Re: RARA-AVIS: RE: NYC Publishing & Noir

From: Patrick King (
Date: 14 Mar 2010

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    > I only want to say I wasn't meaning
    > to infer that was the method Brown or
    > Rowling used.  It's just what happened, although I've
    > heard it asserted
    > Brown was strategic in what he chose to write, but I don't
    > know what the
    > source was on that claim.
    > But I don't know that I'll completely say you can't write
    > something you
    > aren't passionate about and do it well.  When I
    > studied journalism we were
    > told a good writer can write anything, given the
    > facts.  A lesser writer
    > might make it clear they were only in it for the money, but
    > I'm sure there
    > are authors who are capable of writing outside their
    > preferred genre and
    > first love and doing extremely well.  I know a good
    > handful who started with
    > sci fi/fantasy intentions but couldn't sell there and
    > switched to crime, and
    > are extremely successful in this genre, but still have a
    > special passion for
    > the genre they left behind.


    Forty years ago, Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea published their ILLUMINATUS TRILOGY which referred to a conspiracy by the Priory of Zion. These books were then, and remain, a cult hit. They play it for laughs with a lot of philosophy thrown in but the story and plot structure is very similar to THE DA VINCI CODE. Twenty years ago, Umberto Eco had a huge best seller with FOUCAULT'S PENDULUM, almost the same story and premise as Brown's book. The Wilson & Shea book predates the supposedly factual HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL by Baigent, Leigh & Lincoln, the authors who sued Brown for his success with DA VINCI. Who knows why Brown thought restructuring Eco's very popular book from the 1980s for a less intellectual audience was a project worth spending time on, but he made a lot of money from it.

    By all accounts, Rowling was an out-of-work single mother who wrote the first Harry Potter book in a library. She was interested in the study of Magick with a K and conceived the idea of an ideal school that would train witches and wizards. At the turn of the twentieth Century, McGreggor Mather's Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley's Astrum Argentum proposed the same ideas. Rowling fleshed out these schools in Hogwarts. By last report, Rowling is the richest woman in England including Queen Elizabeth.

    I'm sure talented, professional writers can write successfully about anything, but just being talented or professional does not promise the kind of success these two writers attained. Margaret Mitchell, I believe, remains the most successful writer of fiction in history. She had only one book in her. But she lived a passionate life, herself, and she was steeped in the lore of the American Civil War. By projecting her own experiences into the era of her grandparents, she developed the first international blockbuster.

    I don't think, however talented or professional a writer may be, one can calculate these kinds of successes. We can all name any number of writers more "talented," in terms of language and plot line, than any of these three. But Nelson Algren never wrote a book as successful by a third as GONE WITH THE WIND. If you read his book on writing, he was pretty calculating.

    Yes, many who are educated to it can make a living writing. Sure, you can write a spin-off or a copy of GONE WITH THE WIND and make money. But to actually calculate the "next big thing" and write the book, I don't believe it can be done that way. Two years ago young wizards were the big thing. Now it's vampires and this is redundant because Anne Rice had a huge success with vampires ten years ago. So what will be the next "big" thing? If it's "noir," it will be because someone who loves that style comes up with a story that inspires them, and will also inspire millions of readers.


    Patrick King


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