gang!

Posted by on November 11th, 2009

I wasn’t going to do this, but hey – I’m bored, you’re probably bored (why else would you be here?), we’re all bored. And it was a sad day, in terms of another blog post by another writer, which we’ll get to in a minute. So I’m going to do it after all. Hang onto your hats.

I started thinking about the Curzon Group again yesterday. To be clear, I thought about them a bit when they formed, and then I’ve thought about them sporadically in the time since. Most of the time when my idle mind turned to them, the thoughts it had were generally derisory but had no real malice. And that’s still the case. I don’t dislike these people, because I don’t know them. And I don’t dislike their books, because I haven’t read them. Individually, all things being equal, I wish them well.

Collectively, however, I do have a slight problem.

Before we start, I don’t have any problem at all with writers banding together. There are loads of groups, collectives and ‘squads’ out there, and I can see how it makes total sense. Most of us don’t get very much, if anything, in the way of a publicity budget – paradoxically, the bulk of that money tends to go to the sure-fire writers who’ll make the bestseller list regardless. It’s one of the odd facts about the publishing industry you learn very quickly. Similarly, you can buy new titles from well-known authors for around £8.99 in hardback, whereas – to sample an unknown like me – you’d need to shell out upwards of £18.99. Faced with that choice, I know how you’d spend your money, and – frankly – I don’t blame you. The explanation is simple: that well-known author will sell many copies anyway, so his or her book can be priced more cheaply (and therefore becomes more appealing to an impulse purchaser). As Kurt Vonnegut would say: so it goes. But in such a climate, it makes total sense for authors to promote themselves as heavily as they can, and if you group together you can do that more efficiently: an event with five mid-list authors is going to be far more appealing to organisers than five separate events with one author each. And so on. These days, even best-selling authors often do events together. I get it. It’s sensible. It’s fine.

And it also fits in with something you’ll often hear said at crime writing festivals. “Crime writers are like a gang”. I can’t remember who coined it. Mark Billingham? Ian Rankin? Whoever, it’s an appealing image. However much the noir crowd might dislike the generic, formulaic serial killer books, or the fainter-hearted might dislike the violent stuff, or people who actually write their own books might have a pop at the James Patterson brand, or the way everyone hates the much-maligned-but-rarely-actually-ever-seen cat mysteries – we’re all ultimately in it together. There’s a communal atmosphere at crime fiction festivals. We all get on. We even tolerate the people who don’t drink.

So why is the Curzon Group different? Why does it annoy me? Simply because, as it was originally formulated, it flies in the face of all that. Actually, I’ll go further. It pisses in the face of all that. Their website is here. Their blog is here. On the face of it, you’ll notice no obvious piss, but some history is required. The Group was started by the top three writers listed on their website, based on the mission statement you can still find on the site. It says this:

From Wilkie Collins to John Buchan, Eric Ambler to Hammond Innes, Ian Fleming to Alistair MacLean, and from Len Deighton to Frederick Forsyth, the British thriller is one of the richest traditions in world literature.

But in the last decade the British thriller has fallen into a sad decline. The market has been colonised by production line American thriller writers.

… likes of James Patterson, Dan Brown and John Grisham have taken over the market.

The Curzon Group is dedicated to reviving the traditions of Buchan, Fleming, MacLean and Forsyth, bringing the British thriller bursting back to life in the twenty-first century. Formed by Matt Lynn, the author of the military thriller ‘Death Force’: Martin Baker, the author of the financial thriller ‘Meltdown’: Alan Clements, the author of the political thriller ‘Rogue Nation, The Curzon Group is dedicated to Five Principles:

1.    That the first duty of any book is to entertain.
2.    That a book should reflect the world around it.
3.    That thrilling, popular fiction doesn’t follow formulas.
4.    That every story should be an adventure for both the writer and the reader.
5.    That stylish, witty, and insightful writing can be combined with edge-of-the seat excitement.

