Sunday 23 April 2023

The Narrative Wonder of The Princess Bride... twice

"When I was your age, television was called books"

If you've ever watched (and loved, because how could you not?*) the 1987 film The Princess Bride, you should probably consider picking up the book.

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman is not a novelization (despite the stupid movie-poster cover); written in 1973, 14 years before the movie came out in 1987, it forms the basis, fairly closely, of what you see on the screen. 

Image courtesy of

Here's what the Cranky Book Reviewer thinks: it is as good, if not better, than the film; you get insight into your favourite characters. It foreshadows the perfect casting of the movie (from Peter Cook to Andre the Giant to Mandy Patinkin to... well, all of them. Each character jumps off the page), and if you can quote the movie like me, you can hear them speak in their voices while you read. And, if you're paying attention (and a book nerd), you'll also be dazzled—dazzled, I say!—by the complexity and form of Goldman's storycraft. 

But be prepared when you sit down with the novel; it is not the movie. It was written in a very different time, and many Princess-Bride-the-movie fans hate it


Goldman's narrative devices are complex. Well-executed, for sure, but not what you'd expect if you've only watched the movie. But, to the right reader, they're absolutely magical. 

So, let's get technical. The novel has three narrators; it's framed, twice: the Real Narrator (first person, limited, breaks fourth wall) is ostensibly the voice of William Goldman himself, fresh off the success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a little bitter over his rather-loveless family life: he's got a brilliant-but-cold psychologist wife and a sullen, fat son (this was the 70s) who's turning ten while the Narrator's on this business trip. He's bought him a bike, which isn't really appreciated, and — for the big, sentimental present — decides to track down a copy of his favourite book, the one that his dad used to read to him, the one that sparked his love of reading and turned him into a writer. It has the feel of being cynically autobiographical, full of wry, self-depracating humour and a sort of sadness. (This plot frame is left out of the movie entirely.) The story jumps back and forth between where he is telling the story from and his memories of being read to as a kid. 

Enter narrator #2: You can hear Peter Falk right away: "Chapter One: The Bride." The Narrator's father (who never really perfected spoken English, having grown up in the fictional country of Florin and moved to America as an adult) had read The Princess Bride to his son (the Real Narrator) when he was about ten, and he interjects comments throughout, as remembered by the Narrator. Anyway, he's a third-person limited narrator, as recounted by the Real Narrator. 

Finally, narrator #3 is S. Morgenstern himself, the fabled Florinese author of The Princess Bride. Also fictional. He's the one who "wrote" the story that the Narrator is reading, with his father's voice in his head. (The movie does this with Peter Falk and little Fred Savage.) Morgenstern is third-person omniscient; that is, he knows everything that each of his characters is thinking, but he mostly chooses one character as the focus of each scene, and writes from their point of view. Usually. 

So, what's the problem?

In the novel, you get fantastic backstories for all your favourite characters, that are just want you wanted to know (Inigo's childhood! Fezzik's childhood! Buttercup! The Prince!). But there are several characters and plot points that didn't make it into the movie. Buttercup and Westley are not quite as clever or respectful as they were scripted to be. Also, there are no shrieking eels.**

However, the whole point of the book (the real book, not the fictional book) is that it's not what the Narrator remembers his father reading to him: it's longer, much more boring, with pages and pages that he's never heard. (I feel that this is mostly where movie fans lost it.) Throughout the Morgenstern parts, the Narrator "abridges" the original book with comments in italics, describing what his father had cut out while reading it to him (e.g. 50 pages of the history of Florin and Guilder, 20 pages of packing suitcases, etc.), and what his father said about this part and that, what he thinks of Morgenstern's writing, or —like the movie—what he as a child had said at which part. ("Is this a kissing book?"). 

The novel, as written by William Goldman, frames the beloved, absurd, witty story of The Princess Bride, as seen in the movie, in a haunting story about relationships between fathers and sons and expectations and growing up.

As you wish

So, no, fans of the movie won't find the book as likeable a story, or as much of a fairytale. And literary snobs may find the movie too frivolous. But me? I love them both, equally, and in different ways

In fact, to (mis)quote Miracle Max: [Both the book and the movie] "...are the greatest things in the world... except for a nice MLT, mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich when the mutton is nice and lean, and the tomato is ripe.”

What do you think? Which did you prefer, and why?

The Cranky Book Reviewer contains multitudes, and can like two things equally. (Image: author's own)

* Naturally, you couldn't not; it would be inconceivable.

** Inconceivable!

Tuesday 14 June 2022

New Launch is Bittersweet

Welp, Ground Control got a second chance at life, launching again on June 1st as a paperback and ebook. I’m excited (of course), but this launch doesn’t have the same feeling of celebration as the first one – 1, because it’s not the book’s birthday, 2, because I had to let go of my original cover, which I truly loved, and 3, because I’m launching without my original team behind me, the ones that saw the potential in my characters and helped me bring Ground Control to life last year, that were like sort of like a dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless.

However, the hundreds of Lights Out's now-limited-edition copies are now collectors’ items. (You’re welcome.)

