If you don’t believe me, take it from a writer who’s sold a book or two.
I hate to say I told you so, but as predicted in my blog last year, COVID has created a vortex in the line of literary time.
This is hardly a tragedy — people are dying in horrific numbers every day — but where are all the stories that take place during the pandemic?
Michael Connolly of Harry Bosch fame does a thing where he drops a passing reference to a real-life news event — the Rodney King riots, for instance — to time stamp his novels. In his last book, Jack McEvoy, the reporter from the classics Blood Work and The Poet, notices people are getting sick.
That’s it — the sum total of all the COVID-related fiction. I’m not even going to mention the name of the book, on principle, it is a seriously disappointing 80,000-word advertisement for his mate’s real-life web site.
I thought there’d be dozens of Corona Virus makeovers of Outbreak by now. You know the type, brave, brilliant young hero battles evil, capitalist authorities trying to hush up the deadly disease that threatens to end civilisation. It’s a great plot. It must be. It’s been copied hundreds and hundreds of times all the way back to Day of the Triffids.
Are those books out there? I look at Amazon all the time — mostly to see if you’ve bought any more Meet Me books or Gun-Shy — I’m not finding Day of the Wuhan Wet Market.
One hundred and sixty-eight million and counting as of yesterday have contracted COVID-19, 3.5 million are dead, and tens of millions of lives have been changed forever by the lingering after-effects of a tussle with the virus. Let’s face it, no fiction could be as horrible as reality. Three thousand five hundred people died from COVID yesterday in India alone. It is truly scary how quickly we stop taking notice of numbers like that.
I’d like to think the world’s scribes are keeping Steve King and I waiting for their pandemic masterpiece out of respect.
More likely, I’m afraid, it’s because a COVID book — other than Day of the Wuhan Wet Market — is tough. Great stories are built on characters interacting — lockdowns kind of limit the possibilities. Dramatic Zoom confrontations and emails between people wearing masks are never going to cut it.
I have an idea. Please don’t tip off my mate King or any of those other money-hungry, selfish swines with big four publishing contracts. I’m going to write it pretty soon.
The next Hollins & Haring book will be a novella which gives away Gary Hollins’ backstory. The set up is that Debbie Haring’s mum catches COVID and gets locked away on a ventilator in the intensive care unit. Debbie, naturally, is distraught, and her husband Matt is isolated on a mine site, so she convinces Hollins to help her with the kids. In the course of the long, long lockdown evenings drinking Matt’s Scotch and watching Debbie go to pieces, to distract her, Hollins finally cracks and confesses his secret past.
Do you think it will work?
Do you think it will satisfy Stephen King?
It’s not even a COVID book really, is it? Deb’s mum could be run down by a car. She could have a heart attack. I’m only using the virus for opportunistic topical effect. Darn it, I’m no better than Michael Connolly — except that I’m not trying to drum up business for a website I put money into.
While you’re pondering your killer COVID synopsis — ouch, that was a bad pun, sorry — vaccine’s save lives — if you’re not worried about your own sorry butt, think of everyone else. The more of us are vaccinated, the less chance COVID can spread.
BTW I didn’t feel the needle.