Monday, October 02, 2006

Monday morning

State of Denial

Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial, comes out this week -- today, in fact. It is subtitled 'Bush at War, Part III', and it is clearly an important contribution to the Iraq war debate.

Leaks from State of Denial began to emerge last week, with CBS leading the way. Woodward has recorded a 60-minute TV interview with Mike Wallace, due to be broadcast yesterday. You can find a text reference to it, and a clip, on the CBS site.

Most readers of this blog will know of Woodward's long and honourable history as a journalist, and it will be fascinating to see what sort of a reception this latest book receives. (Link from Publishers Lunch.)

Copyright jungle

Maud Newton provided the link to an excellent article on copyright in the Columbia Journalism Review.

I didn't much like the tone of this piece when I began to read it, but it soon settles down and begins to talk sound common sense. Not, I have to say, that much of what it has to say is new -- you may have come across many of the ideas on this very blog, and in other sources that I have pointed to from time to time. But overall this article is an excellent contribution to the debate, and it constitutes a useful summary of the present position.

Rosslyn Chapel

Are you a Da Vinci Code enthusiast? Do you yearn to know the secrets of the Rosslyn chapel? If so go to The Rosslyn Hoax? web site for details of a new book which reveals (it is claimed) some startling facts. Note: the Rosslyn Chapel was already the subject of much speculation long before Mr Brown wrote his famous book.

The joy of academe

Martin Rundkvist explains what fun it is to write academic papers and reviews, and then have to wait a year to put your own stuff on your own web site.

Roger Morris makes money

Roger Morris, you may recall, was one of Macmillan New Writing's first half dozen. And now he's had his first royalty statement, which is analysed on his blog:

Number of copies sold: 1,804.
Income generated by the book: £10,429.76.
Roger's earnings (20% of the above): £2,085.95.

Now that strikes me as very respectable. Of course there was a flurry of excitement and press coverage of the early MNW authors, but even so, not at all bad for a hardback.

Happy days

Carla Nayland kindly pointed me towards a post on the Poddy Mouth blog, in which Poddy points out that being an author is getting to be less and less fun.

Barrymore out

Today, 2 October, is the official publication date for Michael Barrymore's book Awight Now -- Setting the Record Straight, which I discussed on 3 August.

In that post I also mentioned a related book, Not Awight Now -- Getting Away with Murder, which has the ISBN number 0-9546949-1-0. The book deals with the death of Stuart Lubbock at Michael Barrymore's home.

I mention the ISBN of that second book because some of the other details are a bit obscure. For instance, on Amazon the authors are listed as Terry Lubbock, Andrew Simmons and Harry Cichy (editor). But if you blow the cover illustration up to the 'larger image' size you will see that the cover gives the Simmons first name as Alan. The title is also slightly different from the book's heading on Amazon.

Mr Cichy told me, in an email, that Alan Simmons is a pen-name. Harry Cichy is listed by Amazon as the publisher. And he is also the Chairman of the Lubbock Trust, which was, reportedly, set up to promote further investigation into the death of Stuart Lubbock.

The whole Lubbock/Barrymore history is extremely murky, and on the whole it seems unlikely that either of these two new books will reveal the whole truth about the death of Stuart Lubbock. And while some of us don't care, some people obviously do care. Very much.

More Hardy

How many books are there about Thomas Hardy? Five hundred? Anyway, there are some new ones out, and the Financial Times discusses three of them. The most important, I suspect, is Claire Tomalin's, and she has her own article to plug the book in the Sunday Times. There's also an extract, dealing with Hardy's peculiar funeral.

Mrs GOB is still trying to recover from the shock of hearing that the National Trust is going to let out Hardy's home as a holiday cottage.

Buy a friend a book

It's Buy a Friend a Book Week again -- October 1-7. Debra Hamel decrees them quarterly, and why not.

Assassination Street

You may have heard of the movie Death of a President, wherein an Arab kills the current American President.

But what if every American wanted to do the same? If you want to read a 352-page screenplay describing such a situation, in the '24th year of the war on terror', then Assassination Street is the place to go.


Robert Charles Wilson won a Hugo for Spin, which I liked too, and Dave Langford of Ansible got one as best Fan Writer.

Thirteen is not a number

Thirteen is allegedly a state of mind. So say Myrmidon Books anyway. Myrmidon are new guys in publishing and they're based up north, which makes a change.

Thirteen is the title of one of their first books, by Sebastian Beaumont. He got an Arts Council bursary to write it, which normally makes me deeply suspicious, but in this case the book looks quite interesting.

A test of survival

Speaking of interesting books, here's another one: A Test of Survival. It's published by iUniverse, but, as we all know by now, if we've been paying attention, that does not mean that we can dismiss it with a sniff.

The four-paragraph description of the book is, quite simply, the best blurb that I've read in a long time, from any publisher. The author's early background was in journalism, which I regard as promising. And if you want to make up your own mind about the book, you can read the first three chapters online.

You can also read the evaluations of three professional editors in response to a submission from a literary agent. These editors decided against buying the book because they believed that the science got in the way of the story and would not attract sufficient readership.

Whether you buy A Test of Survival or not, this web site is a valuable case study in modern publishing.


Clive Keeble said...

When based in Sherborne, I was privileged to count the late Dr James (Jim) Gibson among my most loyal customers.

