Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Erinna Mettler's Starlings Revisited

Several months ago at a Liars League event in London, I won a review copy of Erinna Mettler's Starlings. This novel is a set of craftily interwoven stories taking place in Brighton, each chapter following a character. I found it a compelling read--I finished it in two or three days, largely because I enjoyed it and wanted to see what happened next.

I especially enjoyed that the author took risks--narrating one incident from two points of view, and presenting one chapter as a manuscript of a short story, and we're not sure whether we should view this particular chapter in the story as a "real" and thinly veiled account of something which happened to her, or if it is an original work of fiction by the character in the chapter. Fiction within fiction, or a clever new narrative device. In addition to the cleverness of the narrative, and the intricacy of the plot, the characters in this set of stories are well-developed and masterfully depicted.

Mettler is a VERY talented new writer.

The publisher is Revenge Ink. I noted that my review copy was full of typographical errors--numerous instances of hard returns improperly dissecting paragraphs, quotation marks turned the wrong way, and several other errors, which were more than a little distracting. The author informed me that the copy I have is merely a review copy and that these were cleaned up in the final printing. How times have changed for the publishing industry! Twenty years ago, I worked as a proofreader for a small press, and if we had printed a review copy with a quarter of that number of typos, I'd have been fired immediately. I was holding off posting my review until I'd seen the proper printed version of Mettler's Starlings, so that I could verify her claim. Which leads me to problem number 2: Whenever I happen to walk into Daunt or Waterstones or Foyle's or even the public library, I've checked to see if they have a copy of the book, so I can compare it to the review copy, but I've not seen the book anywhere. Which leads me to lament Revenge Ink's distributive capabilities. I hope with her next novel, Mettler signs on with a proper publisher which will give her the editorial attention and the distribution she very richly deserves. I'd truly hate to see this gem of a book linger in obscurity. Mettler is too good a writer to remain unknown and unread.


  1. Hi Gus, thanks again for the kind words. I've just forwarded your post to Foyles Daunt and Waterstone Oxford Street. The distribution is in place but if they don't want to order it we can't make em! I've spent quite a lot of time contacting shops individually and most take it when I do but it's so hard to get the big guns to take a debut title from a small publisher. It is available to order on amazon, waterstones, smiths etc but yes bookshops are sometimes a closed shop and it is exhausting trying to get them to open their doors. Regarding Revenge Ink, without them I don't think I'd have been published at all or the book would have been turned into something dull (one publisher wanted a straght forward kidnap thriller as if we haven't got enough of those!) Erinna

  2. Thanks for the clarification. If Revenge Ink doesn't have international rights on the book, you should definitely find an American agent and publish it abroad. Keep at it.