I got all excited when someone sent me a link to the rules for The Strand Magazine’s “Complete The Graham Greene Novella” contest! Finally, something I Might Have A Chance at.
THE EMPTY CHAIR is an unfinished mystery novella left behind by Graham Greene. In the last four back issues of The Strand, they’ve serialized what there is of the novella. There are four chapters and the beginning of a fifth, and they want another 4-5K words to wrap it up and reveal the perp.
Graham Greene is of the generation of writers I grew up reading and therefore subconsciously patterned my writing after. I could write in that sort of talky style! If I could figure out what he had meant as the solution to the murder mystery puzzle, I would be steps ahead.
Then I took a clear look at what I would have to do. I’d need to find a library that carries The Strand and/or order the back issues (no, because by now there’s no time for them to get here–the deadline is Jan 25th.) I’d need to read each chapter and analyze it to see where I thought the author might be leading us so I could guess who the perp is and how the crime was done. I’d need to write in a slightly twee style, because this novella is Greene juvenilia (to some extent–age 22), not mature or late Greene as in THE THIRD MAN and TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT.
I am also supposed to be working on several other things right now and shouldn’t drop everything to try to do this. Should my entry drop into the quicksand, it would be more wasted time. I’m not sure I am up for the challenge.
So . . . can you write a pastiche? Do you have a library nearby that carries this magazine? (You need the last five back issues.)
Here are the rules for submitting your work for the Graham Greene novella writing contest:
1. Please do not call our office concerning this.
2. Please do not submit any material via regular post. If we receive submissions via regular post, they will be returned to you.
3. We are looking for something that is 4,000-5,000 words in length. The winner of the contest will receive $500.
4. Submit a Microsoft word file as an attachment to the following email address: email@example.com
5. If you’re interested in finding out what happened in previous chapters, you can either find copies at your local library or purchase them on our website.
6. If you’re interested in getting the fifth chapter which is a very short chapter that will help you complete the book, we can send that chapter via email to you.
[Note that there is no rule reading “if you’re interested in finding out what happened in previous chapters, please email us and we’ll send you an MS-Word file with the previous chapters.” Some sites promoting the contest show that “rule,” but it’s not on the Strand’s contest rules page. The official guidelines tell you to come buy the back issues on the website or look at them in the library. This is a major hurdle. OF COURSE YOU HAVE TO HAVE READ THE PREVIOUS CHAPTERS! You couldn’t get by with just “knowing what happened in previous chapters,” because to write the actual finale you will need to allude to events and people by name, and you’ll need to pick up on tossed-off references made in the earlier parts of the novella so that readers say, “Of course! Why didn’t we realize that?” But anyhow, I thought I would point this hurdle out before anyone gets too excited.]
6. The deadline for entering your work is January 25.
If you decide to enter, let us know in the comments! I think this would be a fantastic opportunity for someone like me to get noticed. I just don’t think I can track down the back issues with sufficient speed.