Tuesday, 28 September 2010

What's a little sociopathy between friends?

Those of you in London may have spotted these Wanted posters, advertising a new marketing strategy on behalf of Jonathan Kellerman's publicity for his latest Alex Delaware novel, Deception, which I enjoyed recently. I've been a fan of Kellerman's books for a few years, working my way back through his Delaware series to its beginnings. Alex is a child psychologist turned police consultant, not always a classic hero (in some of his earlier adventures the tormented machismo got a bit much for me, I must admit) but when he teams up with LA homicide detective Milo Sturgis (a big smart slob of a man, who happens to be gay), well then I find the pair of them pretty much irresistible.

Kellerman specialises in plot AND character, rather than one or the other. He plots and sub-plots like a crazy demon plotting machine, but it's his characters and descriptions of the murky corners of LA that make him so readable. Detail upon detail, all sewn together beautifully, nothing spared or wasted. I like his books from the late 80s and early 90s, especially. Some of the more recent ones had been pared down rather too much for my taste, with the banter between Milo and Alex reduced to shorthand. It makes sense, after all the groundworking in the early stories, but I missed the richness of the prose and dialogue. But Deception is a return to top form, complex and twisted and oh-so-dark.

I was intrigued to be emailed about the viral marketing campaign around the book. Here's what the strategists had to say:

"The lead character in author Jonathan Kellerman’s series of crime novels, has been brought to life online with a call to fans to help ‘solve’ the murder at the heart of his latest book, DECEPTION... Delaware and Detective Milo Sturgis must enter the cutthroat world of private education to seek the killer of Elise Freeman, a teacher who may not be all she seems. Once again they must delve into the darkest recesses of the human compulsions and seek the truth against fierce opposition, even from within their own ranks.

"For the paperback launch of this murder mystery, published by Headline, the fictional psychologist has been brought to life on Twitter, Facebook and via his own website so that fans can get to know the man behind the Ph.D. To help solve his most complex case yet, Alex Delaware is turning to the public to help uncover a killer. Delaware will give fans access to information about his current case, including exclusive evidence from the crime scene.

"Campaign posters on the London Underground, based on a traditional ‘wanted’ poster, call for help from the public to assist in solving the murder by directing them to Dr Alex Delaware’s website, either online or via mobile. Once there, a criminal empathy test allows fans to find out which type of criminal they most identify with, to help Delaware understand the criminal mind and the types of crime people are most likely to commit. Participants then also feedback to Delaware on key pieces of evidence and their understanding of events, based on their criminal affiliations.

"This is the first time that fans will be able to interact directly with the book’s leading man and this campaign takes this interactivity to a whole new level: readers actually get to become part of the crime-solving team as Delaware searches for insights into the murderer (or murderers) he is chasing.

Commenting on the new campaign, Vicky Cowell, Marketing manager at Headline Publishing Group, said: “Bringing Alex Delaware to life online is a very bold step and one which we think fans will really get behind. The chance to interact with Delaware is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity... As fans know, Delaware doesn’t like to work in isolation and getting outside opinions on the crime will really help him to form his views and catch the killer.”

"Delaware will also interact with fans via his Facebook and Twitter pages and call for insight from them to help solve the case. To watch the film, view the evidence and interact with Delaware, visit: http://www.alexdelaware.co.uk/

I guess I really should join Twitter now, shouldn't I?


Perhaps I'd better not join Twitter, since the "Criminal Tendency" test at Delaware's site says I'm a sociopath:

"People are an alien species. You’ve never understood them and find relating to them almost impossible. Social graces, morality and even common decency are all foreign currency to the sociopath. There is only one setting for you; ice cold."



Maxine Clarke said...

Interesting take on J. Kellerman. I loved his first half dozen Alex Delaware books, always eager to read the next. However, around then, they switched to formula mode, and have now plummeted into "never will read" in my mind. How sad. I liked the early Patricia Cornwells but I won't read her now for similar reasons. Ditto James Patterson. It is so sad that rather good authors go this way in search of wider audiences. Compare and contrast with the superb Michael Connelly who never lets his loyal readers down!

Sarah Hilary said...

Maxine, maybe it helped that I came to his writing late (in the last four years) and read completely out of sequence, depending on what was available in the library. Over time I learned that I liked his late 80s books best, but there are earlier and later ones that I liked too. The very first Delaware one is great, but I didn't like Flesh and Blood (another early one) at all, for instance. I can see that had I gone through in sequence I might have given up if I hit a bad one or two.

But I've learned not to give up on an author too quickly, after hating "Birdman" by Mo Hayder and promising myself I'd never read another of hers. Then I discovered Skin and Ritual, which I read back to front (they take place within the same 24 hours of each other) and loved them, even with the backwards chronology! You just never can tell.

Thanks for the recommendation of Connelly - I must find some of his. Do you have a recommendation for a first one to try?