Time for an update. My magnum opus ‘Flight Into Darkness – the first post-Bin Laden novel’ is currently hanging around on street corners wearing fishnets and too much make-up, trying to attract the attention of a kerb-crawling publisher. Having one of the best agents in the business (Peter Buckman) is one thing but I hadn’t realised that the remainder of the process was going to be like the Da Vinci Code – you know; Langdon has just solved the thirty-seventh damned riddle and is faced with yet another one and you’re saying ‘Oh, for God’s sake…get on with it…’
Getting into print is clearly an obstacle course and I sit here in my dressing gown sipping my morning tea and see a parallel. I’m English, so, naturally, I drink English tea – what the Germans call Schwarztee. We call it PG Tips. The British Empire was created and sustained by it and only crumbled when people started drinking coffee. Well, it’s never been proven but that’s my rather unique take on history. Anyway, to continue. The supermarkets here don’t stock PG but there’s a little Indian shop in town that sells sacks of them. However, PG is far too crude and in-your-face for the Germans who prefer subtle Chinese blends, jasmin, peppermint, raspberry, rooibos and bloody decaffeinated camomile. There are so many varieties on the shelves that anything resembling PG gets lost in the crowd. And that’s the problem, you see; like with books, it’s a matter of personal taste and shelf space. There’s me thinking that publishers will be great money-making automatons that will immediately recognise works of brilliance with complete objectivity when, in fact, they are as subjective in their assessments as agents. And that’s because, in the end, a publisher (a person, not an organisation) has to fall in love with your book. In my experience, it’s awfully difficult to make someone fall in love if they’re not in the mood. And it’s a bit like trying to find a German who likes Schwarztee; it’s subjective you see. And that’s a bit of a bugger.
I’m currently reading a couple of books and must tell you about Stephen Clarke’s latest opus, 1000 Years of Annoying the French. It’s informative and very funny and will appeal to any true Anglo-Saxon born since 1066 (and, no, the Normans weren’t French, they were Vikings who’d grabbed the northern bit of France). When I retire, I plan to leave a copy for my staff to act as a kind of Operations Manual; essential procedures for working in an international agency where an understanding of les françaises is an essential survival skill. Incidentally, I am reminded that the Germans refer to them as ‘die Fröche’ (= frogs) which is rather spooky but shows you who your friends really are. That reminds me of another book idea, a farce based on a fictitious EU Cultural Integration Agency. But more about that one later. When I’m famous.
This could take some time.