Delighted to be on the blog tour today for Reconciliation for the Dead. For my stop I have a brilliant guest post to share with you all. Enjoy!
The Savage Task of Reconciling a Title
Paul E. Hardisty
As readers, we all remember a good title. It’s not just what goes on the front cover of the book in big bold letters, it should also be a distillation of the story, a lure for choosy readers, and hopefully, exude originality and a bit of panache. I sweated over the title of my first novel, going through multiple variations before finally settling on The Abrupt Physics of Dying. For a long time after, I wasn’t sure. The words were confrontational, unusual, scientific. The title still jars me when I say it aloud; it still feels, well, abrupt.
But that, of course, was the idea. The novel is set in Yemen during the chaos of the 1994 civil war, and takes the reader deep into the heart of a beautiful, tortured land, where anyone can be an enemy, and death is everywhere.
The title of my new novel, Reconciliation for the Dead, (the third of the Claymore Straker quartet), came to me when the novel was about half written. Until then it had borne the working title The Savage Chemistry of War. Fresh from events in Cyprus and Yemen (recounted in the first two books of the series), Claymore Straker returns to post-apartheid South Africa to testify to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Seeking amnesty, he recounts his harrowing experiences as a young paratrooper fighting against the communist insurgency in Angola. We follow Clay as he discovers the real nature of the war, the sinister forces guiding it, and the horrific weapons being deployed in its name.
Both titles capture key themes of the story. Initially, I was keen on Chemistry as a natural complement to the Physics in the title of the first book, and the Evolution in the second (The Evolution of Fear). Yes, I am a scientist, and I do try to inject some science into my writing – I think science can be beautiful in prose, and can add to the realism and immediacy of the story. But there was a good chance that the combination of the words savage and war would be confronting for many readers. I am a new author, trying to get established, and I don’t want to scare people off before they even get to the first sentence.
In comparison, some felt that the word reconciliation was too soft to be used in the title of a thriller – too, yes, conciliatory. However, the contrast between the relatively inviting reconciliation, and the hard, terminal dead, provides a good balance between the strong positive themes in the book, and the stark brutality of the action. It was a difficult choice, but I think we struck the right tone.
In the end, while the title is important, it is the story that matters. And either way, of course, it is the reader who ultimately decides what works, and what doesn’t. Happy reading.
Reconciliation for the Dead is available to purchase from Amazon.