Home      About Dan      News      Books      Forum      Art      Writing Well


DROOD UPDATES AND EPHEMERA

Dan's back from his DROOD book tour and reports that while he was having a fun time schmoozing with his readers (and eating the luscious cupcakes some of those readers made for him), and trying on the Droodish top hat that a manager at the Bay Area's Kepler's Book Store gave to him as a gift, DROOD itself (the book rather than the man/monster) was out there doing the hard work: getting itself reviewed, receiving and returning blows, being discussed by Entertainment Weekly and other sources, and generally doing its booky best  to claw and elbow its way up onto and into the various bestseller lists around the country.

       NEWS
                    News Items

Here is just a sampling of the lists, reviews, commentaries, video and audio links, tour momentos, and other Droodlet goodies:

  EW.com, from Entertainment Weekly

EW Home // Books // Please, Sir, We Want Some More Book News

Please, Sir, We Want Some More

'Drood' becomes a best-seller -- Dan Simmons' historical thriller about Charles Dickens hit the ''Publisher's Weekly'' list with nary a press appearance
By Kate Ward

Looks like it's the best of times for Dan Simmons: He just landed at No. 15 on the Publishers Weekly fiction best-seller list with Drood, his historical thriller about Charles Dickens. Simmons didn't make a single press appearance, so how do you explain the success of a 784-page Dickens-inspired novel in a market where easy reading rules the charts? According to Reagan Arthur, Drood's editor at Little, Brown, the book's sheer heft might have actually been an attraction. ''Something about the time of year is appealing to people's need for a big, hearty, old-fashioned read in the sort of Dickensian model,'' she says. And though you might not recognize Simmons' name, plenty do. His cult fan-base has been building since his days as a sci-fi and horror writer and reached fever pitch in 2007 with The Terror. ''When we are publishing a book [of his], you can see the Internet start to stir months beforehand,'' says Marlena Bittner, his publicist at Little, Brown. Count director Guillermo del Toro as one of those followers: He's already bought the film rights to Drood.

Posted Feb 27, 2009 | Published in issue #1037 Mar 06, 2009 |

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20262057,00.html

#

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BESTSELLER LIST


Latest BestSellers of Hardcover Fiction

WEEK OF MARCH 2, 2009

5 3 4 6
2
1 The Associate. Grisham, John
Doubleday, $27.95. ISBN 978-0-385-51783-6.
1 4
2 Run Your Life. James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
Little, Brown, $27.99. ISBN 978-0-316-01874-6.
2 3
3 Heart and Soul. Binchy, Maeve
Knopf, $26.95. ISBN 978-0-307-26579-1.
- 1
4 The Host. Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown, $25.99. ISBN 9780316068048.
3 39
5 Fool. Moore, Christopher
Morrow, $26.99. ISBN 9780060590314.
4 2
6 Bone Crossed. Patricia Briggs
Ace, $24.95. ISBN 978-0-441-01676-1.
5 3
7 Dog on It. Spencer Quinn
Atria, $25. ISBN 978-1-416-58583-1.
- 1
8 True Colors. Hannah, Kristin
St. Martin's, $25.95. ISBN 978-0-312-36410-6.
7 3
9 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Dial, $22. ISBN 9780385340991.
10 18
10 The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. David Wroblewski
Ecco, $25.95. ISBN 9780061374227.
8 35
11 Very Valentine. Adriana Trigiani
Harper, $25.99. ISBN 978-0-06-125705-6.
9 3
12 Plum Spooky. Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's, $27.95. ISBN 9780312383329.
6 7
13 The Women. T.C. Boyle
Viking, $27.95. ISBN 9780670020416.
11 2
14 Drood. Dan Simmons
Little, Brown, $25.99. ISBN 9780316007023.
15 2
15 While My Sister Sleeps. Barbara Delinsky
Doubleday, $25.95. ISBN 978-0-385-52492-6.
- 1
1

#

Rick Kleffel's radio interviews for later podcasting from his AGONY COLUMN are always a high point of Dan's tours through the Bay Area. Kleffel is a careful reader and his questions are always excellent. (Unlike so many radio-host interviewers, even at the top levels of NPR, Kleffel actually listens to his guests' responses and forms sharp and sometimes penetrating follow-up questions that do tend to reveal things.) These energetic conversations between Rick and Dan -- the recorded talks are almost too long to be called "interviews" -- are some of the finest near-term examinations of Dan's books available.

Below is Rick Kleffel's print review of DROOD followed by the podcast of the February, 2009 podcast interview:

11 Book Book Book Book
9
7 Commentary [Unable to display image] Reviews Podcasts_Audio [Unable to display image] [Unable to display image] [Unable to display image] 8
6
22
20 1 Dan Simmons
Drood
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2009

Little, Brown / Hachette
US Hardcover First
ISBN 978-0316007023
Publication Date: 02-09-2009
784 Pages; $26.99
Date Reviewed: 02-21-2009

Index: General-Fiction  Horror  Science-Fiction Fantasy  Non-Fiction

In 'Drood,' Dan Simmons makes some difficult choices. He tells the oft-told story of Dickens' life from the perspective of Wilkie Collins, in Simmons' novel (and in actuality), that of a pain-addled opium addict. There's an excess of actuality to deal with; Dickens life was incredibly complex, not surprisingly, Dickensian. To that add the imaginative riffs of Collins' hallucinations, the constant pain from his gout, the even greater pains of jealousy and Collins' certainty that he was good enough a writer to know he could never measure up to Dickens stature.

This is where 'Drood' begins, with an opening right out of the most ripping of yarns, a dramatic grabber that makes the reader question not Collins' sanity, but Dickens, followed by a spectacular set-piece right out of the Dickens bios. On June 9, 1865, Charles Dickens was on a train with the woman who may have been his paramour and her mother, when it ran off the rails and plunged into an abyss. Dickens was left hanging over the edge, and readers will be as well in this cleverly plotted and cunningly composed novel. Sure, at 784 pages, there are really two or three "normal" books stuffed into this cabinet of wonders. But each of them is a one hell of a gripping tale, and Simmons' architectural skill manages to get all the rooms under one tin-plated, roof replete with chimneys belching smoke into the skies and underground labyrinths that lead straight to hell.

Readers will know pretty much right off the bat if they're going to enjoy the novel because the tale is told in the consistently unreliable voice of Wilkie Collins. He's a hoot to be around, even if he's constantly in pain, and a good enough writer to make you feel his pain and that of everyone him. The conceit is that this manuscript has been withheld at Collins' request for 125 years. Now the true lies behind the last unfinished novel by Dickens, 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood,' can be told. It seems that Dickens met Drood in the pit beneath the Staplehurst disaster, as he tried to help victim. Drood, described as looking something like the figure of Edward Munch's The Scream brought to life may or may not still be human or actually alive, but he is according to Dickens' and Collins' real-life police contact, Charles Frederick Field, the nastiest serial murderer London has never heard of. And now he is in the lives of both Dickens and Collins; and that;'s just the Spook story aspect of 'Drood.' Threaded through 'Drood' as well are a superbly entertaining Dickens biography and a portrait of literary competition and innovation at the dawn of genre fiction as we know it today.

Simmons' nails Collins' voice in the opening sentence and keeps the high-wire act up for another 783 pages. It's his funniest book to date, with a generous sense of humor that keeps the tone light even when the going gets pretty heavy — and in a book this size, you can bet there are more than a few dire moments. Simmons has set himself a very difficult task and it wasn't until the moment I began to write this review that I realized just how successful he is. On one hand, he's got to set a seriously Victorian tone to his prose. But he's an American writer, and he has to be careful not to seem too contrived or arcane. By choosing Collins — a thoroughly modern man even by our 21st-century standards — as his tale-teller, he gets to steep his readers in the atmosphere while keeping the language accessible. There are lots of parts of this book that readers will want to read aloud, and not just the fairly significant number of quotes, letters and speeches straight out of history.

