Changing HORSES in mid-stream

Written by Mick Herron

Mick Herron, one-time contributor for SHOTS now turned author, and the Gold Dagger-winning Slough House series takes time out of his busy schedule to give us his thoughts about book titles …

It’s a tradition of publishing houses, as all in the book trade know, to render book titles in block caps. Or, as online discourse would have it, to shout them out loud.

Thus, letters and emails from agents and editors tend to exhibit symptoms of a peculiarly literary form of Tourette’s: glimpsed through half-closed eyes, lines of polite print suddenly erupt with a full-volume reference to MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, and whispered sweet nothings whip themselves into a frenzied shout-out to FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. Raised in a politer society then the fulminating bear-pit that is the modern publishing industry – more accustomed to the apologetic throat-clearing of the italic font – I’ve never quite got used to this, though I’ve learned to join in, and now caps-lock my bookish name-dropping as a matter of course. When asked if I liked THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, I happily yell back that we’ve not been introduced, though I’ve heard she likes A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF.

Anyway, titles have been on my mind lately, because I’ve just finished a new book, the fourth in a series. The first of these, SLOW HORSES, set the tone. Animal titles – everyone likes a sequence. SLOW HORSES was named after its characters, the no-hope denizens of Slough House, a career-terminus for those who’ve messed up badly in the Intelligence Service. Its successor, DEAD LIONS, followed the same pattern: a one-two syllable punch with thematic relevance, the lions in this case being a bunch of sleeper agents, as quiescent as the players in the children’s game of the same name; at least, until they’re roused. And rounding off this trio is the newly published REAL TIGERS: not, note, mere paper ones. These guys comprise a tiger team, whose task it is to test the Intelligence Service’s security system, though turn out to have an agenda all their own.

Three books, then, and three animal titles – and that’s quite enough of that. There’s a reason why the Rule of Three law is not, say, the Rule of Four. So, on finishing the new one, I told my editor I’d be dropping the animal nomenclature. Fine, he said. Apart from anything else, it’ll spare those disappointed naturalists who’ve been misled by your first three titles.

Of course it would.

So the fourth Slough House novel, when it appears sometime in 2017, will therefore be called DISAPPOINTED NATURALISTS.

Unless I stick to my original plan, and call it SPOOK STREET.


Check out Mick's titles HERE



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Mick Herron

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