One way to get useful background for a detective novel is to spend time in prison. Another way to look at it would be: writing a novel is one way to pass the time when you’re in the slammer for murder and various other crimes.
Alaric Hunt is probably not the first con to write a crime novel but one of the latest, and thanks to a feature story in the New York Times Magazine, one of the better known. As reported by Sarah Weinman, Hunt’s life is a sad case. His abusive mother died when he was young and his life went downhill from there. In a lame attempt to get money so his brother could go to music school, the two hatched a plot to rob a jewelry store. Arson was involved and a young woman died. Hunt was sentenced to life. He’s now 44. He went to prison at 19.
His novel, written in prison, won a prize and a publishing contract. His whole story makes fascinating reading.
This space has devoted many words to the future of the publishing business and the popularity of e-books. Last year saw more consolidation. We used to refer to the major U.S. publishers as the big six. That ended in 2013.
Random House merged with Penguin creating the largest publishing house in North America. According to Publishers Weekly, the company will release more than 15,000 titles each year and employ more than 10,000 people. Instead of the big six, noted one writer, we now have the Big One and the following four. It’s estimated that Penguin-Random House will control about a quarter of the U.S. publishing market.
Speculation as to what this will do to the book market has been all over the map with some predicting the consolidation and ultimate end of the publishing business as we know it. The authoritative Library Journal published a detailed analysis discussing how the merger will affect readers, authors, other publishers, Amazon and the book economy. Important reading.
Favorite movie lines about writing
In the recent Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris,” Owen Wilson plays a writer named Gil who is somehow transported to Paris of the 1920s. There he meets Ernest Hemingway (played with panache by Corey Stoll). Gil gives Hemingway a manuscript he’s been agonizing over and asks him to give him his opinion of his novel:
Hemingway: “My opinion is, I hate it.”
Gil: “You haven’t even read it.”
Hemingway: “If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing. If it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate it all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.”
New York Times Magazine article on writer/con Alaric Hunt
Publisher’s Weekly reports the merger