Home > Lankville Action News: YES! > OPINION: It is an Injustice that My Novels Have Not Garnered a Wider Audience

OPINION: It is an Injustice that My Novels Have Not Garnered a Wider Audience

By Cust Shirley, Novelist

By Cust Shirley, Novelist


I began writing 25 years ago.

In that time, I have produced 16 novels, countless short stories and several chapbooks of humorous poetry. I have penned essays, critical reviews, travel accounts and even a novella written entirely in rhymed couplets. And if you think that’s easy to do, my friend, then I invite you to try it. Hell, you can even use my desk and sleep in my guest room if you want to give it a shot.

But despite all this work, I bet you haven’t heard of me, right? Why?

Because of a grave injustice. Let me explain.

My first novel The Shed Out Back was a realistic story of a love-hungry girl in the Lankville scrublands. I actually spent several months in the scrublands just so I could get the feel of the place. It paid off. I ended up with what I thought was a masterpiece. Here’s a sample:

In the end, Gretchen was a one-man woman– a woman who could give only one man the full passion of her being– the wild, unheeding surrender of a scrubland animal. Cliff may have been the wrong man– he probably was the wrong man but it didn’t matter. Because scrubland trash loves it that way.

If you can’t get excited by the power of the written word over that paragraph, then we better start checking your pulse.

Anyway, the novel gets printed and comes out in some selected bookstores in the Lankville scrubland and peninsula areas. It gets reviewed– in this very paper, no less by a man who shall remain nameless. And this is what that reviewer wrote:

The Shed Out Back is the printed equivalent of vomit. And also, piss and shit.

I will never forget those lines. But I would not be deterred. I pressed on.

More novels followed in quick succession. Jezebel in the Meadows, Square and Bare, Hard Phil, High Pillows in the Snowy Region, Demon Experiences in Many Lands. Each and every one– a gem in my mind (and the minds of my wife and some of our friends, I should add!) And every time– the same kind of review or some version of it. Here’s what that same reviewer said about Hard Phil:

If you’ve ever wondered if it were possible that a pile of dung could be run through a printing press, bound and sold in bookstores, then pick up a copy of Hard Phil.

Can you god damn believe that? I told my wife that if I ever ran into that guy…

I pressed on. I completed a trilogy of novels about a quartet of overly-endowed revolutionary women and some bears who live in medieval times. The bears talk like humans and it’s sort of about the complex interactions that they might have if there were these overly-endowed revolutionary women around. I add further bears in the second volume and then several child bears with oversized heads in the third novel (they are meant to be from another planet). Then, everyone actually travels to another planet. It was a deeply personal work coming as it did at the zenith of my creative powers and when I sent it off to the publisher, I thought to myself “Shirley, you’ve done it. The first truly important work of our new century.” Then, I waited.

And waited. And waited.

Finally, I called Herb Howard over at Night Pyramid Books. I said, “Herb, what the hell’s going on over there?”

And he said, “I’m sorry, Cust. But we won’t be publishing the Nude in Orbit Trilogy. It’s just…” He sputtered out. I slammed the phone down.

And you know what I did? I published the god damn thing myself.

I got copies for $19.95, $29.95 for the signed deluxe edition. You wanna’ correct an injustice? Buy one.

You WILL NOT be disappointed.

The opinions of Cust Shirley are not necessarily the opinions of The Lankville Daily News or any of its subsidiaries.

  1. March 20, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Cool excerpt: Gretchen started losing it and began talking to kitchen walls in her spare time. “Mamihlapinatapai, motherfucker,” she spit into the air. A crowd of people came in and started laughing and pointing. “Why so serious?” asked Mr. Right. “Ya know, I haven’t the slightest…” she acknowledged, honestly. She sighed, had some tea, and went on vacation.

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