San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Pyramids and Tolstoy’s War and Peace were huge projects that took many years to complete. I suspect that, in accordance with Hofstadter’s Law, they took longer than first thought. My novel, Barker, is not of the same scale but it too fell afoul of its deadlines. Initially, I had pencilled in the end of 2019 as the completion date. But here we are, halfway through 2020 (no comment on its content), and I still have the ebook version to produce. That’s okay, though. There’s been no publisher or agent making hmppphh noises over my shoulder.
Barker’s 270-something pages represent two-plus years of my life. Thumbing through a proof-copy I can’t help feeling underwhelmed. But that is one of the great asymmetries with books and one of the reasons they are cherished the world over—what takes an author years to create and compile can be digested by a reader in mere hours. Words are the densest of materials.
Of course, in contrast to the underwhelm and the anticlimax there is pride. Design-wise (inside and out) I think Barker is pretty close to a Proper Book. Content-wise, I can claim with certainty that it is Not Bad—my beta-readers and partner said so. What I cannot claim is the extent of the novel’s merits. That is for the discerning reader to decide. However, one thing that I do hope shines through is the fun I had whilst writing it. It was less a rollercoaster than a long bicycle ride. Gruelling climbs were offset by pleasant periods of coasting and exhilarating descents.
Also of interest is the title; at some point in the last one to three months Hitler, My Hero became Barker. It’s no understatement to say I agonised over this. Both titles have their pros and cons but the issue was choosing which to emphasise. Feedback from readers, friends and family didn’t help. There was a near-perfect divide in preference. Usually, I am the most stubborn of asses but this decision turned me into the most flaky of weathervanes. In the end, I deferred to the judgement of my partner. I was loath to do this at first. I saw it as some sort of cowardice or moral failing. Maybe it is? I don’t know. But on the other hand, I am lucky to have someone beside me whose judgement I trust. So while she cast the deciding vote, the responsibility for the title falls to me. If you hate it, my bad. If you love it, also my bad—though I will forward your sentiments onward.
To summarise: Barker: A Novel by Matthew Samuel Sweet is available as a paperback right now on Amazon: US – UK – DE – FR – ES – IT – JP – CA
The ebook will arrive soon and after that I’ll do an after-project review. In the meantime, buy yourself a copy. Buy someone else a copy. Read it. Review it. Tell me you love it or hate it or that it evokes no reaction whatsoever. Post a picture of your dog chewing it. Share links on social media. Talk about it with your friends and family, your allies and enemies. Invite me on your podcast to talk about it or lobby your favourite blogger or podcast-host in my favour. Heck, sling several copies into a travel-sack and become a zealous missionary, spreading the Barker-gospel to the New World. Or don’t. I’ve read hundreds of novels and 99% of the time I do nothing more than purchase them, read them, then retire them to my bookshelf. No harm if you do the same.
Finally: thank you. Everyone who has come into contact with my life in some manner over the last few years has contributed to Barker in some way. Locard’s exchange principle holds for creative works just as much as forensics: every contact leaves a trace (though not every trace can be contacted). So here’s to hoping those traces continue to accumulate and become something of greater meaning.