The characters, and as you might expect, there are lots of them, are nonetheless easy enough to keep track of. Moreover, they're all a joy to be around, especially with Wilkie as your guide. Charles Frederick Field, the real-life inspiration for Dickens' Inspector Bucket from 'Bleak House' and Collins' Sergeant Cuff, from 'The Moonstone' is a gruff but complicated figure. Women didn't fare very well in those times and they don’t do so hot in this novel either, but they live, breathe and often scheme with some success. Collins points out that the name "Drood" sound a lot liker the word "dread" and Simmons, a skilled horror writer, ensures he lives up to his implications.

Given that 'Drood' will function as many readers' first Dickens biography, Simmons is to be congratulated on his integration of history and fantasy. There's certainly a good deal of history to be found here. It's entertainingly written and cunningly researched. Readers who pick up 'Drood' should do so with the knowledge that they're getting more than just a single story, more than just a single, straightforward novel. One probably shouldn’t make too much of the fact that Dickens' life was positively Dickensian; but it's not to be ignored either. If you're the sort of reader who enjoys a good digression, this is your banquet, because in 'Drood,' the digressions are served up with a good deal more than a soupcon of surreal imagery mixed with out-and-out obvious lies and hallucinations. The plot takes a crooked path, but also lots of drugs, and that makes the getting there a lot of fun.

As 'Drood' lurches forth across a tortured landscape, Simmons doesn't just bury the knife, he twists it early and often. Fiction is, after all, lies and pain and illusion. The cost is great. In these times, it will require quite a bit of time to read 'Drood,' even if the pages turn very fast, and they do indeed. But how to value new dreams and old nightmares? How to count the cost of creation, how do we assess literary innovation then and now? Read the book; then go back and visit the landscapes that unfold in your mind. The lives you have lived are real. Pages, ages and price; what are they compared to memory?
19
21
18
More Book Reviews
Review Archive
17
3 16 The Lost City of Z
David Grann
Reviewed by:
Rick Kleffel
15
4 14 Flashman: From the Flashman Papers
1839-42
George MacDonald Fraser
Reviewed by:
Dustin Kenall
13
5 12 UFO in Her Eyes
Xiaolu Guo
Reviewed by:
Rick Kleffel
99

New to the Agony Column

02-27-09: Commentary : Barry Eisler Keeps it Simple, but not Stupid : 'Fault Line'

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Deborah Grabien, Michael Boatman and Terry Bisson Talk at SF in SF on February 21, 2009 : Panel Discussion

02-26-09: Commentary : Paul Melko and Catherynne M. Valente Melt the World : Just Another Breakdown of Reality

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Deborah Grabien Reads at SF in SF on February 21, 2009 : 'Still Life With Devils'

88
2
77 Archives Indexes              
RSS Feed Link for News: http://trashotron.com/agony/indexes/tacrss.xml
Podcast Feed Link: http://trashotron.com/agony/indexes/tac_podcast.xml
   

# 

    Click here: Agony Column Podcast  2

Click here: Agony Column Podcast-Part 2

#

(Dan's note: for purposes of NYTimes "bestsellerdom," only the top 15 titles on the list count. DROOD, at # 18, hadn't made that rarified summit as of the reporting week of Feb. 21.)

February 27, 2009, New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers  

Hardcover Fiction
Published: February 27, 2009

Buy These Books From:

Buy From AmazonBuy From Local Booksellers

This Week Last Week Weeks on List
1 THE ASSOCIATE, by John Grisham. (Doubleday, $27.95.) An idealistic law-school graduate is forced to take a job at a large, brutalizing law firm. 1 4
2 RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. (Little, Brown, $27.99.) A detective raising 10 children alone must stop a killer who has targeted New York’s rich and powerful. 2 3
3 HEART AND SOUL, by Maeve Binchy. (Knopf, $26.95.) A doctor establishes a heart clinic in a Dublin neighborhood. 1
4 THE HOST, by Stephenie Meyer. (Little, Brown, $25.99.) Aliens have taken control of the minds and bodies of most human beings, but one woman won’t surrender. 3 41
5 FOOL, by Christopher Moore. (Morrow, $26.99.) King Lear’s fool tries to set things right in this comic, bawdy version. 4 2
6 THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. (Dial, $22.) A journalist travels to the island of Guernsey to meet residents who resisted the Nazi occupation. 8 23
7 DOG ON IT, by Spencer Quinn. (Atria, $25.) An all-too-human private investigator has a canine sidekick. 1
8 THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE, by David Wroblewski. (Ecco, $25.95.) A mute takes refuge with three dogs in the Wisconsin woods after his father’s death.  7 37
9 AMONG THE MAD, by Jacqueline Winspear. (Holt, $25.) Maisie Dobbs is involved in a hunt for a man who promises to wreak destruction on London. 1
10 TRUE COLORS, by Kristin Hannah. (St. Martin’s, $25.95.) Rivalries, betrayal and forgiveness among three sisters. 6 3
11 THE WOMEN, by T. C. Boyle. (Viking, $27.95.) The loves of Frank Lloyd Wright. 12 2
12 BONE CROSSED, by Patricia Briggs. (Ace, $24.95.) A shapeshifter who works as an auto mechanic in Washington State is menaced by a vampire. 5 3
13* VERY VALENTINE, by Adriana Trigiani. (Harper, $25.99.) An Italian-American shoemaker and her grandmother return to Italy to learn new techniques; the first book in a trilogy. 10 3
14 WHILE MY SISTER SLEEPS, by Barbara Delinsky. (Doubleday, $25.95.) A woman makes discoveries about her sister and herself when the sister becomes gravely ill. 1
15 LETHAL LEGACY, by Linda Fairstein. (Doubleday, $26.) Alexandra Cooper, a Manhattan assistant district attorney, tracks items stolen from the New York Public Library. 1
Also Selling
16 PLUM SPOOKY, by Janet Evanovich (St. Martin’s)
17 CUTTING FOR STONE, by Abraham Verghese (Knopf)
18 DROOD, by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown)
19 SECOND OPINION, by Michael Palmer (St. Martin’s)
20 AGINCOURT, by Bernard Cornwell (Harper)
21 FROM DEAD TO WORSE, by Charlaine Harris (Ace)
22 THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett (Putnam)
23 THE SILENT MAN, by Alex Berenson (Putnam)
24 SCARPETTA, by Patricia Cornwell (Putnam)
25 A DARKER PLACE, by Jack Higgins (Putnam)
26 THE PIANO TEACHER, by Janice Y. K. Lee (Viking)
27 WHAT I DID FOR LOVE, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Morrow)
28 BLACK OPS, by W. E. B. Griffin (Putnam)
29 WHISPER TO THE BLOOD, by Dana Stabenow (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
30 HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, by Jamie Ford (Ballantine)
31 DARK OF NIGHT, by Suzanne Brockmann (Ballantine)
32 MIDNIGHT, by Sister Souljah (Atria)
33 BASKETBALL JONES, by E. Lynn Harris (Doubleday)
34 THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson (Knopf)
35 THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED, by Wally Lamb (Harper)
 

#

(Dan's note -- Shawn Speakerman recorded my long talk, reading, and Q&A session at Seattle's University Bookstore on the evening of Feb. 18, 2009. and has made the whole thing available via You Tube links below)

Calendar Video Forum
Enter Suvudu's Signed Spectra Pulse Sweepstakes to take home a 5-signature edition!
By Shawn Speakman on February 25, 2009
dan simmons, drood, university bookstore, videos

Video: Dan Simmons (02/18/09)

simmons-drood.jpgAs I wrote two days ago HERE when I featured Subterranean Press, I am an avid Dan Simmons fan. Ever since Hyperion, the man simply doesn’t have a bad book in his sci-fi/fantasy work. And whenever he comes out with a new novel I buy it on release day.

Luckily, two years in a row, Dan has visited Seattle on tour and held signing events at the fantastic University Bookstore where this time he spoke about his new book, Drood.

