Thursday, March 04, 2004

An unusual path 

Everything you ever really need to know about this particular author can be summed up in the way he once acknowledged his editor:

First off, I'd like to thank John Williams for championing my books and helping me to get started. I can't speak highly enough of him. In fact I think I'd even go so far as to say that if he lost a bit of weight, grew some hair, was a few years younger, became a woman and had a few quid in the bank I'd be half-tempted to give him one (if I was really pissed.)

Suffice it to say that few writers would ever even think to write such a thing, let alone get away with it, but then, few writers are Danny King.

I'm not totally sure how I'd first heard of him, but since I gravitate towards UK crime fiction--the meaner, the better--when I heard of some guy who was writing a series of "diaries" centering around various criminal professions, I suspected that I might like them. I picked up King's first book, THE BURGLAR DIARIES, and within a few pages was laughing my head off at the antics of Bex, a burglar who is frighteningly ordinary. The chapter where he explains, in point-counterpoint style, why he doesn't give a toss that stealing is breaking a commandment, is still one of the most acerbically funny passages I've come across in the genre. While BURGLAR doesn't really have much of a plot per se, it doesn't need one; it's all about anecdotes of the criminal lifestyle, and the launch of a most unusual series.

BURGLAR was followed in short order by THE BANK ROBBER DIARIES (where I pulled the quote from) and THE HITMAN DIARIES. Though both are excellent--especially HITMAN, where poor Ian Bridges just wants to love someone but keeps killing off all the prospective candidates--I'm not quite as fond of those books as I am the first. Such is how it goes sometimes in the world of series. But I must admit to being especially excited for the next installment: THE PORNOGRAPHER DIARIES, which is due out from Serpent's Tail in July. For one thing, it'll be informed by King's own experience in the porn mag business, as he was once the editor for Mayfair, one of the top such magazines in the UK. And for another, well, porn is just very very funny.

So who is this fiendish mind that comes up with all these crazy books? Well, thank goodness King is writing, because for a while he was on a path to serious criminal offending. But he managed to shake himself out of that and start a crime novel that is still unpublished. When he finished BURGLAR, he got a slew of rejections, and even the house that eventually took it, Serpent's Tail, initially passed. But when King got in touch with Williams, who is the crime consultant for the publishing company (and an excellent author in his own right) and asked him what had happened, Williams expressed doubt that the book could be turned into a series. But with a bit of fancy-footing, King came up with another idea, and the "Diaries" series was born. And, judging by his site, it seems King has a slew of ideas to work with in the future, whether he's serious or not.

Me, I'm dead keen on THE HIGHWAYMAN DIARIES and THE PIRATE DIARIES. But I'm all for making fun of Errol Flynn-like antics, after all....

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