At its best, British thriller writing combined pace, humour, drama and insight to create stories that were of their moment yet timeless: that could capture a snapshot of history, yet could keep reader awake for half the night. Through competitions, promotions, publicity, talks, and, most of all, through our own writing, The Curzon Group is dedicated to restoring its finest traditions.

Do you see my problem? Well, maybe not. It’s not that they were promoting themselves – with the initial patronage of perjurer and all-round fucking scumbag Jeffrey Archer – but that they were doing so at the expense of other writers. They were going to ‘save’ the British thriller – as though it was ever in decline – from the invasion of allegedly crap US-style writers, which you, the great British public, were either stupid or brain-washed enough to buy. From the beginning, it was very transparently a marketing strategy that had nothing to do with quality – or even those five ‘principles’, which any writer worth his or her salt would endorse, but which, looking at some of the titles and descriptions, you might wonder whether the Curzon Group itself actually does. Because they don’t look that fucking different or exceptional to me.

Anyway. You’ll notice the website now lists eight members of the Curzon Group. And two more have joined: Zoe Sharp and Elizabeth Corley. I quietly weep. Yet the whole enterprise becomes ever more transparently ridiculous. Who else will join? Is there a limit? What would happen if Simon Kernick or Lee Child requested to join? They’re both best-selling British thriller writers, after all. Would they be welcomed in the Curzon Group’s quest to save British thriller-writing from … well, ultimately their own writing? It’s tedious to point this out again, but – just for clarity – I have nothing against the individual writers here – just the mission statement they’ve drawn themselves together under. Saving British thriller writing: by replacing what’s popular, and which apparently is shit, with – well, themselves.

Today, the crime writer Declan Burke wrote a moving piece on his blog, Crime Always Pays. Declan is the author of two great crime novels. But – rather than ever solely promoting himself – he’s used his blog to promote the best of Irish crime writing (and beyond: he also included an interview with me). Scroll through his site, and you’ll find the same thing, time after time: the promotion of other writers; discussion, disagreement; but never a real hint of overt negativity when someone else succeeds  – because it’s not about that, is it? Or it shouldn’t be anyway. Quite the opposite. And yet, as you’ll see when you read that piece, he literally can’t afford to write anymore, not even in his spare time.

So I guess my current thought is this: when people like Declan, along with other great writers like, say, Ray Banks and Allan Guthrie, are storming the bestseller charts, maybe then I’ll start worrying about the plight of certain self-promoting writers bleating about the state of the industry. Whose fucking books can be found on the shelves in Asda.

Okay?

Okay.

… and relax.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 11th, 2009 at 9:29 pm and is filed under General, Rant, Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

 

27 Responses to “gang!”

  1. Paul D. Brazill Says:

    To be honest -and I am a bit out of a few loops – the only members I’ve heard of are Leigh Russel and Tom Cain but I’ve never read anything by them so maybe THEY do need the publicity? Guthrie, Banks, Black and yerself are MUCH more famous. In my house, anyway. Can you get them in Morrissons that’s what I want to know?

  2. Iain Rowan Says:

    There’s a difference between writers banding together in some loose way like Murder Squad or the people at Contemporary Nomad, and something like this, and that difference is the dreaded manifesto.

    As soon as there’s a manifesto (or set of ‘principles’) it starts to look like a would-be movement, and movements can’t help but come across as painfully earnest and pompous – like the new brutalism, the new puritans, or whatever. They also define themselves in opposition to something else, which inevitably draws fire: if your premise is that The Other is shite, then its understandable when people turn the focus on you and say OK, so if that’s so bad, what are you bringing to the table? Do you live up to these principles?

    Shame about Declan – it’s some time since I read his blog but it always struck me as hugely generous to other writers.

  3. Dana King Says:

    Iain’s use of “manifesto” captures the key element, pitting what they say they want against everything else, which must, therefore, be shit.