The premise of Drood is brilliant, in my opinion.

On June 9, 1865, author Charles Dickens was traveling by rail when, by human error, the train jumped the tracks. Many cars tumbled off, killing those within. Interestingly enough, the only first class car to not derail contained Dickens, who helped the wounded and dying as best he could until help arrived. For the next five years until his death on June 9, 1870—exactly five years after the accident—Dickens would be plagued by darkness and failing health, interested in death, the occult and hypnotism, only able to write half a novel in The Mystery of Edwin Drood and never staying in one place for very long.

Dan brings to the fore those final five years of Charles Dickens’ life in Drood!

And reveals the dark mysterious descent of arguably the 19th century’s greatest writer.

In the forthcoming seven videos, Dan gives a far more in depth look at the life of Charles Dickens and Drood. He then reads from the book and answers questions from the audience.

Here is A Speech, Reading and Q&A with Dan Simmons! Enjoy!

http://www.suvudu.com/2009/02/video-dan-simmons-021809.html

#

And from TheDailyBeast.com compendium of web site reviews --

DROOD by Dan Simmons (9780316007023) is one of 5 featured books on The Daily Beast’s new Book Beast page.


And the following reviews:

“DROOD is such a great book that at first I just wanted to write a two-line review: “Masterpiece. Read the novel as soon as you can get it.” –FantasyBookCritic.blogspot.com (feature included a signed book giveaway that was promoted on over 40 blogs.)

 “This is a new Dan Simmons, writing the best books of his life. His next one is awaited now with almost a wonder of anticipation.” –OpenLettersMonthly.com

 “At its climax, a clever story reveals itself as more clever than you realized at the time — something that takes great skill to construct and then actually pull off. Simmons does so with aplomb. You don’t have to be a fan of either Dickens or Collins to enjoy DROOD, but you’ll gain ever more appreciation for this outstanding novel if you are.” –Bookgasm.com

 “For those who enjoy history, this is a fascinating look at the life of a writer whose works are still revered by millions.” –Hip2BHomeschooling.blogspot.com

 “I had a really, really hard time putting this book down. It’s just my kind of novel: lots of adventure, lots of tension.” –AGirlWalksintoaBookstore.blogspot.com

 “it is a book that will stick in the back of your mind for years to come.” –RuthiesBookReviews.blogspot.com

 “Reminiscent of Caleb Carr's The Alienist, Drood is full of interesting detail and richly textured scenes of real Dickensian London.” –LiteraryFanGirl.blogspot.com

 “Don't miss this one -- it is well worth the time and energy you put into it.” –Nancyo-2009—theyearinbooks.blogspot.com

 #

From reviewer Mark Graham at THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS on the very day that newspaper went under after 148 years of continuous publication --

A Dickens of a plot

Simmons novel chases Victorian's last mystery

By Mark Graham, Special to the Rocky

Published February 26, 2009 at 7 p.m.

Author Dan Simmons is known for his thorough research, literate writing style and celebration of major authors.

Author Dan Simmons is known for his thorough research, literate writing style and celebration of major authors.

A Colorado author, Dan Simmons refuses to stick to a single genre; in fact, it's hard to find a type of fiction at which he has not excelled.

He may be best known for his Hugo Award winning far-future science fiction tetralogy, which includes Hyperion, Fall of Hyperion, Endymion and Rise of Endymion. But he is equally at home with horror novels like Carrion Comfort, Summer of Night and A Winter Haunting, and detective stories with his Joe Kurtz series.

Regardless of plot or theme, the three elements that best define Simmons' works are his thorough research, literate writing style and celebration of major authors and works of literature.

It's no coincidence that the Hyperion novels make use of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer and John Keats, nor that Ernest Hemingway is a central character in his suspense novel, The Crook Factory. Last year's The Terror, which chronicled an ill-fated 19th-century attempt to find the Northwest Passage through Canada, made significant use of Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death.

Now the erudite Simmons uses one of the greatest novelists of all time as a character and another important Victorian author as narrator in his latest "magnum opus," Drood, as he recounts the last five years of Charles Dickens' life and the mysterious circumstances around the writing of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens' unfinished last novel.

Chapter One opens as the narrator, now estranged from his friendship with the "Inimitable," as he calls Dickens, introduces himself and his book: "My name is Wilkie Collins and my guess, since I plan to delay the publication of this document for at least a century and a quarter beyond the date of my demise (1889), is that you do not recognize my name . . . Even so, I would wager my current fortune, such as it is, and all future royalties from my plays and novels, such as they may be, on the fact that you do remember the name and books and plays and invented characters of my friend and former collaborator, a certain Charles Dickens."

While it is certainly true that Dickens will never be forgotten, Collins might have been surprised that his most famous book, The Moonstone, is considered by many the first true detective novel and that it is still in print today, or that his The Woman in White would be adapted as a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, though the play closed after a short run on Broadway last year.

In just a few pages, the actual story begins with a seminal event in Dickens' life. In 1865 the author, who had separated from his wife, Catherine, the mother of his 10 children, was traveling by rail with the beautiful and much younger actress, Ellen Ternan, when the train jumped the track, and most of the passenger cars plunged into a ravine. Though their first-class carriage was tilting over the edge of a precipice, Dickens and Ternan were relatively uninjured, but the majority of the other travelers died or were seriously maimed in the wreckage.

As he later told Collins, when Dickens worked his way down the hill to help the victims, he met the man, "if he was a man," who would change his life, a cadaverously thin person who appeared to have no eyelids and introduced himself only as "Drood."

As Dickens tries to minister to the horribly mangled passengers trapped in their splintered cars, it appears that Drood, like a vampire, is sucking out their last breaths.

After he has somewhat recovered from the experience (though the author retains a phobia of trains and fast-moving conveyances until his death), Dickens becomes obsessed with finding Drood, and he enlists Collins, his friend, sometime collaborator and the brother of his son-in- law, to accompany him into the slums and London's "Undertown," a secret society, hidden along the subterranean sewers and rivers of the city. Clues divulged by Dickens' acquaintances from Scotland Yard and private detective agencies lead him to believe that Drood lives as a type of potentate in these vast catacombs.

Gradually we learn that both Collins and Dickens suffer from gout, a common upper- class affliction of the times, and that the narrator is hopelessly addicted to laudanum, a combination of opium and alcohol used to treat a multitude of painful conditions. Collins ingests the drug in such copious quantities that we must wonder just how much of what he relates is truth and how much is hallucination.

It is possible that Drood is merely a figment of Dickens' imagination - or Collins'; or he may be part of a story Dickens is creating for his own amusement. He may actually be a serial killer responsible for at least 300 grisly murders. He may be the leader of a possible insurrection by London's miserable lower classes, who will eventually rise up and take over the city. Dickens himself may be a murderer who descends into these pits of depravity as part of a nefarious scheme. And Collins admits that he not only has committed murder, but that he plans to kill his former friend and dump his body in a lime pit.

As Collins continues his "memoir," he frequently strays from the narrative to discuss his own and Dickens' current works, their intimate lives, Dickens' Christmas parties, the "Inimitable's" reading tours, and the life and times of Victorian England and America. For the most part these departures do not detract from the story. However, if there's a criticism, it's that the tale tends to drag a bit.

Fans of Simmons' early work will find the underbelly of London described much as the poor sections of India were in his first novel, The Song of Kali. And early in Drood, there is much discussion of The Frozen Deep, a play on which Collins and Dickens collaborated, that tells the story of the expedition Simmons wrote about in his most recent novel, The Terror.

For those who wish to pigeonhole Drood into a genre, it's safe to say that it is a historical novel, a biographical novel, a horror novel, a mystery, a romance, a Gothic novel, a science fiction novel (since we are supposed to be reading it five years from now), a work of mainstream fiction and a book of literary criticism. Put it on any shelf in the bookstore and it fits.

Mark Graham is a retired high school English teacher. He reviews Unreal Worlds titles regularly for the Rocky.

