Monday, June 23, 2008

Literature is the new rock and roll

Vicki reporting in from the front lines.

I heard that quote on the radio today. The CBC programme Q (I love Jian Ghomeshi– hey, Jian, can I be on your show – I talk real good!) was doing a bit on the Edinburgh Author’s Festival and it was mentioned that people were lining up overnight for tickets for author’s readings. (I know, I know, sort of like it will be when Debby and I tour our new titles in March – more to come on that!) Did you know that Sean Connery has written a book? Yep, and tickets sold out for his reading. Okay, that’s a bit of a no-brainer, in Edinburgh, a book by Sean Connery, with a title like Being a Scot. But tickets also sold out, almost instantly, for Margaret Atwood and others. Causing the organizer of the Festival to exclaim the title quote.

Sometimes the book industry is such a swamp of doom and gloom that one feels like chucking it all in and taking up a more lucrative career – like quilting maybe. So it is nice to hear the occasional comment like the above. My rock-star time hasn’t yet come, but I’m ready and waiting. It will only be a matter of time, I am sure, before Jian’s people are calling my people.

Further on the good news front, we got some from Poisoned Pen Press recently. A first novel with the wonderful title of Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall has received a big, big contract from a big house, complete with foreign language translations, and all that jazz. The book hasn’t even been published yet, and PPP will be bringing out only 1000 copies before letting the big boys have their way with it. That’s great news for Carolyn and great news for the Press and all of us who labour there as it will bring the Press some much deserved attention.

However, I wouldn’t be Canadian if I didn’t point out the down side. Before Bantum publishes it, they want to re-edit it to make it ‘not a mystery’. Yup. They are going to take out the mystery and instead promote the novel as ‘literature’. According to Barbara Peters, grand poobah of the editing department of PPP, in the novel crimes are committed, but it isn’t really a ‘mystery’ per se.

Isn’t that just what we were talking about here recently? When is a mystery a crime novel? When is a novel in which a crime occurs not a crime novel? And when on earth does a novel with a crime in it fall on one side of the road or the other to become either ‘literary’ or ‘a thriller’?

In the report from the Sisters-In-Crime publishers meetings attended by, among others, our recent guest blogger, Judy Clemmins, it was mentioned that mystery novels are no longer in vogue. Publishers now want thrillers.

So what’s a thriller? I’d say the scene in Green Room by Deborah Turrell Atkinson when Storm is trapped in the flooding cave is pretty thrilling. You can’t beat Jackie Goode creeping down the halls of the sinister Sunnyvale clinic in A Case of You by Rick Blechta for thrills and chills, or the pirate attack in Nobel Lies by Charles Benoit.

If you want literature, the Alafair Tucker books by Donis Casey do a pretty darn good job of telling a good story well, of pioneer life and family and hardship.
Come to think of it, isn’t Hamlet a mystery? What really caused the death of the old King? Will Hamlet uncover the true killer before it’s too late? “Sorry, Will, but your play just isn’t enough of a thriller for what Gigantico publishing is looking for at this time. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Who came up with these labels, anyway?

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