Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Big Rape And My Depressing End

As I watch the sales for Nothing Men slowly creep up (very slowly), I can't help but think back to the first publisher who got the manuscript.  He turned it down because the end was "too depressing." Of course it is.  It's supposed to be.  It's not a Disney story.  What does that have to do with 1953's The Big Rape?  Well, I'm curious as to how much the times have changed when a horror novel with a depressing is rejected, yet a publisher in the early '50s thought it made perfect business sense to publish a book about a woman who trades her "passion for revenge" which just happened to be called The Big Rape.  That's the kind of thing that keeps me up at night.

I have never read James Wakefield Burke's book.  It could be about rapeseed farmers for all I know.  Somehow, judging by the booze swiggin' men in the background and the half-open shirt of the woman in the foreground, I doubt it.  Were the 1950s more tolerant than the modern era?  Were books like this one commonplace on the shelves and spinner racks?  Again, negative on both.  I do think, however, publishers took more chances.

To think that a horror story such as the one I wrote should have anything but a depressing ending says to me that the publisher had no knowledge of or appreciation for what I was going for with the manuscript.  His idea of horror was probably limited to slasher films (if that) and teen vampires.  What I wrote was more along lines of Jack Ketchum, and there is an audience for that.  Yes, what I wrote may be difficult to sit through at times, but it should be.  Knowing that, I kind of wonder how the story was handled in Burke's work.  Was it graphic and violent?  Or were the rape scenes (if any) kind of glossed over, as was standard for that time period?

In the end, I'm glad that publisher told me my conclusion was too depressing.  I had gone back and forth between two different endings (both radically different), and I went with the depressing one because it felt "right."  His criticism of it told me I was on the mark.  I may have lost out having it published, but now the book is out there, and I can still shop it around to traditional publishers while maintaining all the rights to it.  Win win?  Yes.  All things considered, though, I kind of doubt my book is more offensive or depressing than something called The Big Rape.  It almost has to be, right?

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