There’s a saying in music that the first album may be a smash, but the second will be infinitely more difficult.
I think the world of literature is the opposite. It’s the first book that’s the difficult one, and it’s the second – and the rest that follow that – that make an author someone special.
Consider Malorie Blackman. In the depths of my local uni library, I recently came across a short story collection of hers: “Not so stupid : incredible short stories“. It was obviously from the dawn of time (the cover told me that much) and a quick Google revealed that this was her first published book.
And yet, I was still a little nervous.
There’s an almost fetishistic aspect towards reading the first novel of such a well known author. You read it aware of the brilliance that she’s achieved. You read it aware of the groundbreaking(ness) of the Noughts and Crosses trilogy. You read it in the context of the author you now know.
This collection of short stories, some only a page or two long, is like a blueprint for her later work. I’d not recommend it from choice. Some of the stories are oddly shaped with regards to length and depth. There’s an awkward predilection towards having a final twist in the tale. I’d be a little uneasy about my niece (ten) reading this as she’s too young for some of the more graphic elements.
I would recommend this to those who are genuinely interested in viewing an authors early work. Very few people are brilliant first time out. It takes time to get established and comfortable in their voice. JK Rowling’s a prime example of this – compare the naivety of the Philosopher’s Stone with the wide-ranging depth of some of the later novels.
Blackman is a cracking author. Not So Stupid has a palpable sense of her finding her feet with the medium.
Thank God she did.