Thursday, October 12, 2006

Thursday digest

Blogger was being awkward again today....

More Booker

Further to yesterday's post: I advise all readers of the ensuing discussion of the winning book, in every newspaper, magazine and blog in the known universe, to bear in mind the wise words of the founder of the prize. People love the Booker, he declared, 'because it is so unfair.'

Meanwhile, Publishers Lunch highlights some words of wisdom from Richard Charkin, the bossman at Macmillan:

I should have known that this particular title would win when, earlier in the evening, I was asked whether Macmillan was committed to publishing literary books. I asked what is meant by a literary book. Apparently it is a work of fiction which loses money. It seemed rather an odd definition and I tried to argue that publishing companies tend to do a better job when they are solvent. In addition I'm not quite sure why literary publishing should deserve more support than, say, educational publishing in Zimbabwe.... But I should not want to leave future publishers at Macmillan with an inheritance of loss whatever the definition of literature.
Belated thanks

It was, of course, Clive Keeble who alerted me to the Susan Hill point about Cheltenham, mentioned on Tuesday. is 'a free directory of writers and artists'. You can offer your stuff to the world, and see what the world has to offer you. Not a lot there as yet, but the art books section suggests that Lulu is now being used to publish, in ebook form, some material which would never be economic in the print world. (Link from Nadine Laman.)

Gender rivalry

Petrona took exception to David Montgomery's list of the ten 'best' detective novels because the authors were all male. So she's started to collect her own list of women writers.

Stephen King again

Stephen King is not my favourite author, but by golly he works hard. His new book is apparently somewhat different from the usual recipe, and he has some interesting things to say to the New York Times, not least in reference to critics who 'made their ignorance of their own popular culture a virtue.' (Link from Merisi, who blogs [visually] from Vienna.)

Stephen King by the way, is coming to England. And he doesn't do that very often. There is to be (I am told) an 'exclusive event', presented by The Times, Hodder & Stoughton and Waterstone's. It will take place at Battersea park Events Arena on November 7th at 7.00pm. Tickets cost £15.00 each. Book yours now: 08708 303 488. Or not, according to taste.

Tonto Press blog

Tonto Press is a relatively new UK-based small press, and the two guys in charge have started a blog which relates how they deal with some of the problems. In their most recent post they deal with the knotty question of how to sell books. (And you thought writing them was the difficult part.)

Not so smart

In recent days I have twice mentioned that writing a novel based directly on personal experience is not such a smart move. It is much more dangerous, from a legal point of view, than is generally realised, especially by writers who are new to the fiction business. Now here's a case which rather proves my point.

Joyce Dudley, in real life, is a Santa Barbara prosecutor, and she recently self-published (through Infinity) her second crime novel, Intoxicating Agent. This features a heroine who is also a female prosecutor and 'has the poise and sexiness of a dancer, the brains of a scholar', and so forth. Said fictional prosecutor takes on a case in which a seriously nasty piece of work is accused of raping an intoxicated victim.

Sadly, one of Ms Dudley's real-life defendants argued that this fictional case was far too much like his own. And the California Court of Appeal agreed. Ms Dudley has been barred from prosecuting the real-life case because of a disabling conflict of interest. (Story in the Times.)

Meanwhile, Galleycat reveals that the too-close-to-reality syndrome is not confined to younger writers. Joyce Carol Oates, author of more novels than you can easily count, published a new short story this year, and now wishes that it wasn't quite so closely related to a real-life incident.

'If I had to do it all over again, I certainly would have changed some details,' she says. And Galleycat thinks that this does 'speak to the larger question of how much fact is appropriate in fiction.'

Make it all up, is what I say. Every damned word.

Ansible 231

Dave Langford's monthly newsletter, Ansible, is out again. This deals mainly with science fiction, but you really don't need to be an SF fan to find it amusing. Thog's Masterclass, for example, constitutes a monthly warning to writers of all kinds that it is all too easy to put your foot in your mouth. So to speak.


Before offering anything to Aultbea, be sure to check my post of 18 July 2006 to see if there are any relevant comments.


Albert Ellis is a name I first became aware of back in the early 1960s. In those days, there were a mass of men's magazines in the US, aimed mainly I suspect at the college boys' market. They featured intelligent articles and some pretty good short stories, plus lots of pictures of young women without any clothes on. Since there was absolutely no UK equivalent at the time, any unsold copies of the print-run were shipped to the UK, where they found an eager readership.

Anyway, Albert Ellis used to write for some of those magazines. He was trained as a psychologist and psychoanalyst, and Wikipedia now refers to him as a cognital behavioral therapist. He was, incidentally, unsuccessful in early attempts to write fiction.

Now a correspondent rightly reminds me that anyone interested in emotions would do well to take a look at Ellis's work. The Wikipedia article has a useful list of his publications.

Bomb bunkers

Speaking of the bomb, which we were recently, both in relation to the weather and North Korea, bookseller Steerforth gives us an extremely interesting tour of a cold-war nuclear bunker. This would, he said, have been the home of the British government in the event of nuclear conflict. And he wonders if something similar was built elsewhere.

Well, that's quite certain. Within ten miles of my home there is a pretty well documented network of tunnels, bunkers, and so forth. There are bunker spotters just as there are train spotters. A few years ago the Monkton Farleigh bunker was open to the public, and it was an extraordinary place.

