Entitled: Cadaver Blues

Blog: What's the Big Idea?

Entitled: Cadaver Blues

A great title can squirm its way into your head for a long time, even if you never read the book. Many years ago, when I was an editor at Doubleday, I recall another editor discussing a new author named Sherman Alexie, whose book at the time was a collection of short stories called The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. We didn’t publish the book, but everyone agreed it was a great title.

When I set down to write the novel that would become Cadaver Blues, I had in mind a title with a rhythm like that of Alexie’s. The reason was that my ironic noir story featured a couple of opposites with incompatible worldviews. Phu Goldberg was a self-made cynic. His client Mindy Eider always looked on the bright side. They’d have to settle it somehow, wouldn’t they?

In homage to Alexie, I had a notion to call the book Mr. Gloom and Pollyanna Fight to the Death.

My editor at The Nervous Breakdown, where the book would be weekly serialized, liked the title a lot, but it didn’t test well with my informal, unscientific polling, which included friends and family, as well as a dozen people in a workshop. Some didn’t think it said “mystery” (they were right). Others didn’t follow the humor (one wants to argue, but if it doesn’t work for your reader then it doesn’t work). In addition, no one got the Alexie reference, which was just fine, because the book has nothing to do with native Americans anyway.

So I eventually chucked that title and settled on a better one, I think, when I hit upon Cadaver Blues. I don’t remember exactly how it came to me, but it workshopped better. It had that ominous feel while still bringing in a hint of quirkiness.

Most of all, the title — just like the first, only better — pertains directly to the plot of the book. There is indeed a cadaver in the story, but that’s not precisely why, because cadaver blue is really the description of a color that features prominently. Based upon the color of a dead body, it’s one character’s description of another fleshy substance. A substance that won’t please Phu Goldberg when he comes upon it in the dark.

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  • Newsletter

    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • Other Works

  • Dark Pool Image

    The Dark Pool Book Cover
  • Cadaver Blues Book Image

    Cadaver Blues Book Cover
  • Primacy Book Image

    Primacy Book Cover
  • The Dead Field Book Image

    The Dead Field Book Cover