Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Dead Sea Hotel

I've gone and done the book thing again.

I finished my fifth serious novel, Birdkill, in February 2016 and that was lovely. I messed around for a while doing nothing in particular and then around May or June I started playing with a scheme that had first occurred to me back in November 2014, when I was in Cairo for a conference on the future of publishing, which took place at the Townhouse Cairo. The Goethe Institut was kind enough to fund my trip and stay and they put me up at the Windsor Hotel. To call this a fascinating place was to completely understate things. It hadn't been touched since the British had left, back when it was used as the officer's club. It was a gift, really.

Krikor Manoukian is the proprietor of the run-down Dead Sea Hotel. His beloved wife Lucine is dead, his daughter Araksi is in love and Manoukian is in debt up to his eyeballs. The last thing he needs is a dead Englishman but that’s just what he’s got. Worse, the man turns out to have been a spy who has left a valise in the hotel safe. When guests start arriving and Manoukian’s hotel fills up for the first time in years, he’s delighted: less so when they all embark on a murderous hunt for the valise. And then the devil checks in...

The idea of an Armenian running a hotel just as insanely old fashioned and decrepit as the Windsor but set in Amman, Jordan struck me as rather fun, but about 10,000 words in I stopped and put it away. I just wasn't enjoying it anymore and I had many better things to do. Two years later, I blew the cobwebs off it and started work on it again. I wasn't sure if it was genius or nuts, which is always a good sign. I sent off the first scrap to writer pals Annabel and Rachel. What did they think? They liked it. So I set to and got stuck back in. That was at the start of Ramadan. Now it's Eid, four weeks later, and I'm done. The story took over my life, the characters refused to lie down and be quiet, I was caught in manic bouts of writing; I thought about nothing else. My waking moments were little revelations, a new scene here, a quirk there.

And now it's all edited. 75,000 words of gibbering insanity and a foray into magical realism, a change of direction which you would probably understand if you had read Birdkill. I am very happy indeed with the end result which almost certainly means it's unreadable, unsaleable and unlovable. Remember, I'm the bloke that thought Space (First Amazon review: 'this book is not funny') was funny.

It's with beta readers. It's going to a few agents. And then, as usual, it'll get self published.


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