    The sentence that threw me was:
    At its best, British thriller writing combined pace, humour, drama and insight to create stories that were of their moment yet timeless: that could capture a snapshot of history, yet could keep reader awake for half the night.

    At their best ANY thrillers do these things; the Brits may have done more of it better and earlier than others–I was a big Alistair MacLean fan when I was younger–doesn’t mean they own the patent on it.

  4. jenn topper Says:

    Nice post. On first read (read: the twitter 140 character description) it could be perceived that you have a problem with writers banding together, which you clearly do not. So my huffity-puffity all-fired-up-and-ready-to-rebut isn’t needed. Bah.

    It’s just nice to see (in a horrible schadenfreude kind of way) that there is a wrong way to do this banding together thing and that’s precisely how the collective I’m proudly a member of, Year Zero Writers, doesn’t do it. Relief.

    We heard about an American very-successful-writers collective a week or so ago, I forgot the name conveniently, and my instinct was to blast it because it’s not independent (it is), and because it’s a bunch of successful writers (they are), and realized halfway through my tirade that I should be glad about such a group. They are attempting to circumvent traditional mainstream print publishing’s ass-backward process and bring content directly to readers. Amen to that. We at Year Zero are attempting to do that with some offbeat prose and discussions about the industry itself–some soul searching indeed–in order to get people excited about reading *new* fiction which may fall outside the traditional formula.

    Take a visit, http://yearzerowriters.wordpress.com and check out our manifesto because I believe it does everything that this mean-spirited genre collective doesn’t.

    Best,
    ~jenn
    @revolucion0

  5. David Hewson Says:

    The whole thing is just too silly for words. Writers should be writing, not telling readers what they should and should not read, on seemingly ‘patriotic’ grounds least of all. This is the second time I’ve spent a minute or two of my life commenting on Curzon. That’s it now.

  6. Dan Holloway Says:

    Jenn, you mean Book Cafe Review, a cracking outfit set up by, amongst others, Ursula Le Guin. There’s also Wioll Hindmarch’s fab SF group Jet-Pack, and Henry Baum’s Backword Books. In addition, of course, to our own Year Zero. We DO have a manifesto – so do they all. And it DOES mention “the other side”, but our point has never been “the mainstream’s rubbush, so we’re what you’ve got left” – like Steve so rightly says, negativity gets no one anywhere – what we’re about is bigging up great literature, and bringing it straight to readers. We’re about “look at what we do well” not “look at what others do badly”. There is, after all, room for lots of us – and the message that surely all writers want to convey to the public is that books are great!

  7. Matt Lynn Says:

    Cripes. You seem to have spent more time thinking about The Curzon Group than I have, and I set the thing up. Maybe you should get out more.

    Seriously, I’m struggling a bit to see what your complaint is. Sure, we had a bit of a pop at James Patterson. I spent a lot of time ghost-writing thrillers for ‘authors’ (it’s much more widespread than you realise – at least Patterson admits he doesn’t write his book) and I think its a shame the industry spends so much time and money on ‘authors’ who don’t write. But we aren’t about criticising other writers, and certainly not any of the good ones.

    The Group is really just about thinking of innovative ways of connecting with readers – take our airport tour, for example, our our You Tube skits. But there is nothing exclusive, or cliquey about it. We’re really keen to promote all new British thriller writers, which is why we keep adding members. I guess you feel we should be spending more time promoting books apart from our own. Well fair enough. We’ve been thinking about that, and hopefully we’ll get around to it, but time is always limited.

    I agree we might come across as a bit cocky and self-promoting. It’s a tough market out there, so I’m not going to apologise for that. But offered the choice between coming across as self-promoting and sour, I think I know which I would choose.

  8. stevemosby Says:

    Thank you for the comments, everybody – and especially to Matt for stopping by.

    Matt –

    Cripes. You seem to have spent more time thinking about The Curzon Group than I have, and I set the thing up. Maybe you should get out more.

