actually in the film with everyone else, but he did interesting things that managed to stay on just the right side of hamming it up. And he had probably the hardest challenge of everyone in the film; how do you follow Heath Ledger's Joker? Answer, as Hardy showed, is that you don't. Don't even try to. Just use the time you're given on screen to try new things and try to be interesting. He succeeded on that level.

I don't want to criticise Christian Bale's performance, because he did superb work with what he was given, but so many of the films flaws revolve around things relating to his character that he can't help but come off looking weaker than some of his supporting cast. And Michael Caine? Well, at least this film reminded us that he can cry. A lot.

And this is where the film started to trip up over itself.

The story is a combination of some of the most un-filmable Batman stories of the past thirty years. It starts off with a large chunk of Knightfall before transitioning into a truncated version of No Mans Land by way of including a few elements of Contagion, Legacy and Cataclysm. It's bookended by beats lifted straight out of The Dark Knight Returns. And it seems to me that this is the basis of the problem. The film is too self conscious about all of this- it's too busy priding itself on how ambitious it is, to stop and work on a few basic moments of storytelling.

Character arcs whimper and die, three (or four, or five) act structure goes out of the window, and themes begin to eat their own tails.

Something that has become increasingly apparent in Nolan's films as his resources have increased has been the diminishing returns of subtext. One of the few (I still insist) flaws in The Dark Knight is that too much wasn't left unsaid. Take a moment to think how much shorter and more economical that film could have been if all the unnecessary monologues were taken out. We would still have gotten the point, because that's what our brains do when we're watching a film. This problem has reached breaking point with The Dark Knight Rises. The film has no subtext, because everything is on screen, given to us in dialogue, by actors who looked like they were cringing as they delivered the lines. There are times when Checkov's gun is not so much loaded as built right in front of us. But this apparent knowledge of how to structure and foreshadow is undercut by moments that go the other way, when really obvious and important elements of act one are forgotten about by act three.

The strangest thing I can say about this Batman movie is that there was probably a great film in here that didn't have Batman in it. The version of the film we got, though, with Batman in it, falls short.

My hope is that the film marks a crossroad in Christopher Nolan's film making. Thus far he has given us several different versions of the same basic story. He's returned to Captain Ahab over and over, each time with a different lick of paint and a different level on of insight. In my opinion his career so far reached it's peak with The Prestige, a wonderful puzzle box of a film, and he followed it with the exceptional The Dark Knight. But he's taken the driven, obsessive, ambitious protagonist as far as he can. The ending of The Dark Knight Rises saw one character step out from under that shadow, while another man, more mature and well-adjusted, stepped into the role. It was a hopeful ending it it's way, and I hope this was the directors farewell to that era of his life. He's a filmmaker of rare ambition, and seemingly with the even rarer ability to sometimes realise those ambitions, and I would love to see him move onto a new story.

As for Batman, the big screen will get another one in a few years. There will be another actor and director to take up the mantle and no doubt it will be with a studio mandate to veer a little closer to the super-heroics of The Avengers, which was a much more cohesive film. In fact, a certain director by the name of Joss Whedon pitched his own Batman film to Warner Bros just before they green lit Nolan's vision for Batman Begins, so I wouldn't be surprised to see fate crack another fun little joke. But my time with Batman ends here, I had decided that the completion on Nolan's trilogy would be a good spot to mark my closure with the character, so whatever big screen fun comes from Gotham next will be for another generation of super hero fans.

If films were judged by ambition alone, The Dark Knight Rises would be one of the best we've ever seen. And we should salute that. There are too many filmmakers in mainstream cinema today who have craft without ambition. But ambition and ideas go hand in hand with failure more often than success. It's not how you fly the plane that counts, it's how you land it, and unfortunately Nolan doesn't quite manage to land The Dark Knight Rises.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Are Libraries Killing Authors?

By Steve Weddle

Sheesh. Where to start, right?

First, our own Jay Stringer has his OLD GOLD out. It’s a great book. I’ve read it. I dug it. You should read it. In fact, I’ll grab a commenter and get you a copy.

Also, Sean Chercover's THE TRINITY GAME is just out. Look here and you'll have to get your own copy.

