Having lived in Ghana where these insect-constructed architectural marvels are common, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE TERMITE’S HILL struck me as a good title for my next book. The sequel could be “The Termite That Bit the Girl.”
No? Too much like the titles of the novels of a certain deceased Swedish novelist? Oh, but I thought that was the whole idea. I was hoping that since my novels are, like Larsson’s, set in an exotic locale (Ghana – that’s exotic, right?), if I titled my next few works along the lines of “the someone who did something to the something,” readers might pay attention and perhaps consider buying a few copies. I was also hoping I could persuade bookstore owners to put up a sign in the window to the effect that Non-Dragon-Tattoo-Fire-Hornet’s-Nest readers are welcome.
There are now basically two types of novels in the world: Stieg, and non-Stieg. Or Chosen, and non-Chosen. If you were a novel, it would be best to be the Stieg kind, and if Larsson were alive, we non-Stieg novelists would tell him just how much we are in awe of him. To have your only three books in first, second and third positions on practically every bestseller list and have everyone clamoring for the mysterious fourth novel, which is at some undisclosed location? Incredible and wonderful.
But indulge me, dear readers of fiction, as I try to persuade you that you might charitably buy some of the works by other novelists out there. For simplicity, let’s take my own novel as a case in point. Other authors should feel free to press their individual cases and stick up for their own books.
The top ten reasons to buy my book instead of, or along with, the amazing Stieg’s:
1. My story also has murdered people in it.
2. There’s a killer in it as well.
3. There are some nice, foreign-sounding place names in it, just like in Larsson’s books.
4. Because I’m still alive, I’ll actually be able make good use of the money and there won’t be a family feud over it either.
5. I won’t hide my next novel in my laptop. I will publish it.
6. Unlike a dead person, I’m available for book-signings and book club meetings.
7. My name has the same number of syllables as Stieg Larsson’s, and my hero’s name, Darko Dawson, has the same number as Larsson’s hero, Mikael Blomqvist’s, but it’s a lot easier to pronounce.
8. I’ve written two novels, so I’ll soon have a trilogy, sort of.
9. I can have a tough, tattooed young woman in the third novel, if you really insist.
And the last reason to buy my book along with the Stieg’s:
10. I write shorter paragraphs.
Isn’t there a No Author Left Behind federal program? Okay, I guess not, but I have another idea that might work. I borrowed it from the story of that Canaanite woman who outdid Jesus in a little verbal exchange when she pointed out to him that “even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Touché! So, here’s my idea: As one Millennium Trilogy buyer after another lines up to make his or her purchase in various bookstores, we non-Stieg authors could hover around checkout counters with irresistible, canine-like “poor me” looks on our faces. “Please, sir, madam,” we would beg, “can you spare a crumb?”
In a noble attempt to hearten me, a friend of mine quoted the aphorism, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” In other words, be patient: Larsson’s more than 20 million copies and more than 1 million Kindle books sold should bring us non-Stiegs right along. Well, I can only hope, but to stretch the maxim a bit, I worry that people on the shore may be gazing at just one boat and singing its praises while the other vessels bob around ignominiously, or worse, capsize and sink.
Amazon.com, are you listening? On Larsson’s page, I’d like to see these words: “Customers who bought this item also bought THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE TERMITE’S HILL.”
(Side note: my next novel is in fact titled CHILDREN OF THE STREET due for release July 12, 2011.)
(See also the comments of Michael Sears)