    That would surely be a worrying thought for both of us?! I do need to get out more, you’re right, but – to be fair – my blogpost didn’t involve a huge amount of pondering, and the Curzon Group hasn’t taken up much of my thinking time over the last few months. When I said I was bored … I meant that. I don’t think you lot signal the end of civilisation or anything; I was just giving my opinion as it occurred to me on an idle evening.

    The Group is really just about thinking of innovative ways of connecting with readers – take our airport tour, for example, or our You Tube skits.

    Which I totally sympathise with and support. I tried to make that clear in my post. I have nothing against writers grouping together – and, on that note, hello to Jenn and Dan – and nothing against the individual writers involved in Curzon. I don’t know most of you, with the exception of Zoe, who I think is ace, but I wish you all well with your books. There is nothing wrong with writers ganging together and thinking up new ways to promote themselves.

    My issue with the Curzon Group is purely about one of the ways you’ve chosen to promote yourselves, and unfortunately it happens to be the guiding principle behind why you formed the group.

    (1) “the British thriller has fallen into a sad decline”.

    It hasn’t. There are loads of best-selling British thriller writers out there. It’s just that you three guys weren’t them. Your mission statement talks about ‘the return of the Great British thriller’, as though – until you lot came along – everything was falling into disrepute. We all know it wasn’t. How do you account for all the bestselling British crime thrillers out there? Even just the mid-selling British thrillers?

    (2) “The market has been colonised by production line American thriller writers”.

    I don’t really want to say this, but I will. Personal reaction. ‘Colonised’, for me, is a horrible word in this sort of context. I don’t like to see ‘colonial’ being invoked in an argument around Britishness: it grates; it feels all wrong.

    Leaving that aside, as a reader, what do I care where a book comes from? It’s a round world. Let’s just have some great books. Speaking for myself – if we’re going to talk about great British thrillers in the contemporary world – I say we should fucking bury the upper-middle-class James-murdering-bastard-Bond-style war porn as soon as possible, and get some decent grass-roots level voices in there with something important to say. People who actually can “capture a snapshot of history, yet … keep the reader awake for half the night”. One of my problems with the Curzon Group, as initially formulated, was that it looked like you were telling me to stop reading (basically) shit entertainment books and read your books instead – except that, looking at the covers and reading the synopses, I was having a massive amount of trouble working out what the difference was.

    I’m bored with my own boredom now. Look – as I said – all the best to you individually. And with your attempts to promote and sell your books. It is a tough market, and I genuinely do mean that.

    But I don’t think it’s fair to say I’m “sour” for disagreeing with what you freely admit is a marketing strategy you haven’t even given much thought to. The bottom line is that I’m a reader. Instead of calling me sour (whatever that even means) for saying one of your marketing strategies rubs me up the wrong way, maybe you should think twice about whether that marketing strategy is entirely on target, and whether you might be making certain parts of the market a little tougher for yourselves by doing so?

  9. Kevin Wignall Says:

    “I say we should fucking bury the upper-middle-class James-murdering-bastard-Bond-style war porn as soon as possible, and get some decent grass-roots level voices in there.”

    There goes my career.

  10. stevemosby Says:

    No, you can stay! And you’re far too modest, by the way.

    Anyway, not only was I talking very broad strokes there, but I don’t think the ‘British thriller’ needs saving in the first place. Good and bad books abound, from writers everywhere, and a handful of both make the bestseller lists. As now as before, and probably as forever.

  11. Ray Banks Says:

    If anything, I would say Mr Wignall represents the original British thriller far more accurately than the Curzon lot, whose work (from what little I’ve already read) owes more to Clancy and Ludlum than it does Greene and Ambler.

  12. Matt Lynn Says:

    I don’t really want to prolong this debate, but I still feel the Curzo Group is being unfairly treated here. It’s ridiculous to suggest we’re telling people what to read (as if they’d listen anyway!), or suggesting people shouldn’t read a wide range of books from all over the world.

