Outside Edge: Adrian Turpin on the 'interactive' thriller Tears of Glass

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The Independent Culture
DAVID Lake is modest about his contribution to the thriller genre. 'You can throw my book away,' he says, 'and still have a plastic sandwich case and a piece of music.' Impromptu lunch boxes containing Lake's transatlantic paranoia thriller, Tears of Glass, and Paul Millns's companion cassette album began appearing in WH Smith's last week. Since then, the package has prompted a flurry of press interest, being tagged as a uniquely 'interactive', multimedia thriller.

In fact, it's more like crime fiction's answer to Linguaphone. The plot is a frothy concoction (three parts Big Sleep to two parts Wilt) in which Morgan, a whiskey-sodden, womanising Californian architect, dodges agents eager to get their hands on a demo tape by none other than Paul Millns. In the process, he stumbles across more corpses than Angela Lansbury in Murder, She Wrote. The all-important twist is that each chapter centres on a song. When the lyrics appear in the text, the reader reaches for his or her Walkman, and lets Millns's bluesy rumbling fill in the atmosphere.

So is Tears of Glass a mere novelty or a genuine venture into uncharted territory? Lake denies the novel (which began life, not surprisingly, as a film script) is a gimmick. It is, the former Virgin Records marketing man declares, merely a personal response to Millns's songs, around which he wove the narrative.

'When it became a book, I was going to just put the lyrics in, but it didn't work,' Lake says. 'When I said I wanted to include the music too, the publishers went apoplectic. But I'd listened to the songs time and time again as I wrote, and I wanted the readers to have the same experience.

'I've had people say that it's like a Greek tragedy. The characters are almost two-dimensional, while the chorus says what is really going on in the background, and maybe there is something in that.'

Graham Edmonds, WH Smith's paperback buyer, takes a less classical line. He has bought an initial 3,000 copies. 'I took a punt on it because it's a bit different. I have to say that I don't really rate it as either a piece of literature or a piece of music. But it is worth it to us because of the coverage it's got.' He adds that 'early indications are it hasn't been selling well', which offers the prospect of another publishing first - piles of remaindered tape cassettes.

If Tears of Glass plummets into Virtual Obscurity, it won't be the first 'interactive' book to do so. When the crime writer Edgar Wallace published his first novel, Four Just Men, in 1905, he offered a much-publicised pounds 500 prize to anyone who could supply the correct solution. He failed to cover his costs.

'Tears of Glass' by David Lake, with music by Paul Millns, is published by Keystar on Monday at pounds 5.99

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