Ian Rankin isn’t stupid. He may be rugged but he knows when he’s beaten. The publication of his new novel, Standing in Another Man’s Grave, has been postponed until November.
He hopes the fuss about J.K. Rowling’s latest novel will have died down by then and people will have some pocket money once again to splash out on his new hardback.
I have to admit, I have never read an Ian Rankin novel, though I do own a paperback copy of Knots and Crosses that I bought after hearing him enthuse about R.L. Stevenson on television some years ago. R.L. Stevenson is a particular favourite of mine. I thought, if Ian Rankin can be so articulate and passionate about this brilliant writer, his own books must have some good in them.
Unfortunately, I still haven’t read one so I can’t comment. No hard feelings, I hope, Ian. I do follow you on Twitter, at least.
Quite a lot of people comment without reading, though, as I noticed when scouring the reviews of The Casual Vacancy. And I don’t just mean the rowdy public, who, predictably, were running amok in the comments sections of the dozens of reviews and articles I saw. Even professional and quite intellectual journalists were venturing opinions and judgements on the novel without having read it.
One of the attitudes that really irritates me, which I have seen voiced many times by critics, commentators and, sadly, publishers, is that children’s authors can’t write for adults. As if writing for children is easier. It isn’t. In my opinion it’s a lot harder. This is probably open for discussion. But the dismissal of a book on this basis isn’t. It’s simply wrong.
And another attitude that grates is that R.L. Stevenson is a children’s author. I did enjoy reading his books when I was 15 but I would never give The Body Snatcher or Markheim to a child to read.
I did, after much frustration, come across one review that seemed to be informed by a thoughtful reading of The Casual Vacancy. It was by Melvyn Bragg in The Observer and it began:
This is a wonderful novel. J.K. Rowling’s skills as a storyteller are on a par with R.L. Stevenson, Conan Doyle and P. D. James. Here, they are combined with her ability to create memorable and moving characters to produce a state-of-England novel driven by tenderness and fury.
It was good to see Melvyn paying tribute there to R.L. Stevenson as well as J.K. Rowling.
I still can’t comment on The Casual Vacancy because I haven’t finished reading it. But I’m afraid publication of my own novel, Winternights, will be delayed because of it. I was hoping to get Winternights published by 15 October but I have been so engrossed in J.K. Rowling’s novel that I haven’t finished editing my own.
I am still planning to get it out by the end of the month, though, because October is the month of Winternights and the moon, you know, is a harsh mistress.