Saturday, August 18, 2007

Coming Soon to an Airport Near You

Editor Will Atkins has sent me an e-mail with some wonderful news. It seems that they've decided to follow up next month's MNW publication of Shock and Awe with a Pan paperback edition come September 2008. They're talking about an "A Format" paperback, which, if my mm to inches conversion is right, means mass-market paperback, and I couldn't be more thrilled.

Now, it isn't just the possibility of more readers that makes this exciting for me. It's that, in my twisted view of the universe, paperbacks have a certain credibility that hardbacks lack. I know that's crazy, and that many writers who started out in paperback originals fought their way upstream for years to achieve hardback publication. And I know critics are loath to review anything but hardbacks, and certainly don't give even a glance to mass-market paper. But still...

When I was a kid growing up in Redlands, California, the Orange Capital of the World, real bookstores were a great rarity. The single store in my home town sold nothing but paperbacks, and not many of those. The racks at Sage's, the largest grocery store, provided serious competition. So there were, in my limited worldview, two kinds of books: Library Books, which had hard covers, and Real Books, which came in paperback for something less than a dollar. I read both voraciously, but the exciting stuff was all happening in the paperback racks.

The other thing that has me jazzed is the Pan imprint, which was the UK paperback imprint of my pre-adolescent idol, Ian Fleming (who replaced my previous idol, Edgar Allan Poe. Fickle, ain't I?) Macmillan, of course, was Fleming's hardback publisher.

I bought my Bond from Signet, but every so often, one way or another (usually in a comic-book store in LA, where people traded such things), us Yanks caught a glimpse of the gorgeously lurid Pan covers (see left), compared them with our Signet covers (see right) and felt a bit left out. (Okay, the US edition features black lingerie, too. If you have a magnifying glass.)

Soon I hit smug and snotty-nosed puberty and decided Ian Fleming wasn't the greatest writer who ever lived after all, since Sartre and Camus and JMG Le Clezio were vying for that honor. (Though my taste was later vindicated when Sartre announced, to the everlasting horror of the French intelligensia, that he was a Fleming fan. Ha! Take that! [Then again, they like Jerry Lewis over there, too...])

Over the years, I've ended up with a lot of Pan paperbacks on my shelves, most of them (the books, not the shelves) snagged in airports. Some--the Tom Sharpe novels, for example, which are virtually unobtainable in the US--are treasured possessions. (I make animal sounds in the back of my throat when visitors pick them up and thumb through them. At least until said visitors start giggling. Then I forgive them.)

My point (I had one, it was here beside me just moments ago) is that I know, as a Serious Novelist, that hardback publication is what matters. And those MNW hardbacks, sewn in signatures with the ribbon bookmarks and all, are Library Books of the first order. And I'm pretty damn pleased about them.

But I'd be less than frank if I didn't admit that there's a ten-year-old inside me that's thrilled to distraction by the paperback. Now that's a real book. And as I walk around, I'm humming Paperback Writer...

'Cause I'm jazzed. As they say Across the Water, chuffed. Or, as they say here in California, I'm like, totally, whoa--!

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fabulous news David - I'm so very chuffed for you! And I know what you mean. There's something about being a paperback writer that has a certain ring to it. Almost musical, one might say. Congrats!

Aliya

Faye L. said...

Excellent.

(You can imagine the Mr Burns voice and tented fingers.)

Congrats!

MNW reject said...

Congartulations and well done David.

But ditching Edgar Allen Poe for a cheap bit of trash, a floosy like Fleming? Shame on you! You're nothing but a cheap slag!

David Isaak said...

Thanks, Aliya. The news is indeed chuffalacious.

David Isaak said...

Hey, Faye. Thanks. Your pub date is rapidly approaching, too, if I recall (aren't you Miss November?)

The months between editing and publication are kind of odd, aren't they? (No one seems to talk much about that phase of this process.) All this busyness, and then not much happening for a long while. And then apparently a bunch of things happen all at once. (Wow, I said that well, didn't I? I oughta be a writer.)

David Isaak said...

Hi, MNWR.

Actually, I expected Faye to be the one who scolded me about leaving Poe for Fleming. [She once posted a picture of her desk on her blog, and there was an Edgar Allan Poe action figure. Or, I think it was Poe... Could have been Groucho Marx.]

Cheap slag? That's me. But, gee--who wants an expensive slag?

Faye L. said...

Yep, Miss November (I kind of like that expression, come to think of it). It is strange, waiting for something to happen at my end. Obviously I have no doubt that many things are happening, but still. Luckily I have the third book to keep me busy.

I decided to ignore your remarks about abandoning Poe for the man who gave us the curse of 007. Well, honestly.

(Did Groucho ever go about with a bloody big black bird on his shoulder?)

Faye, who is wondering if this comment reads like surrealist poetry.

Eliza Graham said...

Couldn't be more pleased for you, David!

I agree about paperbacks. And they're so much easier to read in the bath.

David Isaak said...

Faye: "Luckily I have the third book to keep me busy."

Your second is already completed, I take it? Congrats.

David Isaak said...

Thanks, Eliza. And yes, paperbacks are easier in the bath, Safer in bed, too: less likely to bloody my nose when I fall asleep and drop the book on my face.

Suroopa said...

Hearty congratulations David!I agree a paperback is so much more huggable, more your own. My Indian edition is paperback. It also makes you believe that your book can sell and will not remain a designer edition. Though I remember when Mike handed me the two pre-order copies (one of each) at a Macmillan gathering in Delhi long before the launch date I was awe struck by the hard copy.

David Isaak said...

Hi Suroopa! Oh, the MNW hardbacks are things of beauty, there is no doubt about it. And it's certainly much nicer to be published in hardcover, too--it must be a drag to be published in paperback originals and watch your books fall apart as they age...

But it's also great to have cheaper books that someone might pick up on a whim. (Having both is best of all.)

Neil said...

David, big, big congrats. That's great news.

Jonathan Drapes said...

That's terrific David.

May the 'top beach reads' lists now come a-knockin'

David Isaak said...

Thanks, Neil!

David Isaak said...

Jonathan--Do they still go to the beach over there? I'd heard the UK summer had been cancelled this year...

But thanks anyway!

Matt Curran said...

A belated CONGRATULATIONS! David

Though I'm not going to wait until the paperback release to get my grubby-mits on a copy.

Yeah, the UK summer has been cancelled this year, though I believe this weekend we might have an hour or two of sunlight. It means I can top-up my non-existant tan.

No wonder the rest of the world thinks us Brits are pasty...

David Isaak said...

Hi Matt, and thanks!

Hey, I live in California, and I'm pasty anyway. I spend too long in the sun and bad things happen. I suspect there's a vampire far back in the family tree somewhere...

Jake said...

Poe has a special place in my heart for terribly scarring me when I read "The Tell-Tale Heart" at about, oh, eight, I think. I still remember lying awake at night listening for that damn heart beating under the floorboards.

I have to admit, however, that I've never read a thing by Fleming. >_>

And congratulations! I can tell all my friends that I know a Real Live Paperback Author. XD

David Isaak said...

Yo, Jake--

"Tell-Tale Heart"? Naw. For me it was "The Pit and the Pendulum." SHeer horror, and no damn logic. Just Because.

As to Ian Fleming, give "Live and Let Die" a try. Evil. A touch rascist. A little misogynistic. Thoroughly whacko. And nothing like the moivies. Poe would have approved.