Real Books That Don’t Exist

The Edgar award winning author Jorge Luis Borges wrote about The Library of Babel, a library that is said to contain every book that was every written and will be written.

In that spirit I wanted to take a look at some of the books that are in the crime fiction section of The Library of Babel.  But here’s the kicker, there are indications that these books actually exist.  We know this because they were talked about in interviews or mentioned in publicity material.  They are real books that you can’t read.

Every reader reaches a point in their life when they do the math of how many years left to live and how many books that are out there.  What makes it even more daunting is knowing about a book from a favorite author that you may never get to read.

Blue at the Back of My Head by James Sallis

In an interview years ago Sallis made mention of this book that he was working on.

I’ve also the opening chapters of a novel with the working title Blue At the Back of My Head, set in Arizona,…

Bottomfeeders by James Sallis

In the same interview, and the very same comment, he also talked briefly about another work in progress that was further along.

…and about half of one called Bottomfeeders, a comic novel about a cop killer, a take-off of sorts on The Seven Samurai.

Others of My Kind by James Sallis

In an interview with Craig McDonald Sallis talked about yet another book that was being working on.

-“I also wrote the draft of what will become my next novel, which is a non-genre novel called Others of My Kind.”

-“it’s the first time I’ve written a novel from a female point of view.  And I didn’t do it intentionally. I was walking again, and the voice in my ear was ‘I’, ‘I’, ‘I’ and it’s a female ‘I’, so I had to write from a female point of view.

Unnamed series by Lynn Kostoff

In the author bio of the hardback of The Long Fall there is mention of this:

…and is at work on the first novel of a projected series featuring a patrolman from the North who’s transplanted to the Myrtle Beach Police Department

Maybe this one became Late Rain?

The Work of Hands by Lynn Kostoff

The Work of Hands, which is set in 1986 in the Midwest. Its protagonist is a Public Relations man who cleans up scandals and fixes things. He believes he can always find a way to escape the consequences of his actions, but that belief is sorely tested when he has to clean up the aftermath of a large food poisoning outbreak. When this one is completed, I’d like to see what Ben Decovic and the others are up to.

Ken Bruen’s children’s book

Bruen’s kids book was mentioned in at least two separate interviews a couple of years ago but there was never any information about it. I can’t be the only one curious to read it.

-I wrote a children’s book, was assaulted on most all sides by

-‘Nearly killed me, honest to God. It seemed a natural progression from Priest, Cross and Sanctuary (the most recent books in the series) that the ultimate evil might appear. Never again though, too spooky. But it yielded a children’s book which I wrote to rid meself of the demons of the Devil.’

The Dydak’s by Duane Swierczynski

Years ago I had the opportunity to interview Duane Swierczynski. I asked him about a pair of minor characters that seemed like a missed opportunity, something to come back and explore later.

Brian Lindenmuth – The crime scene cleaners, The Dydak’s, were mentioned and seemed like a great source of material, but they never really made an appearance. I couldn’t shake the feeling that they had sections that were cut, are you thinking of perhaps using them at some later time. I know, it’s not really a question either, but would you care to comment.

Duane Swierczynski – I thought I might circle back to the Dydaks in THE BLONDE, but the situation never came up. However, they will be back in their novel. Sooner than you may think.

Whacker by Charlie Huston

Similarly, when I interviewed Charlie Huston we talked about a character that had appeared in two of his short stories.

Brian Lindenmuth – I love love love Det. Elizabeth “The Whacker” Borden. She might just be my favorite character of yours. Please for the love of everything holy tell me that we’ll get a novel with her.

Charlie Huston – That’s the plan. For me, anyway. The next trick will be getting a publisher interested. But, yes, I have a novel in mind. Basically the story of how Detective Borden got to be who she is. Which is basically the meanest, dirtiest, cruellest, most self-serving law enforcement officer ever.

Damn, now don’t you wish you could go read those books right now.  I contacted some of the authors mentioned here to try and get some information on these lost titles that still haven’t seen the light of day.

