I've been thinking a lot about book titles the past couple of days. More specifically, I've been pondering the title of my first novel, Even the Wind, and whether I got it right. Am I doing the book justice with a title that makes an oblique reference to a quote found elsewhere? (More on the title's origins below) Am I being too cute? Does the title fail to communicate the nature of the book to a potential reader. `Even the Wind' is a crime procedural with a tinge of biotech thriller. Kind of like if Michael Crichton and Ian Rankin had a love child. Now there's an image you might want to consider for a bit!
So what of it? And how important are book titles?
The books I like have strong, communicative titles. You see them on the shelf, and you know what you're in for. Take `Gorky Park' by Martin Cruz Smith. That title is so rooted in place and atmosphere that it conveys in two simple words a complete, complicated backstory. Or how about `Polar Star,' the Arkady Renko sequel? Again, same effect. Strong words. Clear pictures.
Some are more lyrical. Think here of Ian Rankin's `Standing in Another Man's Grave,' ``Saints of the Shadow Bible' or `Impossible Dead.'' All strong titles, but with a cadence altogether more musical than that found in Martin Cruz Smith's work. Then there's Rankin's newest book `Even Dogs in The Wild,'' which shares a kind of starting point with my own title.
Perhaps the best presentations of `literary' titles belong to the work of Ernest Hemingway. Who can forget `A Farewell to Arms' or `To Have and Have Not' as the best examples of the craft in my opinion. In the Hemingway Library Edition of `The Sun Also Rises,' Hemingway's grandson, Sean Hemingway, tells of how the great writer's first novel takes its title from the Old Testament. Apparently, it was one of five biblical titles that Hemingway considered. The Appendix of the Library Edition lists some of the other considered titles as `River to the Sea,' `Two Lie Together,' and `The Old Leaven.' Would Hemingway's first novel have had such a resounding impact had it borne another title? One will never know, but it's hard to imagine the work under any other name.
So what of my own effort? Caution, mild spoilers ahead:
`Even the Wind' takes its title from a biblical reference, which is odd in a way since the book has very little to do with religion or the Bible. The passage in question can be found in the Epigraph at the front of the book. I won't say too much because I don't want to give anything away, but let me just say that the passage, which is about God's sovereignty over the forces of nature, plays a fairly prominent role in the unravelling of the mystery behind the murdered woman at the center of the book. Saying anything more might spoil some of the fun so I'll leave it at that for now.
Does the title work? I'll let the reader decide. If you feel the inclination, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you think, or send me a Tweet.
Reminder, only a few more days until the Kindle Scout campaign comes to an end. After that, I'll be releasing the publication date. Until then, happy reading.