‘Grim, but really good.’
--That’s what Ian Rankin thought of Smoke.
Ian Rankin. Creator of Rebus. Inventor of Tartan Noir. A master of the writing craft.
You can imagine how delighted I was when I read those words. It was one of those moments when I felt I’d been given permission to call myself a writer and it’s those kind of moments that allow me to grow.
His quote is what it says on the cover of the book. It had to be used, didn’t it?
I guess that’s the question I’m posing here.
The comment separates into two wonderful halves.
Let’s take the grim.
I’m all for a bit of grim. There’s something in my psyche that can always find the shadow at the end of the rainbow, just as I can find a beam of light when the world is pitch black.
I’m proud to be in a collection called Grimm Tales (Untreed Reads) and the brothers Grimm were amazing talents as far as I’m concerned.
I do wonder what the average reader thinks when they see that quote, mind.
Does it make them want to get away quick, or is there something about it that draws them in? I can’t answer that and I’m hoping that there might be some comments so that I can gauge it.
Keeping that word ‘grim’ in the line is very important to me. First of all, it would be cheating to cut it out and simply say ‘Really good’ Ian Rankin. It’s not what he said. Secondly, it’s accurate.
What it might do for me is keep out those who have no interest in this kind of book.
I had a review recently for one of my collections. It’s called ‘Beat OnThe Brat (and other stories)’ and there’s a fairly aggressive cover. The reviews are amazing and often mention the difficult aspects of the work. Then this reviewer suggests it’s horrible because there’s so much violence and swearing. Fair enough, they’re right, but if such work isn’t for them I think I left enough of a breadcrumb trail away from the thing. I’ve had others for my novel, too. A couple of 1 stars from people who were shocked and horrified that such stories exist. That’s partly the dilemma of a giveaway as people click ‘buy’ without thinking too much.
But I digress. He said it was grim. It is. There are dog fights, killings, kidnaps, torture, easy sex and violence. It’s set in the very real world of a Scottish sink estate (or scheme). You won’t find much hope on the surface and should you dislike a world painted in these [honest] colours, it’s definitely not for you.
Then again, there is hope. You see, I did paint in some bright lights if you’re prepared to feel the story unfold. True, they’re hardly the vast bursts of a Turner painting, but they do exist.
And now to the ‘Very good.’
I don’t want to blow my trumpet too loudly, but I think it really is and it’s also why I’m here, to let you know.
I can also say that it’s even better than it was when Mr Rankin read it as I was given a serious lesson in editing by the publisher Allan Guthrie of Blasted Heath.
Which leaves me where I am, with a novella that I’m really proud of.
If it’s not for you, you’ll know it. If this lights your touch paper, why not go and check it out?
Grim – definitely.
Really good – I think it is, yes.