Last July, the very first sentence I wrote for my very first blog post read:
Let me begin…
… by saying this is all the fault of a man I’ve never met.
That man is Chris McVeigh, founding father of Fahrenheit.
As it’s the start of #Fahrenburay today, I wanted to share a few thoughts on what Fahrenheit means to me as a reader and blogger. Hopefully what follows gives some sort of explanation as to why I would be willing to go to this seemingly insane effort to get involved in a month of activity promoting an organisation I have no financial stake in, and for free. We aren’t being paid for any of this, I want to make that clear up front. It would be against my ethics as a blogger (see No Free Ride), and is really not the point. This is a publisher that deserves to succeed and if I can help that in some small way then I will.
When I launched my blog, it was Chris and Fahrenheit who had my back. Fahrenheit and their authors continue to have my back. That will become clear as #Fahrenbruary unfolds over the next four weeks. The support we’ve had in organising this is unprecedented in my view. As well as reviews of Fahrenheit books from many bloggers, we have Q&As, exclusive content, giveaways all with the full support of a publisher who refuses to play by the accepted norms. There is an intense sense of loyalty between publisher, author and reader. Quite simply I trust Fahrenheit. I will buy a book if they publish it, their attitude, their openness, the simply genuine way in which they approach publishing gives me an implicit guarantee that the book is going to be awesome. Chris won’t publish a book he doesn’t personally love, I trust his taste level in noir. Completely.
I have been following Fahrenheit since early on, but it was the re-launch of the website and their step change in how they do business last February (no, this wasn’t planned as an anniversary!) when I really got on board. I’ve never encountered a publisher that looks to its fans the way Fahrenheit does. In fact, I’m not sure many publishers can claim to have fans. Chris leads from the front on this, and Fahrenheit authors take their cues from him. So many small interactions that make the difference as a reader, whether that be Christmas / New Year messages of thanks that are genuinely touching, an autographed book plate shipped across the Atlantic to go in the front of a gorgeous hardback, a T-Shirt made cos a fan asked for it (I asked for the Pride colours, that’s not the only shirt made on request though by any stretch – if there’s something you want – just ask, you never know). I think the number of bloggers getting involved in this month is testament to the community spirit that has evolved around Fahrenheit.
Fahrenheit is often used to mean both Fahrenheit and Fahrenheit 13 when I write, I use the term to cover both that’s how closely linked they are in my head. In all honesty though that’s probably not doing justice to the work of Chris Black who runs the F13 imprint. Dedicated to publishing the darkest and most unusual of noir, usually on the 13th of the month, F13 have a particular focus (though not exclusively) on the novella form. Often overlooked in my view, I speak a little about that in my review for Aidan Thorn’s When The Music Ends.
Which brings me on to the books. So many books. Which is actually how #Fahrenbruary started, a mini reading challenge set by Mart over at The Beardy Blog, to catch up the Fahrenheit section of our collective TBR pile. It’s a diverse collection, by almost every definition of that word. All are welcome, and the stories that find a home are almost always of the ilk that simply wouldn’t get a publisher otherwise. Mainstream publishers are too risk averse to give some of these tales a shot.
Stories ranging from brutal classic American pulp noir (When You Run with Wolves by Robert White), to Brit noir set around the country, not afraid to step outside of the London setting so familiar of noir readers (Vinyl Junkie by Tony Cox, When The Music Ends by Aidan Thorn, Black Moss by David Nolan, Kill me Quick by Paul D Brazil). Then there is the genre mash up of The Tranquillity Trilogy by Linden Chase, a pseudonym for a very popular crime writer, a thrilling blend of crime, sci-fi, drama and outright horror. With a cliffhang at the end of book two that has been executed with incredible skill. I can not wait to get my hands on book three. I have my suspicions as to who Linden Chase really is, but I’ll keep my mouth shut on that one. Their experience and skill shines through in the writing though, highly recommended. I’ll get a review up of the whole trilogy once we have book three available. I couldn’t move on before mentioning Sam Batford and Doc Slidesmith. Batford, created by Ian Patrick, is a corrupt cop with rather dubious morals, but whom you can never really see as a bad guy. As in real life, there are far more shades of grey than simple good guy vs bad guy to Ian’s stories. We have two available, with a third on its way. Doc Slidesmith is a motorcycle driving, tattoo covered voodoo practitioner. An at times intensely difficult man, but also loyal to a fault. Slidesmith makes for compelling reading. He is a great character and Needle Song is an assured debut by Russel Day, a writer who came to the attention of Fahrenheit through their Noirville short story competition. I’m looking forward to reading more stories with the Doc in the not too distant future. There are so many wonderful books and writers, plenty of whom I haven’t discovered yet.
Long standing Fahrenistas might have noticed that there are two writers and their series I haven’t mentioned yet. If you’re new here, first of all welcome, secondly – these two series are the very definition of Fahrenheit for me. If you are reading this thinking that you would like to get involved but don’t know where to start, this is your answer. Charlie and Rose by Jo Perry and Danny Bird by Derek Farrell.
“You need to tone down the camp” is an actual piece of feedback that the incomparable Derek Farrell received when pitching Death of a Diva, the first Danny Bird novel. “Oh do fuck right off” is my response to that. I love spotting the musical theatre references that litter the books, I love the description of a persons voice that utilises Cher’s vocoder from Believe. I love the glam best friend. I could go on… (and I did, for about 1400 words, that piece is here). One of my closest friends (we’ve been friends from being eleven years old, I was best man at his wedding, he’s speaking at mine in November) always gets books from me at Christmas, it’s become a bit of a tradition now. This year he had a specific request for the first time, he wanted books that helped him better understand LGBT history and our community, inspired by some of the events that marked the 50th anniversary of decriminalisation in the UK and documentaries he saw around that. He got two non-fiction books, and Death of a Diva. To paraphrase the great sage Tim Gun, Death of a Diva was a ‘make it work’ moment. It worked. And Fahrenheit gave that story a home. A voice. When other publishers thought it was ‘too gay’ to be a success, Chris recognised a great character and his writer and gave it a shot. To me, that is incredibly powerful.
Then there is Charlie and Rose. Jo Perry’s wonderful creation is so off the wall weird in many ways that I can’t think of a publisher and author better suited to each other. Both character’s are dead, one of them, Rose, is a dog and so doesn’t speak. Charlie can’t communicate with those alive, so we have two leads who can’t speak to each other or to any other character in the novels. Yet their relationship is deep and at times moving, and the stories they get involved in are fascinating, beautifully told morality tales. Starting with Dead is Better, Jo has built a series with a huge heart, challenging pre-conceptions and championing underdogs and those forgotten, spurned or misunderstood by society at large. Chapters are short and snappy, sometimes as short as a paragraph, this approach lends itself to the typically clipped style of classic noir. The kinds of sentences that the likes of James M Cain and Mickey Spillane made their names on, no words wasted but your imagination fills in the gaps.
I guess what I’m trying to say through all of this is that I believe a good story will stand on its own two feet, a great novel will find its audience if we give it a chance to live. Fahrenheit have given so many that chance and that’s why I love them. That is what we will be celebrating throughout #Fahrenbruary, join us for the ride, its going to be fun.
PS: I can now spell Fahrenheit without the need of a spell checker!
All the books I talk about in this post are available direct from Fahrenheit.