Not everyone likes a happy ending

18 10 2013

I read a book when I was a kid. Xan it was called – I am told by the well known tax-avoiding e-shop that it is by Patrick Tilley, more famous for the Amtrak Wars series. Xan has always stuck in my mind because it was the first book I read which didn’t have a happy ending. I won’t spoil it for anyone who still has this old sci-fi novel as virgin territory but for a young reader it was an introduction to a new way of thinking.

A hero doesn’t always win.

Sometimes crime does pay.

Once I’d read this I saw it everywhere but mostly, like Star Wars, the baddies only won for a while. One battle, not the whole war.

I’ve read a few since. Some of which have been made into films. How many films don’t have a happy ending, don’t resolve the issues; they plan to leave the watcher floating out of the cinema in a happy bubble knowing all is right with the world? Ignore trilogies and series and think about it. How many don’t?

Films need a happy ending. Big budgets, big stars, audiences around the world, all need the happiness that the final screen kiss brings. Books don’t.

I don’t have Xan at home anymore. Lost or charity-donated in one of many bookshelf clearouts. I’m going to get another copy (even though out of print). Must be 20-years since I read it but it has always been a book I remember for opening my eyes to a new way of writing. I hope it has stood the test of time! And I hope I remembered the right name – I’ll look a right pillock if Xan is a jolly romantic romp!
However, the description at, does resonate in my memory core.

White hats, black hats, masks and pencil moustaches – who’s the baddie?

14 10 2013

I don’t write children’s books where, for the very young, an author has to make the baddie obvious. They cackle rather than laugh, they lurk rather than wait, they are sly rather than cunning. And they often wear a black hat.

In the world of adult literature the role of the baddie isn’t so clear cut. Nor should it be. There are bad people out there – people without redeeming characteristics, without a care for the social convention. But they are pretty rare. Most of us live in shades of gray – not 50 necessarily, but quite a few and those shades can lighten or darken depending on what we are doing at any one point in time.
Ask anyone not locked up in my cellar and they see me as a good man, someone with obvious flaws, attractive ones of course, but nothing which would put me on a register or lead to imprisonment. Ask me, and I might give you a bit more background about hidden motives behind good deeds which may cast shadows on your perception. Does that make me a baddie? How would I portray myself as a baddie in the written word to put the reader on notice or should I leave it to them to work out for themselves?

The latter is the obvious answer. Leading my reader by the nose is not how I see the contract between us. Every one of us has had a bad day, most of us succumb to the darker urges to varying degrees at some time in our lives. I think it is my job to show by actions, by written thoughts, by implication that this is the villain of our show. If you, dear reader, are worse than the bad things I illustrate him or her with then I rather imagine you will keep it to yourself!HH Coventry wears many hats but does not have a pencil moustache!

Product placement in books as well as films

10 10 2013

“Marcia just loved the feeling as the ice cold Coke slipped down her dry throat, lubricating, satisfying, cooling…”

That will be £1,000 please Mr Cola. Please pay by return. Cash preferred! Oh, you’d prefer a pay per book deal, would you? OK. Should we start at 10p per hardback and negotiate from there?

It works for film makers so there must be an argument for it to work for books as well. Should JKR get a slice of the coffee profits next to the Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross? Should Brown get a piece of the tourist pounds spent at the Louvre or Florence? Jodhpur in India is getting a mention in one of my upcoming stories so perhaps if I mention which airline I intend my heroine to travel by could mean a ticket or two wings its way to me.

I do wonder how prevalent it is both in the rarefied heights of the global author meeting global consumer brand but also down at the grass-roots. Local authors are writing by the thousand all the guidebooks, the walking trail maps, the home-town set novellas – do they get the free coffee for mentioning Kiara’s Koffee shop or a pint a day from the “best little pub in Lower Froyle” which a fictional detective likes to frequent?

Alternatively should writers never reference real things, real places, real people? I do it. All the time. I love that I can base my books on real locations, love that readers may come and see where my imagination placed a character. What does it hurt?

Did I mention how much I like Bentleys and Jaguars – fine automobiles all!