Saturday, 30 August 2008

Living with Caligula

Caligula has been making the headlines.
Unfortunately it's not my Caligula, but the 1979 softporn/hardcore (depending on your point of view) movie of the name, which stars Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren. It was hugely controversial when it came out because Bob Guccione spiced up the sex scenes after all the big names had finished shooting the film, with the result that they all, including original script writer Gore Vidal, completely disowned the final result. It was banned in Britain, but now the censors have decided to give it an 18 certificate because of its 'historical interest'.
The result is that Caligula is in the news, with stories throughout the week and a double page spread in today's outraged Daily Mail.
So is this good or bad for Caligula, the novel, with its tasteful and (comparitively) understated scenes of incest, sex, cruelty, torture and murder, and its fascinating insight into the life and true nature of the psychotic young Emperor?
The answer is that I'm not sure. On the one hand the fact that the name Caligula is emblazoned in 120pt type across two pages of Britain's biggest-selling mid-market tabloid can only be good for the book's profile, if only for the curiosity value if it provides. ie 'I wonder what Caligula was really like?' On the other, is it a good idea to be linked to what is widely regarded as one of the worst historical films ever made and a total box-office turkey?
And what does it do for my prospects of having the book turned into a film? Quite a few people who've read Caligula have commented on the fact that it would make a great blockbuster, which is exactly what you want to hear, but if it ever does come out as a movie I doubt it will be under the same name!

Still on films, I stumbled across an article on the net the other day about a well-known female newspaper columnist who is being sued by a major film company for the $700,000 dollars they coughed up for the film rights to her book in 2003. It was based on what they obviously thought was a great idea, but unfortunately she allegedly neglected to ever write the book, which I suppose would mean her publisher is also out of pocket. I'm not terribly big on morality, but the thought of taking all that money and then not bothering to produce the goods boggles my mind. But then I'm not a big name newspaper columnist.

Which brings me nicely on to Katie Price, aka Jordan, whose autobiography and chick-lit novels are currently dominating the book charts and coining in a fortune to add to her hard-pressed 'boob job' fund. Katie cheerfully told an interviewer the other day that she doesn't actually write the books, she just comes up with a few chapter ideas and then tosses them to a minion who does all that tiresome stringing the sentences together and putting in dots and commas and whatnot. And there was you thinking it was difficult to get a book published!

My last blog was something of a prolonged whinge about not being invited to book festivals and not the usual upbeat ravings of a demented, would-be bestseller writer. A good friend of mine put this into perpective during the week, when he told me he'd done a gig at Edinburgh and spent hours glad-handing only to find out at the end that he'd sold two books. Another writer I know had a similar experience, which cheered me up no end.

And finally a comment on the strange financial world of book-selling. There are quite a few Caligulas on sale on e-Bay and I thought I'd take a look to see just how much the online opportunists were asking The highest price was £59 - yes, you're reading that correctly - £59 for Caligula, life's work of Douglas Jackson, author, available from Bantam Press and all good book shops for £12.99 minus discount. It turns out the £59 was for a signed, lined and dated copy I'd sweated over (literally: see earlier bubble-wrap blog) for a specialist book company, which means my unpaid efforts have produced a potential 400 per cent mark-up. You learn something new every day.


Lexi said...

Did the £59 eBay 'Caligula' sell?

If so, it opens up all sorts of possibilities. Picasso used to pay for meals by doodling on the tablecloth. You could enjoy a swish meal for two by handing over two signed copies of your novel!

Calgacus Wasabi said...

Hi Doug,

Congratulations. I hope it sells a billion and your are able to leave your current place of employ in much the same way the Bugs Bunny used to step out of aircraft just before they crashed into the ground...

Doug said...

Thank you Calgacus. By the looks of the picture life has become much improved since you stopped wielding your mighty mouse in the employ of they who must not be named. Hope everything's going as well as it looks and thanks for your good wishes.
I've just hit a good patch near the end of book two, which hopefully bodes well!