These places were never all that much of a secret, even when they were supposed to be.


Ephemera are bits of old paper, booklets, catalogues, and so forth. People collect them, buy and sell them, swap them, and so forth. And there is, needless to say, a blog about it.

Ain't it awful

Philip F. Harris writes to say that he has commented on the unhappy state of publishing -- unhappy from a tyro writer's point of view, that is -- in the American Chronicle. 'Everyone seems to agree with my message,' he says, 'but no one knows what to do.'

Pass, as they say on quiz shows here in England.

Philip himself, however, does not seem to be too discouraged. Having co-authored a novel called Waking God (a natural, one might think, for the Da Vinci hard-core fans), he is about to publish A Maine Christmas Carol.

Lonely as a cloud

Poor old Paul Burrell. He who authored a book which, in the States, was sold without a title, author, or any details, as the big smash hit (allegedly) of the autumn season, was at a book signing in Waterstone's, Glasgow, and five people turned up. Clive Keeble spotted the story in the Sun, which is famous for its excellent book coverage -- always provided you can get past page 3.

The book, by the way, proved to be a rehash of the Princess Diana story.

The editor's revenge

Publishers Lunch has one or twice pointed to the Unsolicited page of Gawker, and it's certainly worth a look. On October 4, for example, we had an editor sounding off about authors, which certainly makes a change from the constant stream of vice versa. Sample: 'With a few glowing exceptions, authors are the craziest, meanest, strangest, cluelessest people you've ever met.'

This week, October 11, we appear at first sight to be back to the same old same old, i.e. writers complaining bitterly about editors who are too stupid to recognise their genius. But it ain't quite like that. It's an editor again, one with an almost saintly degree of patience.

More free stuff

From time to time, even in 2004, and again in 2005 and 2006, this blog has pointed to a handful of eccentrics who take the view that giving stuff away free on the web is good business and helps to sell books. Now there is an addition to the tiny number of publishers who hold the same view.

From the end of October, the Friday Project will be making its entire back catalogue available online for free. There isn't a lot about it on their web site yet, but they put out a press release to that effect on 5 October. The Friday Project site also provides a route to Scott Pack's 'uncensored' blog about the state of UK publishing.

The current Friday Project plug is Blood, Sweat and Tea, Tom Reynolds's book about life in the London ambulance service. And this one already is available for free in pdf format. Furthermore, you can copy it, send it to friends, or do almost any other damn thing with it for non-commercial purposes.

More than 10,000 pdf copies of the book were downloaded in the first two weeks. As for the print version, Scott Pack says that the initial print run of 20,000 is almost sold out, and they have another 15,000 on order.


Popular art

If you are interested in popular fiction, you might, perhaps, be interested in popular art. If so, the Photogold gallery offers lots of info -- not to mention prints et cetera -- on Jack Vettriano and Beryl Cook.

Nobel news

Orhan Pamuk has won the Nobel prize for Literature, but Martin Rundkvist isn't any too impressed by the procedure for selecting the winner.


A new web site aimed at hard-core book readers has just opened for business. Called Shelfari, it seems to be designed for those like to chat online about what they've read, pick up tips on suitable books for reading groups, et cetera.

Book Standard blog

The Book Standard has launched a blog which will concentrate on book-related video content, including book trailers, author interviews and so forth. And they even give some space to those who are sceptical about videos for promoting books. Such heresy. Though I must say that one or two of those on offer do give one pause.

The Riot Lit blog

The Riot Lit lot have also started a blog. Since there are quite a few of them it is not likely to be short of material. Jeremy Robert Johnson, I see, has offered to marry Poddy Girl, aka Girl on Demand. And Daniel Scott Buck writes about getting his book reviewed by bloggers. I was the first, it seems, and Poddy Girl was keen on it too.

As I have been known to say, all you can do is put it out there and see what happens. And they won't find it, in my opinion, unless it's free to begin with.


Andrew O'Hara said...

Speaking of emotions, I encourage folks to read "The Truth About Writing" (free) by His Grumpiness, which examines that very topic in excellent depth (at

"Yes, The Bomb, Dmitri." Time to dust off our old VHS copies of "Doctor Strangelove" and look for some dark humor again.

Maxine said...

Hello, thank you so much for the link to Petrona, and for not calling me a rabid feminist, which I'm not (rabid that is, I suppose I am a bit of a feminist when I can be bothered).

I have finally got around to posting my own recommended list of detective novels earlier tonight, the link is here at:
Ten favourite detective authors

The context is that David M, an excellent crime-fiction reviewer, has been soliciting suggestions for his list for a while. I, and others, happen to have suggested various women authors. All of whom were rejected by him in his final list. I felt, without by any means being an apologist for the group or wishing to promote tokenism, that this was a bit, well, unbalanced. Hence my all-female suggestions.

A disclaimer -- I read and love many detective novels by men. ;-)

Anonymous said...

This Philip Harris dude really shouldn't complain. His grammar stinks and his punctuation stinks. Why would anybody even consider his writing if he doesn't have the fundamentals down? Study up, Phil. Come back to play when your preperation is done.

Note: He uses "there" when he should be using "their." He uses a semicolon when he should be using a colon. He puts commas in the wrong places. These are beginners' mistakes.

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