Category Archives: Countdown City

Counterintuitive truth of the day: have kids, write more

There is an unwritten rule that if you have three days to take a final pass at the copyedited manuscript of your newest novel before it is printed and any errors become permanent and irrevocable (sort of), then your daughter will vomit at school for no particular reason, and need to be picked up, so she can hang out in your office with you and promise promise not to be annoying, but she just wants to play on your computer for just, like, a half hour?

I’ve told the story before about how while writing The Last Policeman I had this huge, late-in-the-game revelation (i.e. that the novel should be told in the first person present tense, not in the closely observed third-person that I had been doing), started excitedly on what was going to be a huge difficult rewrite, and then my daughter (a different daughter than the one who is downstairs now eating toast and reading a mystery chapter book) was born the next day, somewhat delaying my progress.

But I can’t complain—I’m not complaining. When I was younger and single and childless, I would always tell myself, I’ll write later, because there  always was a later. After work—at night—I would drink a beer and stare at my computer for endless useless hours, pretending to be a writer. Now, with a busy family and endless calls on my time, I can little afford to let any spare minute lie fallow. Give me a random half hour, give me a full day (that never happens), and I will use it, somehow. That’s the gift that my beautiful children have given me.

Along with countless unnameable small joys and innumerable communicable illnesses.

Cover to cover

There will be a new edition of The Last Policeman out in July, with an awesome new cover that complements the cover of Countdown City, the sequel, which also comes out in July. (I will of course post these covers as soon as my buddies at Quirk Books say I’m allowed to.)

last policeman button

Doogie Horner’s original cover: still fantastic.

One of several cool things about a second edition is that it allows me to correct a couple of mistakes in the first one–one a boneheaded science error, and the other a SUPER -boneheaded (because I should know better) spelling/usage error.

Have any of you readers out there spotted either of these errors? Send me a note via the contact form on the site here, and I’ll make sure you get a signed copy of Countdown City when it comes out. (Or maybe you’ll just send me ANOTHER boneheaded error that I can correct before pub date!)

* Right now I’m reading Stephen King’s On Writing,which besides recounting some super inspiring stories (like when he threw the first three chapters of Carrie in the garbage, only to have his wife pull them out and  tell him he was “onto something here”) includes a lot of great, down-and-dirty advice to the beginning (or not-so-beginning) writer. Like, take it easy on the adverbs, and like, read a lot of books. So far I wouldn’t necessarily put King’s book in my must-read-books-about-writing pile with John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, but it’s really fun.


“The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” writes Stephen King, reproachfully.

What’s in a name? Has anyone asked that before? I feel like maybe somebody has.

OK, so first of all, if you’re the Last Policeman superfan who created this lovingly detailed Wikipedia entry on the book, my hat is off to you to such an extent that I may never wear a hat again. There is nothing so gratifying to an author as the feeling that people are reading his work carefully, and now I know that at least one person has read this book very carefully indeed; I love that this anonymous encyclopedist correctly transcribed the name of my fictitious asteroid, 2011GV1, subscript and all.

The only thing inaccurate in this lovely entry, so far as I can tell, is the title of the forthcoming sequel, which Wikipedia now lists as Disasterland—which, to be totally fair, is sourced from this very blog, and an entry I made last week. Point is, since that time it has been brought to our (meaning mine and my publisher’s) attention that there was already a book by that title, and though you can’t copyright a title (ask Alison Bechdel, author of last year’s Are you My Mother?, which although a picture book is definitely not about a curious and melancholy baby bird, or the great Thomas Frank, who very purposefully borrowed the title of What’s the Matter With Kansas? from a much older book of the same name), we decided to switch to another title—which we then all decided we liked better anyway.

Point being, the actual title of the forthcoming second novel in The Last Policeman trilogy is (drumroll…) Countdown City. 

Now I’ll sit back and see how long it takes the masked Wikipedia writer to change it.  (Or maybe I’ll get antsy and change it myself.)



P.S. Yes, I know there’s an asteroid coming within 75,000 miles of the Earth tis week, and if I had not been so busy the last few days doing a furious final pass on the aforementioned Countdown City I would have written an elegant and attention-grabbing essay for someone’s editorial page about the metaphorical implications of Near Earth Objects, and in particular what they can teach us about the constant unspoken nearness of death. I’ll get the next one!