Thursday, February 05, 2009


This week, we concluded filming on the documentary. It's been a pleasure, I have to say. I was probably more than a little cautious at the beginning, but the crew and the producer couldn't have been kinder - or better company - and, in the end, I appreciated the opportunity to explain myself and what I've been doing for the past ten years or so. In addition, Maine came up trumps, and everyone and everything (including the weather) smiled upon us, including the various law enforcement agencies, and the people who agreed to let us film in their bars and restaurants and houses.

Still, when I returned to Maine from Washington yesterday I was grateful to be able to resume writing. I was intent upon finishing THE GATES, the odd little book upon which I've been working since last year (and about which, in truth, I've been thinking since the second or third book), and so I sat down this morning and didn't move from my desk until the draft was done. By the time I sat back in my chair, the light had changed and I had almost 4000 words written. I still don't know if anyone will want to publish it, but I've enjoyed every minute of working on it, and it has made me smile.

As a reward, I went to see GRAN TORINO, the new Clint Eastwood movie, and, once I'd managed to get over what felt like Clint's early mugging for the cameras, I enjoyed it a lot. Nevertheless, even in the midst of the action I found myself thinking about the next book. It's something that I discussed with the documentary crew: how, at various points in a book, it becomes impossible to concentrate properly on anything other than the novel in hand.

For months, I've been trying to figure out how to start the next Charlie Parker book. I think I know what the catalyst will be, but I've been struggling to find my way into it. As I sat watching GRAN TORINO, I realised out how the novel should begin. Actually, I was working it out as I walked down to the movie theatre in Portland, but it came together as I sat in the dark, watching Clint utter racial epithets about his new Asian neighbours. What I was watching had no connection with what I intended to write, but there was something about sitting in the darkness, watching the film unfold while my mind sought to accommodate what it had been considering earlier with what it was now confronting, that brought everything together, and I knew how the next book should begin.

Actually, I've been a bit distracted of late, and not just because of the documentary. THE REAPERS came out in paperback in the UK recently. This was its first full week on sale, and I wanted it to do well. I was worried that it wouldn't make the top 10 list, mainly I was trying to finish one book and start another, and my confidence was in need of a boost. I probably made life very difficult for my beloved agent as a result, but I think he understood that it wasn't simply a matter of sales but of giving me the impetus that I needed to keep going at a moment of transition between two very different projects. Thankfully, the book seems to be doing okay, and I can almost feel some of the tension easing from my body. After all, if it hadn't been doing well, then what business did I have working on something that might never appear in print? Shouldn't I have been trying to get my career back on track? And what would be the point, if the mysteries weren't being read? The same thing happens twice every year: the first time when the last paperback appears, and the second time when the new novel is published in hardback. Perhaps, after a decade of publishing, such matters shouldn't concern me, but they do. I want my books to do well so that I can keep writing them and, in truth, so I can buy a little leverage to pursue odd experiments like NOCTURNES, THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, and THE GATES.

Something did put a smile on my face yesterday, though. I was browsing in the wonderful Bullmoose music store in Portland, and saw a CD by a band named The Loups. Hmmm, I thought, that's a good name for a band, perhaps because it reminded me of the villainous wolf hybrids in THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS.

Then I saw that the band's EP was called Holding Hands with the Crooked Man, and wondered if it might possibly have anything to do with my book. Via MySpace, I sent a polite email to the band, asking just that question, and got a very lovely email back from the band's lead singer enthusing about my work. It was just a nice piece of snyergy, and now I'm the proud possessor of the EP, the first inspired, however peripherally, by something that I wrote. Even better, The Loups are a local Portland band so, with luck, I'll get to see them live before I head back to Dublin.

Now, I must finish re-reading HAWKSMOOR for the book club.

Tomorrow, I begin the new book. I think it will be called THE WHISPERERS...

This week John read

Twelve by Jasper Kent
School Days by Robert B Parker

and listened to

Temple of Low Men by Crowded House
Blood Bank by Bon Iver
The Beatles by The Beatles


Leinda said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings so openly. It's refreshing to know that someone as talented as you experiences self-doubts. I suppose none of us are ever as composed as we might project, but I appreciate the honesty.

Your books are like a place I both fear and can't resist. I know I'm going to be caught up in some of the darkest aspects of humanity, but Charlie's efforts to overcome the darkness and save some hope in the process are inspiring.


Anonymous said...

See you listened to Temple of Low Men by Crowded House.

I must say that when I hear "Sinner" by CH front man Neil Finn, I now always think of Charlie Parker and The Black Angel inparticular...

Can't wait for The Lovers, I've never had this much anticipation for a novel.

ksuicide said...

Very cool about the band. It gave me a big smile to read that, since I really did adore that book. It is my favourite book to give of yours as a gift. :)


Joe said...

Temple of Low Men - what an awesome album.
Great story about that. It was released when I was a student and at the time my folks were sponsoring 75 Rand (about 8 Euros) per week for my living expenses.
The album came out on a Monday, and it cost 70 rand. I bought it and a 5 rand tape on which to record it (I didn't have a CD player at the time).
I starved for a week, but man was it worth it. I still own the album and I still listen to it today 18 years after I bought it.
Anyway, hope everything is grand with you, my friend. Speak soon.

PS - Just remembered it was actually Woodface that I bought. Oops, but it's still a good story.

TomH said...

Similar feelings early on about Gran Torino. Aside from the over the top posturing, identified with the character more than I like to admit. Might sound weird but its true.