Typically, I cannot find a web link to the article that Toby Litt wrote in the Guardian Review a couple of weeks back, and neither can I remember exactly what he was writing about, but it was great. So great, in fact, that I had bought a copy of Litt’s latest, Ghost Story, within an hour. How’s that for effective marketing?
(Heads-up apologies for the style of this entry. I’m going to fire it off prior to a sunny lunch at Exeter’s quay.)
To Litt. Of course, I’ve heard of Litt. Like many renowned authors I have not yet read, his name is vaguely familiar, and during the reading of Ghost Story I realized that I had heard a review — mostly positive — on Newsnight Review sometime last year.
If Litt’s first piece of marketing was to write a great piece in the Guardian Review, his second was to write a great novel. Maybe that isn’t marketing at all. It reminds me of the one lesson I’ve learned in the year-and-a-bit that I’ve been a published novelist: The strongest tool in your marketing arsenal is the quality of your product. Sure, your need exposure, and the support of your publisher, and some helpful people who like your book. But your prose will dry up on the way to the sea if it is not strong at the source.
Ghost Story begins with a surreal section that appears to have a grounding Litt’s own life (though I may be mistaken) and outlines a family tragedy. The prose is dense and calls upon many metaphors, cites poetry, and the words roar off at tangents barely controlled (that’s the impression, and may be incorrect) by the writer. The tragedy involves the death of a child. The book then makes a jump-cut to fiction, where the young couple Paddy and Agatha are buying a house. By the next chapter, something has been subtracted from their lives, and the rest of the book details their journey through loss, a slow excorcism of a dead baby called Rose.
Ghost Story is a great book. The little gauge that all writers, if they’re honest, have at the back of their minds when reading the work of another — that little gauge shot up to the level marked ‘This guy is good, and the chances that I can produce something as good before I retire are low’. Ghost Story is vivid, beautiful, contains truths, and moments where I stared in horror at the book (I’ve never done that before, even though I’m a fan of the horror genre). So, marketing again: Litt has produced the product. Now you know about it. All you need to do is click here. You won’t be disappointed.