Baudelair’s Revenge

Bob Van Laerhoven

The Award Winning Belgian Author Bob Van Laerhoven

Bob’s award winning novel Baudelair’s Revenge has received yet another brilliant five star review.

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Ross Macdonald, one of the pioneers of the hard-boiled mystery novel, once posited the theory that the modern detective story flows from Baudelaire, who, it should be noted, translated Poe and felt a deep emotional connection to the man who by most accounts invented detective fiction. Baudelaire’s supposed contribution according to Macdonald was to see the modern city as though it was a model for Dante’s Inferno. It is therefore particularly interesting to have a mystery novel so deeply inhabited by the poet’s ghost as Baudelaire’s Revenge.

Baudelaire is not a character in this book, which takes place in 1870, three years after Baudelaire’s death. But Baudelaire’s spirit haunts the Paris of the novel. It is a Paris during the Franco-Prussian war, a Paris where the rich amuse themselves with drugs and liquor and perverse sexual adventures and the poor are hungry and subject to the Prussian shells falling all around.

But the Prussians are not in the city yet, and so they only form the outer circle of the novel’s Hell. Baudelaire is at the center of the darkness. The novel is about a serial killer choosing victims from among those who tormented Baudelaire during his life. And beside each victim is a piece of Baudelaire’s poetry.

Paul Lefevre, the police commissioner, and his assistant Bernard Bouveroux, are opposites. Lefevre is intensely attracted to prostitutes and understands the call of sex in a way that his assistant cannot, for Bouveroux mourns for his dead wife but without approaching another woman.

Baudelaire’s Paris in this novel is not a hospitable place for every reader to spend time. The corpses, the bizarre characters, and the explicit sexual descriptions are not for everyone. Neither are the serial philosophical discussions or even the discussions of art and poetry. The author writes in an unusual way for a detective writer. He tells instead of showing, violating every rule ever uttered at a writing workshop. Action is not seen but talked about.

But without question, this is an extraordinary book. It is unfair simply to call it well-written. The prose is lush. Here is the first sentence: “Life and death had taught Commissioner Lefevre to love poetry and wenches, and in spite of his fifty-three years, he still wasn’t certain which of the two he admired most.” It’s impossible to stop reading after a sentence like that.

The characters are what make the book. Their inner demons, their wild, dark drives and creative imaginations take us inside Baudelaire in a way that is deeply revealing.

It is a book readers will want to read slowly. It should be noted that Brian Doyle, the book’s translator into English, has done an unbelievably excellent job. The sentences, dark as they sometimes are, are rendered with astounding verve.

If, as his mother claimed, Baudelaire was furious throughout his life because he had been born, readers of the book will understand why when they experience the dreadful horror he witnessed and see inside these characters’ hearts of darkness.

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Many congratulations my friend.

;)

What’s The Ultimate Conundrum?

NSRW_Dodo

No not the Dodo – read on!

When it comes to that book we as writers have spent many months working on, sooner or later we are all presented with the same conundrum. Will it sell, bearing in mind that this business is extremely fickle?

Daily I see countless writers both new and old, endlessly talking/blogging about spending not only a considerable amount of time and effort, but also their hard earned money, on a book they wrote some time back that simply isn’t selling, in the vain hope that what they’re doing will increase it’s chances in today’s saturated market.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it until the day I die. If your book doesn’t work, no amount of spending money on changing its cover or having it professionally edited, together with purchasing a number of copies of the new version from your publisher to give away in a book store or writer’s convention in the vain hope of promoting it to an already jaded public, will make one iota of difference in the end. What you are doing is flogging a dead horse!

Despite what so many still foolishly believe, the fact that you have availed yourself of the services of a professional editor and maybe even a publicist, or perhaps you have spent money having it’s cover, hook and link added to one of the countless number of book advertising web pages who demand payment for your doing so. Or maybe you even shelled out yet more money by employing a professional reviewer to help kickstart your book’s chances. Even then, using all of these options still doesn’t guarantee sales. No marketing strategy ever does, no matter how professional it may be.

There is no magic formula for literary success.

In the end, the only thing that does matter when it comes to sales, is whether or not the story in question actually works. It’s immaterial that you and your immediate family circle and close friends loved it. After all, you and they are too close to it to be objective.

So, what might the discerning reader be looking for? I can’t speak for others, but when I am perusing the millions of books currently available, first of all I narrow down my search to the genre that has appealed to me my entire life – science fiction. Next, I totally ignore the often gawdy covers, if I want to look at pictures I’ll go to an art gallery!

Instead I read each book’s hook. If what I’m reading intrigues me, bearing in mind that as a successful science fiction writer, I am extremely hard to please these days, then and only then will I read the first few pages. If I feel that the story appears to show promise, I’ll buy a copy. If not, I move on to the next one.

Oh, and before you ask – no I don’t take any notice of a particular book’s reviews, no matter whether they are good, bad or indifferent. I prefer to make up my own mind thank you very much. The other thing to remember is that having enjoyed reading a specific work, when I see another by the same author, I will always seriously consider it.

What do I mean when I say does a book work? There is nothing mysterious or complicated about it. If a story has been carefully thought out. If it gradually builds towards a climax, with the odd red herring thrown in for good measure. If the characters and their relationships with one another are believable. Then and only then do I consider that any given book works.

There are a few other things to remember. In this business, to succeed you have to gain a reputation as a storyteller – not an easy thing to achieve. To do that first you have to have written several books, preferably honing your skills with each one. Normally your first few won’t do it for you. Secondly, you will find that even though your book or books are beginning to be read as a result of those free giveaway promotions, (more often than not by tightwads looking for a free copy) there is no guarantee that you’re book(s) will actually sell in their thousands, meaning that you will earn serious royalties. Even if they do sell, the chances of more than a dozen copies per year is slight, no matter how much time, effort and money you may have put in to promoting them.

Only one of mine ever became a best seller. Because of it, I earned that elusive epithet we all seek – consumate storyteller. Never once have I pinned my hopes on whether or not any of my covers appeal. What ultimately matters is what’s contained within any given book’s pages, and whether or not the story actually works. Remember, in this game you are only as good as your last book. Having said that, I continue to enjoy regular monthly royalty payments from my publisher as all of my others continue to be bought and read, thanks to that one best seller.

PS – I sent a .pdf copy of my latest WIP to another writer Bob Van Laerhoven on Thursday night, asking him to decide if what I have written so far works. I am now awaiting his verdict. If his findings are unfavourable, then it’s back to the drawing board for me…

;)