#

Meantime, while DROOD the novel was absorbing all the slings and arrows of reviewers' hits and misses, Dan was having a grand old time on the actual book tour, as these photos suggest --

from KEPLER'S BOOKS in Menlo Park, California, Dan tries on his gift of a Drood top hat --

In VROMAN'S bookstore on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, reader (and sometimes forum visitor) Alec Chambers and his girlfriend Molly present an obviously chocolate-stunned Simmons with Droodish cupcakes . . .

#

Also at KEPLER'S in Menlo Park, young interviewer Alex C. Telander does a backroom interview for his "bookbanter" podcast --

bookbanter.podbean.com

And a photo of reader Jeanne posing with me at the wonderful reading and signing party at MYSTERIOUS GALAXY in San Diego --

Multiply these interactions by several thousand (and there were many more photos taken), and you get an idea of why authors go on book tours even when their new book isn't quite finished. (Leaving an almost-finished book behind to go on tour is like going away for ten days and leaving your newborn baby alone in a crib with nothing but a bottle of milk dangling from a string to assure its survival.)

#

Meanwhile, in Seattle, quite a few people turned out for the reading and signing at least in part due to this perceptive review in the Stranger --

The Stranger

http://banners.thestranger.com/ads/adclick.php?bannerid=88698&zoneid=18&source=&dest=http://www.casinosnoqualmie.com
1

February 10, 2009

In the Shadow of Charles Dickens
Drood Is a Horror Novel About Not Attaining Literary Greatness

In the Shadow of Charles Dickens

Amid the chaos of the Staplehurst train crash of June 9, 1865, something mysterious, and ultimately deadly, happened to the most popular novelist in the world. Seven railcars leaped the track and fell from a bridge to a small creek below. Ten people were killed, 40 more were wounded, and by all accounts Charles Dickens was a hero of the day. He helped free people trapped in their cars, and he administered aid to dozens of injured and dying passengers before assistance finally arrived.

Dickens was hailed as a hero, but he had something to hide: He was traveling with Ellen Ternan, his secret companion and (most likely) his mistress. And something that day changed Dickens for good. His wit and good nature had been celebrated far and wide, but after Staplehurst, Dickens demonstrated the classic signs of depression, punctuated erratically with outbursts of rage and cruelty. He never completed another novel, although he left one, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished. Some doctors theorize that Dickens suffered a brain injury in the crash that altered his personality; some biographers suggest he was emotionally overwhelmed after bearing witness to so much death and suffering. Whatever the cause of his change in behavior, this much is true: Five years to the day of the accident, Dickens died, a portentous fate that would not be out of place in one of his novels.

Dan Simmons is no stranger to giant novels with enormous casts: His Hyperion cantos are sprawling sci-fi epics, and he's published two-dozen mammoth horror, mystery, and fantasy novels over the last quarter-century. His latest novel, Drood, is about those last, dark years in the life of Dickens, and it's in every way Dickensian: huge, unflinching in its description of the grubby Victorian world, and melodramatic in the very best way.

Like the best of Simmons's work, Drood stands astride genres: It's a historical novel, but it also features a supernatural element. Narrated by Dickens's contemporary and occasional collaborator Wilkie Collins, Drood posits that Dickens was visited at Staplehurst by an apparition in a top hat and opera cape, "cadaverously thin, almost shockingly pale... [with] dark shadowed eyes set deep under a pale, high brow that melded into a pale, bald scalp" and a nose consisting of "mere black slits." This skeletal visage belongs to a man named Drood, and Dickens and Collins spend the next five years trying to discover his secrets.

The two authors journey below London, to opium dens and weird pseudo-Egyptian temples beneath the streets. Their adventures are drug-addled and dark:                     

             I fumbled out the pistol. At the moment, I was convinced that we were being attacked by
             gigantic grub-faced rats.
                 Dickens stepped between me and the surging, feinting forms.

                "They're boys, Wilkie," he cried. "Boys!"

                "Cannibal boys!" I cried back, raising the pistol.


                As if to confirm my statement, one of the pale faces—all tiny eyes and long nose
                and sharp teeth in the bull's-eye light—lunged at Dickens and snapped, as if he
                were attempting to bite off the author's nose.

Collins is an unreliable narrator, to say the least: He drinks two cups of laudanum a day (allegedly to battle his painful gout), and he is often racked with jealousy that Dickens, whom he regards as an inferior talent, is exponentially more popular than he. Many passages of the book are consumed with unflattering (and often hilariously misguided) criticism of Dickens's work; Collins claims, for instance, that Miss Havisham is a pale imitation of the main character from his own The Woman in White. Collins becomes convinced that Drood has implanted a scarab beetle in his skull, and stress and jealousy cause the beetle to crawl around his brain impatiently. Before long, he's planning to murder Dickens and assume his role as the most beloved novelist in England.

Simmons leaves the fantasy elements up to the reader's judgment. There is enough mesmerism, opium, and out-and-out storytelling in the book to potentially render any one part of the account untruthful. In many ways, Drood is equally a mystery—a what-did-he-do as much as a whodunit—and a fantasy novel. And it functions as a fairly comprehensive biography of the last five years of Dickens's life. Dozens of biographers have reported that, after the train crash, Dickens undertook a relentless schedule of public readings so gruesome in their delivery that women and children would faint or flee in tears. None of those biographers have been as spirited as Simmons in describing the ghoulishness of an imaginary murder that Dickens commits onstage every night, playing both roles at once:

Dickens's voice filled St. James Hall so thoroughly that even Nancy's final, whispered, dying entreaties could be heard as if each of us in the audience were onstage. During the few (but terrible) silences, one could have heard a mouse stirring in the empty balcony behind us. We could actually hear Dickens panting from the exertion of bringing his invisible (all too visible!) club down on the dear girl's skull... again! Again! Again!

And no other biographer recognized the fatal toll that the exertion of performing these ghastly readings night after night probably had on Dickens: Collins declares it "suicide by reading tour," a sentiment that must surely bring a smile to the lips of many a published author.

Drood is about the horrors and pains of being a novelist. It's a book about the heartbreak of putting years of your life into a book, populating it with all the wonders and terrors that live in your head, and watching that book receive no attention at all on its release, as though it were published in invisible ink. It's about being friends with another novelist you suspect is your superior (it's said that T. S. Eliot once called Collins "Charles Dickens without the genius") and you know is better loved by the general public, and also knowing that there's nothing you can do to change that.

The story of literature can be told entirely in friendly and not-so-friendly rivalries (Bacon and Shakespeare, Plath and Hughes, Marston and Jonson, Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Amis and Barnes—hell, Amis and Amis). And history has no doubt forgotten the thousands of also-rans who've been swallowed in the conflagration of literary glory. Drood masterfully tells the story of one such also-ran and invites the reader into the special kind of hell that exists in the dark space right next to the limelight. recommended

Dan Simmons reads Wed Feb 18, University Book Store, 7 pm, free.

#

Independent bookstores and chains tend to commission their own book reviews (not always positive) and this one is from Barnes & Noble --

2
3

March 2, 2009

03/05/2009

1

Drood
By DAN SIMMONS

Reviewed by Veronique de Turenne

Just in time to rescue flagging New Year's resolutions (remember those?) to strengthen the body and improve the mind comes Drood, a hefty, harrowing, and often funny novel that uses Charles Dickens's life as a springboard. The book's great length -- 784 pages -- gives it great bulk; by simply toting it around, you're building muscle. But it's Simmons's deep dive into the final five years of one of England's favorite sons that's the real payoff. Separated from his wife and embroiled in an affair with a much younger woman, Dickens took his private life so private that even his most avid biographers have been left to do some guessing. Simmons, a master of mining historical fact and then reimagining it, makes gleeful use of this somewhat secretive period.

The story starts with the real-life Staplehurst accident, a horrific rail crash that took place near London in the spring of 1865. Dickens, whose train carriage jumped the track and dangled over a steep ravine, managed to claw his way to safety. He then scrambled down the embankment to where the rest of the train had fallen, in order to help the injured. In those hours he encountered a scene so gruesome, so soul wrenching, he rarely spoke of the accident again.

