Saturday, November 08, 2014

My First Novel

Ed here: Every once in awhile there's an on line review of my first novel, which I wrote in 1983 thanks to the enormous help of my friend Max Collins.

Otherwise I don't ever think about it. It's just one more book on my personal shelf.

But it was reviewed yesterday by a Russian journalist and I thought his take was interesting. It captures what I dimly recall trying to do with the book.

 I was clueless about the publishing process in those days. I remember being disappointed when I couldn't find it at B. Dalton. King, Koontz and Irving Wallace were there. Where was I?

I had a bad day when the first review came out. PW didn't like it much but said it was a "first novel with promise." Then an Iowa City friend of my said that the guy who ran the famous bookstore there said it was a pretty bad novel.

Better news from Booklist: "a slick, fast-paced, witty mystery." And from Library Journal: "The book has great strength in the cynical, sardonic, witty voice of the narrator. An auspicious debut." And Newsday gave it an outright rave: "Thoroughly entertaining this (hate letter to the advertising industry) is executed with flair and conviction." Then the agent I shared with Loren Estleman sent him a galley and Loren wrote me praising it. He liked the way I used the advert agency as a noirish set piece and the way I turned the Mad Men scenario into hardboiled fiction. 

Britain, France and (I believe) Germany took it and it sold just well enough to get me a second contract.(There would be two movie options.)  A week after I'd sold Rough Cut I sold a horror novel I'd written the same way--get up every morning at five, work till seven and then shave, shower and head for the little ad agency I owned.

Here's the review from Ray Garraty:

Michael Ketchum is a partner in a small advertising agency. Michael seems to be the only one who really works there, not only looking after the artistic side of the business, but also taking part in the creative process. The other advertisers, starting with Michael’s partner Denny Harris, are preoccupied by different activities: looking for mistresses on the side, stabbing each other in the back, scheming, drinking during working hours, at best, doing nothing.

Michael suspects that his partner Harris keeps the biggest client wife's named Clay Traynor as a mistress. If this secret will emerge, Traynor is likely to stop working with Michael’s firm, and the firm simply will go bankrupt. Michael hires a sleaze private detective to gather evidence on Harris. With photos from a private detective Michael goes to his partner to confront him and put pressure on him. In the Harris’ house the corpse of his partner greets Michael. Michael, scared, doesn’t report crime to the police, and soon someone kills another agency employee and another. Michael must find the killer before Michael will be the next.

After Rough Cut Gorman will write a few dozen books, but in 1985 this will be his debut. The circle of the novel's characters are only employees of an advertising agency, and the action rarely spreads beyond the office and apartment of the protagonist. This makes the mystery local, and the atmosphere stuffy. Everyone is a suspect, and the suspects die one by one. Could the killer be a secretary? The agency employs envious cowards and careerists that even secretaries are not to be excluded.

The intrigue expertly is stretched until the very end, and I can assure you, you will not guess who is a killer.

I also quite enjoyed the novel because of the presence of a bad private detective. If usually private detective is a knight on a white horse, a hard man, walking down the mean streets, and in these cases invariably P.I. is a main protagonist, in this book the private detective Stokes is an aahole, blackmailer and sissy, and not the main character either. I have not seen such disgusting private investigator in a long time.

Gorman’s prose is another pleasant surprise, not rough cut at all, the refined product.

«After my divorce, and before I felt much like falling in love again, I spent many evenings alone in my bachelor apartment feasting on Stouffer's frozen dinners and using self-pity the way other people used drugs. I also got into the habit of approximating a sensory-deprivation tank by sitting in the bathtub, throwing back several gins, and coming dangerously close to dozing off in the hot water.

Which is where I was three-and-a-half hours after somebody knocked me out at Denny Harris's house.»

This is conscious, adult, men's prose, surprisingly assured for the detective genre. Rough Cut is a pleasant debut.

Автор: Ray Garraty на 8:24 PM


Unknown said...

So there is this: "the guy who ran the famous bookstore there said it was a shitty little novel."

And then there is this: I cannot think of a writer who has not had to deal with "shitty little" comments from "shitty little" know-it-alls.

But you clearly now have cause to laugh at the "shitty little" bookstore gnome.

And -- as a bonus -- you've enlisted a new reader. So, I'm off to Amazon to see what I can find. All the best from a humble old fart who knows a little bit about good writing.

Ed Gorman said...

P.C. I corrected the "shitty little novel" thing because I don't recall his exact words. Which is why I didn't put it in quotes. I changed it to something like" said it was a bad book." He isn't a gnome for not liking my book. Not everybody was nuts about it. I cited it only to show that coming on the same day as the review I didn't feel that I was off to much of a start. Thanks for writing and. Hope you like the book.

Mathew Paust said...

Read this a few years back, Ed, but didn't realize it was your debut. I, of course, love it. Now I'm gonna read it again! Oh, and the bookstore guy was probly a descendant of the guy who rejected Melville's opus, dismissing it as, to paraphrase, some damned thing about whales.