Lynn Kostoff responded:

#1: author bio/Long Fall

At the time, I had been making notes on a crime novel using Myrtle Beach, SC, but that setting was basically where the novel would end; none of the characters in LATE RAIN were in it, except for Ben Decovic. The novel, whose working title I now can’t remember, was set in a fictional rust belt city, Ryland, Ohio, an amalgamate of some of the iron and steel cities in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania where I grew up. That novel centered on the relationship between Ben Decovic, a homicide detective, and his cousin, Michael, who was the mayor of Ryland and coming up for re-election. I wanted to use some of the elements of what had happened economically, psychologically, emotionally, and culturally to that part of the country. Michael Decovic had started off as faithful to his blue collar roots and then become corrupted. Ben accidently discovers just how corrupt his cousin is. The corrupt scheme would ultimately result in good for the area,  so I was trying to explore how much a person could compromise and still consider himself “good” and true to self and principles.There were a number of other complications to Ben uncovering the scheme. By the end of the novel, he was going to walk away from his job, home, history and start over in Myrtle Beach. I eventually decided to create Magnolia Beach rather than use Myrtle Beach for the setting because of all the sprawl and development clutter which complicated consistency of description and became a constant headache. I did some very rough drafts of this novel, probably around 180 to 200 pages, and eventually set them aside and just put Ben Decovic in Magnolia Beach and in his patrol car and started LATE RAIN.


THE WORK OF HANDS for way too long has been my albatross. I had done two completely different versions of the novel for Crown after A CHOICE OF NIGHTMARES came out in 1991. I was just finishing a long (500 page) new draft of the novel when my editor got downsized, and Crown cancelled the book and my contract. At that point, having already drafted over a thousand pages with the three drafts, I just set it aside and forgot it. I worked on a couple other novel projects and was not happy with them or where they were headed. At that point anything resembling a writing career had pretty much evaporated, so I decided to jump blindly into a new project and wrote the opening line to THE LONG FALL and had no idea what it meant or who the characters were. The longest draft of THE LONG FALL was 450 pages (Jimmy Coates got in quite a bit of trouble), and I eventually decided to streamline the plot and brought it in at its published length of around 230 pages. I had never quite forgotten THE WORK OF HANDS during all this and kept messing with notes and ideas for a new version. I eventually started a completely new version of the novel right as LATE RAIN was accepted. I have done two drafts now and am closing in on finishing the third draft of the novel. I hope to have it done by early to mid-fall and in the hands of my agent. The new version barely resembles any of the earlier drafts, but hopefully I’ll be able to ditch the albatross on this retelling.

James Sallis responded:

1.  Found out there wasn’t enough story in the box.  (The idea, for me, was schematic and too limiting.)  Significant parts of it found their way into the story “Concerto for Violence and Orchestra,” a few bits and pieces into novels.

2.  Stalled out at 80 pages or so, mainly, I think, due to relocation, life changes, and concentrating on the Lew Griffin novels.  Still claim from time to time that I’m going back to it.  Yeah, right.

3.  Will be out next year from Walker, No Exit and others.  The draft was completed about the time I wrote Drive, but there were structural problems.  This one, I knew I’d get back to, and finally — after four or five other novels — did.

Ken Bruen responded:

The children’s book became a trilogy, and is at the cross roads of
Will it be a TV series?
published first in book form.
1st time ever I got to tell my agent
You decide!
He’s currently ….. deciding

Finally Duane Swierczynski responded:

Wish I had something more exciting for you, but the Dydak project is as dead as Dillinger. For a while there, I thought a spin-off might be fun. But this was before we saw a whole wave of crime-scene cleanup stories, including Charlie Huston’s excellent MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH. Which kind of killed it for me.

But who knows… maybe they’ll have a cameo in a future Philly-set novel.

Are you guys aware of any other lost novels?  Novels that were mentioned in interviews or publicity material but never were released?


Cheap books are already here

Let’s say you spend $25 on a book and, after reading it, you think that it was really great.

What if I told you that you could take the same $25 and get two great books.

You can, by buying trade paperbacks.

What if I told you that you could take the same $25 and get five great books.

You can, by buying mass market paperbacks.

What if I told you that you could take the same $25 and get twenty-five great books.

You can, by buying used books.

What if I told you that you could take the same $25 and get fifty great books.

You can, by buying 50¢ books at the library (at least at mine that’s what they cost.)

What if I told you that you could keep that $25 and read books for free.

You can at the library.

In this debate on cheap books there are rarely expressions of hatred towards trade paperbacks, mass market paperbacks, used books, or libraries.

Cheap books are already here.