Simmons picks up where the facts leave off. In his version, Dickens isn't alone among the screams and cries of the dead and dying. He's joined by a tall, pale wraith of a man with lidless eyes, two slits for a nose, and an array of short, sharp teeth. It's Drood, a mysterious figure who tells Dickens he was headed for London, then unsettles the novelist by naming the city's foulest slum as his final destination. As Dickens and Drood tend to the injured, the author notes that everyone Drood hovers over winds up dead. Before the awful afternoon is over, Drood has vanished and Dickens is obsessed with finding him.

The author seeks out Wilkie Collins, a close friend and the narrator of the book. Though Collins was a well-known playwright and quite a successful novelist in his own right, his fame and acclaim were easily eclipsed by those of Dickens. Simmons plays on this imbalance, turning it into a festering envy. Over the course of the book, Collins emerges as a buffoonish Salieri to Dickens'a ever-more-enigmatic Mozart. Here's Collins, early on, doing some hero bashing:

                    I had seen Charles Dickens stuck in a rural,
                    doorless privy with his trousers down around his
                    ankles, bleating like a lost sheep for some paper
                    to wipe his arse, and you'll have to forgive me if
                    that image remains more true to me than "the
                    greatest writer who ever lived."     

Still, he's a loyal friend who's game for the adventure of joining Dickens in the search for Drood. The pair prowl the worst parts of London in the still and dark of night, which Simmons conjures with obvious relish.

We walked between the dark headstones and sagging sepulchers, passing under dead trees and down uneven paving stones on narrow lanes between ancient vaults. I could tell by the spring in his step and the clack of his cane that Dickens was enjoying every second of this. I was concentrating on not retching from the stink and not stepping, in the darkness, on anything soft and yielding.

The writers creep into the secret, reeking world of Undertown, a subterranean maze of ancient crypts and catacombs where Drood makes his home. There they stumble over rotting corpses, fight off a savage band of feral boys, and meet a police inspector who has devoted his career to finding Drood. As in any good thriller, by the time Dickens and Collins emerge into daylight they are in peril, and we are left with more questions than answers.

Though Simmons doesn't quite nail the ornate and extravagant tone of Victorian literature, he hits the high points of its favorite genres. There's the dream allegory made famous in A Christmas Carol; the gothic novelist's relish of ruin, imprisonment, and death; and a liberal use of exaggerated emotion and cliffhangers, as befits the sensational novel, popularized by Collins himself in The Moonstone and The Woman in White. There's plenty of humor, too, often at Collins's expense. Here he is, settling down to a meal that mocks him, even as it teaches us a bit about the era's culinary landscape:

                    Tonight, I decided to dine relatively lightly and
                    ordered two types of paté, soup, some sweet
                    lobsters, a bottle of dry champagne, a leg of
                    mutton stuffed with oysters and minced onions,
                    two orders of asparagus, some braised beef, a
                    bit of dressed crab and a side of eggs.

We learn a lot about opium, too. Laudanum, a popular medicine at the time, is usually dispensed by the drop; Collins, however, drinks this powerful stuff by the glassful. By the time he graduates to the hard stuff, smoking opium in the seedy dens of Undertown, he has become a most unreliable -- and long-winded -- narrator.

With a book this lengthy, it's tempting to speed through the opening chapters and rush to the heart of the story. Don't. There's a careful and clever set-up for the marvelous twist at the end -- a twist so unexpected that it changes everything that came before. As for whether you need familiarity with Dickens to enjoy Drood, the answer is, probably not. But the more background you've got, the more fun the book turns out to be. Simmons's title, for instance, references -- and takes great delight in playing with -- The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the thriller Dickens left unfinished at the time of his death. Knowing a bit about the politics and mores of the time helps, too.

You can get the basics of the author's life in Jane Smiley's biography, Charles Dickens, a quick and easy read. Perhaps most useful is Paul Davis's Critical Companion to Dickens, which compiles the people, places and incidents of the writer's life into a searchable glossary. Dip into either of these and you'll see what wonderful use Simmons has made of both the biographical material and the period detail.

Dickens died five years to the day -- to the very instant, according to Collins -- of the Staplehurst train crash. Was it the stroke that history tells us ended the celebrated writer's life? Or was it something far more sinister, as Wilkie Collins insists? What we do know is that Dickens left behind an incomplete manuscript of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which ends in mid-sentence. Numerous writers have taken a stab at finishing the book, with forgettable results. With Drood, Simmons goes them all one better. By anchoring this dark and intricate thriller to a firm foundation of fact, he solves the mystery even as he expands it and, in doing so, becomes both Boz and Boswell.


Veronique de Turenne is a Los Angeles–based journalist, essayist, and playwright. Her literary criticism appears on NPR and in major American newspapers. One of the highlights of her career was interviewing Vin Scully in his broadcast booth at Dodger Stadium, then receiving a handwritten thank-you note from him a few days later.

#

Audiofile Magazine offers this link to a review of the audiobook of DROOD http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/showreview_pub.cfm?Num=43826 

Current Reviews

Historical Fiction

DROOD
Dan Simmons
Read by Simon Prebble

Wilkie Collins, friend and sometime collaborator of Charles Dickens, listens with horror to Dickens's account of meeting a purported master of the black arts. Through an opium haze, Collins endeavors to find him, even as his hatred for his friend grows. Simon Prebble's impeccable speech is the perfect match for this sinister Dickensian tale. He effortlessly shifts among the story's many characters, imbuing each not only with a voice and dialect, but also with a distinct personality. Collins's increasingly frequent bouts of paranoia sound convincingly terror-filled, without seeming “performed.” And Dickens's self-important growls of pretension lead the listener to dislike him as much as Collins does. Narrative passages in the complicated plot benefit from Prebble's natural speech patterns—clear, very British, and so suited to the text as to sound as if he wrote them himself. R.L.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine [Published: FEBRUARY 2009]

 

GO TO the Audiobook Store

  1
Click For More Info

       

Historical Fiction • 10.5 hrs. • Abridged • ©2009

Trade Ed. • Hachette Audio • 2009
CD ISBN 978-1-60024-463-6  $34.98 • Nine CDs
DD ISBN   multiple sources


4  AudioFile Earphones Award Winner


For information regarding advertising opportunities, rates, closing dates and digital requirements for Audiofile, please contact the Advertising Director. Advertising rates for AudioFile magazine. Advertising rates for the Audiobook Reference Guide.
© 2005 AudioFile® Publications, Inc., All Rights Reserved

3 2
Designed and maintained by:
flyte new media: http://www.flyte.biz
email Web Master
 

#

And from The Miami Herald  (I love it when reviewers compare me to Dickens (it's happened a lot with this novel) and decide that Dickens is the better writer . . . but just barely!) ----  

Living http://www.miamiherald.com/

Posted on Sunday, 02.22.09

BOOKS

Review | 'Drood': Dickens' demon arises after a train wreck

A train wreck opens the door to a dark double life in this novel of facts, half-truths and fantasy

3
AURORA ARRUE / MIAMI HERALD ILLUSTRATION

BY ELLEN KANNER

DROOD. Dan Simmons. Little, Brown. 784 pages. $26.99.

Who is Drood? Is he young Edwin Drood, vanished and presumed murdered in Charles Dickens' unfinished 1870 novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood? Or is he the slit-eyed, sharp-toothed, cadaverously thin stranger who magically manifests himself at a train accident on June 9, 1865?

There's more than one Drood and more than one mystery in Dan Simmons' new novel. Simmons, the Hugo Award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author, does not stint with this engaging historical thriller. He cleverly braids together fact and fiction -- biographical bits of Dickens' life and that of Wilkie Collins, details of Victorian London, elements of The Mystery of Edwin Drood plus ''murder, death, corpses, crypts, mesmerism, opium, ghosts'' and phantasmagoria by the fistful. Simmons accomplishes all this because Drood is extremely long.