In the stead of the above, I have the full, warm and steady support of my new publisher, and a dedicated and ongoing marketing effort behind the launch. I have a new cover, which is cooler and prettier the more I look at it (especially now that I have the book in my hands), and I have a book that has not only been really well-reviewed, but I also got a second shot at rewriting some of the less-developed scenes, plus a few (ok, maybe one) less typo. (And there is no truth to the rumour that there will be an audiobook or graphic novel version of Ground Control… yet.)


So, I want to sincerely thank the awesome team at Sley House Publishing for snapping up Ground Control on the first bounce, and I hope that I (and this book) will make them proud. I also want to thank all my readers and reviewers (keep those reviews coming!) for spreading the word about my work, and those that have purchased the new edition too, well, you get hugs.*


The (New! Improved!) Sley House edition of Ground Control is now available to order at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and any indie bookstore of your choice.


*…in fact, if you post a photo on Insta or Twitter with both editions, and tag me in it, I’ll reach out for your address and send you a Ground Control sticker as a thank you! 

Friday 17 December 2021

New genre fiction anthology released! (Eds. K.A. Hough & Trevor Williamson)

Do you love chills, thrills, and feeling uneasy? 

It has been my sincere pleasure to work with the staff at Sley House Publishing on their inaugural anthology of genre fiction, Tales of Sley House 2021. These fifteen stories were chosen from many, many submissions, with priority given to current students of creative writing. 

It's always fun to work in a group of editors, and I had a great time debating the strengths and merits of the stories we chose, then working with five new authors to get their stories publication-ready. From the weird to the macabre, mysterious to the horrifying, there's tales of strange creatures and stranger characters, some of which are downright disturbing. If this collection of short stories leaves you feeling unsettled... well, good!

Available now at major retailers

This also marks the first of my "official" editing credits, hopefully the first of many. If you do pick it up (as an e-book or paperback), don't forget to leave a review on Goodreads!

Tuesday 27 July 2021

To Sum Up: Transatlantic Moves and Hangovers Make Poor Bedfellows

Image credit: author

This will be short. 

We move in less than a week, packing up five entire lives into bags and boxes, to travel by air and sea, not sure when we will be in our home or with our belongings again. 

We've also been partying hard. As London opens, all the events that have been cancelled or postponed have hit with a suddenness that has tasked my wardrobe, endurance, and liver function. The last few weeks (aside from the week-long holiday in the Lake District and Edinburgh) have been a whirwind of social engagements — some official — and many, many goodbyes.

We are sad, tired, stressed, excited, overwhelmed... and feel so grateful for the good friends and lovely communities that have embraced us in our London adventure. We hope we have told them, enough, how much they mean to us, how full are hearts are as we leave.

Four years ago this week, we were doing this exact thing in Ottawa. My phone flashes up photos and videos daily, of  'on this date' of our kids (four years smaller) running around our old street, the one we're returning to in... 5 days? 14? 19? We don't know yet.

But, we're going home.

Monday 10 May 2021

Cranky Book Reviewer Reads Rediscovery

I mean, Cranky's gonna crank, but.

Image credit: Screenshot from Amazon

I've been reading a wider array of fiction lately, choosing genres that I don't normally gravitate towards. This is possibly because my own book was so unaligned with my preferred genres, its very genre defiance has made me question my own prejudices against specific genres. 

The Cranky Book Reviewer used genre way too many times in that paragraph, and is not one bit sorry.

However. The Cranky Book Reviewer also doesn't enjoy short stories, which she didn't notice until she wrote several short stories, submitted them to publications, received rejections for each of them, and then started to think about what kind of short story she likes to read, realized that the answer is, "none of them," because of high school English and university English, so decided to write a book instead.

Right. Back to the review.

Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963) contains science fiction stories written by women (der). Each is prefaced by a short essay by a science fiction writer of today, which provides insight into the author's life and work, as well as what struck the essayist about the piece that follows. These, in themselves, make for interesting reading, though they do contain a few spoilers (the Cranky Book Review does not like spoilers).

Each story is beautifully formed, interesting and unsettling. I had to take a break after reading each one to think on it, to ponder what I had just read; each story deserved time to wrap my mind around the concepts these women created, and the clarity with which they identified challenges, sixty or more years ago. 

Without revealing any spoilers, these pieces contain themes of inequality and/or miscommunication, often both. Written from both male and female perspectives, with no common planet, species or time between them, the authors sketched palpable differences between males and females; this is true of probably all works of fiction, but it was bittersweet and saddening to see it so clearly here. These women, who made up only 9% of all the sci-fi authors of that time, and who are all but unknown today, so subtly, aptly depicted struggles between genders, between masculine and feminine energy, between humans and alien species. They wrote about colonies led by women, but never fully safe from men. About the dangers of assuming you know anything about another human or humanoid. 

It was an absolute honour to read what they had imagined so long ago, and it's wonderful to think that their work and their lives are being rediscovered by new generations (see what I did there?).

I enjoyed this anthology immensely, and would recommend it to sci-fi fans and anthropologists alike

So, why is the Cranky Book Reviewer Cranky? Well, I liked the book and loved the stories. I'm cranky because such inequality still exists, that the powerful still press their advantage over the less-powerful, that the issues presented with such clarity in 1963 are still present today. But, overall, I'm very pleased that the editor, Gideon Marcus, revived these stories and shared their authors with the world. 

Spoilers spoil. Don't be a spoiler. (image credit: author's own)

Portions of this review were posted on Goodreads as well.

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