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Further Revisitation on A Prayer For Barney Thomson

Added on 12 November 2009

Currently re-writing A Prayer For Barney Thomson for ebook publication in the not too distant future. This was something I started in Poland, hoping to have it finished by May or thereabouts, but left eastern Europe with it less than half-done. It's taken me this long to get around to picking up the work.

As far as I know, the book only received three reviews in the national press. (Actually, given that there are about 50,000 books published every week, three reviews isn't too bad. One shouldn't sniff at three reviews.) The magazine Heat said something nice about it; there was another great review from the Sunday Mirror, which had me a bit suspicious as a quote from it was included on the cover of the first edition of the book itself and I know that the publishers hadn't printed any advance copies (but I wasn't exactly going to quibble about my publisher and someone on the Mirror staff being in on it together, if that indeed was what happened.) Then there was a review by Gerald Kaufman - I presume the Gerald Kaufman - in the Scotsman. Gerald didn't fake his review. I wish I'd kept a copy, but I didn't so will have to quote from memory. It began with something along the lines of: As you know I will do anything for the good readers of the Scotsman, including reading through hundreds of pages of complete dross such as Douglas Lindsay's A Prayer For Barney Thomson...


Most writers I suspect are far more affected by bad reviews than they are cheered up by good ones. If you get a decent review, you don't think to yourself, Hmm, you know, they're right, this is achingly funny macabre black comedy... You're probably just relieved. But when someone says that your book is too long and it's boring and badly written, you do start to think, oh crap, maybe it is too long, boring and badly written.


I think the reason that the Scotsman's review has stayed with me all these years was because I agreed with it at the time. I thought the book was too long, certainly for the story it had to tell. I hadn't wanted to write it; I hadn't enjoyed writing it; and it comes out in all the miserable characters. It's something that I'm getting the sense of as I go over it again. I'm not changing anything, other than the tense and converting some of the dialect into English; but I do feel like rewriting more or less every sentence.


For the first time, though, I'm happy with the cover, and there's many a book been judged on that. And it does reveal the true whereabouts of the blessed Elvis. At least, his whereabouts at the turn of the century...


A Prayer For Barney Thomson... probably not as bad as I, or Gerald Kaufman, make out, but far from the pinnacle of the Barney Thomson collection...