David Cole and Jack Everett’s The Back of Beyond is fantastic summer reading that captures some of the magic that so many of us love from the Cadfael Chronicles, but is unique enough that it is not a mere imitator in either style or content.
I suppose that any Medieval mystery will inevitably be compared to the Cadfael novels, but The Back of Beyond is its own novel too. Set in 13th century France , it follows Abbot Rutifius and his acolyte William in a murder mystery in St. Guilhem. Rutifius is there to make an accounting of the church to make sure that the money is being collected well and spent wisely, and to be sure that the abbots are not stealing anything, but he quickly finds that there is more going on than just money problems. People are dying.
So if you’re a fan of Cadfael, you’ll want to know just how close to those novels it is. There is the obvious difference as to place. This is France, but of course, it is also set in a religious setting, and that lends a good deal of commonality. More importantly, Cadfael always had a sense of the larger political realities of the day. Rutifius does not and doesn’t seem terribly interested in the wider world. He is interested in doing a good job for the church, in mathematics and in his food.
The style is different as well. There was a denseness to the language in the Cadfael Chronicles that is not here. This is a much lighter read. I don’t want that to sound as though I’m being dismissive. I am not. I enjoyed the charm and literary qualities of The Back of Beyond.
The one difference that I particularly enjoyed was the humanness of each character. No one was without major flaws and short comings especially our protagonists. These are real human beings who are making mistakes in their lives and often missing obvious clues around them. This is especially true of the abbot, whose flaws paralleled some of my own flaws, and as I was shaking my head at him, I was shaking my head at myself as well.
And that’s what a good book will do for you so often. Holden Caufield famously says in Catcher in the Rye that he likes a book if he feels that the writer is a good person, and he wants to talk to that writer.
There’s that sense all the way through this book. The writers are people who understand and like humanity, and they are likeable people. Anyway, I recommend the novel if you’re up for an interesting look at one of the sub-cultures of the 13th Century.
In any case, this is a blog about small press promotion, and I was interested in what the authors did to promote their novel. I emailed Jack Everett and asked him a couple of questions.
Question One: What have you done to promote your work?
We have a story in 4 episodes running on http://criminalties.blogspot.com that directly relates to the book and right next to it is the link to buy. I also constantly tweet to more than 1600 followers about the book as well as talking and plugging it on FB. There aren't enough hours in the day to do any more. I have tried to get signings, forums and readings but we are in a double dip recession over here and no one is buying anything.
Question Two: What surprised you the most about small press promotion?
My only surprise is the volume of competition out there it seems that everyone and his brother has written a book. However I am always open to suggestions and I have a certain following for my thrillers in Florida, maybe I can tempt them to try a medieval mystery for once.
Now for the giveaway!!
I think what I like best about what he’s doing is the 4 episodes. I like giveaways, and I’m going to emulate him to some degree.
Here’s what Mr. Everett has inspired me to do:
I’m going to be giving away two different chapbooks. Since I’m a poet and a writer, one will be poetry and the other is a short story. These are new collections and a new story unavailable in this form anywhere but my blog (okay, so they’ve been published in magazines, but never collected like this). Anyone who joins my blog as a follower will get his or her choice of the limited edition chapbook, and anyone who joins and convinces someone else to join will get both of them! Follow my blog! Get a rare chapbook!
Here's how to do it:
1. Become a follower, and convince others to do so.
2. Email me with your address to let me know you've done that. firstname.lastname@example.org