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The bestselling author of the Richard Jury novels delivers a razor sharp and raucously funny send up of the cutthroat world of publishing And the praise is pouring inA hilarious and wicked caper adventure on the evils of the book business—Pittsburgh Post GazetteDoes laughing uncontrollably on a subway train constitute legitimate literary criticism? If it does then Foul Mattergets a great review from me —New York Times Book ReviewShe can kick literary butt—in ways than one —USA Today


10 thoughts on “Foul Matter

  1. says:

    Written in 2003 “Foul Matter” is Martha Grimes’ satire of the contemporary publishing industry or should I write “world” since it seemed to be spinning in its own orbit perhaps driven by her own personal experience “dropped” by a publishing house For all of us who love to read who breathe easily in bookstores and libraries who have shelves or piles of unread books waiting at home who can’t wait for the next book by a favorite author and marvel at the number of new talented writers we think about all that is written in the book in hand not how it got there Grimes relentlessly leads us on that very path revealing the mine fields the egos and the whimsy of publishing We uickly discover that “debut novel” is a pejorative “the list” is a lofty goal and what the siren song of publication means for a writerThe cast of characters draw strong emotions While some are bright committed to literature collaborative and compassionate others are self absorbed ruthless with or without talent The plot reveals the competition with other publishing houses the jealousies courted among the competitions all the jockeying for advantage and how far a publisher would go to sign an author In an early chapter of the novel hit men Karl and Candy observe “what a shitty business you guys are in””It’s like another world in here and it ain’t ours””You could waste your entire life doing this shit” Filled with irony and humor Grimes’ masterful touches the hit men need to “know their mark” before fulfilling their contract Thus one reads the antagonist’s novel “Don’t Go There” and the other reads “Solace” the novel the “mark” has written philosophically discussing each throughout the novelThe plot involves moves and countermoves and a side trip to Pittsburgh “the city that had reinvented itself” for the entire group that are unpredictable and sometimes parallel the books in progress that several authors are struggling to resolve Chapters are given over to this the relationship between the author and character adding substance to the novel “What Ned remembered of his childhood was not love but solace for the lack of it and solace had come in many forms””He had wanted to see how far she’d go and so he’d cut her looseand she didn’t even move””You can feel nostalgia about a time or place you’ve never been to attaching a feeling to somewhere that wasn’t even the source of it That’s what I’m writing about”In addition to the great friendship between Karl and Candy there are others including Ned Saul and Sally hanging out at Swill’s where everyone is writing a book and eating dinner at the exclusive but no one seems to know the basis of who gets accepted or not “Old Hotel” The dynamic and dialogue among this group will remind readers of the relationship between Richard Jury and Melrose Plant the aristocrat from Long Piddleton who assists Jury in solving mysteries from Grimes’ previous novels In the end the bad guys lose many life lessons are learned and the good prevail The reader may be disillusioned about publishing discovering how bad a publisher could be but hopefully and importantly “how good a writer can be”


  2. says:

    Most boring book I have ever read I don't know if it's because I'm not a writer but literally not one aspect of this book kept me interested It dragged on for what felt like years and it has never taken me so long to finish a book I dreaded carrying this thing around with me just so I could get through to the end Keep in mind I have reading OCD so if I start a book I MUST finish it


  3. says:

    As a writer I enjoyed this wicked and cynical view of New York book publishing my publishers have been in Berkeley CA Indianapolis IN Nashville TN Macon GA and Renton WA respectively so we're not talking about MY publishers here Although my publishers were located elsewhere I have been involved with NY publishers who were advertisers in magazines I published or associated with me through my former membership in SFWAI thought this book was setting itself up as a black comedy but it proved to have overt comic elements than I originally expected I don't think the thriller or mystery elements are as strong here as they are in the Jury series by the same author but it was well worth reading and worth than a couple of chuckles which I cannot reveal without moving into spoiler territoryAt times the characters seemed stereotypical The book publisher as amoral consumerrepackager of intellectual property would certainly not have been a difficult stretch for any published writer The author's editor versus the mere acuisitions editor seemed almost cliche' I've seen a little bit of both in every editor but I can't imagine too many people in the business that didn't care about the business I'm not talking about some of the weasels in marketing and sales however And one of the many gangsters who populate this world of publishing no surprise to anyone who has read Kenneth C Davis' Two Bit Culture The Paperbacking of America seems to be a ruthless descendant of some Damon Runyon story crossbred with Mario PuzoFortunately there is a team of hit men in the book where both may be drawn with rather bold strokes than you'd expect but they are both amusing and interesting Even better as the book progressed I put aside my initial skepticism and enjoyed the rideI thought the denouement was marvelous though portions were telegraphed ahead faster than the wire scam in The Sting Even though that was the case though I truly believe Foul Matter was worth the trip I was glad to get to know the characters even though they weren't uite as real or endearing as those in the Jury series


  4. says:

    I understand the need to expand your repitoire as an author but I was extremely dissapointed with thsi book It was dark slow and boring One of the things I like most about Martha Grimes' books are her well thought out interesting assortment of characters but I felt this book had none of that


  5. says:

