Overwhelmed by the reviews of his Lush Life, I headed over to M is for Mystery yesterday afternoon to hear what Richard Price had to say. As happens so often, Mr. Price spent too much time of his allotted sixty minutes reading from the book. If I'm going to buy the book, I want to read it myself and not have someone else steal the juicy parts. During the Q&A, I asked why reviews seemed to treat Lush Life as "literary" fiction rather than crime fiction. A little explication here. I expected him to rant about artificial lines between genres. In fact, I wanted him to, since such words would be a balm to me who recently received a rejection from a major publisher that said my opus "is a gripping book that kept me turning pages from the very start." Then came more compliments, before the conclusion: "However, at the end of the day... the subject matter is just still too firmly in the genre world" for us. All right, all right. Enough whining. Anyway, Price said he was treated as a literary writer because that's the way he wants to be treated. He said that he himself doesn't read "detective stories" since you forget what they were about minutes after finishing them. In his mind literary fiction deals with big themes and describes an important slice of the world in a way "detective" fiction does not. (Remember I did ask about crime fiction.) He did say he was an admirer of George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Elmore Leonard as well as the old-timers like Hammett and Chandler.
In response to another question, Price said what he originally turned into his editor was twice as long as the final manuscript. He said he and the editor worked together to find the story hidden in that first draft. How many editors do that kind of thing nowadays?
I had hauled #4 along with me -- he's nine -- since we were due at our synagogue right after the signing. He sat in the front of the store during the reading and Q&A where he was supposed to be keeping his nose in a Tom Swift: Young Inventor book, but he confessed to listening to Price talk. I hope the words he heard were new to him, but with three older siblings I fear they were not.
One other piece of advice that I keep forgetting to pass along. Recently, I watched State of Play, a BBC miniseries about a murder wrapped in a political scandal. It's available on DVD from Netflix. Get it. Watch it. It's being turned into a big deal movie in 2009 with Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren, Robert Wright Penn and Russell Crowe, but don't wait for that. It can't be as good (especially since they are moving it, of course, from London to D.C.)