    Let me make this clear. The Group really likes a certain tradition of British thriller writing (Ambler, Fleming, Deighton, and my own favorities Hannond Innes and Alistair MacLean). We feel that has lost its way, and want to bring it back to people’s attention through our own writing. But that doesn’t imply any criticism of other types of books.

    For example, if the Malaysia Tourist Board runs ads suggesting you take a holiday in Malaysia, they aren’t having a go at Thailand or Indosnesia. They are just suggesting Malaysia is a nice place to visit, and you might like to have a think about it.

    Or if the Invest in France Agency campaigns for investment in France, they aren’t declaring war on Germany or Spain – just draing attention to the virtues of France.

    So it is just bonkers to say we are telling people what to read, or suggesting other thrillers (or indeed books) aren’t good as well. We do think that some of the big American names – Patterson, Brown etc – are rubbish. But, of course, there are some great American thrillers out there, as there are from Europe, and elsewhere. There are some great British thrillers as well, although they don’t (in my opinion) come from the same tradition we’re talking about.

    I appreciate that some people don’t like the kind of books we like, and obviously that’s fair enough. You may also think we aren’t worthy to polish the boots of the writers we admire, and that’s a fair opinion as well (although as you haven’t read out books, it seems a slightly rough judgement). But I don’t really see why we deserve all this criticism for simply setting up a group to promote a certain style of writing.

  13. Elizabeth Says:

    “For example, if the Malaysia Tourist Board runs ads suggesting you take a holiday in Malaysia, they aren’t having a go at Thailand or Indosnesia.”

    They would be if those ads included copy indicating that the reason you should come to Malaysia is because those best-selling Thai and Indonesian tour packages you’ve heard about are total shite and, after all, Malaysia does it better.

  14. Leigh Russell Says:

    As a member of the apparently infamous Curzon Group I would like to share with you one aspect of the venture that seems to be overlooked… (unless I’ve missed the entire point of the Curzon Group… wouldn’t be the first time…)
    The reason I agreed to join the Curzon Group was because it sounded like fun.
    Yes, of course there’s the publicity angle which is always important. Come on, guys, be honest, which author these days, with shamefully few exceptions, can afford to dismiss a little help with promotion? But that misses the point. I haven’t sold a single book through the my membership of the Curzon Group that wouldn’t have sold anyway. That’s not what we’re about.
    I haven’t been a member of a gang since school. I appreciate that in other contexts the gang culture can be disquieting and dangerous, but the Curzon Group is exactly what I hoped for – it’s fun.
    It’s great meeting up with fellow writers (accidents with humous apart) over a sociable bottle of plonk, and plot our next scheme or, as Matt puts it, our next wheeze. (Isn’t that a clue as to how seriously we take this venture?)
    We don’t subsitute salad cream for custard in the school dinner, or place a stink bomb neatly under the leg of the headmaster’s chair at assembly (only joking if you’re reading this, sir. It wasn’t me.) We don’t chuck each other in the pond at uni or – no, enough confessions from a misspent youth – we go signing airside at airports and… blog… and – we will do such things, what they are we know not.
    If the sum of our achievement is to have some fun on the journey, while making a little noise about British authors – what’s wrong with that?
    Lighten up, guys. Form your own gang – but please don’t turn it into a posse. Life’s too short. Far better to dream up a few wheezes of your own.

  15. stevemosby Says:

    Leigh – I’m glad you’re having fun with it. Especially because it’s obviously a marketing strategy and, if you haven’t sold any books off the back of it – however you can possibly know that – then it’s good that you’re at least enjoying the dinners.

    Can I repeat again: I don’t have any problem with writers grouping up for self-promotion or even just dinner. I’m not, personally, a big fan of self-promotion, but go for your life if you think it will sell books – or even just for kicks. Seriously. It’s no big deal.