The novel begins with the Staplehurst Disaster, in which a London-bound train derails, killing 10 pa ssengers and injuring 49. Others survive, bruised, shaken and profoundly altered, including Dickens, England's beloved author, his young mistress Ellen Ternan and her mother. This much is documented and true.

Also true is that Dickens was friends with Collins, prolific author of 27 novels including the 1868 bestseller The Moonstone. And yet ''my guess is . . . that you do not recognize my name.'' Collins, who narrates Drood, has arranged to publish his story now, 125 years after his death, in the hopes that we, a fair and unbiased audience, will believe him.

There's ample reason not to trust him. Why would Drood appear out of nowhere at the scene of the train wreck expressly to mesmerize Dickens? Do demons need authors? Perhaps they do. And perhaps authors need demons. Why else would otherwise exuberant Dickens become obsessed with Drood, going so far as to pursue him into ``that black-biled lower bowel of London?''

Another reason to question Collins' veracity is the author's addiction to laudanum and morphine, as prodigious in the pages of Simmons' book as it was in real life. Addled by opium, the real Collins claimed he often kept company with his own ethereal double, whom he affectionately called Ghost Wilkie. Is it so far-fetched, then, for the fictitious Collins to claim Drood has embedded a scarab beetle in his brain?

Using an unreliable narrator is risky. Using one based on a historical figure is even more so, but with Collins, Simmons just about carries the device off. The American author channels Collins so thoroughly, it's hard to remember Simmons is not a Brit. Or a Victorian.

He reveals more about Collins than Collins would have liked -- or believed. Though a gifted storyteller and plotter -- Collins' credo was ''Make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em20wait'' -- he understood little about himself. An overweight glutton, he chucks his long-time mistress when she grows a little fleshy. A man who plots murder, Collins nonetheless assures us, ``I am a gentle man.''

As a writer, Collins lacked Dickens' light touch and compassionate voice. So, for that matter, does Simmons. But Collins and Simmons render a compelling supernatural world of their own imagining that owes more to Poe than Dickens.

Drood draws on two other big, satisfying novels, Marisha Peshl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics and Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which won the 2005 Hugo Award, 15 years after Simmons received it for his novel  Hyperion. As with Clarke's novel, Drood pits two friends and colleagues against each other and creates a book worth diving into with complex characters and vivid details. Like Peshl's stylish 2004 whodunnit, it's virtuosic and verbose, at times to a fault. Just shy of 800 pages, Drood can be as labyrinthine as the bowels of Victorian London. At times, it's tempting to dismiss it as ``unintelligible.''

Fantastic, yes, unintelligible, hardly. However, a familiarity with Collins, Dickens and Dickens' unfinished novel -- which Simmons clearly has -- increases the reader's pleasure immensely. If the author goes on (and on) longer than necessary, he ties up Drood's many loose ends in a way that even astonishes Collins.=2 0``I simply could not stop laughing. This story, this plot, was so wonderfully baroque, yet somehow so tidily logical. It was so, so . . . Dickensian.''

In these days, when less isn't more but all you get, Simmons' ambitious, overstuffed Drood delivers a romp beyond your wildest drug-induced dreams.

Ellen Kanner is a writer in Miami.

#  

And from THE DENVER POST's Best Sellers list --

Monday, March 02, 2009
@media print { body:before {content: url(http://cleanprint.net/pt/t?&d=2021&p=0&s=NF,NF); } }
2 1l Best Sellers  
By The Denver Post
Posted: 03/01/2009 12:30:00 AM MST

The Denver area's best-selling books, according to information from the Tattered Cover Book Store, Barnes & Noble in Greenwood Village, the Boulder Book Store and Borders Books in Lone Tree.

FICTION

1. Fool, by Christopher Moore, $26.99

2. Heart and Soul, by Maeve Binchy, $26.95

3. Drood, by Dan Simmons, $26.99

4. The Associate, by John Grisham, $27.95

5. Among the Mad, by Jacqueline Winspear, $25

6. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski, $25.95

7. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore, $24.99

8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, $22

9. The Host, by Stephenie Meyer, $25.99

10. Run for Your Life, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, $27.


^top

From Daily VARIETY on Friday, Jan. 30, 2009

Click here for full-page view

^top

First Reviews Are In For DROOD

Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews have both published reviews for DROOD, with PW giving it a starred review. Booklist, the online book reviews of the American Library Association, has also given DROOD a featured review. DROOD is scheduled for publication on February 9, 2009. More reviews will be forthcoming.

From PUBLISHERS WEEKLY --
Drood Dan Simmons. Little, Brown, $26.99 (784p) ISBN 978-0-316-00702-3

Bestseller Simmons (The Terror) brilliantly imagines a terrifying sequence of events as the inspiration for Dickens's last, uncompleted novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, in this unsettling and complex thriller. In the course of narrowly escaping death in an 1865 train wreck and trying to rescue fellow passengers, Dickens encounters a ghoulish figure named Drood, who had apparently been traveling in a coffin. Along with his real-life novelist friend Wilkie Collins, who narrates the tale, Dickens pursues the elusive Drood, an effort that leads the pair to a nightmarish world beneath London's streets. Collins begins to wonder whether the object of their quest, if indeed the man exists, is merely a cover for his colleague's own murderous inclinations. Despite the book's length, readers will race through the pages, drawn by the intricate plot and the proliferation of intriguing psychological puzzles, which will remind many of the work of Charles Palliser and Michael Cox. 4-city author tour. (Feb.)  Publishers Weekly

From KIRKUS REVIEWS --
DROOD
           A suspenseful and spooky descent into the last days of Charles Dickens, who expired before he could complete his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
           Although he doesn’t quite have the hang of Victorian prose and writes instead with modern matter-of-factness, Simmons (Muse of Fire, 2008, etc.) hits on a nice conceit at the outset, giving Dickens’s fellow novelist Wilkie Collins the job of narrating this long, shaggy dog of a tale. Collins, known today mostly for his mystery novel The Moonstone, if known at all, plays a kind of Salieri to Dickens’s Mozart, his jealousy evident: “Charles Dickens was the literary genius and I was not.” The figure of Drood first turns up at the scene of a hellish train wreck from which Dickens, 53 years old and gouty, has emerged. Drood does not cut a pretty figure, “pale eyes in their sunken sockets,” muttering unintelligibly amid the gore, but he is certainly memorable. A few score pages of preliminaries later, and Dickens is absorbed in ferreting out Droodian mysteries, rattled to discover that his necromantic quarry, “healer, master of Magnetic science, Christ figure, and secret mystic” late of Egypt, has in theory been dead for many years and that assorted cannibals, ghosts and spirit rappers figure into the grisly equation. Things get weirder still as narrator Collins nurses the various psychic wounds wrought by the recognition that Dickens, though slovenly (“pulling characters out of the air…without a thought as to how they might serve the central purpose”), will write circles around him for as long as Dickens is alive. There are, of course, remedies for that particular problem, as readers needing a quick lesson in the chemistry of the quicklime pit will discover.
           A lively entertainment, reminiscent of Nicholas Meyer’s Seven-Percent Solution—and a worthy rejoinder to Dickens’s swan song.  Kirkus Reviews

BOOKLIST ONLINE DAILY FEATURE REVIEW OF DROOD
Everyone knows the name Charles Dickens, but only dedicated mystery buffs remember his friend and fellow writer Wilkie Collins. This is an injustice Collins wishes to rectify from the grave, so he reaches out to you, “Dear Reader” of the future, to describe his life and longings in this first-person account (ostensibly written in the 1860s for posthumous publication). Horror master Simmons makes use of his genre skill here but adds so much more. His starting point is a real event in Dickens’ life, his near-death when a train on which he was riding jumped the track. Dickens confides in Collins that a spectral presence named Drood appeared to aid (or perhaps kill) the survivors. Dickens becomes enthralled with solving the mystery that is Drood and pulls Collins into his investigation, a strange search that leads to Undertown, a city within a city beneath London, complete with filthy catacombs and opium dens (which Collins enjoys). Sometimes the question of Drood’s identity seems only a MacGuffin to pull readers more deeply into the relationship between Dickens and his Salieri-like “frenemy” Collins. That’s perfectly fine because the book is at its richest when Collins explains, justifies, curses, and laments his personal and professional association with his celebrated fellow writer. What makes Collins (and his changing views of Dickens) so fascinating is his perplexing unreliability: readers never know if his observations are his own or products of drug-induced projections. Simmons also offers a stunning re-creation of Dickens’ London and its characters that’s almost as good as, well . . .  Dickens. A top-notch, genre-bending tour de force, this is where history and horror meet.
— Ilene Cooper

Link to Booklist Online review of DROOD at -- http://www.booklistonline.com/default.aspx?page=show_product&pid=3170244

Booklist Online home page at --
http://www.booklistonline.com/default.aspx?page=home


From THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE --
'Drood' by Dan Simmons: It's A-L-I-V-E!

