It’s probably, in part, at least, a function of my getting generally older and slower that caused my most recent book, Good Bait, to take longer than usual – some eighteen months, as against what used to be twelve. [And before that, nine, or even eight – never mind those far-off glory days of pulp, when my fellow scribes and I would churn out a 50,000 word, 128 page manuscript in four weeks.]
I’d like to say that slower and longer means better – and I do think Good Bait is pretty damned good – but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I mean, Michael Cunningham is allegedly happy to come away with three good sentences after sitting at his desk from 9.00am till late-afternoon. And much as I liked and admired The Hours, I can’t bring myself to believe it’s as good as it is simply because of the snail-like speed at which it was composed.
But back to Good Bait. It took an age mainly because I was trying and failing to marry two storylines with little or no apparent early connection, one featuring a black female homicide detective in London, the other a disgruntled community police officer in deepest Cornwall.
I tried, I stopped; covered the white board with coloured words and arrows; somewhere around 40,000 words in I abandoned it, set it aside, went up to Whitby to clear my head. The minute, more or less, I stopped thinking about it, a way to make it work slipped into my head.
Now, after some nifty side-stepping, largely thanks to my patient and perceptive editor, I think it works, marries, comes together, if only after a wait of some considerable while – but, then, I’ve always been a great believer in deferred gratification.
Good Bait is published by Heinemann on 5 January