Saturday, November 5, 2011

Read This Book

This week, the Red Room has challenged its members to write about our favorite book for sale on the new Red Room bookstore.

A-ha! I thinks to myself. I could praise Red Room member David Corbett’s novel Do They Know I’m Running? or, recommend any number from member Peter Straub’s distinguished oeuvre.

But, at the end of this short paragraph, lie ten words stretching seductively on a thin mattress of clear digital air: 

“Yes, you're welcome to recommend one of your own books.”

You mean, praise my own book? Dragon's Ark? Really? Just like that? As my heart wings skyward, I look for an oxygen mask to fall from the ceiling. The sun hangs just out of reach, my fingertips brushing its soft molten surface. I shall melt into its liquid hot sea as my light spreads throughout the universe! Even Stephen Colbert will embrace a studied diffidence that will lead him into the priesthood!

Let’s see . . . “Dragon’s Ark is the one Dracula novel that towers above all other books ever written. Not since Leopold Bloom thought about God while seated on the . . . .”

Nah, that’s a bit much. Maybe. Let’s go for a more lolling modesty.

“If Dragon’s Ark had thundered onto the literary scene 60 years ago, Saul Bellow would have packed up his pencil box and retired to Peoria. Take that, Edmund Wilson!”

As you can tell, I’m finding this difficult.

To permit me to say nice things about something I’ve done, for me to ladle the same praise on my novel Dragon’s Ark that Michiko Kakutani slathers on Michael Ondaatje like warm honey, would daunt few of the other authors I’ve known in my life. Many are the writers who secretly believe their books are better than everyone else’s. I’ll bet my next five dollars in royalty payments that, once in awhile, Dan Brown sits staring into a corner, muttering to himself “Robert Ludlum is unfit to vacuum and shake the crumbs from my keyboard.” Even Harold Robbins supposedly crowed—yes, crowed--that he was a greater writer than Joyce and Hemingway.

I was raised by a mid-Westerner, who, was, in turn, raised by an iron-clad Upper Michigan Presbyterian. I lived fifteen years in the Midwest. Some of you may know what means. Some of you may not. What that means is that not only are you not allowed to blow your own tuba, it’s only polite to claim the tuba belongs to someone else.

Praise my own book? In public? Are you kidding? . . . would you like me to strut boldly naked through Union Square for an encore? We do all this doggish groveling to reviewers and authors, wheedling like Oliver Twist for blurbs and reviews and now you tell us we can personally recommend our own book?

Dragon’s Ark! The vampire novel that fans of Ordinary People have been waiting for!”

Mmmmmm . . . try again.

As I’ve said elsewhere, the Dracula myth has been dozing upside down in my brain cave since I was knob-high to the TV set, mostly in mute secrecy. “Mostly” because whenever I did dare loose it from its cage, out through my mouth, the response would be funny looks, not the ‘ho-ha, that’ll be scary and clever” kind.

Adults, teens, and children alike murped in ever-shifting shades of disapproval, disdain, and outright pallid fear. Fire-purple sneers from parents and teachers and parents of teachers, the word “junk” usually flashing by from somewhere in the word train; curled lips, raised eyebrows while they repeatedly banged me in the nose with a copy of Moby Dick. “You have to be the next Steinbeck and Fitzgerald!” can hang like a horse collar on a guy.

Hisssssss! Boooooooo!” said a warm, soft, buxom, farm-bred, homespun, Catholic, leftist feminist for whom I carried a soggy sputtering torch for far too long. Oh well, horror fans and writers are a tad on the conservative side anyway.

And then there was the woman, a supervisor at a psychiatric institution near Oshkosh, Wisconsin, who spluttered with genuine moral disdain: “What? You’re a writer? You mean you’re one of those people who live in their own little worlds and don’t care about anyone else?”

You didn’t know such individuals existed? Oh, dear dear reader they have and they do. You may be sitting next to one right now. Pity these people. Pity them because now, with writers everywhere thanks to digitalization, they must feel surrounded by the Zombie Horde. (We, of course, will eat their brains, because, well, where else are we going to get our ideas?)

No, it wasn’t until long after the blessed rise of Stephen King and when people started realizing that John le CarrĂ© was a serious writer, that I dare let Dracula’s wing untangle so he could flip open my skull cap and lead other of my many dreams up into the starry night.

I think I experienced the same revelation Stephen King experienced during his brief sojourn in a traditional literary workshop of the Iowa type: No matter how earnestly realistic and “relevant” I tried to be, tale of vampires and cowboys, spies and plunderers, spoke to me more as a writer. I never consulted Richard Stark’s sales figures. I just knew I wanted to explore that fictional realm more than any other—where people do things in the world and often suffer surprising and terrible consequences.

Nowadays, a certain confidence and pride occupy genre writers, both justified and, more often, not. And thanks to that digital technology, thanks to this teeming marketplace where millions of books jostle like fleas, there is no other choice but to be your own salesman somehow, a cruel development for those of shy and modest temperament and whose books may be far far better than anyone else’s, especially those who shout most loudly and cleverly.

So: It’s time to be arrogant, plain and simple.

Dragon’s Ark is a darn good read. There are several 4- and 5-star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon to prove it, plus praise from David Corbett and others on its cover. It’s a scary, colorful, exciting, and dramatic novel. It has all the familiar, but fundamental pleasures of genre fiction, good and great alike: narrative drive, bracing energy, and vivid background and characters. It’s also written in a fresh interesting, entertaining style with wit, humor, and a fresh subtext. Dragon’s Ark imaginatively weaves together themes not often seen in horror fiction of its type in bloody good diverting fashion.

I hope you read it. I hope you’re entertained. I hope you’ll like it.

As Gene Autry said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you done it.”

Copyright 2011 by Thomas Burchfield

(Photo by author)

Thomas Burchfield's contemporary Dracula novel Dragon's Ark is available right NOW, published by Ambler House Publishing. It can be ordered in both paperback and e-book editions through your local independent bookstore, through Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  Powell's Books, Smashwords, Scrib'd and now at the Red Room. His original comic screenplay Whackers  is now available in Kindle, Nook, iPad and on Scrib'd, also from Ambler House. Other material can also be read at The Red Room website for writers. Not enough for ya? He can also be friended on Facebook, tweeted at on Twitter and e-mailed at tbdeluxe [at] sbcglobal [dot] net.


Julie Schauer said...

You have me convinced, now that you're getting over that humble Midwestern upbringing.

Thomas Burchfield said...

Aw shucks, Julie. Thanks!