A literary leviathan lives, breathes, captivates

Julia Keller | CULTURAL CRITIC
February 1, 2009

Everything seems skimpy these days. Things look pinched, narrow, watered down, washed out, choked off. So much seems to be shrinking: hope, energy, dollars, jobs. Even the horizon looks as if it were left in the dryer too long. We're trimming our sails, hedging our bets. Scrimping. Saving. Hunkering down.

Then along comes Dan Simmons and his new novel, "Drood," a big, hairy, smelly, loud, messy behemoth of a book, and suddenly, all that smallness, all that caution, looks silly. Simmons' richly imagined chronicle of the last days of Charles Dickens is being dropped on the world at a fortuitous time—just when we need to be bounced out of our doldrums. Toward that end, "Drood" is like a belch at a tea party: At first it seems rude and inappropriate, but then you realize that it's the first honest sign of life you've encountered in a good long while. It's refreshing. Invigorating.

Simmons specializes in Jumbo Lit, in writing books so big that, as an anonymous British critic once described similarly enormous tomes, they're fit to "stun a pig." In "The Terror" (2007), his sensational seam-buster of a saga about a real-life Arctic expedition in the late 1840s, Simmons showed just what a brilliant author can do, if you give him enough elbow room. He used the largest, starkest canvas in the world—the bewildering blankness of the mostly uninhabited vastness of the planet's northernmost regions—to paint with the deepest colors and explore the most intense human emotions: love, hate, fear, envy, hunger, lust, ambition. The paperback version of "Terror" runs to almost 1,000 pages, but once you're locked in harness with the steady march of Simmons' prose, you won't notice the gargantuan length. You'll be too enmeshed in the grim ordeals of the hapless men on the doomed British ships Terror and Erebus.


Simmons, best known for science fiction novels such as "Hyperion" (1989) but excelling as well in the mystery and horror genre, was born in Peoria. Maybe that's why he's so comfortable with big novels. A city boy probably couldn't get his arms around the endlessness that Simmons loves to explore. It takes a village to raise a child—but perhaps it takes a prairie to turn that child into a great novelist.

"Drood" is narrated by Wilkie Collins, the writer who briefly rivaled Dickens for the mantle of most-beloved scribe in mid-19th Century London. Collins' jealousy of, and contempt for, Dickens wafts from these pages like the stench from a London sewer—and that was a mighty stench indeed, as readers of "Drood" will discover. While the novel is an intricate and serpentine psychological tale, spiced with its narrator's lies and self-deceptions and growing drug addiction and casual treacheries, it is also an excellent primer on the crude state of public hygiene roughly a century and a half ago. Just as readers of "The Terror" learned a lot about varieties of Arctic ice—pack ice, drift ice, brash ice, sludge ice and pancake ice, for starters—readers of "Drood" quickly become familiar with waste disposal in 1860s England:

"Shops and industry shoveled out tons of hides, flesh, boiled bones, horse meat, cat gut, cow hooves and heads and guts, and other organic detritus every day," Collins reports. "It all went to the Thames or accumulated in giant piles along the banks of the Thames, waiting to go into the water ... Even carriage horses—many of whom would soon die and add to the problem—vomited from the smell."

But as bad as that sounds, it's no match for what's brewing beneath the same streets: a dank network of ghastly caverns peopled by pimps and prostitutes and rats and opium addicts—and, Dickens believes, a mysterious fellow named Drood. As Collins tries to solve the riddle of Drood's identity and the secret of his strange power over Dickens, the latter is planning to write the biography of the inscrutable Drood. The real-life Dickens, of course, left an unfinished manuscript at the time of his death—bearing the beguiling title "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."

Simmons blends the facts of the Dickens and Collins biographies with graphic details about life in Victorian London. The result is a spellbinding tale, bold and sly and so steeped in the filigree of this era that it seems to have been written just after a seance during which both authors were present—and more than happy to supply details.

Most of all, though, "Drood" is big—big in size, big in scope, big in audacity and verve. At 784 pages, it's a vivid reminder that while our paychecks and credit limits may be shrinking, our imaginations can handle some grandiosity. In fact, we ought to revel in it.

Julia Keller









Julia Keller

^top

WARNER BROTHERS AND
GRAHAM KING FILMS TO MAKE "HYPERION"

The following news release appeared in The Hollywood Reporter on April 2nd of this year.


Warner Bros. nabs
'Hyperion Cantos' adaptation

By Borys Kit and Gregg Goldstein
April 2, 2008,

Producer Graham King has set up Dan Simmons' award-winning science fiction book series "Hyperion Cantos" at Warner Bros., with Trevor Sands on board to adapt the first two books as one feature. King is producing via his GK Films banner.

The first book, "Hyperion," won the Hugo Award for best novel in 1990, while the second, "The Fall of Hyperion," was nominated for a Nebula Award for best novel.

"Hyperion" deals with a space war, with most of the action taking place on a planet named Hyperion, known not only for its electricity-spewing trees but also for the Time Tombs, large artifacts that can move through time. The tombs are guarded by a monster called the Shrike, which impales people on metal trees.

King acquired the rights to the series several years ago, but its structure, inspired by Boccaccio's "Decameron" and Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," and its multiple timelines made the task of adapting it into a feature unwieldy and challenging.

Brought in by GK Films' Grey Rembert and Gail Lyon, Sands won over the execs by taking a selective approach to the two novels' multiple points of view in a way that managed to coherently and unconfusingly tell the story.

Lynn Harris is overseeing at Warners.

Sands co-wrote and directed the 2002 indie "Inside," starring Jeremy Sisto. Other writing credits include the Sony sci-fi project "Resurrection," Dimension's "Six Billion Dollar Man" and an adaptation of David Brin's sci-fi novel "Startide Rising" for Paramount and producer Mace Neufeld.

He is repped by Endeavor and manager Jewerl Ross.

Borys Kit reported from Los Angeles; Gregg Goldstein reported from New York.


Both the background and the current information on this project are – as always – more complicated than represented in the studio press release. Dan fills us –

“All of four of the Hyperion Cantos novels and my novella “Orphans of the Helix,” which is also set in the Hyperion-universe, were purchased for a six-figure sum by Graham King’s company IEG – International Entertainment Group – about three years ago.

“The original idea that sold the film – or franchise of films -- was based on a treatment I wrote and it was pitched and presented by two able young screenwriters. In that approach, I had deconstructed all four of the Hyperion novels so that the messiah-character of Aenea and her lover and protector Raul Endymion would have a presence in all of the films, including the first one – Hyperion. Their love story would be the continuous thread that would connect the three or four films of a Hyperion Cantos movie franchise.

“It was the actor Leonardio DiCaprio who first showed active interested in this idea for the film andfor some time there was discussion of him doing the film with director Martin Scorsese. The first draft of the screenplay was written two years ago – not by me – but producer Graham King didn’t go with that approach and the project stayed inactive since then (even to the point of my contractually not being able to announce the details of the purchase of the books.)

