Charlon Drane is the eldest son of Garrat and Taffetia Drane. This often comes as a surprise to those writers and poets who consider that his arrival in this world was due to him being summoned, like a particularly necrose demon. Indeed I have heard some speculate, in all seriousness, as to whether he was born or spawned. Various unlikely and undoubtedly blasphemous unions have also been suggested.
Yes I have it on excellent authority that as a child he had a remarkably open and sunny disposition. Indeed those who knew him then always stress how he was such a joy to be with. A happy laughing little boy, utterly devoid of cynicism or malice who, even into his late teens, seemed determined to see the best in people.
Thanks to the excellent education given to him by his mother, he loved nothing better than reading and could always be found with his nose in a book. Indeed if he ever went missing, his mother always knew where to find him. He’d be sitting in a quiet corner of Alen Gaetz Books, his nose stuck in some dusty second hand volume.
Thus when they were looking for somebody to edit the Port Naain Literary Review he wasn’t an entirely remarkable choice. Yes, at the time he was a usurer’s clerk and only in his mid twenties but still when the editorial board interviewed him they were won over by his natural charm and his obvious love of books.
To be fair he was, and is, an excellent editor. His knowledge of the field
is encyclopaedic; his own prose is crisp, clear and lucid. He sets a very
high standard for his contributors. Unfortunately, to put it bluntly, when he entered upon his new profession, he was an innocent abroad. There he was, a commissioning editor with a budget out of which to pay contributors.
Writers clustered around him like rakes around the drunken chorus girl at the society wedding! Had they merely approached him soberly, he could have coped. A nicely written proposal would have elicited from him a sober letter of acceptance, or alternatively a polite refusal. Instead he had writers of all genres and genders offering him sexual favours! He had poets standing in the street outside his bedroom window bellowing out their verses in the middle of the night.
He dined at one restaurant, (which I will not name, the proprietor is
entirely guiltless in this matter) where the waiter, instead of a menu,
proffered Charlon a selection of his verses. He tried to relax in the
Goldclaw Baths, only to discover a poet was frantically scribbling lines
from his latest poem, on the tiled wall in wax crayon. On one occasion he took a sedan chair and discovered he’d been hijacked. The bearers locked the doors from outside and he was forced to listen to a novelist read large excerpts from his three volume novel.
Then there was the issue of unsolicited submissions. Initially he made it his rule to actually ready them. He felt that if the Port Naain Literary Review was to live up to it’s name, it ought to review things.
So, on his first day in the office, he sat down next to the pile of manuscripts, picked up the first one and commenced to read. Forty minutes later, his head swimming, he put the manuscript down. The author seemed to have written it using a system of spelling and punctuation known only to herself. He wrote a brief note, suggesting that the author find some kind friend to help her in this area and had it sent back to the return address on the envelope.
The next manuscript was easier to read, but that was perhaps a disadvantage. The writer had presented their diary for publication. In some cases this is an excellent idea. More than one lady has discovered the truth of the old saying, ‘keep a diary and one day your diary will keep you.’ Yet this presupposes that the keeper of the diary has actually done something worth hronicling. In the case of this writer, the highlight of one week was a successful bowel movement. This was sent back with a brief note saying that the editor felt that Port Naain was not ready for such dissipated excitement.
He worked steadily through the day, sending perhaps a dozen manuscripts back to their proud authors. That night he retired to bed feeling that in some small way he might have done something to improve the standard of literature in Port Naain. Whilst not rendered smug by this observation, he did at least allow himself a warm glow of self-satisfaction.
Next morning he was besieged by the writers whose work he had critiqued the previous day. Each wanted to debate his comments in detail, in some cases with a stout cudgel in hand. Charlon was forced to leave his office by window that opened out into a little used alley way.
In retrospect this may have been the last straw. Next day he instructed one of his clerks to place all unsolicited manuscripts into the coal scuttle. These he would toss onto the fire whenever the room started feeling chill. By taking this simple step he felt he’d improved the standard of literature in Port Naain immensely.
Then there were the published works to be reviewed. To be fair, some work published in Port Naain is published by a publisher who spots a book that will sell and invests their money in it. On the other hand far too much work is published by the author, or by a moneyed friend over whom the writer has too much influence. This second category can include some excellent work. My own Lambent Dreams falls into this category. On the other hand it includes an awful lot of dross. Charlon picked up his pen and reviewed them all. He held nothing back. His reviews were the work of a man who had been seen the future and who knew it was likely to be far worse than the present, unless he took a stand.
I still treasure that issue of the Port Naain Literary Review. He reviewed over two hundred books in a single issue, a feat that was never attempted before and has never been attempted since. Many reviews are but a single line. Of Bossop’s ‘Poems inspired by toothache’ he wrote, ‘Too many words, few of them good.’ Muntal Vergwil’s ‘Collected musings’ produced the comment, ‘I lost the will to live.’
Then in response to the three volumes of Madame Glorwan’s ‘A life well lived,’ he wrote, “This book was recommended to me by somebody I thought I could trust.” Mind you, these got away lightly. Lancet Foredeck submitted a monograph on the meaning of literature in the modern word. Charlon merely commented, “A village somewhere appears to have misplaced its idiot.”
My own Lambent Dreams was described as, “A gratifyingly slim volume.” I confess that in the circumstances this seemed almost like praise. From that day onwards Charlon has remained sternly acerbic. Anybody attempting to enter his office without an appointment is summarily ejected by two of the largest and most muscular clerks I’ve ever met. It has to be said, whilst he is not loved, it is generally agreed that he has done wonders to his magazine’s circulation. Whatever the quality of the books reviewed, the standard of insult remains gratifyingly high.
And now the hard sell!
OK so perhaps the not so hard sell. It’s just that this is part of a blog
tour which is peering into the lives of Garrat Drane, and his lady wife
Taffetia Drane. Now we are meeting their various offspring, delightful
people and pillars of the community. Or perhaps not.
But still now is your chance to meet them and inadvertently you may discover their importance to our hero, Tallis Steelyard. Tallis has his own blog at https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com/
But actually the purpose of this blog is to draw your attention to the fact that a new book has been published. ‘Tallis Steelyard: Six men in a boat.’
Rather than a collection of his anecdotes, this is indeed an ‘adventure’ as Tallis ventures forth from the city of Port Naain. Questions are asked that may even be answered, why is Tallis ‘run out of town’ by hired ruffians? Why does a very sensible young woman want his company when plunging into unknown danger? Who or what was buried in the catacombs? And why has there been so much interest in making sure they stay dead? Also featuring flower arranging, life on the river, and a mule of notable erudition.
Treat yourself; you know you’re worth it!