The Lifers' Club

By Francis Pryor

Archaeology can be a dirty business

Monday, 24 February 2014

Shhhh! Not a word to a soul...

... but Alan Cadbury is currently telling me about his latest adventure into murder, mystery and archaeology, set once again, in the Fens. I know I must be completely mad even to think of writing-down another of Alan’s exploits, especially given his hopeless unreliability. I mean, he rarely sticks to appointments and even when he does manage to turn up on time, his brain is usually elsewhere. No, he’s a hopeless case. I’ve never met anyone with such a one-track mind. Multi-task, Alan? You must be joking.

Meanwhile, I’m lumbered with the job of knocking his first adventure, The Lifers’ Club into something that resembles a coherent narrative, and in English. I apologise for the book’s occasional lapse into Anglo-Saxon, but if you could see the notes I made at the time we had our original conversations (mostly in the local pub), you’d be surprised my pen didn’t spontaneously combust. My labours have been wonderfully guided by Liz Garner, who Unbound have entrusted with the story-editing of the book. Liz and I worked closely together for about a month in late autumn, during which time I think we managed to tie up all loose ends and catch one or two inconsistencies which seemed to have originated with Alan, and not me (I hasten to add). We worked with particular attention to the early chapters of the book, which were a bit slow-moving before Liz made me see things from a reader’s perspective. Incidentally, that’s why I have always been strongly in favour of good editing and editors. Any author worth his or her salt will get hopelessly over-engaged with their writing. It goes, as the saying has it, with the territory. Indeed, I hope I never get to that stage of disengaged professionalism where every year I produce a perfectly-pitched murder mystery that needs no editing. Life would then be so bloody tedious...

As I see it, a good editor should provide the salt and pepper, the narrative seasoning that helps release the true flavours of the book. I had a wonderful editor at HarperCollins, Robert Lacey, who helped me with my Britain series. When Robert returned an edited manuscript, not only had it tightened-up (it was usually about 5% shorter), but in a strange way it sounded more like me, than my own, un-edited words. That’s a rare skill, and Liz has it in spades, too.

Unbound has strong links with the worlds of film and television, where drama scripts tend to be edited before they are written. In other words the editorial process takes place during the detailed planning stages. And that influence, that way of doing things has affected the way they help their authors produce books.  In fact that’s what we’re doing now for Alan’s second adventure, which does have a provisional title, but which I refer to by the code name AC2. Over Christmas and throughout January I planned the broad outline of the book (in about 8 pages of notes). And that, the basic story, hasn’t changed much. So now we’re working through the chapter-by-chapter outline, where each scene is sketched-out. With any luck that should be finished by the time lambing starts, on March 19th. Then everything stops for four weeks. It depends on how things shape-up for The Lifers’ Club and whether I’ll be doing lots of book-signings and PR stuff, but with luck I’ll be writing AC2 over the summer and autumn.

Meanwhile I’m in the process of reading-through the first proofs of Lifers, which I have to return to Unbound very early in March (and to my amazement, I think I’ll meet that deadline!). Then the manuscript (which is a long one – about 550 pages of text) is sent to the printers in April. So it’s all systems go – and move over Alan. Thank you landlord: yes, I will have another pint. And a half for my moody friend here...

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Paul Parkinson
 Paul Parkinson says:

I am really looking forward to this. And don't get rid of all the Anglo Saxon - it adds a little zest to the seasoning!

posted 24th February 2014

Sam Ross
 Sam Ross says:

Can't wait :)

Semi unrelated....

Victor Ambrus needs to get on here with a nice coffee table art book!

posted 24th February 2014

Mary Peterson
 Mary Peterson says:

Keep writing! Lucky I don't live in the UK or I'd have gone for the Fen tour which would have taken up more of your time!

posted 25th February 2014

Kate Scarratt
 Kate Scarratt says:

Glad to know I'll soon get my paws on this book - having read the beginning, I'm really impatient to get on with the rest of the mystery. Nothing more frustrating than starting a book and not being able to finish it. Yes, do keep the Anglo-Saxon (why do we call it that? Were they known for earthy language?) Good to see such positive comments on editors, too - I've done some of that; it's hard work, and no one ever seems to know it even exists. Good luck with the lambing.

posted 25th February 2014

bob beer
 bob beer says:

I'm really looking forward to this - any news yet on a publication date?

posted 5th July 2014

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