13 February 2012
It's Monday morning. First day of the half-term holidays. The Parent Currently Known As Mum (TPCKAM) is working downstairs, the children are killing Nazi zombies in the other room.
A couple of weeks ago I started writing a follow-up to The Unburied Dead. I made a decent start. Well, in terms of a storyline and characterisations and getting words onto the page, I made a good start. The words themselves may well have been assembled in such a way as to be unreadable pish, but it's much too early to say. It all judders to a halt at half-term, however. No time to get into any sort of groove. 'Ah, but you're writing this,' the casual reader might observe. Well, yes I am, but while this might read like the perfectly sculpted, immaculately composed words of a writing genius, it is in fact just shit. A throwaway piece of writing junk, to be tossed on the landfill of internet detritus. The Unburied Dead follow-up, however, will be a work of crime writing magnificence that will influence the genre for centuries to come.
The Unburied Dead itself was released last week on Amazon Kindles everywhere. For a brief moment or two there it looked like it might catch on. That people outwith the usual circle might notice its existence. Usually the works of the author known as Douglas Lindsay are to be found languishing in the lower reaches of any chart. For example, of the eight paperbacks I currently have available, the highest is placed on the Amazon chart at 91,104. The others average out at around 350,000. I'm a bit like the Maldives at football.
Things are a little better on Kindle, but generally the books are to be found somewhere between the 10,000 and 40,000 mark, occasionally straying out either side though usually at the top end.
The Unburied Dead, however, upon its release quickly entered the top 1000. It then progressed nicely over the next two days until it reached a high of 220. Why were people suddenly aware of this book and buying it, when they hadn't noticed my books before? I have no idea. It's not because it's a better book - maybe it is, maybe it isn't - because before you're read it, how can you know? Reviews were limited, and anyway, do they really matter? A series of bad reviews can sink a book, but can a series of great ones help? Of the Blasted Heath collection, consider Dead Money by Ray Banks and All The Young Warriors by Anthony Neil Smith. Both great books, both well endowed with great reviews, and currently ranked at 50,948 and 39,330. There's no justice.
So there it was, racing up the chart, making decent progress and it was perfectly reasonable to hope that it would make the top 100. Then it stopped. Dropped a bit, thought about it, and is now dropping precipitously. Since I don't know why it got up there in the first place. there's nothing to be done to stop it falling. One can only watch, in the way one watches Scotland lose at football and rugby, wanting to do something, but utterly helpless.
When it was heading in the right direction, I don't believe I did anything to curse it. I didn't celebrate, I didn't assume anything, I didn't go out and buy an Aston Martin, I didn't e-mail other writers whose books weren't 220 on the chart and say IN YOUR FACE, I didn't buy a bottle of Chablis that night for dinner instead of Blue Nun, I acted entirely like I would act when Scotland are 1-0 against Italy, or the Patriots are 2 points ahead with 4 minutes left in the Superbowl. Didn't count a single chicken. Didn't matter.
Maybe a high of 220 is its natural place. Maybe I should be grateful. And at least, unlike Scotland's non-qualification for Euro 2012, their Rugby World Cup disaster and the Patriots' last minute Superbowl defeat, the Amazon Kindle chart is an ongoing statistical battlefield, never truly won or lost. Or, at least, it will be until society implodes and the western world collapses in an apocalyptic class war that leaves billions dead and the internet no longer functioning. At least we've got that to look forward to.