BOOK & BLOG
January 11, 2009
Books of the Week:
An editor at Penguin sent me a copy of THE KISS MURDER, with a note explaining that Somer is making his U.S. debut with this book. He’s long been a published writer in his native Turkey and in the U.K. Editor Alexis Washam thought Lafayette would love Somer’s nameless protagonist, a Turkish cross-dresser who prides himself on his resemblance to Audrey Hepburn. Washam was absolutely right. The two would have gotten a long like a house afire.
At first I thought of dismissing the series (Somer has written six books, and all will be released in the U.S.) as “the best Turkish transvestite mystery I’ve read.” But these books deserve better than a quick dismissal as a novelty. They’re fun, they’re funny, and they’re an unexpectedly poignant glimpse into a world most of us don’t know. And they’re still good mysteries. I was delighted when David at Murder by the Book gave me a copy of the second Somer, THE PROPHET MURDER.
There’s very little sex in the two novels I read, and what sex there is isn’t explicit, at least not by my standards. There are a lot of grooming tips, though! The protagonist is a computer security expert by day, a club owner (and Audrey Hepburn) by night, and a social networker of great ability. Also, she’s no mean detective, though her chest waxing comes first.
BEHIND THE YELLOW TAPE is a book full of chapters about graduates from the National Forensic Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee. Authors (and instructors) Hallcox and Welch travel all over America to check on their trainees. The interesting part is not the actual investigation (murder is murder, no matter where it occurs) but the wildly varying conditions under which these CSIs work, and the support they get from their state and local governments. The differences between real CSI work and the CSI programs on television is no real surprise, but the fact that New York City ranks among the worst in pay and support for their investigators well, that was a shock. This is an interesting and eye-opening read.
Coincidences happen. I get emails pretty frequently that have essentially this message: “So and so’s book has motorcycle gang werewolves in it, and so did yours. You should look into this. So and so’s copying off of you!” I’m sure people sent the same email to Laurell K. Hamilton when my first books came into print.
The truth is, there are few really original ideas under the sun. There are similarities between many books in the urban fantasy genre. If you get vampires, werewolves, and heroines with a supernatural trait, and they’re all tossed together, some of the results are going to be the same.
I did some lightning plotting last week about a book I want to write. I’m fascinated by cemeteries, and I thought it would be interesting to write a book set in a cemetery. I imagined the protagonist, a girl raised by ghosts in a cemetery, and I began figuring out how she’d live, how she’d avoid being taken in by the state and put in a group home, and what she would do to pass her days in such a lifeless place.
Then I went on Amazon and clicked on Fiction, then on Cemetery, and found that Neil Gaiman has already written a book with a similar premise.
So, what do I do now? Let my lovely idea go? Buy the Gaiman book, and read it enviously? Purchase every copy on earth and burn it?
Can I salvage my own idea? I haven’t decided yet. I would have been happier if I hadn’t checked, I think.
But when when my book was completed, it would have been a rude shock when someone asked me if I hadn’t read Neil Gaiman’s book. I haven’t, and I won’t, in case I decide to go ahead with my own, though the temptation is strong. I admire his writing who doesn’t? Gaiman (whom I’ve met twice, very briefly) is a living legend.
It’s a hard call, but luckily I’ve got plenty of time to think about it. I’ve got two short stories, a lot of editing, and another novel lined up when I finally send in GRAVE SECRET, which is close to completion. By then I’ll have made up my mind, and I’ll either write CEMETERY GIRL . . . or I won’t.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris