I read a lot of books. From the age of six I've been voracious - in reading at least... (It's a sad irony however, that I read a lot less now that I am a publisher than when I worked for one.) I love the occasional slow-burn, dawning realisation that you have a slice of greatness in your hands – that you're actually honoured to be a part of what the author's creating, if only in a passive sense. It doesn't happen often and most people can list on one hand the times it has – and those books will be forever stacked in their memory and on their bookshelf, well thumbed and a little tatty. It's something like that I guess:
Mystic Pig - the beginnings...
Like most of us I read blogs – I even have / had a couple. But, unlike mine, the ones I read are by folks who are intelligent and actually have something interesting to say. I was looking through archived posts on one a few months ago when I stumbled across a book review. The blogger had been swept away by it: “I finished this book (295 pages) in eight hours with only a bag of dried mango slices for sustenance, I loved it so much.”
As I searched, intrigued, further out on the bloglines I came across others who regarded it as 'an undiscovered classic,' 'criminally under-appreciated,' 'one of the best novels I've ever read' - many said that.
(Now normally I would link to the entries concerned but unfortunately there be spoilers and you really don't want to know the secrets if you're at all interested in reading the book – and you should be. Obviously, it doesn't take much nous to find them yourself with the info you have – so go ahead, spoil away. :-) )
Of course I now wanted to read it, badly, but it was out of print. Printed in the US in 2001 by a tiny press who shortly thereafter went out of business. By now my blood was tingling a little though so I searched and found a couple of used copies on Amazon but at $40 + shipping over here I wasn't quite sure. Luckily, there was also a cheap copy on Craig's List in Brooklyn. The guy who had it didn't think it was worth sending a five-buck book across the Atlantic even though I was offering to pay carriage. I eventually bribed him with a bunch of cash for his charity of choice and a copy of Night Climbers (of course by now Id spent more than if I'd bought it on Amazon). He sent it over with his best wishes to the Queen. Err, ok.
So I eventually had a copy of it. I picked it up and was instantly transfixed. I don't think I moved again until I'd finished it. The gut-wrenching honesty of the writing and its poetry-turned prose have the power to, just for a fleeting Friday, turn your convenient 21st Century world in on itself. There's an authenticity about it, a noir humour alongside such delicate melancholy. It wraps you seamlessly into a world, emotional and geographical, that you yearn to be a part of, that you want to run away from. What do you know about friendship? About belonging? About Love? Little yet, it transpires.
Oh, and every now and then the characters create these great dishes. Prepared and described in such a way that you're there in New Orleans getting your hands sticky too. I'm a bachelor; I know where the kitchen is and my cleaning lady tells me I have a dual oven and some hi-falutin' hob somewhere in there. Me? I know where the kettle is and that's fine. But in this book, one minute I'm laughing or crying – the next I'm making Chicken Etouffee! Seriously! heh. Anyhow, I'll publish the recipes on here every now and then - and you can tell me how they turn out.
I'll tell you more later but suffice to say I'm bringing it out on September 30th. I tracked down the author Richard Katrovas and, after surprisingly little flummery, we came to an agreement; I guess that was because he wants to see it back in print – and so do I. There were no electronic copies of it so it had to be re-typed, re-edited, re-proofed – everything; it took a while. It'll be a short run too because, well - I'm a tiny, poor, independent publisher - but I'll have a few thousand copies kicking around the place for when people discover this classic. Even if we only sell 12 copies I'll quite simply be inordinately proud to have made it available for anyone and everyone to discover – and through it to allow them to discover a little of themselves. In my sappier moments I feel that that's almost reason enough to have a publishing company...
So anyway – The finished book goes to the printer tomorrow and I'll keep you updated on its progress as well as posting some of the recipes, parts of the prose, any hopes of publicity, some of my dull ramblings – the usual. To begin with here's the cover blurb:
“Hell is the place between words and the world...”
A modern romance for a fractured age, Richard Katrovas's first novel is a multi-layered mini epic that wholeheartedly lays its love on the line in the face of an abeyance of hope. Love for New Orleans; her secrets, her dark corners, her food. Love for life; its heroes, its villains, its also-rans. But above all, a love for Passion; its purity, its beauty, its inevitable consequences.
Consequences felt by both twelve-year-old Willie Singer, growing up, and middle-aged Nathan Moore, growing older. Two inhabitants of the Crescent City whose paths collide and ricochet through the dying of a local poet and the ramifications of his death-bed opus – an epic poem, The Mystic Pig. For better and worse, their lives are forever altered.
Mystic Pig beguiles. Written in evocative and poetic prose it effortlessly wraps the reader in the sensual, vibrant atmosphere of the French Quarter and delivers them right into the complex lives of its characters – warts and all. It's a novel about life and love, death and despair, acceptance, denial, murder, sex – and fine cuisine.
Not necessarily in that order.
Til next time.