Friday, August 25, 2006

Stuff for the weekend

OK. There are lots and lots of interesting snippets this week, so we'll get through as many as we can. In no particular order.

Clive Keeble interviewed

Clive Keeble, the Sherlock Holmes de nos jours and unmasker of book thieves, is due to be interviewed by BBC TV Manchester, yea this very morning. Norman Buckley, the book thief in question, is expected to be sentenced today. Those of you who live in the Manchester area, tune in.

It seems that the BBC actually read my piece about this affair, the main part of which was of course Clive's own statement to the police.

Ellroy's working methods

The University of South Carolina has apparently acquired the working papers of James Ellroy, a writer who was mentioned here recently as recovering from a 'three-year crack-up'. The librarian who is handling the papers reports that the 'outline' for L.A. Confidential is 'over 200 pages of single-spaced narrative. It’s a full plot summary of everything that’s going to happen in the book. Ellroy seems to do this for all his novels.'

Crumbs. Over 200 pages, single-spaced? And that's an outline? Now wonder the guy fell ill. (Link from Maud Newton.)

Further down in the same post (click on the Maud Newton link immediately above) there's a good story about Ray Bradbury, which contains the sound advice that you should never talk about a story: just sit down and write it.

Nude authors

There has been some debate recently, I understand, about 'Hotties of Publishing', whatever that may mean (and it may mean the difficulty of choosing between salad and steak at one of those famous publishing lunches). But this debate has led, human nature being what it is, to a discussion of nude authors.

Maud Newton suggests that you could get ahead of the trend here. 'If,' she says, 'you’ve got any nude photographs of yourself inappropriately fondling a housepet, go ahead and send them in. But do be sure they’re tasteful.'

Quite. One really can't be too careful.

How to parlay a self-published book into a TV sitcom

The Book Standard reports that Twentieth Century Fox has bought the rights to Suzanne Hansen's You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again and intends to make a sitcom out of it.

This book is a tell-all account of working as a nanny for famous Hollywood families. It was originally self-published and was then re-published by Crown in December 2005. Sales so far 21,000.

More book videos

Should you wish to see any more videos acting as trailers/plugs for new books (and, my dear, they are quite rage at the moment), then the Book Standard has a new selection for you. For some reason they all look rather frightening.

We should be so lucky

Publishers Lunch reports that big-time agent Ed Victor has been seen limping along with a stick. He says that he broke his ankle when kicking a publisher. (Ed doesn't seem to have anything so vulgar as a web site of his own; it would no doubt encourage all those ghastly losers to send him things. His entry in the UK Writer's Handbook says 'does not accept unsolicited submissions'. So there.)

Great editors

Once upon a time, when publishing was different, there was an editor called Maxwell Perkins. He is generally held up as a model of his kind, able to coax the very best work out of really big names: names such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, and Ernest Hemingway.

Now there is an annual Maxwell Perkins award for distinguished achievement in fiction editing, and this year it has gone to Gary Fisketjon, who also edits a long list of well known names.

Another maligned genre

Is it possible, could it be, that there is a genre of fiction even more maligned, despised and rejected than romantic fiction? Well, er, yes. Maybe.

I speak, of course, of the western. You thought it was dead, didn't you? You thought nobody did that stuff any more. Well they do.

Nip over to Black Horse Extra where you can find all sorts of information, including interesting titbits along the lines of recruiting someone to write a book to match a piece of artwork from a continental source.

Artwork from a continental source? Sounds a bit dodgy to me. But I quite like the idea of a character called Misfit Lil. I wonder if she's any kin to Apricot Lil and Slack Alice? But I digress.

Simple fact is: people still write westerns, even though, to quote Keith Chapman (aka Chap O'Keefe), 'it's bloody hard work for little reward beyond satisfaction of the kind that comes when you give in to the urge to bash your head against a brick wall.'

I'm sure there are lots of good stories about UK writers who wrote scores of westerns without ever going any further west than Paddington station, but I've forgotten them all.

Publish and be damned

Yet another site for self-publishers has come to my attention (thanks to son Jon in Seoul for the link). Publish and Be Damned is a company which sets its prices in Canadian dollars and UK pounds, so it is presumably based in those two countries rather than the US.

And -- this is the interesting bit -- if you want an example of a book published via this conduit, try Tales of Mirth and Woe by Alistair Coleman. You can't tell unless you zoom in on the cover illustration, but this book comes with an introduction by Neil Gaiman, and I bet you can't get Neil to write an intro for your book, so kindly uncurl your lip.

The book is based on the award-winning web site 'Scaryduck: Not Scary. Not a Duck.'

Says one five-star reviewer on Amazon: 'The tales he tells take me back to some of the less savoury episodes of my own childhood and remind me of things I've spent years trying to forget. His reminiscences about work colleagues, school friends, play mates and teachers are verging on the libellous.'

