Friday, March 10, 2023

Comic Cuts — 10 March 2023

My plan to work on a book that I have planned for Bear Alley Books had to go on hold because I had a commission from The Guardian come in on Friday to write a piece on the late Christopher Fowler. The deadline was Monday morning, but I had arranged a visit to the dentist for a checkup on Monday, so I had to get everything finished Sunday night, preferably Sunday afternoon so I could watch Endevour and not then have to go back out into a cold office — the temperature has been dropping over the past week, and it has been threatening to snow, which it eventually did on Wednesday.

As it turned out, I managed to hustle together all my research notes by Friday evening, got up nice and early on Saturday (5 AM) and was already mapping the whole thing out by the time Mel got up. There's a style that most obituaries are written in, front-loading with the achievements that people will recognise before getting into the bit about how they got to achieve it.

In the case of a writer, that's a discussion about their books and what makes them popular, followed by biographical information (with details on parents, education, early jobs, etc.), a wrap up of who they are survived by and you're done. Sounds a lot easier than it actually is. If all the information isn't already in the public domain you can spend hours hunting down little details, like a mother's maiden name and what a father did for a job, what schools they attended and nailing down dates for when they did various jobs. The easiest thing is writing about the books, but you have to keep in mind that you have limited space, so keep a description of a book down to a sentence (half a sentence if possible) if you're covering a successful novelist.

Space is at a premium these days. Most papers carry fewer obituaries than they used to, and in the case of The Guardian, the change in size has also meant changes in how much they can carry. The one-time broadsheet shrank to Berliner size in 2005 and then to tabloid in 2018, effectively halving the number of obituaries they carry. A shame, as it is the one paper that tries to cover a lot of literary and pop-culture figures. They still do a fantastic job in often difficult circumstances, especially when trying to react quickly to the death of a public figure, but there are still a few people I wish they could have recognised as important figures in British comics. Mike Western passed without any notice and Ian Kennedy was given space in a couple of Scottish titles and The Times, which unfortunately lurks behind a paywall.

So the book was pushed back while I finished off the obituary and sent it in. It still needs to go through the editorial team who might want some editing for length and clarity (length because I always go horribly over length and clarity because sometimes we all say something that is obvious to us but might not be to the general reader) and fact checking (which, touch wood, there isn't usually much of), so I'm not done with it quite yet.

In the meantime, I managed to complete checking the artwork for the next book I'm doing for Dolmen and, at the time of writing, I'm taking a break from doing a second pass. That should leave Friday free to start work on the introduction.

The big question is... will I get around to working on that book this weekend. I have the house to myself (Mel is away at a convention) and I don't have any plans to binge watch any TV shows or movies, so I think this might be my chance to at least start correcting the text. I might even have a proof copy in my hands by the end of the month. (Now watch the whole plan fall on its face. This is why I'm often so vague when I write about what I'm up to, because the one thing I've learned from 16 years of blogging is that if a plan can go wrong, it will go wrong.)

(* In honour of Christopher Fowler, we have a handful of his books on display. He wrote an amazing range of stories that never quite fit into any one category, making him a difficult author to "sell" to the public but a fascinating author to read.)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Steve. I look forward to reading your obit of Chris, although I obviously which it hadn't had to be written. In my opinion, Chris was a terrific writer who was often under the radar. His Bryant and May books were great, although I was never clear why they weren't taken up as a TV series. (There's still chance, I guess!) This week I picked up one of Chris's that had passed me by - The Book of Forgotten Authors, which is a non-fiction book that makes you want to go and buy more fictional ones! Even when I don't agree with everything Chris says in it, it is a wonderfully fun book showing us that authors could often be as mad as their characters. There's a lot of humour in there too, and personal details from Chris. Made a wonderful, if bitter-sweet, read.



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