Jason Goodwin has reviewed Instruments for the New York Times.
He doesn’t think the book is perfect, but I think his comments are fair. Bloody hell,though! I am astonished reviewed in the NYT. And at length! They’ve even drawn a picture! It’s a massive boost. There are so many books out there, and most newspapers have cut the number of pages they devote to reviewing fiction, so to find myself in this iconic newspaper with a debut genre fiction book is an astonishing stroke of luck. Of course, I’m imagining the women from Sex in the City, Woody Allen, Alan Alda and the cast of every off-Broadway show reading it and deciding they should pick up the book after brunch. In bright sunshine. This makes me happy.
So how did this amazing stroke of luck come about? I’ve no idea. Ned says it’s because I’m brilliant, but it’s his job to say things like that. I have my suspicions though. Jason Goodwin is a very well-known writer of Historical Mysteries himself, so maybe that sparked his interest. I also think that the fact you can still see an early draft of the first 1000 words of the novel online was a factor. It’s not often you can start a review with that sort of before and after picture. So my suspicion is that I have The Daily Telegraph to thank again. Thank you.
For those that don’t know, I was one of five winners in a competition run by the newspaper in 2007 for the first thousand words of a novel. It was the culmination of a series of excellent columns by Louise Doughty on how to write a novel in a year and was judged by Louise, Sam Leith, and Louise’s agent and publisher at the time. The prize was lunch with the judges and the other winners and a lovely lunch it was too, but personally speaking the prize was a great deal more than that. It was winning the competition and the kind words of the judges that gave me the courage to stop directing and write full-time till I had a completed manuscript. It was a daft thing to do really, but sometimes you’ve just got to make a leap of faith. The manuscript got me my lovely agent, Annette. Then Headline gave me my first two-book deal and Pam Dorman bought the books for publication in America, and now among many other blessings I have a big old review in NYT. So that was the prize, really. An entire career.
Just goes to show. If you’re an aspiring writer, enter those competitions. Maybe it could lead to Meg Ryan popping into her local Borders with your name on her lips… (Cue Central Park montage with Gershwin soundtrack).