A very welcome arrival to the blogosphere is J.F. Norris, whose Pretty Sinister blog I’ve added to my blogroll. He covers some modern fiction – such as that very entertaining writer L.C.Tyler – but his main focus is on books from the past, and already he’s come up with some fascinating bits of information.
In commenting here, he also raised a very interesting question about lists of characters at the start of books, to help readers pick their way through. This used to be common in detective stories, but these days I’ve heard publishers argue that it is off-putting, and implies that the story is not clear enough to stand on its own merits.
I can understand this argument, and that some readers will draw an adverse inference if they see a character list at the front of the book. But I do tend to like them – for instance in the old books that Rue Morgue reprint. And some authors, like Christianna Brand, used to use them as part of the overall means of entertaining the reader.
I’ve been thinking about the other bits and pieces that can add to a reader’s pleasure in the last few days as I’ve been working with my American publishers on a map for The Hanging Wood. It’s fun to see my dubious draughtsmanship transformed into a rather nice piece of work by an artist. Maps seem to be coming back into vogue generally at present, not least in Scandinavian novels. A good thing!
So what will be the next device to be exhumed from the Golden Age? More family trees? Challenges to the readers? Clue-finders? None of them seem likely, I must admit. But you never know...