Jim wrote, or contributed to numerous books about Thomas Hardy - most of them published by Macmillan. "Thomas Hardy : a literary life" is still in print in paperback (POD in hardback).

I'm not quite sure how Jim would have felt about some of new Hardy titles, but he would have been overjoyed to see so much recent interest in John Betjeman.

Paul Perry said...

Charles Darwin also wanted a simple burial with his family.. but was forced into Westminster Abbey. At least he was intact.

Francis Ellen said...

Salvador Dali expressed a wish to be buried 'beside' his wife; he had designed a coffin that allowed them to 'hold hands forever'.

The gangsters that ran his business dealings in Figueras at that time decided that his museum might benefit from a dead guy in the building so poor old Dali gets to have half a million school kids a year trample all over him.

Indeed, we really appreciate those special ones who walk among us for a while; the true giants; the immortals. How happy they must be, up their in heaven looking down at all the wonderful people who turn their work to pork.

The important thing is that they have lots of books written about them and that their 'status' is never forgotten. How else would we kow our young? Our citizens must have complete access to symbols of towering genius; else they might not be able to recognize it in their presence.

I'm all for this kind of thing. If only we could have stuffed Jesus and, well, if I mention any other names I'll only go and get myself in trouble with the bonkerites.

Seriously, are not artists better off dead? Should they not really put themselves to the sword after their work is properly acknowledged?

Could we not build a crack team of bestsellerologists and assorted experts to let us know when someone has achieved their peak, then we can just cull them instead of watch them descend into mediocrity or worse?

Surely The Guardian, The Culture Show, The Late Review and other august bodies of the national measure could populate a few teams to take care of things? We might even be able to use genetics to spot them early then let them live just long enough to produce their masterpieces. We could certainly trim a lot of fat out of the art world.

Thank goodness we have the Arts Council in the UK which, in a way, kind of does all this anyway.

Anonymous said...

Re the Barrymore book edited by Harry Cichy, there's some info about the weirdos behind this book on

Francis Ellen said...

in their heaven...

Andrew O'Hara said...

Thanks for the excellent article on copyright in the Columbia Review. "Copyright in recent years has certainly become too strong for its own good. It protects more content and outlaws more acts than ever before."

Granted, I'm one of those rank amateurs who wishes people would trample all over my copyrights but, that having been said, I do hope I will see major breakthroughs in this area of literary freedom before I fall face down in my oatmeal.

James Aach said...

"These editors decided against buying the book because they believed that the science got in the way of the story and would not attract sufficient readership." Best of luck to "A Test of Survival".

As I've mentioned here before, despite positive reader feedback I've had similar difficulties with my insider novel of nuclear power. (See my blog). I've done a lot of musing on this, and discuss the whole "science vs. literature" thing in a commentary at

Essentially, I believe many fiction editors and agents don't care for science within fiction because they've never cared for science, period - from their days struggling through chemistry class onward. This was one reason they gravitated toward the liberal arts. Nothing wrong with that, but I suspect there are times when they transfer their own disinterest in anything scientific to the reading public at large. (Of course, it's fiction we're talking about, so it still has to be a good story.)

PersonaNonData said...

State of Denial, the capstone on a summer of reports regarding the White House, Iraq and Al Qaeda. On 60mins, Woodward appears more astonished and astounded at the arrogance and blindness of the White House. Rice has no interest in the imminent threat a month before 9/11! This was a nothing Presidency before 9/11 which is why Bush was reading Children’s stories on 9/11. Mrs PND and I can’t believe they all spoke to him on record but now they are out with guns blazing.

Anonymous said...

State of Denial = Henry Kissinger's back in the White House advising Bush to defeat insurgents in Iraq.
Mmm, I love the smell of napalm in the morning ...

Francis Ellen said...

Mr. Aach, this sounds like sour grapes to me.

You are obviously unaware that every single novel ever published is a best seller in its class.

This is because publishers know what will and what will not sell. Otherwise what would be the point of them being publishers?

They have to invest money, you know. To publish an unknown with a book that won't sell can be expensive. But more importantly, it simply cannot be justified.

If, for example, one were to publish, say, the ghosted novel of a page three girl with massive tits and then the novel did not sell, I'm sure you'll agree that such a situation would constitute some kind of rip in the universe.

However, if one were to publish, say, a novel by a quality writer with a good feel for character and story but that person happened to be a complete nonentity without even big tits, then that would be difficult to justify to one's superiors, would it not?

There have been occasions when publishers have offered huge advances to unknowns but we both know that in all of these cases the books became instant classics and the writers propelled to immortality.

Publishing is a difficult business; except for the big publishers, for whom it is easy because year after year they insist on populating themselves with people with impeccable taste.

It's a long and hard training, publishing. And you've no idea how awful it is to have to actually read things that one has not written oneself.

The most successful publishers, of course, never read. I myself have hired a smart young girl to do all my reading for me. She's from a good school and if she were to read your book and if there really were a market for it then she would certainly see that.

Sir, you argue with nature itself. Surely you know that the fundamental laws of publishing forbid motion from a state of non-connection?

All things must be connected. Neither you nor anyone else can alter this.

Nature cannot be fooled.

Call yourself a scientist?

James Aach said...

I will begin the hormonal treatments to generate the necessary cleavage immediately. Whatever it takes...