Allan Guthrie's 'Hard Man', and other airport observations
In terms of great figures in science, I really do reckon J. S. Haldane is up there with the Einsteins of this world. He's even got a moustache that in iconic terms rivals Einstein's blaze of white hair. Here in the UK Simon and Schuster is bringing out my Haldane book Suffer and Survive in the same season as they are brining out this Einstein bio. I hope it really connects with the market. But as thoughts gently turn to 'what next' in terms of biography, I do see that picking up on one of those world-famous names like Einstein gives you a headstart in marketing terms.
W. Somerset Maugham advised young writers to make a name for themselves by writing he latest biography of a writer already famous. I guess the trick is that such a thing gets you the connections as interviewees, and has a buzz in literary circles. In a Santa Fe bookstore last week I heard a man ask for the latest biography of Edith Wharton. The attendant led him to Hermione Lee's weighty tome, with the rather negative sales pitch that it would give him enough reading matter for a year or more. The putative customer's enthusiasm waned as he hefted the volume.
With minutes to buy a book for the last part of my journey to London last night, I picked up Allan Guthrie's new novel Hard Man from a table of new books. It's a spunky Edinburgh noir, gruesome in ways but charactered by amiable dumboes for whom viciousness is a side issue, powered by incredible stamina rather than sense. Mix the environs of Ian Rankin, the humour of Raymond Chandler and the Gothic characters of Harry Crews and you have something of the flavour. Pearce, a winning character from Allan's last novel Two-Way Split, has entered some downward spiral. His main triumph in this volume is tipping a cripple from a wheelchair. My money's on his three-legged pooch, a male terrier called Hilda, to be the nugget of any sequel - the creature's set to run and run. We enter the mindset of each of the other character's in the book, but stay somewhat shy of Hilda's perspective. Surely he's being saved up.
Allan's also my fiction agent. Let's hope his getting a pile of his own novel into the Minneapolis airport in advance of its US publication date is a fine prognosis for his selling mine.