Monday, May 11, 2009

Invasion of the blog-snatchers...
Writer John Baker's new book Winged with Death is about time and tango and revolution, and is currently enjoying an ingenious extended launch, cyberspace-hopping through blogsites worldwide and collecting appreciative reviews along the way. Today is my turn to welcome this novel and its enterprising author.

The first thing that impressed me is the fluency of the writer’s voice. The story is narrated by Frederick Boyle, aka Ramon Bolio, who establishes a dual time-zone from the outset. As an older man now living in England, he looks back to the journey of the boy he once was, jumping ship in Uruguay and finding a new name and a new life. His mentor Julio is introduced in a striking pen portrait as a man of aphorisms, sometimes making sense but more often devoid of context. ‘Middle-class is the definition of criminality’ he would tell me, or ‘I don’t use drugs, my dreams are frightening enough.’ And then we’re back in now, and a new character sidles into the room and onto the page: an interruption that upsets the flow… It’s this intriguing combination of adventure story and real-time immediacy that for me makes this novel so compelling, with its suggestion of continuing dualism as shadows from the past emerge and reconnect.
I asked John about this notion of threads linking the past to the present, and the unpredictable pattern of the dance; these themes, he feels, emerged as he wrote rather than being catalysts. “In the beginning there was the dream of Montevideo, an obsession with time and the wish to utilize dance as a metaphor. I don't believe I had more than that. The novel was the product of my immersing myself in these three and experimenting with the various ways they might combine.”

John Baker has published 8 novels already but this is the first time he’s gone galactic, as it were, with promotion. Feedback, he says, has been mostly positive, but “the tour has been hard work in a way I never quite imagined - touring, even virtual touring means actually engaging in a way that my day-to-day working life as a writer shields me from. So there is a sense in which I'm 'whacked' as though I've been on a real road for the past few weeks. On the other hand it has, of course, been exhilarating to feel that kind of support that only can come from people who are engaged in the same struggle as oneself, either as writers or as readers.”
John picked his hosts from the links of literary blogs on his own blog. “Some of them run popular sites with relatively large followings, others are little more than personal blogs. I wanted the book to find itself in as many various environments as possible. This seems to me to be the destiny of a book.”
You can read the first chapter here. Tell John what you think, and let me know what you think of this creative new notion of host- blogging.


Anonymous said...

I have never heard of a virtual book tour before, but it seems like the way forward in what seems to be quickly becoming a more virtual world. I have been following John's virtual tour with interest and hope it continues for a while to come.
I loved the book and would recommend it wholeheartedly. Thanks Crysse and John.

Crysse said...

Glad you like the idea - for me it's been a big jump forward in realising new ways blogs can interact. And a gripping book too!

john baker said...

I don't have any figures. I don't know how good a medium a virtual tour is in helping to promote a book. Come to think of it I've never seen figures of any kind about an author tour and how that translates into book sales.
I'm still sufficiently old-fashioned enough to believe that this is the kind of thing a publisher should do rather than an author.
Except that publishers don't, not unless you're already a mega-selling writer, and then they want you to go to places far away where you can extend the market to brand new populations.
So for me, this whole exercise is not so much about selling books as it is about finding readers. (Subtle difference there - can you see it?)
Initially it is difficult to talk about a book because few people have read it, but gradually, the hope is that the debate becomes more of a community debate, that it takes place between people who have read the book and enjoyed it or not and who want to discuss this or that aspect of it.
Until that comes about one can only really jump up and down and attract attention, and these days it's possible to do this virtually much more effectively than it is in the real world.
I tried jumping up and down and attracting attention in the street with an earlier book, and believe me, it gets the wrong kind of attention.

Crysse said...

Hope you enjoyed your day here, John. Sorry no virtual bourbon biscuits...


john baker said...

It was good, but. . . I mean, I'm not complaining, it's just that, well, hell, biscuits are important, you know.

Crysse said...

next time smoked salmon & champagne... xx

Donigan said...

I think I'm coming up pretty soon on this virtual book tour; I just finished the book today. But John, give me a couple of days for consideration. I think it will be interesting that I seem to be the only writer along the way who is actually living in Tango land (Buenos Aires) and who has been to Montevideo recently.

This is the only stop along your virtual tour that I have made, on purpose, and will not read the others until I have posted my own thoughts.

Just thought I'd pop in here in case Crysse hasn't run out of salmon and champagne.

Crysse said...

bubbly a bit curled at the edges, salmon slightly flat, but you're welcome to the pickings.

How brilliant to be living over there in Tango land, with those 'crimson, heartbreaking, night skies' and 'the bitterness of the music and the heart and hope buried within it' (I'm loving John's book) - I can almost taste the heat.

Let me know if you want a creative writing course leader out there, Donigan! Have Kipling bag, will travel...

john baker said...

Hey Don,
Good to see you. I was wondering how you were getting on with Winged with Death.
Not too bad it seems, if you got right through to the bottom of the last page.
Talk soon.