Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Dan Brown Day

by Matt Lynn

First, a confession. I really liked The Da Vinci Code. Admittedly, that was in part because I’ve always enjoyed the rich vein of nutty conspiracy theories that it drew upon, but I also though it was a brilliantly conceived and executed thriller. It took two of the strongest traditions of the genre – Sherlock Holmes style sleuthing, and cold-war conspiracies – and brilliantly updated them. It completely deserved all its success.
There’s only one problem with it – and one that is particularly pressing as the tsunami of hype and hoopla over Dan Brown’s follow-up, ‘The Lost Symbol’, threatens to wash away the rest of the publishing industry. Like many really successful books, while good in itself, its consequences haven’t always been quite so happy.
Publishers, inevitably, have been trying to cash in on the book’s popularity.
In the wake of The Da Vinci Code, the Vatican seems to have taken over from the KGB as the stock villain for thriller writers. Where once, every thriller had to have a tense scene with a rogue double-agent at Checkpoint Charlie, now it is just as mandatory to have a few missing pages from the Old Testament to chase, some wacky inscriptions from a church spire to decipher, and a few rogue monks quietly assassinating people.
It works for Dan Brown. But when most other writers try it, it looks a bit silly.
Worse, the publishers are now terrified that the Dan Brown juggernaut means they have to clear all other books from their schedules. But that is probably a mistake as well. After all, lots of people will be going into bookshops in the next couple of weeks to buy ‘The Lost Symbol’. They may well buy something else as well while they are there. So this month is probably a good one to sell a book that isn’t by dan Brown.
Which is why my fellow Curzon writer Richard Jay Parker and I put a short video up on You Tube about the Dan Brown craze. We wish the Dan-ster the best of luck with the new book – there are certainly a lot of expectations to live up to. But publishers and booksellers should remember there are a lot of other good books out there. And the last thing his fans are looking for are pale imitations and rip-offs.

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