Flann O’Brien was a man of many names. He wrote, among other things, The Third Policeman, a dark comic novel.
Harper Collins describes the book, which was originally rejected by publishers for being too fantastical, as “the story of a tender, brief, unrequited love affair between a man and his bicycle and a chilling fable of unending guilt”. [BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Lost revives Irish novel interest]
The novel was rejected by publishers in O’Brien’s lifetime and rather than admit this, he told friends that the manuscript had been lost.
It may be appropriate therefore that The Third Policeman briefly figured in Lost last year. This led to a surge of sales for the book which was reported in the two stories quoted here among other places.
The Third Policemen sequence was broadcast in the US last autumn. “In three weeks we sold 15,000 copies – the same number as we’d sold in the last six years,” said Chad Post of the Centre for Book Culture, which publishes O’Brien’s works in the US. The book’s European publisher, HarperCollins, says it has noticed a surge in demand. The same episode was shown in Ireland on Monday but has yet to be aired in Britain. [Guardian Unlimited Books | News | Surreal bicycle book rides to fame on back of cult TV show]
Interestingly, Amazon is linking Lost and The Third Policeman, in both recommendations and search results. I wonder was this triggered by a manual intervention, aware of the link between the TV show and the novel, or was it triggered automatically by patterns of browsing or purchasing behavior.
Incidentally, the policeman’s bicycle figures strongly in the story, and cyclist readers may be interested to know of the narrator’s theory that the interchange of atoms between the cyclist and the cycle leads to a mixing up of personalities and a large number of people who are really half person, half bicycle. Something to think about if you regularly cycle over rough terrain ….