Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Productivity rules

The Literary Saloon, whom God preserve, gives us a link to a story in the Yorkshire Post about a man who has written (and had published) some 325 books.

His name is Charles Whiting, and I thought I hadn't heard of him until I was three quarters of the way through the article, and then the pen-name Leo Kessler appears. Well, I've heard of him all right. Though you probably won't have, because you're not as old as me, and you probably don't poke your nose into as many dark corners of the book trade as I do.

The Kessler books are interesting in that they are novels about the second world war written from the German point of view. And they normally feature the average squaddie -- or grunt, I think is the American term -- in other words, soldiers of the very lowest rank. The covers usually feature a storm-trooper in uniform. And the bibliography of Kessler novels is far too long to count. The series began in 1974 and the latest one appeared in 2004.

All in all, Whiting is precisely the kind of fiction writer that I admire most. Have I ever read him? Not knowingly. But that's not the point. Here is a man who writes six days a week, and has done for decades. He knows how to do the job. He is a professional. And I know of no higher compliment.

Whiting never gets interviewed in the Guardian or shortlisted for the Booker. The Times Lit Supp is never going to review him. And he didn't take an MFA. But he has learnt the hard way how to communicate with readers, and he obviously has battalions of fans. And I venture to suggest that he makes most literary fancypants self-obsessives look like the rank amateurs that they are.

8 comments:

Kriti said...

A 'good' read in this vein are the books by Sven Hassel. 'Wheels of Terror', 'Legion of the Damned' etc,still in print after 50 years.

They survive I think because of a dedicated readership in the British army.

BookBabe said...

Yahooo... I just love it when someone calls a spade (or literary fancypants, as the case may be) a spade. I'm all for a little less on the self-obsessive and a little more on the page!

bob said...

There's some insane library stat about Charles Whiting, I forget the precise rating but he's something like the 2nd most borrowed author from UK libraries.

Steve Newman said...

Humdrumming Ltd are now republishing some early Leo Kessler's, starting with 'Fire Over kabul' ISBN 1905532156


Go to the Humdrumming website
http://www.humdrumming.co.uk/ for more info.

Steve Newman said...

Latest News.

Humdrumming Ltd are to re-publish, in 2006, Charles Whiting's
'Hemingway Goes To War' which is the most detailed account of Ernest Hemingway's controverial time as a war correspondent in the second half of 1944. A must for all Hemingway scholars.

Michael K said...

I just heard a piece on Radio 4 today about Charles whose Leo Kessler alter ego I'd read as a boy. What can I say? He was obviously a great model writer and the fact that he was non-existent to the literary fartsypants reviewers, who like to think they dictate what the nation's tastes are, impresses me all the more.
If you want, as a writer, to emulate anybody, you can start with Mr. Whiting who, by 11am of a morning had already written 3,000 words.

Charles, I salute you!

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Charles Whiting is one of those writers that never gives up because he knows he has much to write about. His mind is full of ideas.