    My problem, repeating myself again, is purely with one aspect of the way The Curzon Group are promoting themselves: the manifesto. Matt’s analogy is quite wrong, and I don’t see why he doesn’t map the food analogy onto a more natural fit. The Curzon Group isn’t “bigging up” British cooking at the expense of, say, Italian. They’re opening a British-style restaurant and declaring that British restaurants and British cooking are in decline and need rescuing.

    “The British thriller has fallen into a sad decline”

    I mean, it’s not fucking rocket science: it’s right there. That is your reason for being, according to your manifesto. It’s not ‘loads of people are eating pasta and you should try a Yorkshire Pudding because you’ve forgotten how nice they are.’ It’s quite clearly ‘nobody’s cooking Yorkshire Pudding very well anymore – and look! We have some … batter‘.

    I’d be willing to accept Matt’s point about promoting a certain kind of British thriller if it was true. But I look at the current membership and wonder what British thriller wouldn’t be eligible. Leigh – you’ve written a police procedural. It may well be very good, but are you confident saying that sub-genre has fallen into sad decline and needs rescuing? Really? Would you like to say which British thriller writers are letting everyone down in that area? I’m not even going to untangle the irony of Richard Jay Parker’s ‘bestselling British thriller writer Simon Kernick’ style thriller having a blurb by bestselling British thriller writer Simon Kernick on it … while also being part of a promotion based on how lack-lustre British thrillers apparently are. It’s too much.

    Yeah, I’m sour, I’m no fun, I’m spoiling your dessert. Blah blah. Look: you can’t set up a marketing strategy and expect nobody to call you on it. You’re not basing it on how good you are: you’re basing it on how shit everyone else is. And they aren’t.

    Oh – and I’ve got no fondness for James Patterson, Dan Brown or John Grisham. But you know what? They make money. Whatever I think of them, they’re cash-cows, and their all-but guaranteed success allows publishers to invest in new writers like you and me. Just as, without bragging, if I make money for my French publishers, they can pass it on in trust to other new writers. It’s a round world, like I said.

  16. Tom Cain Says:

    Can I just say, on a point of information – and speaking as a member of the Curzon Group who had nothing whatever to do with the drafting of its manifesto or the selection of Jeffrey Archer as its patron – that my fucking books can be found on the fucking shelves at fucking Asda, most notably when they’re part of the Asda promotion of the nominees for the Theakston’s Old Peculier award for the best thriller of the year. They’re also translated into more than 20 languages, including Bulgarian, Latvian, Thai and Catalan. And one of my agents is currently negotiating the finer details of the movie-rights sale of The Accident Man with a major Hollywood studio. For all that, however, I still have to operate, as we all do, in a world in which newspaper book pages virtually ignore thrillers in favour of supposedly superior, literary fiction; in which the fight for space on bookshop and supermarket shelves becomes bloodier and more expensive by the day; in which we have to compete with ghost-written trash with a celebrity name on the cover; in which the very habit of reading fiction is quietly withering away … So in those circumstances, I think there’s a lot to be said for people like Matt Lynn who have the initiative, imagination and sheer balls to set up a collective that attempts to give its members the chance of improving their marketing and raising their profile. And if he happens to do it by putting out a manifesto that’s a bit controversial and stirs up opposition as well as agreement, well, good for him. Because that’s the whole point of a manifesto. It’s meant to stir people up … and just sitting around being cosy, supportive and gushingly inclusive as we all say wonderful things about other writers may give everyone a nice, warm glow, but it’s not actually going to get anyone anywhere. Maybe the Curzon Group won’t get anywhere, either. But at least they’re giving it a go. And that’s why they’ve got my vote.