There’s this thing about Carroll Bryant.

And I guess I should mention some of this Harrogate-gate stuff. (In America, we end all scandals in “-gate” ever since President James Buchanan was caught one Thursday night, nuts-deep in a bowl of Watergate Salad.) Anyhoo, you can catch up here and here.

A couple of issues raised from the same author. One is alleged racism.

The other is that an author creates a bunch of accounts using faked names and gives himself many positive reviews. We’ve walked around this issue before and, certainly, will do so again.

This week, I’m thinking about books and video games.

Someone said something sometime along the lines of this: “If video games had been invented before books, we’d be telling our kids to quit staring slackjawed at sheets of paper and get interactive by joining their friends playing video games.”

It’s a matter of the more established thing being established because it had been established, I suppose.

So, along the lines of “what if this thing had come before that thing,” today let’s play THE LIBRARY GAME.

Imagine for a second that public lending libraries never existed. If you wanted to read a book, you had to buy it, or perhaps borrow the one book from your friend, who had to buy it.

Heck, maybe used bookstores don’t exist, either.

Imagine a world in which, in order to read a book, you had to purchase a copy of that book. In hardback.

Imagine how happy publishers would be. I picture them all having lunch in Manhattan, frolicking about in their bowls of Watergate Salad. (Do Yankees eat Watergate Salad?)

Consider that the norm for, let’s say, a thousand years.

Now, go out and try to start a public lending library.

Hey, we're going to let you have this book for a few weeks. You don't have to purchase it. Just bring it back when you're done, so we can let someone else read it for free.

Bwahaha. Fat chance, right?

Seems to me that, if libraries didn’t already exist, you’d never be able to start them.

The ebook lending fight is just a small part of it, you know.

Take this, from a PW article last year:
When it comes to e-books, the numbers are especially notable, because only half of the big six currently allow libraries to lend e-books (Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan currently do not enable e-book lending). In 2010, Macmillan CEO John Sargent called library e-books “a thorny problem” for publishers. “It’s like Netflix, but you don’t pay for it,” Sargent famously said. “How is that a good model for us?”

So, the library buys a couple of copies of SALAD RECIPES and lends them out to a couple of people every 14 days. You want to read SALAD RECIPIES, so you add your name to the waiting list. Which is fine, as you’ve been reading THE HARRIET LANE STORY for the past week and are due to get BACHELOR CONFIRMED when a patron returns it within the next few days. You’re set. You read many, many books from the library. Your tax dollars at work!

Publishers, and some authors, get mad when you use the library. Or when you buy a used book. I’m reminded of something Neil Smith said on Twitter one day, many months ago. He said that he didn’t care whether you got his books used or at the library or found them in a dentist’s office. He was just hoping folks read and liked them.

And, yet, there’s a huge disagreement in The Community about whether --
Writers who sell their Kindle books for 99 cents are devaluing writing
Free book pushes online are a bad thing
Libraries are draining sales 
Ebooks being lent is ruinous 
And on and on.

I grew up visiting my town’s library, my school’s library. I’d find books I liked by authors I liked, and I’d end up buying other books by those authors. I think many people do that. The library might have two of seven books from an author. If you like those two, maybe you'll buy the other five.

I don’t get to the library as often now as I did when I was a kid, but I still scan the catalog often. If I’m interested in a disposable book – some thriller I’m not likely to savor – I might check the library. If they don’t have it, I’ll check the bookstore – either physical or digital. Maybe I’ll grab the book there. For me, libraries are still important, still vital to finding new authors.

I’m much more likely to take a chance on an author if I see a good-looking book on the Just Arrived shelf than if I see that same book for $25.95 at my local indie or $12.95 online.

I am not a full-time author. I am not the president of a book publishing company. I don't see libraries as taking money out of my pocket, and I don’t have their much more nuanced understanding of what this means for profits.

I’ve worked in the newspaper industry for (counts fingers, removes socks) years. We’ve always sent subscriptions to local libraries so that patrons can read the paper without having to purchase copies.
I’ve never considered that money out of my pocket.

But publishers and authors are looking for the right “model,” and that’s not exactly the same thing that the libraries are looking for.

