Secret Story by Ramsey Campbell
US mass market edition
The back cover of this book is what hooked me, and I guess it hooked a lot of other writers. The book (according to the back) is about a writer who dreams of chucking it all in to become a famous author. But that’s where the cover blurb and the actual story seem to drift apart. For this review I will start by typing up the back cover:
You're an underpaid civil servant who dreams of chucking it all to become a famous author. You live with your overbearing mother who always seems to interrupt when you're writing a key scene. Your imagination is dark, your inspiration the terrible things that can happen to a young woman travelling alone. . .
Your terrifying short story about a horrible murder on an underground train is to be published. Even better, it will be made into a movie.
A pretty young journalist is pursuing you.
You've been fired.
The journalist wants an interview, not a date.
The film's director wants you to make a few changes in your story.
And, worst of all, your imagination has run dry.
You'll just have to kill someone new. . .
So, that’s the back cover and naturally I’d read that and run up to the counter, hand over my dosh and rushed home to settle in for a good read. But; the style of the writing was a tad hard to get used to, it’s very British, which isn’t usually a problem for me (most of the lit in NZ comes from the UK), except this one took me awhile to get used to it. Scene changes would start with someone talking, then other people would talk and I had no idea there were other people about until they spoke. The back blurb covers only the first half of the book. But what really put me off reading was an unbelievable reaction to an unbelievable scene involving the wife of his best friend.
About the story: Dudley is crazy. He has been for a long time and his mother thinks all the drugs she did in her youth are to blame. What she doesn’t know is that the stories Dudley is writing are factual. Chapter two is the best chapter in this book; it’s about a murder at the train station (tube/subway) and it forms the backbone of this book. His mother sends this story into a competition and it is accepted for publication winning the top spot. The story is shown to an indie director who wants to film it and would like Dudley’s assistance with writing the script to keep it as real as possible. He agrees.
After a reading (pre-launch) someone recognizes the story as a real event and informs the parents of the girl killed at the subway, and they naturally kick up a mega media stink and Dudley’s story is pulled from publication. But the editor likes Dudley and offers him a spot in issue two of the magazine. The movie is changed as well. They won’t show that scene but Dudley has to come up with something else.
The book drags on a bit from here on in, don’t get me wrong the storylines are interesting and the character developments are excellent, but I am left to wonder why most scenes were written. I saw little point to most of them.
The ending is as expected but don’t skip the epilogue (like most readers), you’ll nod your head though most of it.
In short: this book is long winded but a decent read. The style is interesting as are the characters.