Friday, July 23, 2010

Bill Crider on Murder in the Air


Bill Crider on Murder in the Air

A couple of years ago, Joe Lansdale and I were having dinner in the Raven Grill, just down the street from Murder by the Book in Houston. There were others there, too, of course, but I remember that at one point in the conversation around the table, Joe asked me what I was working on. I told him that I was thinking about a book for the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, but that all I had was the name of the murder victim and the title.
(Digression: I’ve written before about the fact that I’m not much of a planner. I usually start a book with only a vague idea of what it’s going to be about or where I’m going with it. Those are things I trust that I can figure out after I get started. So far, it’s been working. End of digression.)
“What’s the title?” Joe asked.
“It’s based on the name of the victim,” I said. “His name is Lester, and the book is going to be called No Les, No More.”
“That’s a great title,” Joe said, and I must admit that I agreed, even though I’d stolen it from a well-known Boot Hill epitaph:
Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les
No More
Other people get their titles from Shakespeare, but I steal only from the lesser poets.
Anyway, when I started working on the book, I had a talk with my brother about an environmental problem in our home county (factory chicken farms), and that gave me an idea to hang the plot on. I killed off Lester and got started on the rest of the story. Eventually I finished. The book comes out on August 3, and of course it’s already available for pre-order at all the big on-line stores or your favorite local independent bookseller.
Hold on a second, you’re saying. You’ve searched those on-line stores and inquired at your local independent, and there’s no such book as No Les, No More coming out on August 3. There’s no such book coming out at all, at least not by Bill Crider.
You’re right. There’s not.
Instead, there’s a book called Murder in the Air. It has a very colorful cover, and it’s obviously about chickens. Could it be somehow related to No Les, No More? Indeed it could. It is, in fact, the very same book. Only the title has been changed.
Don’t look at me, though. I didn’t change it. As it was about to go into production, I got an e-mail saying that the title I’d given the book just wouldn’t do.
“Why not?” I asked.
“People will think it’s a typo.”
“I think they’ll get the joke,” I said.
Unfortunately, I was the only one involved who thought so. No amount of persuasion on my part could convince anybody at St. Martin’s that my original title was not only a good one but a brilliant one. A stroke of genius. They remained unconvinced. I even thought about having Joe Lansdale call them. He’d have done it, too.
In the end, however, I decided it wasn’t worth it. Some battles just aren’t worth fighting, and the book’s still the same even if the title isn’t.
Or maybe I should’ve fought for it. You’ll have to buy the book and read it. Then you can decide for yourself which title is better. Or buy the book and don’t read it. Just as long as you buy the book. You see, I read the other day that Janet Evanovich was thinking about leaving St. Martin’s because they’d offered her only $12 million for her next four books. I’d like to kick my sales up a little just in case she does leave. I’m willing to sell my next four books for a mere $8 million, and I figure it Murder in the Air sells enough copies, St. Martin’s will go for the deal. It’s up to you to make it happen. As always, I thank you for your support.

8 comments:

Bill Crider said...

Thanks for the forum, Ed!

Frank Loose said...

Yea, the original title had some snazz to it. Look at it this way, you're in a club of many great writers who have had their book titles changed by the publisher. At any rate, and under any title -- congrates, Bill, on your new book hitting the shelves.

Ron Scheer said...

Good grief...

Matt said...

And the dumbing down of America marches on by those who control the purse strings.

Title change aside, your book sounds great, Bill. I definitely look forward to reading it.

Trent said...

Hey, this is the Internet age! Design a dust jacket with your original title and post it to your website for download and printing! Is legal paper long enough to wrap around?

Nate Flexer said...

Looking forward to the read. As they say, you can't judge a book by its title, or something like that.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I'll be buying it no matter what the title, and in my mind it will be your original one, Bill. And don't accept the 8 million. There's no reason to drop your price.

Gonzalo B said...

Reminds me of all the poor Western writers that try to innovate while their publishers package their books with titles like "Vengeance Valley" or "Lawless Town" along with an unrelated stock illustration as the cover.