Authors on characters, extra-textual sexuality, and a cavalcade of questions
Penzler conceived the project to raise money for his Mysterious Bookshop in New York, asking authors to write 5,000-word profiles of their characters, then publishing them as pamphlets that he gave away to customers who bought books at the store. He then published hardcover copies in editions of 100, had the authors sign them, and sold them for sixty dollars each. The latest is that Little, Brown in the U.S., Quercus in the U.K. and Hayakawa in Japan will publish collections of twenty profiles. These are to include Michael Connelly on Hieronymus Bosch, Laura Lippman on Tess Monaghan and Robert B. Parker on Spenser, according to Publishing News.
Without having read any of the profiles, I have mixed feelings about such a project. On the one hand, shouldn’t an author’s novels and stories say all that needs to be said about a character? (For a forceful enunciation of this viewpoint, see Dave’s Fiction Warehouse on J.K. Rowling’s revelation that Dumbledore is gay. Dumbledore is apparently a character in the Harry Potter books.) On the other, perhaps the profiles will themselves read as new works. Maybe authors will talk about how they came to create their protagonists, for instance, which could be interesting. Donald Westlake likes to tell how his comic caper series about John Dortmunder grew out of a story Westlake was trying to write about the ultra-grim Parker. Something like that would be worth reading.
So, readers, here are your questions: Are you eager to know about your characters’ biographies beyond what you read in novels and stories? Would you buy a book of such biographies? And, most important, whom would you like to read about? My candidate would be David Owen’s acerbic, eccentric Tasmanian police inspector, Franz “Pufferfish” Heineken, about whom you can learn more here (scroll down after clicking).