Libraries are successful when 1,000 readers line up to read the two copies of GONE GIRL. For publishers, this could be seen as a problem.

You can search the Internet yourself if you want, but various sites suggest that libraries account for about 10 percent of book sales for authors. Do indie bookstores account for more?

Are used bookstores "lost sales" for authors? Are yard sales?

For some authors and publishers, libraries are "lost sales" in the same way piracy is -- or used books.

When someone tells you -- "Oh. Here's my copy of GUN MONKEYS. You have to read it. Here. You'll love it" -- does Victor Gischler die a little inside?

Some authors, including Neil Smith, love for you to get a used copy.

Some authors, including Paulo Coehlo, love for you to get pirated copies of their ebooks.

Cory Doctorow loves for you to get his ebooks, many of which are free.

Other authors want to hand you a free copy of their first book in a series in hopes that you’ll spend $9.99 up the new second book.

And in with all of this is the fight over ebooks in libraries and, oddly enough, paper books in libraries.

Seems odd to ask if there’s a storm that’s been brewing, that’s getting more stormy -- with libraries on one side and publishers and authors on the other, but, well, there it is.

How did libraries become the bad guy?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is the PI Novel Dead?

Steve is going to murder me for doing this, but I got a little distracted this week. My wife and I have a baby on the way, so my focus hasn't been there. Because of that, and after reading Joelle's post, I decided it's time to republish an old blog post I wrote in 2007 about the death of the PI. I have edited it some:

William Ahearn posted this article on his website. It's entitled The Slow and Agonizing Death of the Private Investigator. Obviously, since I write PI novels, I have a stake in this.

The PI has grown and expanded to become both more realistic and at the same time more exciting...The PI no longer is a cypher in which to see the mystery unravel, if it ever was. The PI was always personally involved in their stories. Spade tried to solve the Falcon case because his partner was murdered--and despite him saying, that's just what you do, and his sleeping with his partner's wife--I have a feeling Spade cared. If Chandler hadn't died, it appeared that he was well on the way toward marrying Ms. Loring.

The character taken umbridge with the most seems to be Lew Archer, a character who had "feelings." It strikes me that Archer is the character who changed the least. He killed a man in the first novel and it was mentioned only once more in the course of the series. He met a woman in The Blue Hammer, but we don't know if anything came of that. In fact it seemed that Archer was the character who we most saw only the case. Did he beat anyone up? Occasionally, but not if he didn't have to. But we always knew he could. Did he care about people? Yes. But how cases affected him, that was always to be deduced by the reader.

Characters these days, the article seems to say, are only wussy men or women who drink for no reason or see psychiatrists or do things that the old PIs never did. Guess what, times change. The series has always been about the character. Things have to happen to the PI for us to care. Seeing a psychiatrist is an interesting way to look at a character's depths, I think. (It worked in THE SOPRANOS and Tony was still willing to get his hands dirty.) As far as the psycho sidekick works, yes, it has become a cliche (just like the bottle in the top drawer, the article seems to love so much).

I don't think the PI is dead. I think-at some point-it's going to thrive again. There are great PI writers out there... Pelecanos, Lippman, Crais, Parker, Lehane. (Kenzie was a character, one who was conflicted by his job, commited a murder when he saw no other option, but had to let an even worse character go, when he couldn't get to him. He got scared, he fell in love, and he got beat up. There was much more to him than the "clutter" on the surface.)

The detective stories were always about the detective in the novels. Marlowe played chess by himself (clutter?).. . Spade was after the killer of his partner, as I said, and didn't care much about the bird. Nick and Nora drank way too much and were much more interesting than whatever the case they were solving was.. Sherlock Holmes did cocaine..

(I would bring Spillane and Hammer into this more, but... alas... I haven't read him... and I'm willing to admit that. Though I've seen one of the movies (the one with the nuclear stuff and the house that blows up because of it) and it struck me as just plain silly.)

PIs who have psycho sidekicks (or don't) still get their hands dirty... which was one of the things you said the old PIs that you enjoyed did, but new ones didn't.

Kenzie and Gennaro executed a gang member (but the article says the reader threw the book across the room, so I'm not sure he got that far).

