Just in case you missed them, here are a few bits that cropped up over the weekend.
The Guardian had an interview with Sarah Waters (link from Bookslut). This is a longish piece, and if you don't know Sarah's work it's a good introduction; and it acted as a reminder to me to get hold of her latest, The Night Watch. Interview by Lisa Allardice, by the way, who clearly knows what she's doing.
The future of bookshops
The Waterstone's/Ottakar's thingy has prompted all sorts of think pieces in the press.
There's an article by Iain Dale, on the Guardian comment-is-free page, which predicts the closure of virtually all independent bookshops. 'I foresee that within 10 years, apart from a very few run by retired individuals with money to throw down the drain, the independent bookshop will have disappeared from our town centres.'
This has generated lots and lots of comments, including one from Andy Laties which is definitely worth reading.
Another article appeared in the Independent. Perhaps because of the paper's name, this was a bit more hopeful, and it at least offered a few reasons as to why small bookshops might survive.
The Guardian piece really annoyed Clive Keeble, who reckons that the indies are the only assured survivors on the UK high streets. Clive also sent me a link to an American article, in the Village Voice, which suggests that the battle between big and small bookshops is not new. And at the end of a longish, thoughtful, and well researched article we get the following: 'Strange to say, someday superstores may be the historical curiosity that indies are now in danger of becoming.'
Tip of the week
Here's a useful tip. If you are thinking of starting a new career as a novelist, at the age of 70, as Mary Wesley did, you should equip yourself with two things: (1) a full life, particularly on the sexual side; and (2) a son who is a literary agent. In Wesley's case, the son was Toby Eady, of (not surprisingly) Toby Eady Associates. It never hurts for an embryo novelist to have a close relative who is a known name in the book business.
I was reminded of this by an article by Toby Eady in yesterday's Sunday Times. The article was a short profile of his mother, who is written about at book length in a biography of Mary Wesley, just out: Wild Mary, by Patrick Marnham.
Investing in books
The Sunday Times also had an article, in the Money section, about investing in books. I'm not going to dwell on that, because I would never advise anyone to buy a book for investment purposes. Buy a book because you want to read it, and possibly keep it, by all means; but if you're buying in the hope that you can sell it in n years' time for a profit, you deserve all the trouble you get.
Only one point caught my attention in this article: it was a statement that the print run for the very first Harry Potter book (hardback) was 500 copies. (Such was the confidence of the publisher.) Hence copies of that first edition are in short supply, and sell for a small fortune.
I also remember, though you'd have to dig into the archives of the Bookseller to find the details, a complaint which was made soon after Harry started to become really popular. It was a complaint made in connection with, I think, the third book in the series.
A bookseller wrote in to say that she had been collecting first editions of the Harry Potter books from the beginning. And so she had wanted to have a first edition of this latest book. But when she opened the packages with supplies of the book for her own shop, she found that none of the books was a true first edition: they were all marked Reprinted, or Second Impression, or some such. I forget the exact phrase.
Someone, the bookseller sourly remarked, had evidently realised that there was going to be money in these things, and had ensured that true first editions weren't even available to booksellers who opened the packages straight from the printers, in advance of the publication date.
All of which is another reason for not buying books for investment purposes. Not to mention the fact that there is a cottage industry in forging J.K. Rowling's signature and selling the 'signed' books on ebay.
Before we leave the weekend's papers, it's worth noting that Saturday's Times had a review of a book translated from the German: Three Bags Full, by Leonie Swann. It's been a bestseller in Germany, and foreign rights have been sold all over the place.
Three Bags Full is a detective story with a twist. The twist being that the murder victim was a shepherd, and the detectives are his sheep. It's set in Ireland.
Well, some very odd things happen in Ireland, and this book sounds as if it might be fun. Then again, it might be all postmodern and lit'ry.
Breakfast with Pandora
At the Breakfast with Pandora blog, DF concentrates mostly on ancient and modern mythology, but he also covers the craft of writing. He recently took time out to disagree with my assessment of To Kill a Mockingbird, and to demonstrate that it genuinely communicates with young people (his post of 31 May). Well, yes, indeed, I don't doubt it. It just didn't do a lot for me.
You won't remember, but back in November last I mentioned Paul K. Lyons, who was running the Diary Junction and other things, and plugging a novel in the process.
Well, he's still at it, and now his novel Kipp Fenn is available online, in full.
Sand Storm offer
As I have said before, many and various are the ways in which writers seek to get themselves into print. For example, the ever-energetic Steve Clackson is trying a new offer to interest publishers in his novel Sand Storm. Steve says that they can have it royalty-free, provided they make a donation, for each copy sold, to the International Red Cross. Meanwhile he is working on the next one.
Death of 'Connie Sachs'
Most people who have read John le Carre's thrillers will know that he worked, at one time, for the UK's intelligences services, MI5 and MI6. Hence it was not surprising that, when he came to write espionage stories, Le Carre based some of his characters on real people.
One of Le Carre's minor characters in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was Connie Sachs, a woman with an encyclopaedic memory for information about even the most obscure corners of Communism. In the 1979 TV adaptation, Connie was played by Beryl Reid.
This character was widely believed to be based on Milicent Bagot, a spinster who was something of a legend in MI5. Well, now Milicent has died, at the age of 99, and the Times has an obituary of her.