Today Tony’s having a rant about those little fibs we all tell ourselves. Just human nature? Or is it human deception? “I am an author who writes crime novels (featuring DCI Sarah Rudd) and novellas. I saw my sister recently and asked if she had read my latest publication: “No,” she said, “I prefer to read literature.” A pal in London emailed me last week. “Tone,” he said, “I’m pleased I have nearly finished reading your book.” I read one of my favourite authors, Jeffery Archer, and wrote to tell him how much I enjoyed his book. I asked if he would be willing to read my book. He wrote back. “No,” he said. One of my backers asked for a box of ‘The Deal’: my second DCI Sarah Rudd novel. “You’re selling well in the local charity shop,” he added.
I did several book signings at Waterstones. The strict rule is that you must not promote your book. The trick I used was to sidle up to the unsuspecting customer as ask if they had found something to interest them. One Saturday, I sold three Victoria Hislop books before I managed to palm off one of mine. Once, in Hemel Hempstead, after an hour of isolation, I was so desperate I went outside and paid two teenagers to come in and buy my book. An author’s life blood is Amazon reviews. My latest novella, ‘The Man Who Hated’ has twenty-two reviews. It is staggering how you can learn as much about the personality of the writer as you can their verdict on your book. Being hopelessly immodest, I love five-star reviews albeit the best I’ve ever had was a three-star summary. This was because the writer told me what to do to get five stars. I thought that was impressive.
Little White Lies?
Authors often receive manuscripts from aspiring writers with a request for an opinion. It’s quite flattering, really. I was talking to a class in Milton Keynes library and this woman approached me and shoved a package at me. She helped her case by telling me how interesting I had been. She was a farmer from Chesham. I read all 80,000 words of her book. It was dire. There was nothing good about it except she had completed it and I liked the bad guy dying in a fire. I wrote back with a series of untruths: how much I had enjoyed it and perhaps some work on her characters might help. A year later she wrote to me to say how my review had changed her life and she had just landed a publishing contract. A publisher said to me that many people have a book inside them and, in most cases, that was the best place for it.
It’s summer time and lists of holiday reads are everywhere. There is choice. If you go into Waterstones, Piccadilly, there are 200,000 books on display. The window displays are paid for by one of the big four publishers. Here is my holiday read list: just one title. It can change your life. ‘Be Fit! or be Damned!’ by Percy Cerutty (1967).
Who is Percy Cerruty?
The author was an Australian civil servant who, at the age of 43, had a nervous breakdown. He set up a health camp at Portsea on the Queensland coast and spent the rest of his life trying to achieve a perfect human body. This he did by following a holistic regime of diets, punishing training schedules and mental stimulation. In the early editions of his book he wrote that he believed he would achieve a perfect death by simply fading away. He died of motor neurone disease in 1975, aged 80.
Why is ‘Be Fit! or be Damned!’ so special? The answer is because human beings lie to themselves. “I’m not over-weight, I’m just big boned.” “I’ve given up bread to lose two pounds.” “I never drink more than two glasses of wine a day.” “Nobody gets the better of me.” We’re all human and we all face similar battles in our lives. What is so special about Percy Cerutty and his writing is his extraordinary ability to cut through the fog of human deception and tell it as it is. Have a wonderful summer break and, as you open the second bottle of Prosecco and gulp down plates of cholesterol-laden shell fish, take some time out and read ‘Be Fit! or be Damned!’ Percy Cerutty changed many people’s lives – for the better.”