Sunday, July 27, 2008

OPEN: the special sealed section

Here it is, Legion of Fans (LOF), Mr Blog's take on what women want.

Normally, honesty would force me to stop this post right here and now, but as regular readers would be aware I have taken me a peek inside the world of secret women's business thanks to a new book out of Africa - 'OPEN, An Erotic Anthology by South African Women Writers', published by Oshun.

OPEN was sent to me by my friend (and fearless critic of my own rude scenes), Muriel (not her real name). Muriel is one of the famous South African writers who contributed to OPEN, though I will not reveal which one.

One thing I hate, LOF, is when newspapers and magazines get book reviewers who have absolutely no interest in or affinity with mass market fiction (ie the stuff I write) to review my books. I mean, I never get a chance to review deep and brooding literary masterpieces, so how come people who wear black skivvies and drink chai (whatever that is) get to poke fun at me?

So, not being South African, a woman, or a regular writer of literary erotica, I have absolutely no qualifications to review 'OPEN'. I will, however give you my observations, as a middle aged white Australian male (and writer of "better-than-average airport novels" with "cliched" sex scenes) regarding this slim but perfectly formed tome.

I must begin by saying that even after finishing the 19 tales contained in OPEN I still have no more idea about what women want (in relation to what Gary McDonald as TV's Norman Gunston used to describe as "funny business") than when I started.

Judging by the variety of subject matter, styles, and differing approaches to the mine-strewn area of rude words, the only conclusion I can draw is that different women want different things in their porn (oops, I mean literary erotica). This realisation, in itself, was pleasing to me.

Some of the stories are soft and sweet... long, slow, beautifully-spun yarns about unrequited longing that contain barely a pulse of what a man would consider to be.... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Oops, sorry, where was I? Oh, yes. A couple of these stories are so layered and spongy that Mr Blog found himself nodding off on the bus a couple of times (not a good look to be sprung by a fellow passenger with an open book of erotica dangling from one limp hand a long strand of silvery drool linking lips to trousers, I can assure you).

Ken Follett (who is, like, the God of the airport novel writers) once wrote something like this: "If you have to read a sentence twice to understand it, then it's no good". One or two of OPEN's entries were so artfully written and so purple in their prose that I needed to read passages two or three times (and still couldn't understand them).

However... and this is a big however, because I think that the majority of the writings in OPEN are just brilliant, on several occasions I found myself re-reeading certain sections (and stories) simply becasue they were, ahem, so very good (and I am speaking here, of course, purely in relation to matters of literary merit, rather than subject matter. Yeah, right).

Along with the stories of an ethereal, gentle and vaguish nature (as far as blokes are concerned), there is no shortage of wham, bam, thank-you ma'am (may I have another) stuff in OPEN.

Yes, chaps, rest assured that some gels like their rumpy pumpy with a fair dollop of how's-your-father and pardon-me-vicar on top.

Between OPEN's tasteful covers you'll find a fare sprinkling of naughty words, actions, bits, and what Mr Eddy Murphy once described as in-your-end-oh. More than enough, in fact, to, errr, satisfy what I might dare class as stereotypical 'male' preconceptions of the artform.

A friend of mine, PK, is a big reader and likes my books, except for two things. "TP," he said to me once, "I wish you didn't use swear words or put sex scenes in your books. John Grisham doesn't have sex or swearing in his books and that's why I really like his stuff."

I had to thank PK at that point. I'd read a couple of Grisham books many years ago and could never get into his stuff. I could never put my finger on what I didn't like about them, until it dawned - no funny business and no rude words. I'm a big fan of both - in real life and in fiction, so I was pleased to see some parts of OPEN left little to the imgaination.

OPEN has infidelity, fidelity, fantasy, a bit of the ol' slap-and-tickle (as Mrs Blog calls it), and a dash (deary me, I almost said lick) of Lesbianism, proving my oft-laboured point that girls can get away with writing girl-on-girl stuff, but male middle-aged mass market fiction writers' editors won't let them.

