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Dear Authorized Personnel,
Please find here in these online files important information as outlined in my reports, collectively entitled All The Wrong Questions. The first two (2) volumes — Who Could That Be At This Hour? and When Did You See Her Last? — have been privately published and are only available in libraries, bookshops, schools, stores, people’s homes, private headquarters and the World Wide Web. Please help keep this information restricted by circulating my work only to authorized personnel or other people.
With all due respect,
In a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket began his apprenticeship in an organization nobody knows about. He started by asking questions that shouldn't have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not be published, in four volumes that shouldn't be read, the first two chapters of which should not be included here but are.
1. Has anyone seen the missing girl? 2. Why aren't her parents upset? They seem confused. 3. What do a chemistry experiment, a grocery store, unruly hair, and a stolen statue have to do with anything? 4. Now I'm confused. Why are you changing the subject? You're supposed to be thinking about the missing girl. Where is she?
It’s hard to keep a stealthy sleuth down – witness Lemony Snicket’s forthcoming return to Stain’d-By-The-Sea, the shadowy setting of his All the Wrong Questions series of “autobiographical” mysteries. Next April Fools’ Day, Little, Brown will release File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents, a collection of 13 noir mini-mysteries illustrated by Seth, who also provides the art for All the Wrong Questions.
From time to time people say to me, "Lemony Snicket, you write dreadful and shocking books. What sort of writing do you find dreadful and shocking yourself?"
My reply to them is always the same: "Please be quiet, I'm trying to read." Nevertheless, I occasionally stumble upon a dreadful and/or shocking passage of children's literature that may have passed unnoticed by other readers with less investigative or hysterical temperaments. I am grateful to the Huffington Post for allowing me to point out these disturbing passages so that the general public can be as flushed and sputtering as I am.
For readers who've been missing "unfortunate events" with the Baudelaire children, welcome back to the land of Lemony Snicket. Here he brings a memoir of a young detective, 13, named "Lemony Snicket." LS-the-character, after unexpectedly exiting a family lunch through a restroom window, goes hunting for a missing statue of something called the "Bombinating Beast."
While the Unfortunate Events books play with ideas about gothic literature, All the Wrong Questions explores detective-noir conventions. Handler tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that initially, he had concerns about writing in a noir style for younger readers, not least because of the central role of the genre's femme fatale characters and their sexualized personas. But then he had an epiphany that freed him from this worry: In noir, he realized, the detective and the femme fatale are doing the exact same thing.
The old house squats high on a hill overlooking a sparkling bay. A substantial man in a suit and tie appears at the front door. He could be a banker, a lawyer, a politician, a mortician.
Definitely not a writer. Which he is.
"Would you like an espresso?" asks Daniel Handler, 42, not to be confused with Lemony Snicket, the fictitious scribe Handler often "represents" at media events. Snicket is famously the investigative protagonist of A Series of Unfortunate Events, 13 best-selling turn-of-the-millennium children's books that became a 2004 Jim Carrey movie.
"Forget the interview," says Handler with the wave of a hand. "Let's get hopped up on coffee and you can just tell your readers I'm pro-literature."
Six years after the original series ended, Handler has decided that Lemony Snicket deserves his own story. The first of the All The Wrong Questions quartet, Who Could That Be At This Hour?, takes place long before the Baudelaire children were born, when Snicket was an adolescent working for the mysterious organization known as VFD. Readers might be tempted to look at this new series as a set of prequels, but Handler deftly deals with those expectations by starting the book with an attempted poisoning and an escape through a bathroom window. Questions about the Baudelaires are left far behind in the quick action.
Daniel Handler leads a literary double life. He writes novels under his own name — his most recent is “Why We Broke Up” — and best-selling children’s books under the name of Lemony Snicket. He’s in town this Saturday for the Boston Book Festival.
BOOKS: What are you reading currently?
HANDLER: I am reading a book by Martha Gellhorn, “Pretty Tales for Tired People.” She was on a vague list in my head of people who were good but whom I hadn’t read. I loved the title so I picked it up.
BOOKS: What did you read before the Gellhorn?
HANDLER: Iris Murdoch’s “The Bell,” which is a great book. I pigged out on her about 15 years ago. The pig-out started in college with “Under the Net,” her first novel, which is terrific. This is my first time reading her in a long time. Read more...
What is a bombinating beast, and why would anyone make a statue of it, much less steal it, in a city nowhere near an ocean that's nevertheless known as Stain'd by the Sea? These, and other alliterative oddities, are at the center of "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" — a Pink Panther-esque page turner that marks the return of eccentric narrator Lemony Snicket, who was last heard from six years ago with "The End" to his 13-book "A Series of Unfortunate Events."
“ ‘Who Could That Be at This Hour?’ ” is a novel that asks many questions, not least the one its title poses. Some others: “Why are you flying through the air in the middle of the night?” “Where is that screaming coming from?” and “Who put you in this basement?”
“I’m always more pleased by a book that tends to ask questions rather than answer them, so I tend to write that way too,” Daniel Handler said in a telephone interview from San Francisco, where he lives with his family.