“Now Graham King Films has joined in partnership with Warner Brothers to make the film version of Hyperion. As you can see in the Hollywood Reporter release above, one approach now being discussed is to combine the first two novels – Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion – into one film (rather as Peter Weir combined two Patrick O’Brian books to make the film “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”) – but as is always the case in the early days of such a project, everything is in flux.

“While writer Trevor Sands has been brought aboard by Graham King for early work on story concepts, there’s been no final selection of either a definitive screenwriter or director yet.

“However, there is one director I know to be under consideration who would be wonderful for “Hyperion: The Movie.” I’m not at liberty to mention his name yet, but this director knows the Hyperion Cantos novels very, very well and has a strong sense of the cinematic potential of literary SF. Indeed, one of this director’s upcoming films is a much-anticipated reworking of an SF-movie classic.

“Those who know movies and movie-making know that there’s never a guarantee of a project being completed until the last shots are in the can – and even then some films are never released. But the Graham King Films – Warner Brothers announcement of the Hyperion Cantos purchase and their plans to go ahead with the “Hyperion” movie is a huge step forward.”

^top


DROOD Cover from Little, Brown

Drood Cover from Little, Brown
Click here to enlarge

Little, Brown, Dan's publisher for The Terror, has just revealed their proposed cover for Dan's next novel, Drood, currently scheduled to go on sale in February 9, 2009. 

Drood, in the tradition of The Terror, is a unique mix of history, biography, and dark fantasy, but where The Terror dealt with an actual doomed Arctic expedition in 1848, Drood looks at the lives and secrets of Charles Dickens and his novelist friend Wilkie Collins in the period 1865-1870. History records that Dickens was in the terrible Staplehurst train accident of 1865 and suffered injuries - both physical and psychological -- from which he never recovered. He died suddenly on the fifth anniversary of that accident on June 9,1870.  

Drood fictionally explores the dark secrets that came to obsess both Dickens and Wilkie Collins during those five years -- secrets that not only ended their long friendship but brought each writer to the brink of murder. 

"I love the proposed cover for Drood," said Dan. "It conveys the brooding anxiety and dark sense of threat that I attempted to put into every page of the novel. Writing The Terror made me feel cold, even in the summer. But something in Drood has actively made me shiver from fear of the dark and this cover captures some of that sense of dread.

^top


The Terror on 2007 Top Lists

The TerrorDan's Arctic adventure-dark fantasy novel The Terror was on a variety of Top 10 lists for 2007, including Entertainment Weekly's Top 10 Books of 2007, USA Today's Top 10 Books, Stephen King's "Top 10 from My Reading in 2007" list also quoted in Entertainment Weekly, and was # 1 on Amazon.com's "2007 Top 10 SF and Horror Novels" list.  

The Terror was also in the Top 12 of all books rated by Book Sense, the journal of independent bookstores.  

 

 

 

^top

Carrion Comfort Optioned by Costa Gavras, Screenplay Finished,
French Film Possible, Tautou Interested

Carrion ComfortFor several years now, Dan's epic tale of mind-vampirism, CARRION COMFORT, has been optioned for the screen by the family of famed French film director Costa Gavras, who did the paranoid political thriller "Z" in 1969. This January, the Costa Gavras group has renewed a final option on CARRION COMFORT and announced that a French language version of the screenplay is complete. Alexandre Gavras is slated to be the director of the film version of CARRION COMFORT, and they also inform us that Pathe likes the screenplay and is considering a Greek coproduction partner. According to the Gavras group, internationally famous actress Audrey Tautou  -- known to worldwide audiences for playing the title character in the award-winning French film Amelie(2001)  and also Sophie Neveau in The Da Vinci Code (2006) -- is currently reviewing the screenplay in connection with a lead role.  

The Gavras group has announced that they hope to begin principal photography in September of this year.  

Wikipedia says of the elder Costa Gavras -- 

"Costa Gavras is known for merging controversial political issues with the entertainment value of commercial cinema. Law and justice, oppression, legal/illegal violence, and torture are common subjects in his work, especially relevant to his earlier films. Costa Gavras is an expert of the “statement” picture, an art form slowly vanishing from the studios of cut-throat, capital-driven cinema. [ Note -- the Wikipedia writer's phrase, not Dan's. He likes cut-throat, capital-driven Hollywood cinema. Some of his best friends are cut-throat, capital-driven, Hollywood-cinema types. Dan hopes someday to be a . . . well, you get the idea.]

Wikiepedia goes on -- "Gavras has repeatedly explored political terrain. In most cases, the targets of his work have been right-of-center movements and regimes, including Greek conservatives in and out of the military in "Z," and the U.S.-supported authoritarian governments that ruled much of Latin America during the height of the Cold War, as in State of Siege and Missing."

Dan says of a possible Costa Gavras film adaptation of CARRION COMFORT -- "I remember seeing 'Z' while I was in graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis in 1970 and I thought at the time that it was a brilliant political thriller. It caused viewers to be paranoid about everything. Since CARRION COMFORT is a novel filled with justifiable paranoia -- it turns out that "they" are out to get us -- a Gavras-family connection to a French film version of this epic novel might lead to a very interesting project. I look forward to seeing what develops"

^top

DAN TO WRITE FANTASY TALE SET IN JACK VANCE UNIVERSE

Despite the fact that Dan has won the World Fantasy Award twice, the British Fantasy Award, a Japanese Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and various other awards with "fantasy" in their headings, some of you may know that he feels that he's never written a "real" fantasy story or novel.

That will change this year.

George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have asked Dan to write a story or novelette or novella for their upcoming proposed anthology of tales set in Jack Vance's "Dying Earth" universe and Dan has accepted . . . with pleasure.

"I respect the fact that most of the world thinks of Harry Potter when they think 'fantasy,'" says Dan. "For me, quality fantasy will always be Jack Vance and his The Dying Earth tales. I'm excited to be invited to that universe and look forward to attempting a piece of fantasy that will honor the tremendous quality that Jack Vance set as the standard in his Dying Earth stories."

Here are some of the details as forwarded in a letter to Dan from George R.R. Martin:

"Gardner and I have put the finishing touches on the proposal for the anthology we're calling SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, and have turned it over to Ralph Vicinanza, who represents Jack Vance and will be handling this one on both the foreign and domestic fronts. We got a wonderful response to our invitations; Jack Vance is truly a writer's writer, and has had a profound influence on several generations of fantasists.

Our lineup of writers is pretty impressive, we think. In alphabetical order:

               Glen Cook                                             Michael Shea
               Terry Dowling                                       Robert Silverberg
               Phyllis Eisenstein                                 Dan Simmons
               Ray Feist                                              Jeff Vandermeer
               Neil Gaiman                                          Paula Volsky
               Elizabeth Hand                                     Howard Waldrop
               Matt Hughes                                         Liz Williams
               Tanith Lee                                            Tad Williams
               George R.R. Martin                               Walter Jon Williams
               Michael Moorcock                                John C. Wright
               Mike Resnick

Gardner and I are hopeful that the publishers will be as excited about this anthology as we are. It should be a terrific book.

We'll keep you posted.

George R.R. Martin"

^top

Podcast of Rick Kleffel's January 31, 2008 Interview with Dan

While in San Francisco on tour for THE TERROR at the end of January, Dan went to the NPR headquarters there to do this one-hour interview with Rick Kleffel of California's KUSP radio. Kleffel's "The Agony Column" features podcast and broadcast interviews with some of the top names in imaginative fiction. This interview focuses on THE TERROR but also includes conversations about writing SF, researching for a novel, the demise of Joe Kurtz, and other topics.

To hear this podcast, please click here to reach the Agony Column Archives and scroll down to Simmons's interview on 1-31-07 to download it in either MP3 or Real Player format.

 
^top | more News>
Home     Books     Curtis on Publishing     Previews     Bio     Bibliography     Snapshots      Reader's Forum     Art