If I have to pick favourites I would single out the following - in no particular order:

Die Nutsman: This does not mean 'death to crazy or large-testicled man'. Die Nutsman is Afrikaans for The Handyman. This handy man has a habit of appearing just when the lady of the house needs him most. Clever premise and cleverly written, by Helen Brain.

Taking Zoe to Play: If boys were allowed to read/write Mills and Boon romance novels, then this is how we'd want it/write it. In just a few pages Elizabeth Pienaar creates a mini upper middle class universe populated by Porshe-driving people with exotically improbable names and steamily-revealed back-stories. The, ahem, climax takes place on a 'play date'. While the kids are outside on the swings the grown ups are getting up to a bit of swinging inside. No holds barred in this Dirty Dallas.

The Boy Next Door: Tracey Hawthorne, the fact that you got me steamed up with a tale about a lady peeking through the fence slats at a neighbouring youth taking matters into his own hands speaks volumes about your way with words. (I hope). Slow build up, big finish, and even a cigarette at the end. This is how it should be done and the peeping Toms of the world salute you.

Seven Saucy Smokelong Stories: If you've ever felt a little unease at some mildly kinky thought or practice you may have considered/practiced/fantasised about... read these stories. They will make you feel positively vanilla. Liesl Jobson whips it, and whips it good.

Dawn Garisch's tale 'The Wedding Feast' about a bored lady and a balding middle-aged man at a wedding party proves that balding middle-aged men (such as myself) should read more women's erotica.

So attuned is she to what men want, Sarah Lotz should be writing the letters in men's magazines. Her 'Personal Shopper' story reveals what Trinny and Susannah really should be getting up to behind the curtain.

Reprise, by Mary Watson is about an old married couple reprising. It actually made me go "Awww" (as in "awww isn't that nice"). By this stage I realised that I was getting way too much in touch with my feminine side (and I didn't even know I had one), so I re-read a couple of the really dirty bits of the book, reaffirmed my masculinity, and closed OPEN.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What are you wearing.... err, I mean reading?

Me? Girl porn. Just finished a book of it, in fact.

Of course, what I meant to say is that I've just finished reading an anthology of women's contemporary literary erotica.

Why? Well, apart from the obvious reason it was sent to me, by my South African friend Muriel, a regular poster on this blog. Muriel and I are good friends. Long-term readers may recally that we met after she wrote a scathing critique of the "romance" scenes in my second book, ZAMBEZI on the blog she co-authors, Salma-Gundi.

Muriel (not her real name) is a well-know Seth Efrican writer and has penned many an article and quite a few books as a freelance writer and editor. As such, she was invited to contribute a naughty little yarn to a book called, ahem, OPEN, an anthology of erotica by other famous sub-Saharan lit-chicks.

After having pilloried my efforts in this department, to her great credit Muriel invited me to review her endeavours and sent me a copy of the aforementioned dirty, errrr... I mean literary, tome.

Imagine my joy, then, Legion of Fans (LOF) when I paused to check my letterbox on my way into the city to run some errands, and found a plain brown envelope with a South African post mark. Inside was a slim volume with a tastefully discrete cover decorated with what looked suspiciously like a chocolate-dipped satin sheet!

Not having time to drop the book back inside my home I carried it with me and, unable to conceal my (professional) curiosity, I started reading it on the bus.

Boys, what have we been doing all these years looking at pictures? The girls have got it all over us in this department (and many others, I hear you Legionettes muttering). I glanced around the bus, furtively, over the top of the crisp, deliciously sharp-edged pages my new book as I moistened a finger and unleashed the next instalment. Not a single passenger could guess what I was reading.

I completed my chores and got back on the bus. No sooner had I parted the pages and begun delving into the hidden secrets within when the bus stopped. Who should get on but a lovely lady who lives in our block of flats. Laden with shopping bags she took a seat across the aisle from me.

I closed OPEN and placed it face down on my lap.