  17. Keleigh Says:

    Christ, now Asda’s getting a kicking. Vicious you writers – I like it. Round 2 please…

  18. Clem Chambers Says:

    US media dumping is as old as the hills. Countries have to pass laws to stop it and protect their own media industries from being driven out of business by cut rate US dross, be it in music, film or books. That was going on even when I was a kid.
    Right now the big book publishers (spot the non US ones) are dumping books into all channels in a fight to the death and the small players are simply getting squashed.
    It’s the media equivalent of the monoculture that puts a Starbucks on every London Street, a Gap in every English mall and a McDonalds in every town.
    However us Brits don’t have to like it and we don’t have to bow down to it.
    I guess we’re against the KFC’ing of the thriller. We’d like a little quirkiness left behind after the American publishing ‘daisy-cutters’ have dropped.
    It would be a shame if UK authors have to write about Midwestern murders rather than homicidal Oxford dons. Yet that’s the way its going.
    When the final line of the latest US blockbuster (2012) after 6 billion people die is, “Daddy I don’t need nappies anymore,” I think its time to stand up and throw some rocks at US media.

  19. stevemosby Says:

    Tom – thanks for stopping by.

    If you’ve read the blog and the thread then you know I agree with everything in the first half of your comment. Although it’s certainly nice to learn a little more about you.

    So in those circumstances, I think there’s a lot to be said for people like Matt Lynn who have the initiative, imagination and sheer balls to set up a collective that attempts to give its members the chance of improving their marketing and raising their profile.

    I’ve said this about eighteen times already – but yes: I agree completely. There is nothing wrong with collectives of writers. There is nothing wrong with thinking up new methods of promotion, pooling resources, helping each other, meeting for dinner, and so on. I should have this statement ready for copy-pasting: my problem is with one of the ways the Curzon Group has chosen to promote itself.

    And if he happens to do it by putting out a manifesto that’s a bit controversial and stirs up opposition as well as agreement, well, good for him.

    But has there been agreement? Honestly, Tom, I don’t think it’s controversial; there comes a point on the scale of purported facts where something is just stupidly wrong. “But in the last decade the British thriller has fallen into a sad decline”. That’s not controversial; it’s just stupidly wrong. Seriously – and I genuinely wish Leigh well with her career – is the British police procedural in decline? Have there been no decent ones until now? For all the publicity it might have got you, that statement is blatantly just an attempt to raise yourselves by stepping on writers who have been doing the same as you all along. Some with such obvious success that it makes the statement foolish; others with less success, but who feel – to me – at least as deserving of success as yourselves.

    Because that’s the whole point of a manifesto. It’s meant to stir people up

    No, it isn’t. A manifesto is meant to set out the often unusual M.O. that identifies the writers under its banner. Leaving aside the comments on the state of British thrillers, the five points in your manifesto aren’t stirring at all. They’re vague, woolly and pointless. That’s not a manifesto: it’s the lit-crit equivalent of Barnum statements.

    … and just sitting around being cosy, supportive and gushingly inclusive as we all say wonderful things about other writers may give everyone a nice, warm glow, but it’s not actually going to get anyone anywhere.

    I don’t even know what this means. Is it a straw man? I’m not even sure. Look – we shouldn’t give false praise. But I’ve bought books on the basis of other writers recommending them – and then bought their books as well. I follow blogs where people are positive about the books of other writers. If someone presses a book in my hand and says “you’ve got to read this”, that’s a wonderful experience, because I love books, and I love people who are passionate about books. But if someone presses a book in my hand, says that, and it’s theirs … I genuinely think there must be something socially wrong with them. It’s happened to me before at a multi-author event. A nameless author opposite me handed me her book – reaching across a pile of mine – and said “You have to read this – it’s the best book you’ll ever read”. Fuck off.

    Maybe the Curzon Group won’t get anywhere, either. But at least they’re giving it a go. And that’s why they’ve got my vote.

    Sure. And, genuinely, while I still think the marketing strategy you’ve gathered yourselves together under is an enormous pile of crap, good luck to you all.

