A Dog’s Tale

LONDON — The hero of Mark Haddon’s first piece of adult fiction is a sensitive, misunderstood teenage boy with a strange pet and a mystery to solve — but that’s pretty much where the Harry Potter parallels end. Haddon’s...

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It’s clear Haddon likes to keep busy. Rather than resting on his laurels with “The Curious Incident,” he’s just finished a TV adaptation of the “Fungus the Bogeyman” children’s book, which will be aired in the U.K. in three 50-minute segments. “It’s about this community of slimy, slightly melancholic bogeymen,” he says with a laugh. Haddon also has written 10,000 words of his next adult novel, tentatively titled “Blood and Scissors” — but he’s keeping mum about its plot.

Although Haddon was already writing books and children’s TV programs while J.K. Rowling was still scribbling her soon-to-be-famous notes on a café table, he credits her with sparking a hybrid moment in literature between children’s and adult fiction — of which he’s taking full advantage. “Publishers are desperate for crossover books, due partly to Harry Potter,” says Haddon, adding that he wrote “The Curious Incident” as “an adult book for myself.”

In the U.K., “The Curious Incident” is being marketed both as an adult and a young-adult title, each with its own cover but the same text. In the U.S., it’s being marketed solely as an adult book — perhaps because of some of its salty language. The novel has already been sold in 27 countries — and Haddon says he’s had his share of translation wrinkles. “I’ve had very long discussions with the Finns about how to translate the precise size of the garden fork,” he muses.

Haddon says the very literal-minded Christopher taught him a lot about the writing process.

“I was able to avoid sentimentality, and I learned to write better. Christopher does a lot of what writers are told to do: Paint a picture, show, not tell, leave the reader space in the narrative,” he says, adding that some readers laughed all the way through his book, while others wept.

And for those literary deconstructionist lovers out there, the book offers even more. “I think this book is as much about writing and books and language as it is a story in itself,” says Haddon. “It’s simple, but full of paradoxes. It’s a fiction about someone who can only ever tell the truth.”
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