There’s been a lot of hand wringing going on in the media – last night on PBS, today on CNN – about the effect that the release of Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman is going to have on her classic (and only other novel), To Kill A Mockingbird.
“Will this change the way Mockingbird is viewed?” they are asking, with the same anguish as if they had just seen The Phantom Menace or the second and third Matrix movies. “Will this change what it means to us? Will it keep its impact on us?”
People, this is a novel. And an unedited draft at that. Before the wheels of publication began to turn, Lee was offered the chance to have the novel edited and she declined. Today, that’s only afforded to massively bestselling authors like Stephen King, Tom Clancy and Jean Auel, whom editors are either too afraid or too busy to edit — okay, maybe that’s not such a big deal right now.
To catch you up if you haven’t been following the story. Once upon a time, a young Nelle Harper Lee wrote a novel called Go Set A Watchman about a young woman looking back on her relationship with her lawyer father. It made the rounds and one interested editor – or maybe it was an agent – suggested the story would be better if it was narrated by the protagonist at the age she was at the time the events in book took place, as opposed to looking back after a decade or so. She did some rewrites and the book we know as To Kill A Mockingbird was born.
And something likely happened to the story line along the way. The perception of the relationship passed from a knowing one, from the view of a young woman who was a newly minted adult. It became more idealistic, a view from a little girl who worshiped her Daddy.
Meantime, the first draft of the book disappeared, thought lost by the author, who was busy not writing other novels. Until it was recently discovered and put into motion as a real book, to much excitement… until folks found out what it was about.
Apparently Watchman shows a view of Attacus Finch as a separatist and possibly even a racist – perhaps a less idealistic view of a man as seen through the eyes of a now-adult daughter. This the cause of all that angst in the literati – like the release is going to undo all of the advances in civil rights and race relations that have been made since Mockingbird was released. Welcome back, lynching and Jim Crow laws! Like the first book was single-handedly responsible for all of that to begin with.
Is there nothing else going on in the world right now worth losing sleep over? Is it a slow news week?
Or am I the only one who understands the concept of a first draft?
Just in case I am – here’s the answer to this non-story:
Go Set A Watchman will not change To Kill A Mockingbird. Mockingbird will be the same book, the beloved classic it deserves to be.
If you don’t believe me, photocopy a random page of the book, put it in envelope, and check it after Watchman comes out. I’ll bet a large amount of cash or chocolate pudding that none of the words will have changed. Or better yet, open up that favorite novel of yours that was made into a wretched, forgettable waste of a movie and read a random chapter. It hasn’t changed. Just like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn wasn’t changed by Tom Sawyer Abroad or Tom Sawyer, Detective, two cash-in novels written by Mark Twain, both of which were written in the voice of Huck Finn.
And as far as I know, Lee isn’t pulling a George Lucas and issuing a revised director’s cut of Mockingbird where, among other things, the rabid dog shoots at Attacus first.
If Harper Lee made any mistake in issuing Watchman, perhaps it was in leaving the names of the first draft intact, not understanding the attachment we’ve developed over the years to the version that was published. It would have been an easy thing, once the book was put into a word processor, to do a global search and replace to change the names from the revered ones to something a little more generic. Nobody would have been the wiser.
Yeah. As if something like that would ever become a best-seller.
For those of you who prefer your reading experience to be literal instead of virtual, your wishes have figuratively come true. Drawing Down the Moon is at long last available in a trade paper edition that is guaranteed to have mass and take up physical space. If you let it, it may also take up some space in your brain, at least for a time.
DDtM – The Paper Edition is available at all of the usual online suspects:
In a month or two you should also be able to order it through your favorite bookstore, if such a thing still exists.
No word on a spoken word version yet, but it may be in the works. Figureatively. I mean, virtually. Um, that should be literally.
I know the focus is on Drawing Down the Moon right now, but I should mention that a new edition of The Company Man – in trade paperback – is now available on Amazon… and elsewhere for order as time goes on.
The trade paper version of DDtM is in the works. Hoping for something tangible by the end of April.
As of yesterday1, Drawing Down the Moon is officially available as a Kindle Book.