  20. Donna Says:

    Steve – I’m with you – I love to read the blogs/websites of people who are passionate about books and who enthuse about the ones they love, rather than moan about the ones they dislike. And how rude of that nameless author – I can’t believe that. Well…I can, sadly.

  21. stevemosby Says:

    Donna – I’ll tell you who it was after a few drinks some time… 🙂

  22. Kevin Wignall Says:

    This has all been very entertaining to read.

    It reminds me somewhat of “Murdaland”, which was a wonderful (and sadly short-lived) magazine. The founders got a lot of people’s backs up by criticizing Ellery Queen’s and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazines, quite unnecessarily because there was room for both types of publication.

    I suspect the Curzon Group have, in all innocence, fallen into a similar trap of feeling the need to oppose something – in this case, the state of the British thriller, which quite clearly doesn’t need to be rescued (Simon Kernick at No 2 in the chart this week, James Twining’s “The Geneva Deception” selling very well, etc. etc.). Add to that some blurring of message by including police procedurals within their ranks and I can see why you’re having problems with them. Perhaps if they’d said, “this is a group to promote British thriller authors including, but not exclusively, us”, it would’ve been easier for everyone to get behind them. And there’s still time for them to amend their set-up accordingly if they want to – I hope they do, because they seem like a decent bunch and they clearly have good intentions.

    Finally, Tom, that really is very unlike you. I think things have become rather heated which is always healthy, but you and Steve are pretty much on the same side and I’m sure you’d get on. I thought you’d met, but if you haven’t, I’ll be happy to make introductions at Crimefest.

  23. Ali Says:

    Very interesting, but as a lover of peace I did indicate my thoughts several months ago when Curzon Group formed around the time of the LBF 2009 –

    http://existentialistman.blogspot.com/2009/04/us-vs-uk-thriller-war.html

    Promotion yes, but divisive no, also does being a member of Curzon gorup preclude membership to ITW?

    Good writing is what we want

    Ali

  24. John R Says:

    I’m slightly bemused by the definition of “British thriller”, since at least a couple of the group write American thrillers. Presumably we mean Brit-written thrillers, in which case I’m not sure if there’s a noticeable difference beyond the setting, and the idea of a “decline” is even more ludicrous. Compare Lee Child, say, with a US writer of similar stripe and content and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything between them save for the individual stylistics which distinguish any two writers.

  25. stevemosby Says:

    @Clem (now comment #18) – sorry, your comment went into my spam folder here, but I’ve approved it now. I think it’s full of shockingly horrible generalisations, but thank you for stopping by.

  26. claire seeber Says:

    As usual I seem to be coming to this a little late but what the heck, I’ll still put my tuppence worth in, or something…

    This debate seems to have got terribly male. And we could discuss what ‘thriller’ actually means, couldn’t we? Does it only mean guns and chases and savage murder and spies and the like? Or did Dickens write thrillers too? Or even some LADIES? The main issue here seems to me to be trying to lump anyone into anything definitive. Crime and thriller writing is all quite nebulous, no? – it’s the publishers who try to fit you neatly into a genre… And we should probably just leave it at that.

    Kevin. You’re such a lovely pacifist. And Mr Tom Cain, whom I’ve never met, but whose book mine might have sat next to briefly on the Asda shelf – though it wasn’t up for the prize yours was – just one thing: is the habit of reading fiction really quietly withering away? I don’t think it really is, is it? We’d all be out of a job then, wouldn’t we?!

  27. stevemosby Says:

    Claire – “terribly male”. I believe that’s one of the other criticisms, initially, of the Group. Though thankfully that’s been addressed somewhat in the membership. You raise some good additional points, as does Rickards above.

    However. My last word on the matter (as things stand) is here:

    http://thecurzongroup.blogspot.com/2009/11/our-battle-with-steve.html#comments

    Although this thread will remain open for people to fight, post bestial pornography and generally mess around in.

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