Friday, July 5, 2019
The Strange Life And Death Of Geoffrey Webb
It's an odd thing, writing a book. You work on it in solitude--in private, almost in secret--and then it's published and it belongs to the world. And by "the world" I mean "the people who read it." And then it has a life of its own. And sometimes that life comes to an end.
Back in January 2012, I published my first novel, HELL ON CHURCH STREET. It was a dark-as-sin novel about a corrupt Arkansas youth minster named Geoffrey Webb, a predator and a killer. The publication of the book was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. It was released by a small publisher, but the people who found it and got where it was coming from really loved it. One of my heroes, Jason Starr, called it "An instant classic." The Los Angeles Review of Books gave me a nice write up and compared me to Jim Thompson. I got a lot of nice emails from hardcore noir geeks. It was dope as hell.
Then something beautiful happened that I never could have expected. A French publisher found the book and loved it. He published it, and the book suddenly had a whole other life. It sold exponentially better in French than it ever had in English, and I got to go to France and tour. The book got great reviews there, and I won a big award. The success of HELL ON CHURCH STREET there set me up for even more great things to come: three more books released in French, another big award for my novel NO TOMORROW, and a translation of CHURCH STREET into Italian. I've been to France on five different book tours. This year the biggest French newspaper referred to me as "le grand Jake Hinkson." I just got back from my most recent tour two days ago. I was there for a month. It was an exhaustingly awesome experience. And I trace all of it back to the initial 2012 publication of HELL ON CHURCH STREET. Geoffrey Webb, that evil prick, has been damn good to me.
But Webb's days may have run out on him in America. HELL ON CHURCH STREET has been out of print for a couple of years in English. It's long story, but at present it looks like the book is too stiff of a drink for the American market. Unsympathetic characters and all that.
But listen, this post isn't about why HELL ON CHURCH STREET isn't going to be coming back into print here anytime soon. That's just the way it goes. It's even kind of funny, and almost kind of fitting, in a way. It's as if Geoffrey Webb escaped from his crimes in Arkansas and made his way to Europe, where he's living the good life.
I'm writing this post, in part, because I get regular emails from people who want to know when they'll be able to buy a copy of the book in English. (I got one of those emails yesterday, in fact, which is what prompted me to write this post.) The answer is: I don't know. Maybe never? Or maybe Webb will be back at some point. I really don't know. All I know is, I'm at work on new shit.
And that brings me back to my initial thought at the start of this post. Writing a book is an odd thing. I just released a new book, DRY COUNTY, in France, and it will be out here in the US in October. (Check it out here!) It's the best thing I've ever written, and I'm excited to see it released by a great publisher here.
And now, of course, I'm working on something new. Spent the morning writing on it. And I'm in love with it. I can't wait for it to come out one day.
So I guess I've moved on from HELL ON CHURCH STREET. What began as a story I was telling myself in solitude became a novel that took me further than I could have imagined. I can only be happy and grateful for that.
Thanks so much, Geoffrey. Or, as I guess y'all say over there, Merci beaucoup.