How I became a famous novelist

Well, I haven’t yet. But just you wait, one day, my name will be in the lights and you can all say, I knew her when *insert embarrassing moment*

How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely

One beery day, Pete Tarslaw watches his favorite TV journalist, hot Tinsley Honig, interview best-selling novelist Preston Brooks, the overly acclaimed author most recently of “Kindness to Birds.” (I laugh even as I type that.) It isn’t so much the man himself who captures Pete’s attention as his audience, the “young women in little sweaters and tight jeans, pliant and needy” who react to lines such as “slowly her fingers, rich in texture as a knitted throw rug, fitted into Gabriel’s palm, stained by motor oil and bacon grease.”

Writing a novel used to be considered an art form. Those who practised the craft laboured over each and every word they penned to paper and if a word didn’t fit within the tedium of a sentence, heaven forbid its presence remained to pollute the pristine meanings of the work. Pete Tarslaw has no such qualms. He sets out to write a book with two clear goals in mind:

a) Humiliate the ex-girlfriend at her wedding to a bushwacked (his imagination) Australian and

b) Make enough money to own a house on the water and generate enough fame that a respectable university hires him to teach young impressionable, and highly beddable women.

Pete figures he too, could construct some “intricate latticework of literary sewage.” And sets about analysing the sections of his local bookshop to see what sells. Armed with the idea that each of the popular components mixed together could form the next bestseller, The Tornado Ashes Club is born. Crime, mystery, runaways, blondes, Indigenous representations, steely grandmothers, lonesome heroes and a mission form the crux of his story – which goes onto be published.

For Steve Hely, nothing is off limits and everyone is fair game: critics, Hollywood, MFA programs, students, literary journals, panels, conferences and resulting hook-ups. The satire is well-formed, the humour biting and the Pete Tarslaw arrogantly lovable enough that you want to read on.

4 stars


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