Saturday, 14 January 2012

Losing my Kindle virginity, and other stories - Dennis Hamley

For five blogs now I have felt a fraud, a serial procrastinator and an IT incompetent. But now at least I can truthfully say that I'm not the first any more. The second and third stay precisely where they are. For at long last, my first ebook is up and running. Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlestick. And I have to say I'm reasonably pleased with how it looks
Yes, I know the cover won't win prizes but it does what it says on the tin and it makes a telling contrast with the brilliant work of Anastasia Sichkarenko with her six covers for The Long Journey of Joslin de Lay. To celebrate, I'm clunking my website into operation again after a shamingly long period of inactivity, caused mainly because since my last book came out in 2009 there hasn't been much worth saying. But now, of course, there is. And this is what the website says about Colonel Mustard:

Four slightly weird stories.  Murder, mystery, horror, fantasy, magic and a little bit of football at the end.

Well, that just about gets it, I think.   So enough of the good Colonel.   Now for Joslin de lay.  I'd love to be able to say, 'Now watch me go,' but the habits of a lifetime suggest that I daren't.

Two other matters have been on my mind lately.  The first happened last week.  I seem to be doing more than I ever bargained for on Radio Oxford lately, which is nice.  I was asked to take part in a phone-in programme, although in my case it was more a phone-out because I waited for them to ring me.   The general topic was Christmas presents and inevitably e-readers came top of the list.   So I found myself in conversation with Jo Hoenes, the Jo in the Afternoon presenter, and a very affable IT expert from America whose name I forget.  The discussion wasn't ground-breaking: it said nothing we aren't familiar with and I didn't come away with any great new insights.  But what struck me most was how matter-of-fact and obvious all the arguments we have struggled to come to terms with concerning the new technology now seem.  E-readers are just part of the general background now: when I look at the change from even a mere year ago I am astonished.   It's less than a year ago that I was on a long flight struggling with a big thick paperback and looked across the aisle to see a sight I'd never seen before - someone actually reading from a Kindle.  And at once I thought: I want one of those.  A voice inside my head muttered, 'Wash your mouth out, Hamley.'   But the damage was done and with frightening speed my Kindle has become a way of life as well as providing  a marvellous though unexpected  extension to what has been a fairly long writing career.

Oh and by the way, I put in a good plug for Authors Electric.

The other matter is very different - though it does show what a boon an e-reader is.  I've already mentioned this in a comment on Dan's last blog but I'll say it again because it impressed me very much.  The best thing we watched over Christmas was an unremarked film on BBC2 one afternoon.  Dean Spanley.  Funny, moving, understated, beautifully acted and spoken (the two are different) by Sam Neill, Peter O'Toole, Bryan Brown and Jeremy Northam, this film was pure delight.  I didn't know until the credits told me that it was based on a novella by Lord Dunsany.   Well, I was aware of his existence.   When I was about ten I read a story by him, every detail of which I forget, in a rather superior collection for children which I was given for Christmas.  But a general impression of feyness still remains.  He's been called 'a master of whimsy' and there's something about  his name which suggests he must be.  I remember also being intrigued by the thought of a lord writing stories.

More in hope than conviction, I looked in the Kindle Store - and there it was.  Dean Spanley by Lord Dunsany.  So no rooting through secondhand bookshops after all.  I bought it at once and read it.  Yes, it is short, funny, moving and even profound.  A complete delight.  But what made this download quite remarkable was that the screenplay was printed with it, with a note on how the film came to be made.  And what it showed was that one art form can pay homage to another even while it changes it radically.  Whatever else the book is, it is only tangentially a narrative.  It's almost a conversation piece.  For the film, a narrrative is needed and one is provided in a way which takes Dunsany's original into radically new territory.   The Peter O'Toole character, vital to the film, doesn't even exist in the book.   And yet it doesn't matter.   The book does not have violence done to it: the film does not leave the story's roots.    My Kindle download gave me not only two separate good experiences but also one unified impression.

I mention this because not only have I received a lot of pleasure from this download but also - where would I have found such a jewel to hand so easily without my Kindle?  Beats struggling with a fat paperback in Economy anyway!


Susan Price said...

Glad Colonel Mustard is up at last, Dennis -and looking forward to Joslin!

Jan Needle said...

fantastic stuff. someone not only praising the kindle concept, but putting forward examples of what it can do. many of my children's novels have been turned into plays for school use, television series and one-offs, and as educationalpackages with input from theatre/drama specialists, musicians, and educationists. guess what - dennis tells us i could gather all the versions of one tale into a kindle volume - just like that - and kill forty seven birds with one stone. and if i don't do it, someone else less idle must! if we're not careful, lads and lasses, the kindle revolution could actually start making authors money!
good man, hamley - far sighted as ever. (but where's your defence of moonfleet? chick, chick, chick, chick chicken???) toodle pip.

Dennis Hamley said...

Amazing, Jan I just didn't go the extra mile and realise the implications of the Dean Spanley book+screenplay. You could be on to something.

And no chicken about me, mate. Just wait till you get my withering Moonfleet broadside. It will be like Nelson routing the Fr- (oh my God, I nearly wrote 'Frogs') French all over again.

Jan Needle said...

is it worse to call someone a frog or a rosbif? discuss.

Dan Holloway said...

How fabulous to get the screenplay and the book together - it's incredible what gems you can pick up. I must go and look it up because it does sound truly magical