The first draft of Dark Room is with my agent and editor, and so I should hear back soon as to how bad it is or isn’t. This isn’t mindless self-deprecation, as my first drafts often require a bit of work: I get to the point, after countless pre-first-draft-drafts – 0.x drafts, maybe – where I can’t see the wood for the trees and the book requires an impartial eye to see what works and what doesn’t. That’s fine.
As it stands, I’m reasonably happy with the way it’s turned out. Writing it in six months is no excuse for sloppiness – it costs the same when it comes out – but I’m still quietly surprised that I managed to do that, when it normally takes a year, and I don’t think I’ve sacrificed any real amount of complexity or depth along the way. It helped to tell myself “this is going to be a straightforward police procedural, with no funny business”, but, although it starts off that way, I still ended up tying myself in knots as the book progressed. As usual, I didn’t really get what I was writing about until I was done (0.3, say), and there was a lot of rummaging and rewriting to do to get it to 1.0.
Thoughts? Well, I say I’m happy, but that doesn’t mean what I’m happy with is going to be commercial enough as things stand, or will work for others. That said, it’s snappy. There are 61 chapters, plus five more that aren’t numbered, and the whole thing comes in at 91,000 words, so that’s as choppy as I’ve ever written. It (currently) uses my usual despicable technique of mixing first and third person and present and past tense. It has a fairly high body count (which is sort of the point). It’s vaguely based on a real life killing spree, but not really. Five parts to it. That’s about it.
Oh – it’s going to have a lovely cover too, although I can’t show you it yet. The version I’ve seen looks like a one sheet for Hostel, and also contains a spoiler that the artist couldn’t have known about and which, without reading the book, you couldn’t possibly guess at. I like that. Come to think of it, the Black Flowers paperback also has a wonderful cover – entirely different from the hb – and I can’t show you that yet either.
This is the synopsis from Amazon:
DI Andrew Hicks thinks he knows all about murder. He even gives it its own architecture – the bedroom, the boardroom, the bar or the basement – depending on the motivations of the killer. For Hicks, however horrific the act is, the reasons for one human being to kill another are ultimately all too explicable. So when thirty-two year old Vicki Gibson is found bludgeoned to death, Hicks suspects a ‘bedroom’ murder, and attention focuses on her possessive ex-husband. But when a second body is found, similarly beaten and too close to the first murder for coincidence, Hicks is forced to think again: the second victim is a homeless man with no links to Vicki. When more murders take place in quick succession, Hicks realises he is dealing with a type of killer he has never faced before, one who fits nowhere within his architecture. Hicks must search for patterns and reasons where none appear to exist. Then the letters begin to arrive… As the death toll rises, the threat gets closer to home for Hicks. To survive, Hicks must face not only a killer obsessed with randomness and chaos, but also the secret in his own past. If he is to stop the killings, he must confront the truth about himself and the fact that some murders begin in much darker rooms than he ever imagined.
It’s basically what I submitted when pitching the book, and, even though some things have changed, that’s pretty much what the book is about.
For now anyway…