Monday, January 31, 2005

RANKIN ON RANKIN: Just when you thought it was safe t'go back in the pie shoppe...

Having donned the riot gear and taken a shelling, Mad Max tried a diversionary tactic--an ale-fueled HOORAY! for Ian Rankin--that allowed me to slip unnoticed through the bathroom window, crawl along a narrow ledge, then leap two stories into a passing haywagon--whereupon (the plan was) a lovely maiden would salt my wounds and lead me to safety.

Ahh, but wouldn't you know: application of the salty salve was barely underway when the rogue swordsman known as Deadly D upended the haycart (farewell, my Florence Nightengale!) and held me at knifepoint, backing me dextrously toward the mouth of an open-air sewer.

nice move, max [quoth he]. you side-stepped the riot. only your pie-proof rankin hardcover has roots in the other story. seven books in, low sales, a handful of readers in public libraries, and rankin's editor decided to drop him off the side in a cost-effective re-shuffle. a timely golden dagger award...and guess who took the credit?

My first impulse was to say--yea, kind sir, tell me: who did take the credit? Does it not always (and rightly) belong to the author himself? Worse, I nearly began to argue on behalf of the loathsome publisher--after all, had they not stood by Mr. Rankin for seven books despite what D. had described as "low sales"? Is that not worth something? But I bit my tongue, knowing that, otherwise, I'd wind up drowning offally, or with a cut throat.

So instead I said:

Forsoothe, Gallant D.--spare me a moment longer, for I believe the man who knows the truth lives in the straw hut just up the close [translator's note: that's "alley" in American]--on Scrivener's Block, I believe they call't? If we find Good Man Rankin home, perhaps we can sort this out without further harm?

D. was reluctant, having earlier witnessed (nay, anticipated) my hay-wagon escape; but the gentleman eventually granted my request. He tied (and loosely enough, causing no more pain than was necessary) a yoke about my hands and led me up the hill; whereupon a handsome if unshaven fellow did emerge, squinting into the late afternoon sun; and, after hearing the nature of our debate, did admit himself to be IAN RANKIN, and, being somewhat knowledgeable on the subject, he had this to say:

"I don't think my editor took much of the credit... but it's true that when I delivered BLACK AND BLUE, knowing in my heart that it was a meatier, altogether better book than my previous outings, my publishers saw it as 'just another Rebus'. By that time I was seen as mid-list, selling a few thousand from book to book, but not growing fast enough to make me worth promoting. However, my agent campaigned on the book's behalf, and my publisher eventually put some marketing money behind the book, as well as introducing a new livery which worked so well we're still using it (and being copied by every second crime novel coming out of the UK, it sometimes seems)...

"The book was to be published mid-January, and on Jan 2nd there was a review in the London Times which said 'There won't be a better crime novel published this year'. That gave me a real thrill. The book got further rave reviews and sold
moderately well (I think it was my first hardcover to go into a reprint). Still didn't make the UK top ten, but got close. Come November, it won the Gold Dagger, and the paperback went on to sell four times as many copies as my previous efforts. My next hardcover scraped into the UK top ten... and my publishers decided they really did like me after all.

"Prior to this (my editor later confided) she'd been fighting my corner, as her bosses wanted me dumped. Their point was: they'd laid out money on me, tried marketing me and touring me, and I was staying resolutely mid-list... so why not release me and let someone else take a shot?

"I am still with my publisher; still use the same editor. In fact, when she left the company, I asked her to keep me on in a freelance capacity. She's a good editor."

I was honored (and relieved, now that my hands had been unbound) that Ian Rankin himself would speak so freely; and Dexter, too, seemed satisfied; and soon we three were tossing down tankards of ale and clapping each other on the back; and later, after dark--wouldn't you know it, a Mr. Smith emerged from his hut, and a Ms. Rowling from hers, and we sat round a great fire telling tall tales and drinking a peaty single-malt and toasting the likes of Peter Robinson and Michael Connelly and...well, the list was long, but my recollection isn't.

...and when I awoke, I was back in the 21st century, with the residue of several shaving-cream pies still on my face, and sand in my hair, and I wondered where I was and whether any of this had really happened...had Dexter and I really been transported, somehow, to some back-in-time Edinburgh? Had we really drank into the wee-hours with...no, it wasn't possible, it must've been a dream....

Then I reached into my pocket and found a print-out of several emails...
"the story about the murder in my neighbourhood is entirely true - first murder in this 'toney' suburb for around sixty years, and happens six months after I cross the tracks from Deadville..."

[signed] Ian Rankin

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

-good heavens, watson. i do believe you've surpassed yourself. either that or you've been at my turkish shag again. a fancy piece of private enquiry. you've made capital use of your indian army chums, i see.
-oh, hrmpph, thankyou holmes. i uhm, i am rather pleased with my novel idea of direct discourse with the villain. sometimes you go too far holmes, with your baker street irregulars and, as our good friend inspector perkins sometimes has it, your unorthodox methods. there is much to be said for flat-footed tradition. there's always a simple answer.
-excellent watson, indeed, you might come in rather useful in this case after all.
-but holmes, this is scandelous. what the deuce do you mean by that? the case is cut and dried, surely.
-my dear watson, i fear those modest fictions on our more celebrated cases which you occasionally pen for the strand magazine have given rise to a modicum of hubris. close is sometimes a blind alley. you've done me a fine service, i admit. you've eliminated several false lines of enquiry and provided an invaluable admission by one of the smaller players in a two-pipe problem. but as for "de rebus quae geruntur", moriarty has agents at the very highest level of publishing. indeed watson, i wouldnt be surprised if the confession you possess is a case of knots and crosses.
-this is outrageous holmes. you see for yourself, the good editor stood up to the villains.
-villains watson? all villains are fallen stars. by his own admission, the author of these foul deeds tricked his employers 7 times with false currency, with counterfeit crime watson, before the dagger was drawn and he was obliged to improve. you know, watson, that for all our crusade for justice, the word must be worthy from the onset.
-holmes, you might use that shaving cream to scrape away your filthy beard. i presume it's part of your latest disguise, the one where you pose as a disreputable bookseller on waterloo bridge?
-quite so watson, and very instructive it is too. my previous cases have involved a variety of villains:the
counterfeiters of books for example, and their agents, and the plight of the chimney sweeps themselves. but what of the fickle book-buyer who never ceases to astound? produce one fresh pie and you can sell all the rotton pies that have been sitting in your box since doomsday. what does this bode for the future of our empire, man? you've a scientific turn of mind, watson, perhaps you can explain.
-good lord holmes, you're surely not suggesting the dear reader is somehow embroiled in this den of thieves? that a sandwich maker produces sandwiches that he knows are...
-my dear chap, the next tale you pen for your lurid publication might be entitled "the case of the shit sandwich".
-holmes.
-yes watson?
-pass the mustard.

a.conan D

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A VOCATION OF UNHAPPINESS [Courtesy Georges Simenon (1903-1985)]

"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."


PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]

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PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]

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