A few weeks ago, my book was published in France, under the lovely title La bibliothèque des coeurs cabosses (The bookshop/library of battered hearts, I think).

And bizarrely enough, it has now found its way to bookshop chain FNACs bestseller list:


All true:

The flu

I haven’t got it, thank God and touch wood etc. etc. But I thought I’d use it to illustrate the difference between a brilliant author (in this case: Richard Russo) and a mediocre one (that is, me). For me, the main difference is in the details.

If I had included a character thinking about the flu, it might have gone something like that:

I feel strangely dull and listless. Trying as I might, I can’t get my body to do anything with any kind of speed. I continue with all the different tasks that make up life, but slowly, apathetically, like nothing really mattered. The flu, I think. That would explain it.

If Richard Russo has a character who thinks she might have the flu:

Flu, she thought, dern it. Miss Beryl hadn’t had the flu in a long time, almost a decade, and so her recollection of how you were supposed to feel was vague. What she did feel, in addition to the wooziness, was an odd sensation of distance from her extremities, her feet and fingers miles away, as if they belonged to someone else, and to account for this, the word ‘flu’ had entered her consciousness whole, like a loaf of something fresh from the owen, warm and full of leavening explanation.
Flu. It explained  her offishness of the past few days, even, perhaps, her persistent feeling of guilt about Sully. Miss Beryl was of the opinion that guilt grew like a culture in the atmosphere of illness and that an attack of guilt often augured the approach of a virys. (…)
Since her retirement from teaching Miss Beryl’s health had in many respects greatly improved, despite her advanced years. An eight-grade classroom was an excellent place to snag whatever was in the air in the way of illnes. Also depression, which, Miss Beryl believed, in conjunction with guilt, opened the door to illness. Miss Beryl didn’t know any teachers who weren’t habitually guilty and depressed – guilty they hadn’t accomplished more with their student, depressed that very little more was possible. (…)
The source of her wooziness established [Miss Beryl tror att hon har smittats av sin blivande svärdotter], Miss Beryl decided that the best way to proceed was to treat the virus the way you’d treat the person it came from. That is, ignore it the best she could and hope it’d go away.

I rest my case.

Raymond Chandlers guide to answering questions from journalists

Picture Post is for people who move their lips when they read. Surely they can get anything they want to know about me from my English publishers, Hamish Hamilton Ltd. The questions you quote from them would seem to me to indicate the intellectual level of the editorial department of Picture Post.

Yes, I am exactly like the characters in my books. I am very tough and have been known to break a Vienna roll with my bare hands. I am very handsome, having a powerful physique, and I change my shirt regularly every Monday morning. When resting between assignments I live in a French Provincial chateau on Mulholland Drive. It is a fairly small place of forty-eight rooms and fifty-nine baths. I dine off gold plates and prefer to be waited on by naked dancing girls. But of course there are times when I have to grow a beard and hole up in a Main Street flophouse, and there are other times when I am, although not by request, entertained in the drunk tank in the city jail.

I have friends from all walk of life. I have fourteen telephones on my desk, including direct lines to New York, London, Paris, Rome, and Santa Rosa. My filing case opens out into a very convenient portable bar, and the bartender, who lives in the bottom drawer, is a midget. I am a heavy smoker and according to my mood I smoke tobacco, marijuana, corn silk and dried leaves. I do a great deal of research, especially in the apartments of tall blondes. I get my material in various ways, but my favourite procedure consists of going through the desks of other writers after hours. I am thirty-eight years old and have been for the last twenty years. I do not regard myself as a bad shot, but I am a pretty dangerous man with a wet towel. But all in all I think my favourite weapon is a twenty dollar bill.

Raymond Chandler, the master of letter writing, to his Hollywood agent, who I’m sure was very greatful for his answers.

If you only read one collection of letters, read Raymond Chandler Speaking