Only verging? How disappointing.

John Iannuzzi: Condemned

I don't know about you, but I tend to ration my newspaper reading and TV-news watching these days. If I read/watch more than a certain amount of it I fall into a depression which is no good to anyone.

How refreshing then, to read about someone with extensive experience of real life who actually begins to talk a bit of sense. Though whether anyone will pay any attention is a different matter altogether.

I refer, in this instance, to Condemned by John Iannuzzi. The author has personally handled more homicide cases at the trial level than any other practising lawyer in the State of New York, and he is recognised as a distinguished practitioner of the law. But he also believes that the current drug laws simply don't work.

Iannuzzi believes that the US is in danger of repeating what President Roosevelt called the 'stupendous blunder' of Prohibition. He argues that the desire to control undesirable substances has created an entire industry of criminality, corruption, and violence which permeates the very fibers of everyday life.

These beliefs of Iannuzzi's are expressed in the form of fiction. His book Condemned comes with several endorsements from fellow lawyers, and also one from Robert K. Tanenbaum, who knows a bit about writing fiction.

The book is published by Xlibris, which will of course condemn it utterly in some people's eyes. But if you want to read an excerpt then the publisher provides one.


Speaking of crime, there's a UK-based web site for fans of the genre at (another find from son Jon).

If you are one of those people who thought that you would always write a book one day, and probably after you'd retired, then perhaps you ought to take note of a writer who gets five stars from CrimeSquad. He's Andrew Nugent, a 68-year-old Benedictine Monk. His first book (one of a projected series) is The Four Courts Murder, and the publisher is Hodder/Headline, which is a tough market to break into.

Mixing with the good and the great

Lynne Scanlon's latest post gives some advice on how to press the flesh, network like crazy, and pose, if necessary, as someone else.

Hot stuff from Edith Wharton

Cantara Christopher is a writer and publisher who runs Cantarabooks in New York, and at the foot of her latest newsletter she includes a link to what is described as a piece of 'classic women's erotica'.

This is indeed pretty hot stuff, and it comes, believe it or not, from the pen of Edith Wharton. Yes, the Edith Wharton, of The House of Mirth fame. Born 1862, died 1937, and packed a good deal of living into the time between.

Edith's description of what one romantic novelist of my acquaintance (Jenny Haddon) has described as 'docking procedures', provides an elegant lesson in how to portray these things without descending into crudity. It is also a reminder of the strange and scarcely credible fact that previous generations actually had a sex life.

Ms Wharton, by the way, also wrote The Writing of Fiction, which is an invaluable read for an aspiring writer, despite its age.

More later

That's enough for now. There's a lot more but it will have to wait till Monday.


Anonymous said...

As an update to the Manchester Central Library book thefts, sentence was today adjourned until 23rd October

The BBC were here for over two hours this morning - they wanted the film for inclusion in the lunchtime news, so it was quite a tight schedule for it to get streamed from Taunton/Bristol. I expect that the interview with myself will be held over until after Norman Buckley has been sentenced in October.

Peter L. Winkler said...

"Robert K. Tanenbaum, who knows a bit about writing fiction."

Does he? Until very recently, his books were all ghostwritten.

Anonymous said...

As far as Iannuzzi's warnings of another "Prohibition" in the US, we've been throwing loonies in the clink for decades for shooting heroin, smoking crack, gobbling LSD, yada yada--we need one more lawyer-turned-author to say we shouldn't do this?

And as to the nude authors, "Looking sexy absolutely trumped the fact that I had written a sober, hopefully intelligent dating guide..." Oh, I'm sure. Yawn.

Alistair Coleman said...

Thanks for mentioning my book, Michael. The is one very, very easy way to get Mr Gaiman (or similar) to write part of your book. I asked him, and said please.

Also: Only "verging on the libellous"? I spent WEEKS making each and every person utterly unidentifiable, otherwise I'd be fleeing for my life.

Anonymous said...

That maligned genre, Westerns, gets a boost at Hardluck Stories. The theme for the new issue is Western Noir.

Anonymous said...

By way of a further update to the Manchester Central Library thefts I see that the Manchester Evening News has a lengthy report

One surprising fact, at least to me, is that the 1654 book of John Donne's poems which prompted my March 30th investigations has, according to this press report, not been recovered. Pardon me,if that report is correct, what was going on ?

It appears that this story is going to run and run : it exemplifies the dilatory manner in which antiquarian "stock" is handled when in public library ownership. These books are our national, as well as local, heritage (inheritance) : they are not there as part of a leisure facility, they are part of our culture and should be better protected and valued.

There are some very important questions which need to be answered by civic leaders.