After a mild winter the start of spring came in not roaring like a lion but more like a sodden polar bear with an icy nose: howling blustery gales, rain, hail, a smattering of snow and freezing temperatures; fortunately not due to last. The White Mountains look beautiful with snow glinting on the peaks and a covering right down to the foothills which is not something you see all that often.
How does one sell books? Well, I suppose if you have the money to advertise you advertise. If you don’t have the money, too bad. Reviews? Yes, I have bought books on the strength of reviews I’ve read but what if your books aren’t reviewed? If you’re a VIP, a socialite, one of the beautiful people, a celeb you can advertise on TV in talk shows and be paid for it. If bookshops are selling your books you can do signings. If none of this applies, finally, I suppose, there’s word of mouth. I only discovered Karin Slaughter because a visitor left one of her first books here and I picked it up, enjoyed it, and have read five or six since then. The same for two of my very favourite fictional characters, both detectives: Commisario Guido Brunetti, Venetian detective in the Donna Leon books and Erst Fandorin, the detective in Imperial Russia by Boris Akunin. Haven’t got around to the Swede yet, ‘the girl with this, the girl with that the girl with the other,’ despite them being world best-sellers and filmed. Maybe if a holiday maker leaves one here I’ll get around to it.
I think I mentioned once before coming across a prolific author I had never heard of and in last week’s paper I read a review of a memoir ‘A Widow’s Story’ by Joyce Carol Oates. Now why should Joyce Carol Oates, who one has never heard of, get virtually a full page review for her memoirs? The title ‘A Widow’s Story’ is hardly likely to set the pulse racing. Well, it turns out she is an American author of more than fifty novels! (How, I ask myself, does one find the subject and plots for that number of books without repeating oneself? I know Agony Christie did it but the mind still boggles), thirty short story collections, countless essays, reviews, plays, novellas, and children’s books. That is certainly a lifetime’s achievement and one had never heard of her let alone read anything she has written.
Have just, after a suitable passage of time, reread ‘The Orton Diaries’ and got to thinking about this talented man whose life was so abruptly ended. What would he have produced if he had lived to now be in his seventies? When he died he was evidently on the verge of producing a fourth play after ‘What The Butler Saw’ which really shook up the town when produced. Ralph Richardson evidently hated being in it and felt he had made a grave mistake especially as Winston Churchill’s penis was supposed to be produced which he simply would not countenance under any circumstances. Orton evidently suggested to his agent that he change it to Kennedy’s penis which horrified her as Kennedy was ‘a martyr.’ I suppose the penis of any famous person would have caused outrage.
The other thought I had was did Joe Orton wish for his death? He new perfectly well the rage that could overtake Ken Halliwell. He had been physically attacked before and there were plenty of pretty obvious warnings in Halliwell’s behaviour and the things he said. In his diary entry for Friday 14th July 1967, the year of his death, Orton wrote, ‘Took a walk. Nobody around to pick up. Only a lot of disgusting old men. I shall be a disgusting old man myself one day, I thought, mournfully. Only I have high hopes of dying in my prime.’ High hopes of dying in his prime and his wish was granted when shortly afterwards Halliwell bludgeoned him to death with a hammer before committing suicide.
I have little doubt though that had that event not taken place, Orton would not have lived to a ripe old age. Such was his promiscuity there is every possibility he would have succumbed to HIV and an Aids’ related illness because that would have been at the beginning of the so-called gay plague when to pick up the virus was a certain death sentence.