And now, my good, dear friends (yeah, you know… here it comes) I’m begging you – literally (not figuratively – see photo below) on bended knee – to post your review of the book on Amazon. Because we all know that the two things books live and die on in this modern age are reviews and word of mouth. Put ’em both together, and they spell buzz.
Now here’s the trick: it needs to be an honest review. Because if you write something like It’s a wondermous book and I gave it five stars because I can’t give it ten and I’d probably give it a hundred stars if I’d actually bothered to read it, but just owning it cleared up my hemorrhoids and doubled the value of my stock portfolio, Amazon is going to catch on. So will the readers.
So flex your fingers and fire up those keyboards. Please?
(If you can throw in some word of mouth, too, that would be great.)
Once more, a huge thanks to you all of you who helped choose this book. I appreciate your faith in the project and your participation.
And yes, a paper version is forthcoming. I’m shooting for sometime in April.
1 St. Paddy’s day is an important date for me. On April 17, 1986, I went to my mailbox in Gillette, Wyoming and pulled out a short note from Del Rey Books asking me to call. When I did, I was told they wanted to buy my novel Amendment XXXI, which in the editorial process was renamed A Death of Honor.
I just received notice that Drawing Down the Moon is now available for Pre-Order. If you voted for it during the Kindle Scout campaign, you should have an invitation to claim your free copy in your email.
The official release date is March 17th, which is ultra cool for me: It was March 17th, 1986 when I got a note from Del Rey books letting me know that I’d sold them my first novel.
If you voted for DDtM, the important thing to do now is to claim your copy, read it and leave an honest review on Amazon – the higher the number of reviews, the better.
And to everyone involved… tell a friend!
Again, thanks to everyone who voted to make this happen! It’s been a really cool experience having you all in this with me!
We’re down to the last two days of nominating Drawing Down the Moon through the Kindle Scout program. If you’re the kind of person who likes to do things at the last minute… the last minute is here!
If you’re sitting on the fence about nominating Drawing Down the Moon for the Kindle Scout program, here’s a video of yours truly reading an excerpt from Chapter 6 – a bit I call the Doughnut Shop Scene. You can also read the first 5,000 words of the novel at the link above.
Enjoy! And don’t forget, there are just a few more days remaining to recommend Drawing Down the Moon. So Click, Vote, and Share!
CANTON, OH – To help raise awareness of Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15) and National Police Week (May 12-16), author Joe Clifford Faust is giving away copies of his dark-humored police novel, The Mushroom Shift through the Amazon Kindle and Goodreads.com. Between May 12th and 16th, Amazon Kindle owners may download a free copy directly through their device or order it through the Amazon.com website. In addition, 10 autographed copies of the trade paperback version of the book will be given away through Goodreads.com. A Goodreads account is required to sign up for the drawing.
“This novel is based on things I saw during 4 1/2 years of working as a Sheriff’s dispatcher,” Faust said. “I saw quite a bit during my time there, from the hilarious to the utterly terrifying, including the loss of officers. Nothing I can do can make up for the sacrifice these men make, but I hope that this effort makes people more aware of the importance of May 15th.”
The Mushroom Shift tells the story of Clarence Raymond Monmouth, a deputy in a small town in Wyoming, who is finishing his third year on the despised Mushroom Shift – midnight to eight a.m. – in the final weeks of 1985. As the year draws to a close, Monmouth comes to realize that the county’s aging Sheriff will soon be succeeded by the political enemy who marooned him on that shift. Survival mode kicks in and he begins to consider his options, interrupted by his crumbling marriage, his drinking, and the never-ending parade of drunk drivers, family fights and perverts that make up small town police work.
The novel is a snapshot of a different world that is not that far in the past, in a time before political correctness. Its theme of men struggling to hang on to their jobs is universal.
Joe Clifford Faust was born in North Dakota, raised in Alberta and Wyoming, went to college in Oklahoma, and now lives in Ohio. He has been married for more than thirty years, has two adult children, and has worked at a local advertising agency since 1997. Besides The Mushroom Shift, he is also reissuing his critically acclaimed science fiction novels under his own imprint, Thief Media.
Faust may be contacted at thiefmedia at gmail dot com for interviews and guest blog posts, and is available to speak to writer’s groups or other organizations live or via Skype.