Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box

Tuesday, September 04, 2007, 9:59 PM

I don't often comment about what I've been reading, but I'm especially enjoying Heart-Shaped Box (hereafter known as HSB) by Joe Hill at the moment. As I'm sure you know, Joe Hill comes from pretty good writing stock, namely Stephen King. You don't have to dive too far into HSB to know he's his father's son. There's a certain directness, a one-on-one feel, to the voice. It's as if it were an old friend telling the tale. There are also familiar tics, such as repeated phrases coming from radios and TVs, or the stretches of back story. It's very reminiscent of King's late seventies to early eighties work. In other words, King at his best.

There are differences, though, and they're certainly enough to allow Hill to stand apart from his illustrious parentage. He writes leaner and cleaner, for a start, staying well clear of the bloat that King is prone to, and the tone is more contemporary in an indefinable way.

Anyway, it's a bloody good read, and well worth checking out if you haven't. I'm also enjoying it for the rock and metal references. But the reason I post about it is the remarkable story of its publication.

It wasn't kept secret for long that Hill was son to arguably the twentieth century's most successful author. But, it has never been overtly used to sell the book. Would I have checked it out if not for his dad? That's debatable. What has been stated, though, is that Hill's agent didn't know for several years, and neither did his editor or publisher. In other words, Joe Hill never used his father's name to grease his way to publication. I think that's very admirable, and I'm not sure I'd be big enough to avoid such temptation.

He let the book stand on its own merits, and as many an agent said, good writing trumped all. I believe Miss Snark coined that phrase, and Nathan Bransford has paraphrased it on more than one occasion. I must admit, I have often viewed that phrase with a little skepticism. After all, Katie Price (Google her, my American friends) got a lucrative book deal purely on the basis of having enormous bazongas. She once described her writing process as talking into a Dictaphone, and handing it to some bloke who goes off and turns it into a story.

Agents often talk about 'platform' and its ability to shift books. It's not limited to non-fiction; many a celebrity has 'written' a novel for a large advance. That someone with Joe Hill's pedigree, someone who could have simply whispered dear old dad's name to have publishers waving their chequebooks, did it the old-fashioned way, and actually wrote a damned good book - well, I find that both heartening and inspirational.

Well done, Joe Hill. You deserve your success.



Blogger McKoala said...

Hm, haven't read it, but will look out for it.

Just dropped by to say hi, see you at the Crapometer - when your synopsis goes up, perhaps?!

5:37 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

But it sounds as if Katie Price DOES have a platform...

I can't imagine, knowing what I do of King, that he would condone his kid using his name to sell a book.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Hear, hear. I've been meaning to pick it up. Just one more in my ever-expanding TBR pile...

1:49 PM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

BTW, I started STORY. :D


2:24 PM  
Blogger Conduit said...

McKoala - I think I'm keeping the synopsis off Crapometer. I've had a short-short story lurking around I might throw up there, though.

Chris - Ah, the TBR pile. Heart-Shaped Box has actually been in my pile for about six months! Glad I got to it though. When I think of some of the crap I read ahead of it...

SS@S - Cool on STORY. Hope you find it useful - I know I did.

7:04 PM  
Blogger McKoala said...

KP's platform is balanced right there on her chest.

4:20 AM  

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