Monday, September 10, 2007

Friends in High Places...

Ya know, a strange and rather enjoyable thing has been happening lately. I've found myself corresponding more and more often with other authors - authors that I've read and respect and that (surprise!) have also read and respect me. I guess the internet makes this a lot easier, and I'm thankful for that. Of course, it took me a minute to get over my initial skepticism in this case...

You see, a couple weeks back I woke up to find two emails from people whose names were suspiciously like some famous authors that I'd read. A new form of span perhaps? Some marketing campaign? Was I going to be inundated with fake emails? Or was there some other explanation?...

Happily, there was. The emails actually were from the authors themselves, and they were writing to tell me the dug my work! This was particularly awesome because I dug their work, too. And thus I entered into a mutual-admiration correspondence with both these guys. I don't suppose they'd mind if I mention them here, especially as the mention takes the form of recommendations.

The first email that morning was from Kai Meyer. Kai is a German author of lots of books for adults and children. He's sold millions worldwide, but has a quite modest American profile. What I read of his were the first two installments on his Dark Reflections Trilogy: The Water Mirror and Stone Light. They're great. Very unusual. Chock full of imaginative flares and unexpected turns and images that are original and often unnerving at the same time.

It begins in an alternative Venice, one patrolled by stone lions, with canals filled with mistreated mermaids. The city is besieged by the Egyptian Pharaoh, with his army of floating barges powdered by magicians that harvest bodies from graves and turn them into walking dead soldiers.

The second book includes an extended trip to Hell. Not quite the Hell we're familiar with from our lore, though. This is an entirely different Hell at the center of the earth, a place in turns vastly empty and thronging with life forms on a massive scale. I've never read anything like it. Phillip Pullman comes close, but I'd say that Kai's imagination works at an altogether different pitch.

I get the feeling American publishers don't know exactly what to do with him. He's been described as "very European", but I don't know what that means except that he's different in a way they can't easily categorize. Many of his protagonists are young, resourceful girls, and there is a dark streak to the material that just doesn't feel like Kansas. But I enjoyed them, and I look forward to the concluding volume.

The second email was from David Liss! He's the author of several very popular historical novels. A Conspiracy of Paper (about the early days of stock speculation in 18th Century London, featuring a former pugilist - um, boxer I guess you could say - Benjamin Weaver, who is hired to retrieve an item a gentlemen unfortunately lost to a prostitute and finds himself caught up in rather a complicated web of deceit), The Coffee Trader (about a Portuguese Jew in 17th Century Amsterdam that tries to make a killing in the exotic, "Coffee-Fruit" market), and A Spectacle of Corruption (again returning to Benjamin Weaver as he finds himself accused of a murder he didn't commit - mind, now, he does commit some murders, but not the one he got convicted of - which is bound to be a bit annoying).

At this point I've read several of his novels and enjoyed each one. In a way I feel the comfortable structure of good crime writing in them, but they're also marvelously detailed historical studies as well. These are books that you enjoy and learn from at the same time.

His lastest book is a contemporary crime novel set in Florida, The Ethical Assassin. This last is a little bit Carl Hiaasen and little bit Elmore Leonard and... well, a good bit of David Liss as well. It's interesting to see him working in the contemporary realm (if the 1980's can be considered that). He does it well, but I don't think he plans to stay here long. Seems like he has another historical novel in the works for next year, and then another Benjamin Weaver for the year after that.

That's productivity you can take to the bank. Wish I had more of that. I don't go to the bank nearly as much as I'd like... When I do I'm making withdrawals... That's not quite the way I want it to work...

Anyway, though, if any of this sounds interesting to you please check them out.

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Blogger John Dent said...

Aha! I know someone you're talking about! Finally! ;)
David Liss seems like a nice guy. Haven't had the chance to read any of his work, unfortunately.

By the way, Made fish pie last night...MMMM...Delicious!

12:57 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Fish pie... MMMM... Do you use boiled eggs in yours? Rich, excessive, decadent almost. Who would think something with such an unpretentious name could be so darn good?

Yes, from what I gather David Liss is a great guy. His work is entertaining, but even his semi-comedic stuff like THE ETHICAL ASSASSIN makes you think.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Gabriele Campbell said...

It's a pity so few good German books get translated into English (it's very different the other way round). I've read a bunch of Kai Meyer's novels.

5:35 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


If you've read a bunch I guess that means you found them at least fairly enjoyable. That's great. I'm staggered by how many books he has in comparison to how few are published here in the US.

My kids to do love Cornelia Funke, though, and she's done VERY well for herself in this US market. I've no idea, though, what other writers I might be missing because of this cultural/language barrier.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Gabriele Campbell said...

Lots, I'm afraid.

Seriously, it's one of the reasons I write in English - I'll reach a wider market should I get published; and a German translation is always an option then.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Meghan said...

Wow that is so amazing. I'm also a huge fan of David Liss and it's good that talented authors are in contact with each other. Any idea when the next book is coming out? Yes, I'm impatient. ;)

3:06 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Hi Megumi,

I think David is in the final stages of finishing up his next book as I write. If it works out it'll pub sometime next year. Not sure when. Strangely enough, his publisher has announced the pub date for the next Weaver novel, The Devil's Company, which it says in for spring of 2009. These things can change, but it looks very likely that 2008 and 2009 will both offer new David Liss' books!

3:49 PM  
Blogger Meghan said...

Er, I meant YOUR next book!

5:10 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Oh, right MY book. Silly me...

Megumi, you're kind. You're also going to need to take some patience pills. It's going to be a while, I'm afraid. It won't possibly hit the stores before spring/summer of 2009 - and that's if everything goes well. I'm hoping it does!

There are those other books, though. Not fantasy, I know, but have you tried any of my earlier work? At the very least I can assure you that I wrote them. In that regard they have a lot in common with ACACIA...

6:20 PM  

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