The Great Liars

I certainly didn’t plan it this way, but I’m launching my new novel about Pearl Harbor with this entry on the the 72nd anniversary of the attack. Call it coincidence, divine intervention, Fate — something. Fitting, there’s the word. The trade paperback won’t be available until after the first of the year and there naturally will be an e-book version. Back in ancient times (which came to an end in the 90s) you wrote a book, hustled up an agent who found you a publishing house, and that was pretty much it. The publisher took care of all the back office stuff, the presses roared, and you were an author swanning about like a lord. With luck, readers liked you, and if they didn’t they were swine. I kid, I kid, as the comedians say. Of course, a lot of things could go wrong. A friend wrote a novel about the death of his wife that was touching and really quite good. It was published by a small press with a respectable reputation. Unfortunately, the woman in charge of sending out copies to reviewers was suffering a mental breakdown. It was a quiet one, unknown to others in the office.¬† One of the consequences of this was review copies didn’t get sent out and no one saw his book. It fell onto the forest floor like those trees we all know about. He took it with philosophy, at least publicly. Who knew how he rent his clothes and pounded walls in private. My own luck in this regard was marginally better. The publicity agent assigned by a Penguin imprint to promote Top Dog, my first novel, was a transvestite. I learned this when I telephoned to find out how it was going. A large part of the message on his answering machine was devoted to the particulars of an upcoming drag queen event. Transgender people were enough of an oddity back then that . . . but there I am wandering. Back to my point, which is the old publishing world, the one I had a passing acquaintance with, is in the midst of a collapse rivaling the Ottoman Empire. Replacing it is the Brave New World of the Platform. Anybody can write a book, but you have to have a Platform. This means blogging, a Facebook presence, Tweeting, and any manner of other social media interactions. All of a writer’s time is spent hammering nails into his or her platform, squeezing in writing here and there when time can be spared. You’ve heard this before.
I discovered it after a decade in Montana whence my family and I removed after I wearied of the ephemera of big city journalism. World War 2 had long had a hold over me that was like an enchantment. I read scores of histories, biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, reference books, even the three volumes of Churchill’s war papers (1300 pages each!). At some point, I said to myself, “You know, there’s a novel here somewhere.”

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