Russell and his new genre
Cold Calling is the second book I’ve read by Russell Mardell. My first was Bleeker Hill back in December and I really enjoyed it, but this new book is completely different: Russell has moved from ghost story all the way to romance at the other end of the literary spectrum!
It’s rather refreshing to see an author who is able to move between genres. If you have the talent, generally speaking only the very famous and the self published are allowed to make that sort of switch. An agent or publisher will usually be concentrating on a single focused path and that means a restricted set of genres. I guess that this is an astute approach: if you find a seam, you mine it, but at what cost? Life is a many faceted thing and people are built to live in it. As a reader I can cross any genre boundary I like, I feel strongly that authors should have the same right!
Russell has used his artistic freedom (unfortunately not as very famous author, but fortunately as a very talented self published author !) to produce Cold Calling, a book every bit as good as Bleeker Hill (Russell has written 5 books.) It is so totally, completely different that I’m not sure what measure I would use if I tried to compare the two books, so I won’t 🙂
Our story starts: Two star crossed lovers… [cue sound of needle scratching across a record.]
Cold Calling is not a conventional love story, nor does it have a simple A to B plot. The story just sort of happens, and you are taken along as the two main characters and their supporting cast open themselves up to you and to each other. Most, if not all of the book is written in first person, and we join a varied cast as the story unfolds. I was reminded of Dracula here, but Cold Calling is not a written account that we read as a posthumous voyeur, we join live events and thoughts; thankfully no one has to write a bloody diary! Russell cleverly uses the supporting roles to reflect the thoughts and actions of Anya and Ray. This creates depth and an ability to subtly cross examine the story.
Characters carry the day
The whole book is full of insightful, realistic characters. The story comes alive as layer upon layer of high quality observational writing is laid down. It really does feel like a window on people’s lives more than a story.
Subtlety, depth and insightfulness all come together to allow Cold Calling to encompass some very personal thoughts and emotions competently. There were multiple times when I recognised my own internal thoughts in someone else’s!
When Anya starts talking about her past life it becomes obvious that Anya is more closed off and is obviously forcing herself towards a confession of reality. Ray, on the other hand, has received counselling and is happier to voice his issues. Characters who can hide or articulate so much are the lifeblood of this book. Writing that is able to articulate those personal emotions can only be described as excellent. The characterisation in Cold Calling is one obvious place where l could describe it as “better” than Bleeker Hill, but its a different type of story, in this case one that needs a deeper emotional attachment to it’s characters. It has delivered.
l don’t want to wax on about the same subject for too long, so I will close the characterisation section with love… Yes, dear reader I love you very much, you must know that by now? But you miss my point. I’m still talking about Cold Calling. It depicts love in many ways: caring, friendship, real, melancholy, lost, misunderstood, brotherly. My list is not exhaustive, yet my point is simple. Cold Calling is wonder fully complex.
Anya and Ray’s cold calls, and all the events that surround them, come together to form a coherent whole. A group of story lines that blend very well throughout the book. I dont think there was a story strand I didn’t like or actually any part of the book that I wanted to skip through.
The Publishing industry
Anya’s best friend Eva is a successful author.This character had a dual role in the plot. There was a beautifully self indulgent aspect to her that drew stark contrasts to the more fundamental events other characters were experiencing. On the other hand Eva provided an interesting glimpse into what literary success might look like? There is some good observations of the publishing industry in there, but importantly, Eva hates her fame. This created an interesting sub-plot in the book, but I really empathised with the dislike of this dual life that authors now need to lead: part literature generating hermit, part self promoting limelight junky.
The bottom line is that I really enjoyed this book. It took me through a very articulate set of emotions in a story that was believable and engaging. It managed to deliver all this and was still able to inject just the right amount of comedy. There were moments that I almost laughed out loud. Cold Calling didn’t affect me in any fundamental way, but I know that some things will happen in my life and l will be reminded of a situation l read in Cold Calling!
For the hundredth time since I started this blog, Cold Calling is not a book l would usually have read. But I’m very very glad I did.