Tess Monaghan killed a man and it still comes up in the series.

Spenser has set up men to be murdered by his hands.

Evils Cole has killed many men and been willing to shoot, punch, and do what it takes to get the job done.

In fact, the point of the article is that the current PIs have a conscience. They kill but they feel it. It strikes me that if Hammer, Spade, and Marlowe didn't feel it when they killed someone (and Marlowe definitely felt it...James Bond felt it too in the novels)... they would be psychos themselves. They are not heroes, they are cold blooded killers as well.

I find the novels now, more exciting. There is more intense action and there are reprocussions to this action. I want to see how characters are affected by the violent worlds they live in... to me, that is more exciting.

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?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ding-Dong this genre is dead

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Cozies are dead.
Chick-lit is dead.
Romantic suspense is dead.
Science fiction is dead.
Dystopian is dead.
Private eye novels are dead.

I just finished attending a conference this weekend.  There were workshops, pitch appointments, award ceremonies, publisher parties and lots of chat amongst friends.  There was also lots and lots of discussion about the state of publishing. 

It never fails that at every writers conference I attend, I hear that a certain genre that was once incredibly popular is now completely tanked.  Dead.  No longer will anyone buy that genre.  If you write in that genre you’d better switch genres or choose to go a non-traditional publishing route.  I watch writers’ eyes widen in fear as they realize the months or years they’ve spent working on their vampire novel or their Georgian-set Historical has all been wasted.  They shrug as if they don’t care, but I see their muscles clench and the sadness lurking behind the smile.


Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but no genre is ever dead.  No time has ever been wasted.  Whether you are pursuing traditional or self-publishing, readers are out there waiting to discover new stories in the genre that has been declared null and void.

Industry professionals who speak confidently about a genre being dead don’t really mean that it is not a viable option any longer.  (Although that is typically what many, maybe even most authors take away from the conversation.  What they are saying is that a genre which in recent years had seen a huge upswing in demand has now contracted a bit.  It’s not that people aren’t buying books in that genre, but they bought so many books in that genre over a set number of years that the market has become oversaturated. 

Take vampires.  After Twilight, publishers were buying vampire books in droves.  They were HOT, HOT, HOT.  Publishers wanted more vampires.  Cooler vampires.  Sparkly vampires. 

And then they didn’t.

Suddenly, vampires were overdone.  Now they wanted the next cool paranormal creature.  Zombies.  Werewolves.  Dragons.  Faeries.  Angels.  Demons.  One year’s cool creature is next year’s “Don’t send it.  We’ve already got enough of it.” critter.

And yet…while vampires “died” five years ago for publishers, there are still books being published with vampire characters.  So, clearly, the reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.  Right?

When a genre “dies” it doesn’t mean that no one is buying that genre anymore.  It doesn’t mean that your book can’t sell or that readers don’t want to read you.  It just means that what once was an easy sell two years ago becomes a tougher sell now.  But it CAN sell. 

Take my young adult novel, THE TESTING.  Dystopian died about a year ago.  Not because readers weren’t reading it or because there weren’t books still coming out in that genre.  It was because it was the genre every publisher bought dozens and dozens of projects in a short period of time.  Both my agent and I knew the book would be harder to sell now that it would have been had I thought to write the sucker two years before.

Even knowing it would be a tough sell, I wrote the book.  I wanted to write the book.  My agent loved the book and pitched it.  Several publishers turned us down without even reading the book because the dystopian YA genre was dead.  But most editors read the book.  I’m guessing many of them did so with an eye-roll because….drum roll please….the genre was dead.  But they read it.  A lot of them really liked it.  Several loved it.  The book and the rest of the trilogy sold.

Just because a genre is dead doesn’t mean you should abandon it.  It just means it might be harder to sell to a traditional publisher or to attract notice if you self-publish the book.  But good stories are always being looked for.  And no genres ever really die.

So, if you are going to a conference and you hear your genre is dead…don’t shake your head with disappointment.  Take it as a challenge.  Make your writing and your story so strong and people have to take notice.  And remember…the genres that fade today are the ones that rise from the ashes and take the world by storm in the future.  No genre ever stays dead for long.