“So Dark the Night”–Progress Report
I fear my old friend Evgeny Nightstalk is getting more than a trifle cross with me.
He is, after all, the narrator and (ostensibly) author of So Dark the Night. And he doesn’t take kindly to picky, petty-minded editors who go over his writing with the scrutiny of an electron microscope.
“Fer Chrissakes, pal,” he has snarled at me on numerous occasions, “every bloody word doesn’t have to be right. This ain’t fuckin’ Shakespeare.”
I’ve been assigned to tighten the manuscript and while the job hasn’t been too demanding, the central figure in So Dark the Night has turned out to be prickly, opinionated and not afraid to use physical intimidation and force to get his way. It has made for some uncomfortable moments.
I have tried to explain that a little tightening and paring is good for any work but he isn’t having any of it. He insists I’m trying to put my own “stamp” on So Dark the Night and will clean up his hard-boiled prose to the extent where it’s no longer recognizably his.
It’s a ticklish point. As editor, it is part of my duty to retain Nightstalk’s unique syntax and word choice and I must even do my best to tolerate his (in my view) overuse of similes (I detest similes, they’re usually employed in such a lazy and facile manner). But there are certain rules of grammar that must apply. For instance, I have tried to clean up his propensity for infinitives (split or otherwise)–
“What the hell are they?” Nightstalk snarls.
–the prepositions he’s prone to leave dangling everywhere, the strange subordinate clauses, the exposition–
“Aw, bullshit,” is his only rejoinder.
Honestly, the fellow wouldn’t know a gerund from a–
“Careful,” he warns, his fists clenching.
You see what I have to deal with.
For a good idea of his temperament and the aura of violence Evgeny projects, I suggest you check out Bob Hoskins’ performance in the greatest Brit gangster movie ever, “The Long Good Friday”. All through the movie, Hoskins behaves like a bombshell about to go off. Evgeny gives that same impression.
We’ve been working on final revisions for just over a month now and I must say our relationship shows little signs of improving. I’m very much into precision: the exact right word in the exact right place at the exact right time. Evegeny is looking more for an overall effect: he recreates a scene to the best of his recollection, with all of the literary ability he possesses…and for him that’s good enough. He has read a great many (too many!) pulp writers and is aware of how fast and prolific those individuals were, churning out material at a remarkable rate. I recoil when he draws such parallels, since I have high hopes that So Dark the Night has more literary merit than the vast majority of tales hacked out by mercenary-minded wordsmiths and Grub Street types.
Still, we shall have to find a happy medium, for the sake of Nightstalk’s peace of mind and my physical safety. Likely about another ten days work left so it’s simply a case of trying to get along and come up with a completed effort that is exciting, literate, funny, engrossing; a book that is a pleasure and joy to read. I’m confident we’re close to reaching that point and that if we keep cool heads and open minds, we can finish this book with the minimum of bad feelings (and bloodshed).
That said, I’ve recently upgraded my Blue Cross medical coverage.
Just in case.