The Galley

I am old enough to recall actual galleys, which were long narrow strips of paper printed with  narrow columns of type so that they sort of resembled the slave-rowed ships of yore.  The stack was held together at the top by a huge metal clip, and one had plenty of space on the margins to put in corrections.  Despite the improvements in electronic transmission of texts, it seems that writers have to have at least two separate exposures to hard copy, neither of which is a galley.  There seems to be something about hard copy that concentrates the mind and enables you to find flaws that you missed in dozens of readings on the glowing screen.

I just sent back the final galleys for THE RETURN, the new thriller due out in August.   It was an odd experience because it seemed like a book written by someone else.   Not a bad book, in my opinion, whoever wrote it.   It's about Mexico, a nation from which, despite its many tragedies, our nation could learn a lot.  It's probably a good thing for us that in future so many of us will be Mexican-Americans.  Anyway, the book is about two old Vietnam war buddies who go on a trip to Mexico.   One of them is a book editor who receives a bad diagnosis and wants to revisit the place where he met his Mexican wife, lately deceased.  The other friend is an ex-special forces type presently employed as a gun-runner and general bad character.  They get involved with the cartels and thereon hangs the tale.   It's a pure thriller--explosions, car chases, bullets flying, a kidnapping, all that good stuff, in the midst of which I do my usual sneaking in of deeper meaning.

The editing of this book has been a trip, by the way.  My original editor got fired in the midst of my contract, and as regular readers here will recall, I blew a year on a non-thriller that did not make the cut.  I therefore blasted THE RETURN out in record time, but still it was an orphan at the publishers.  The editor who picked it up, who I had never met, and who never tried to make personal contact with me, clearly did not like the book.  Even though the engine of the plot was based on something that happened in Vietnam forty years ago, he excised all the flashbacks that told this story, a huge job and fruitless, since I had to go through the manuscript and undo eighty per cent of his changes.  Then I got the copy edit back.   The copy editor seemed extremely concerned with the timeline and about what year the book took place in, and spent hours and hours putting in extensive marginal comments on this subject.  I tried not to be rude, but only partially succeeded.

The galleys were remarkably clean,  however.   I caught the usual repetitions and echoes, corrected some small infelicities and typos and sent it back feeling better about the thing than I had previously.  The cover design is a sort of gang graffiti affair, which I didn't like at first, but now think is kind of crazy and striking and may make it fly off the shelves, especially for the guns n violence crowd.   One can only hope.