    The back of the book promises an evil minded satire of the venal not to say murderous practices of the New York publishing industry That seemed just the thing for a gloomy rainy end of the weekend It will be interesting to see what I think of this book by Grimes The last one I tried that did not feature Richard Jury The End of the Pier left me sadly disappointed I much preferred her treatment of England to that particular American foray Starting with an open mindPart IFoul Matter is turning out to be uite different from Martha Grimes' other books I see the humor and satirebut what I'm really tuning into is the focus on the past Ned Isaly one of the primary characters seems to me to be almost obsessed with the idea In one scene he is contemplating the past and thinks The past there was hardly anything it wasn't or couldn't be It could aim straight as an arrow or walk like a drunken lout cavort dissemble deceive seduce anything to be let in And later when he is visiting his friend who has a legacy of several generations living in one house they contemplate the portraits of the ancestors gazing down on them and Saul his friend decides that Ned has cracked the code of the past But in truth so far neither of them have done so One lives with the past and one dwells on the past but neither have come to the understanding they seekPart IIWhile this is indeed a funny book and a terrific send up of the publishing industry I'm still caught up in what I found to be a running theme the past Ned and Saul both spend a lot of time thinking about this subject Saul says about himself I live in a houseful of artifacts It's drenched in the past I never change anything beyond turning a desk around so that it faces a window I want it to stay the same Ned feels like he's lost the past in part because he lost his parents when he was young He wished he hadn't been so careless of the pastHis parents had died within a year of each other and he was orphaned Everyone made sure he was aware of this particular disgrace as if he'd been careless with his parents as well as with the past and now look what had happened Grimes makes some very good observations about how the past can haunt us or envelop us or even weigh us downI do wish she had brought it to some kind of closure in the final chapters though She seemed to abandon the themeperhaps losing it like Ned lost his parentsFunny The scenes on the streets of Pittsburgh alone are worth it But I was also taken with her running theme on the past Didn't make as much of it as she could havebut she made some very good observationsThese observations were originally published on my blog click above Please reuest permission before reposting thanks


  6. says:

    Well I read and I read and I read This book about the down dirty of the book publishing business should have been captivating Paul Giverny a popular sought after headline and money making author chooses a low on the totem pole publisher for his next book with the caveat that the company drop one of its serious intellectual but non selling authors Ned Isaly and designate Isaly's editor to Giverny In order to fulfill Giverny's reuest the company's head orders Clive ??? to look up one of their former authors a mafia informant and have him find someone to do away with Isaly After two days of wading through I just didn't care any I flipped past 34 of the book easily picked up the story line for a couple of pages then to the end to discover that Giverny made the reuest in order to see just how far a publishing company would go to get a best selling author albeit with no idea that it would be that far Maybe an interesing plot but the reading was entirely too dull


  7. says:

    The shadows were turning into night She tried to see her future; it was full of blank pages They fluttered away like the pages of a calendar in a film dated buy emptyThink not because I wonder where you fled That I would lift a pin to see you there; You may for me be prowling anywhere So long as you show not your little head No dark and evil story of the dead Would leave you less pernicious or less fair— Not even Lilith with her famous hair; And Lilith was the devil I have read I cannot hate you for I loved you then The woods were golden then There was a road Through beeches; and I said their smooth feet showed Like yours Truth must have heard me from afar For I shall never have to learn again That yours are cloven as no beech’s are Another Dark Lady Edwin Arlington Robinson


  8. says:

    What a pleasant surprise I bought this book expecting another Richard Jury police procedural It must have sat on my to read shelf for 10 years When it finally made it to the top of the pile I was disappointed to discover a story about the New York publishing biz But before long I found myself in the middle of a Keystone Cops comedy about a clueless author being pursued by a couple hilarious hit men a wanna be girlfriend a strikingly gorgeous detective a hit man hired to hit the hit men another author and a bungling editor They all collide in a moment to die for though nobody dies I'll admit it spends a little time on internal monologues than I would like though some of that is the point of the book to make fun of authors stuck in people's heads And the ending leaves a few threads dangling But I sure had fun reading it


  9. says:

    uite a let down This book was mentioned in the NYTimes Book Review's mystery column as excellent satire on the publishing industry To me it did not even come close to that mark It probably was a lot fun for Grimes to write than it was for me to readThe plot is silly without being funny and the characters are caricatures without much appeal The writing is far below the level Grimes maintains in the Richard Jury series This book does not even make it to the engaging beach reading category for me though it is indeed a fast read The book's most redeeming uality is pretty cool typography and book design and an eye friendly text ualityA much effective satire on publishing is Publish and Be Murdered by Ruth Dudley Edwards by the way


  10. says:

    Yeah I'm giving up on this one too It's been sitting on my bedside table for weeks and recently my wife pointed out that the bookmark is still somewhere within the first 30 pages or so Apparently the only books I can finish lately are tiny ones on pop music 130 pages or fewer if possibleOne of my issues with this book is the same that I had with the movie State Main it's a bit too insiderish for me I assume that if you're a writer or want to be a writer you might find this skewering of the NY publishing world to be simply delicious or something But otherwise it might seem a little boring Meh