As an author responsible for three adult novels, one young-adult novel and the second-most-ubiquitous clutch of children’s books of the past decade, Daniel Handler, best-known in kid-lit circles under the “unfortunate” nom de plume Lemony Snicket, is no doubt prolific and celebrated enough to be taken seriously.
Except when he doesn’t want to be: “This much-anticipated new series is, frankly, none of your business,” Handler writes on his website, referencing “Who Could That Be at This Hour? ” the first of a four-book series titled “All the Wrong Questions.”
“Well, it’s the story of Lemony’s distant childhood spent in a sinister mystery that’s likely to upset readers, so I fail to see why people would take much interest in that, or all the deaths and backstabbings,” says the 42-year-old author, who will discuss the novel on Monday, Nov. 12, at the Miami Book Fair International.
If Handler’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” is inspired by the gothic illustrations of Edward Gorey, “All the Wrong Questions,” a prequel of those books that follows the misadventures of 12-year-old Snicket, reads like hardboiled detective noir a la Jim Thompson and Raymond Chandler. The plot follows Snicket’s character, a bibliophile and member of a clandestine detective outfit, who journeys to the ink-less town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea with his incompetent chauffeur to recover a wooden statue.
“Like gothic fiction, I think the story of childhood is a part of noir, but set in the enigmatic world of adults. Every 11-year-old wants to be a spy in a secret organization that has a camera that hides in a watch,” Handler says. “Now, ask the middle manager at Esprit who has mortgage payments. Better yet, ask me, a ripe old man who’s essentially a coward and wouldn’t make a good spy at all.”
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