Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Will Wonders Never Cease 

Deadly Pleasures reports that finally, amazingly, Rennie Airth's THE BLOOD-DIMMED TIDE will actually be published--and this year, at that. As reported by Ralph Spurrier, the owner of the mail order-only bookshop Postmortem Books, the book will be out on November 5 from Macmillan.

So why is this news? Because as George Easter (editor of DP) points out, Airth's new book has been delayed a whole host of times since news of its arrival was first announced, oh, back in about 2001 or so. THE BLOOD-DIMMED TIDE is the sequel to 1999's RIVER OF DARKNESS, a psychological thriller set in the aftermath of WWI that actually managed to make a real point about the nature of serial killing in a time when such creatures were far rarer, alas. Reviewers and fans--myself included--went gaga over the book, and it was nominated for a slew of awards, and even won a couple. But what of the sequel? Delay. Then another, and another. It got to the point where I coined a phrase in its honor to describe the series of postponements a book's publication date can undergo. (The current titleholder of Rennie Airth Syndrome is Robert Crais's THE FORGOTTEN MAN, but that was another post at another time.)

Anyway, the number of delays meant that after a time, folks pretty much gave up hope there'd ever be a book. Airth has published three novels previously: besides '99's RIVER OF DARKNESS, he wrote SNATCH, a caper novel published in 1969, and ONCE A SPY, published in 1981. In other words, he's a rather slow writer, so perhaps it was a little foolish of his publisher to expect he'd deliver the book so soon after the publication of an earlier one. But in the end, they won, and the book will actually see release--or so Macmillan's leading us to believe. For all we know, there will be disappointment once again.

As I said in my piece about Crais last month, I really wonder when the negative buzz surrounding a multitude of delays affects book sales when--or if--the book sees the light of day. What's an "optimal" wait time, and how much can, or should, fans stay patient? It's just another wrinkle in the biz that makes everyone nervous, for good reason--because any kind of negativity, even a mere flicker, can be lethal for a writer's future career.

Never mind that in Airth's case, the level of sustained hype is such that it will likely create some seriously unrealistic expectations (see Dunning, John for an example of how hype and reality don't always mesh, even though THE BOOKMAN'S PROMISE did hit the NYT list.) Will it deliver? Only time will tell, of course.

Assuming there is such a book ready in November....

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