My neighbour is American. She is not, as some stereotypes might suggest, a 'loud' person, but to me it seemed as if she had sudeenly pressed a megaphone to her lips.

"Hiya. How's the writing going?" she asked.

"Oh, just fine," I replied. "Book five's just come out."

She looked at my lap. "You know, they say that to write a lot, you need to read a lot, is that true?"

"Umm, yes," I gulped.

"Watcha reading there?"

I do believe I started to swoon, Legion of Fans. I felt light headed, and my heart was pounding. I felt like George Costanza being caught by his mother with the lingerie section of the Sears and Roebuck catalogue.

I coughed. "Err, a book of short stories."

"Oh, really? That's interesting. What are they about?" my charming neighbour persisted.

For the briefest second I thought to myself: 'Hey, what's the problem here? I'm a 43-year-old professional writer who is reading a perfectly legitimate form of literary endeavour, readily available in quality bookstores. It's a sensitive, honest account of female sexualtiy, tastefully presented and thoughtfully written by a collection of respected, erudite fellow scribes. What would be wrong with telling my neighbour what I was reading?'

Then, of course, I came to my senses. I'm an old guy on a bus reading girl porn.

"Umm, it's about Africa," I stammered.


Our stop approached. I pushed the bell to signal the driver and leapt to my feet. I won't say I ran for the door, but I do vaguely recall my neighbour saying; "Don't wait up for me, I've got all this shopping to carry and...."

(Stay tuned for the full review of OPEN, in which Mr Blog gets an inkling of what it is that women really want)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Not boy books or chick lit... I'm writing James Bond books

Both of you regular readers may recall some musings by my friend Jimbob recently, in which he claimed that instead of writing hairy-chested boy books set in Africa I was, in fact, writing "chick books".

I received some pleasingly level headed comments from some of you in response to Jimbob's assertions, but he did get a reaction, which is nice to see in a blog.

By way of a teensy explanation, my friend The Big Kahuna and I gave Jimbob his first job in Public Relations many years ago. What intrigued us most about his job application - and set him ahead of the other candidates in our view - was that he wrote his university thesis on the Australian Porn Industry. He was a fast talking (over) confident youngster with a pony tail back then. Today he is a fast talking (over) confident older corporate PR person making megabucks.

Anyway, Jimbob is never backwards in coming forwards when it comes to critiquing my books and he took the time to pen a rather long email to me regarding my latest book, SILENT PREDATOR.

As you will see from this missive, which I have printed here sans a few expletives and overly colourful turns of phrase, Jimbob has decided I am in fact writing James Bond books, not girly books. It's a little rude in places (even with censoring), but it's much more interesting than the "better than average airport thriller" reviews that represent the height of praise for my genre of writing in certain broadsheets.

Here it is (with censorship in bold type):

Senor Park,

Good to see you are still enjoying the many wonders of your national (except South Australia) tour.

Finished Silent Predator quite some time ago and noticed a striking similarity between your heroes and James Bond:

They all get sex twice an adventure.

Traditionally in each film, Commander Bond will (become intimate with) one young minx who is usually very pushy and up for it, by about the 30 - 40 minute mark. They will most often be rather nameless hot bodies who ultimately either wind up dead or are revealed to be evil.

In your novels, the first round is usually just as casual, suggested by some random chick who's pushy and up for it (cue the milf on an overlander, the backpacker in the men’s room, a white afrikaaner lush in a fancy hotel room) and also occurs a bit before the half way mark (30-40 minute mark if your book was a film). Yours don’t get dead, but they do disappear rapidly from the rest of the tale.

The sex also seems to occur just after he has met the heroine he will eventually end up bedding by the book’s end.

And like the Bond films, I believe you’ve placed the casual (moments of intimacy) at that exact moment to meet the following needs of your target audiences:

1) Women - By this stage in the book/movie, women want your character (or Bond) to prove he is worth lusting after and demonstrate he is as good in bed as they want him to be – all the while still believing he can be sensitive and conflicted as he spends the rest of the book pining/working for the strong unattainable female co-star/heroine. (Who usually only gives it up before the final shootout, or in bond’s case, straight after.)