I’m raising a feminist

My daughter, who is an avid and voracious reader, had some problems with the book she was reading today, a Babysitters Club book.

She felt it was unfair that the girls who didn’t have a date to the Sadie Hawkins dance were forced to work the party. She said that they should have been able to dance alone, or even with each other, and not be punished for not having a boy to dance with.

She’s 10.

The imaginary sequel to Brian Evenson’s Immobility

Brian Evenson writes about Immobility, a book that started out as imaginary then became reality. He also gives the synopsis for the imaginary sequel called Extinction.

When Josef Horkai is woken up from storage it’s a lifetime later, or maybe two. He wants his revenge on those who have manipulated him, but the “humans” have died out.

What’s left are lab-manufactured beings, as the so-called mules that carried him once were, and they’ve been trained to keep manufacturing themselves. But in the process they’ve lost a sense of their purpose and developed a new, and confused, mythology. A mythology that has Horkai, or someone like him, at its center.

But when the religious brothers from Granite Mountain come after what’s left, Horkai has to take sides with one of three groups: those who want to preserve humanity, those ready to surrender their humanity for good, or the befuddled lab-created who have taken him in and seem to be looking for a reason to worship him.

Extinction is a dark and incisive novel about the moral and immoral choices that lead to the extinction of the human race.

SOLD! So when can I buy a copy?

About that Savages ending & why I think there will be a third book

This post is written for those that have seen the movie and read both books so there be spoilers ahead.

My old friend Nerd of Noir wrote a review of Savages over at the Crimespree blog. Amid the over all praise he had a few choice words about the ending.

I was one hundred percent on board with the film all the way…and then the bucket of ice-cold piss that is the film’s cheat ending was thrown on me, killing my buzz something terrible.

After reading the review I sent him an email. Much of it is below.


Let me say up front that I agree with Nerd about the ending ending. Like it was designed to give viewers the sense of a happy ending using a cheap (cheat?) technique.

After watching the movie I was having a hard time remembering some of the differences between the book and the film so I went back and read the ending of the Savages.

Found some very interesting things too.

The crappy ending ending is right there on the page for the most part. They all get the morphine shots, Ben starts whispering to O about how she would have loved “Indo” and telling her all about it. Then the final chapter is her imagining being there and then you get that “beautiful savages” line.

(plus, before that, there’s no Dennis killing himself, and Elena turning on Lado for being a snitch)

Notice I said things above.

After reading The Kings of Cool, watching the movie, and doing a skim of the book I think the possibility is there for a third book. Here’s the skeleton of the agrument:

1) The prequel shows how Chon and O got together but NOT Ben and O.
2) The books don’t really show how Ben and Chon got together.
3) The ending of Savages (book) never really states that they die. It just walks up to the line and implies it. (Ben’s injury is vague and Chon says he will die, O has an arm injury, and Chon’s has a “wounded shoulder”)

What can we publishers do better?

asks Mysterious Matters:

What can we publishers do better? What can we do to get attention for books and writers?

I always thought that it would be a good idea for publishers or distributors or book stores to arrange for the tie-in versions of a movie’s novel to be sold at the theater where the movie is playing *at a reduced price*.

You go the local theater to see this crazy movie, like Savages for example, and in the lobby of the theater is a small book stand where you can pick up the novel for a couple of bucks. Get them while they are thinking about the movie.

Most people don’t buy books and movies sell more tickets. So instead of bringing Mohamed to the mountain bring the mountain to Mohamed.

Related, when you buy a DVD you should be given the opportunity to buy the book it is based on easily and cheaply.

On Binge Watching

Over at Slate Jim Pagels is advocating the end of binge watching.

Slow down. Even if you aren’t taking crystal meth to fuel your rapid consumption of the best series of the last 10 years (yes, I have seen The Wire), you’re still ruining much of what makes the show—and all TV shows—great.

I seem to recall Neil Gaiman saying years ago, about The Sandman, that at the same time he was writing individual issues he also kept an eye on the over all story arc because he wanted an arc to fit in a graphic novel. And that future readers wouldn’t reading the individual issues, that they would be reading the collections. So he played a long game and played to the future audiences who would be reading multiple collected issues at once.

There can be a certain appeal to watching a show on a weekly basis but I think that the best of today’s tv shows, the ones that allow a story to play out over a season, are designed to be watched all at once, or as near to it as possible.