A Cult Comeback
This is about a book that begins like this:
There’s blood everywhere, and none of it’s where it’s supposed to be.
On the carpet. On the curtains. All over me. And I know it won’t wash out because this shirt is pure silk. If you don’t want to ruin silk, never sneeze in a Starbucks with a mouth full of blueberry muffin. As I sit here I keep thinking if only I could go back to my old life. I could head into the kitchen and start going through the ironing again, except that the iron is now sticking out of the TV screen.
There’s only one manuscript on my desk that was never published. It started life with the title ‘Plastic’, and later became ‘Wife Or Death’. My agent loved it so much that she held an auction, but the readers’ reports were so radically different that there was never a clear winner and I set it aside, telling myself I’d come back to it at a later date.
But I didn’t. I simply couldn’t see how to amend it for any one publisher. What I’d done, it seemed, and what nobody was ready for, was to invent a new crossover genre, a sort of slightly fantastical, funny chick-noir-horror. My biggest crime, from the point of view of publishers’ readers, was to write in a female first-person voice. This has long been a contentious subject for some. Can a man write like a woman? It seems an absurd question on the surface. After all, a novel was written from the point of view of a ceramic bowl, and if it’s fiction why can’t we choose how we write? I’d done it many times before, and this time I’d even based the main character on someone I know very well.
Besides, women often write as policemen – although they sometimes get this wrong, investing their character with too much emotional thinking. In my experience policemen aren’t very emotional, just incredible suspicious.
So – I had a funny female character involved in a bizarre murder, and worse, she was a shopaholic suburban throwback – although not by the time she reached the end of the book. I loved the character and abandoned her with great reluctance. My pal Joanne Harris read the MS and adored it. She said; ‘Let me write a foreword for it’. And eventually I went back and took another look, freshening and fixing the things that were wrong.
Meanwhile, the book started to acquire ‘cult status’, what ever that means. I fielded an endless stream of questions about it. At every Q&A, someone would always ask me when it would finally appear. There was rumoured to be a printed copy in the hands of private collectors (there was – I have one.) Little bits turned up online, then vanished.
Now it looks like the time is finally right, and ‘Plastic’ is set to appear in print for the first time. Watch this space for a further update.