2) Men - Men however, reach the 30-40 min window or near-mid point of the book and want to be reassured that their hero’s not going to spend the whole book/film (ummm painfully pursuing?) the lead female. As such, by this point in the story, the male reader demands to see their hero (become intimate with) some no-name saucepot to prove he’s not a monk.

In most cases, post-(intimate) activity is then followed by a scene with the woman he truly wants to (be intimate with), (so the women can say “it should be her”, so the men can say “you’re next”), followed by an explosive gun battle.

Twice a movie, twice a book.

The name’s Bond, eh bru?

On a side note, thought Silent Predator was very good and really liked the work in England. Also, here’s to the return of another Far Horizon hero. The Parki-verse is growing ever larger.

Still believe Shane Castle deserves a return.

Well done son. Very well done indeed.

All the best to Mrs Park.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Parramatta City Library 1.00pm July 15

There it is in black and white (or whatever colour the blog background is). Sorry, Parramatta Sub-branch of the Legion of Fans (LOF) - in an earlier post I got the time wrong.

For the record, my talk on July 15 at Parramatta City Library will be at 1.00pm (not 6.30pm as previously mistakenly advised).

A good deal else to report, but little time to do so as I am racing off to Warringah Library this evening (6.30pm, Thursday, July 10).

Had a choice time in New Zealand with all my cuzzy bros over there. Visited scores of bookshops; did maninge radio and press interviews; and consumed several dozen Steinlager Pures. This is the beer which reportedly does not produce a hangover - however I was a bit seedy on the plane flight home (though this could have had something to do with the fact that I only had two hours sleep the night before boarding).

Stellar turn outs at Willoughby and Gordon Libraries last week thanks to Margaret, Ben and Penny and my very own helper, Alex, who has been assisting me with my publicity for the tour. Thanks, too, to the pleasant people of Penrith for popping along last Sunday.

I know I should be posting witty and incisive material here on the blog and not just shamelessly promoting myself and my library talks, but life is a bit busy at the moment. How about instead, you pop over to see my fellow blogster crabmommy (an ex Sarf Effrican living in the US & A)who is talking about something dear to my heart, camping, on her blog, and about two things no camper should ever be seen dead in - headlights and croc sandals. Crabmommy also gives me a mention in this post, so there is a teensy bit of self promotion going on here as well.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Another review... this time from neglected South Australia

Even though the fair state of South Australia, land of churches and serial killers, was ommitted from my round Australia and New Zealand book tour that doesn't seem to have coloured the views of its independent-minded journalists and news outlets.

During a moment of shameless self-googling I stumbled across this review of SILENT PREDATOR in the high quality and emminently readable Adelaide journal, the 'Independent Weekly'.

It's written by an obviously astute and well-read young lady by the name of Georgia Gowing. I commend this fine review, worthy publication, and stellar jounalist to you all.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Attention residents of Randwick/Maroubra; Parramatta, and Howick, New Zealand

Stock up on no-doze and coca-cola because I am coming your way with long-winded tales of the African bush.

Firstly, a clarification. In earlier posts I've said I will be speaking at Randwick Library at 10am on July 24. Please note that I am actually speaking at the Bowen Library in Maroubra, at 669-673 Anzac Parade, Maroubra at that time and date. Apologies for any confusion.

In late breaking news I will be speaking at Howick Public Library, at Howick, which I am told is somewhere on the north Island of New Zealand, at 7pm on Thursday July 3.

Finally, I have added another library to my busy Sydney schedule for July. I'll be spruiking big time at the Parramatta Library at 1.00pm on July 15.

And, if all that isn't enough self-promotion, there is another review of my new book SILENT PREDATOR, this time from the Canberra Times here on my website. I like this one because it compares me (quite favourably) with South African crime writer Deon Meyer, whose books I really like and can highly recommend,