Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More press

Much Fleet Street ink has been expended on UK publishing's autumn programme, which not only features lots of big-time novelists (Thomas Harris, John Le Carre, John Grisham) but also lots of big-time celebrity biogs. Big-time, that is, in the sense that huge sums of money have (allegedly) been offered by way of inducement to the (nominal) authors.

Since many of the 'celebrities' who feature in this throw-money-at-the-problem scenario are scarcely widely known names even in the UK, I will not list too many of them here, but the Guardian provides some details. (Link from booktrade.info.)

Apparently the holy grail in celebrity biog business is the 'Bluewater factor' defined as the star who can bring into the bookshops people who wouldn't normally go anywhere near. Jade Goody is one, and Jordan is another.

The Guardian also tells a good story that I had not come across before, namely that, in Thackeray's Pendennis, there is a character called the Honorable Percy Popjoy, who fancies himself as a novelist but lacks the talent and the energy. So he recruits a ghost to do the job for him. Rather successfully, it turns out.

However, poor Percy falls foul of some literary snobs, who, knowing the true authorship of the novel, proceed to congratulate Percy on his skill in managing certain scenes -- scenes which do not, of course, occur within its pages at all.

How unkind some people are. I trust that no one did that kind of thing to poor Naomi Campbell, in relation to Swan -- although it is said that the 'author' did have considerable difficulty in remembering what the book was all about, and had to consult a one-page cribsheet when preparing for interviews.

Should you wish to read Swan (1996), you can buy a hardback via Amazon for £0.01, but I really wouldn't bother. It was ghosted by Caroline Upcher, who did a sound job, but the story wasn't very interesting unless you happen to be mad keen on the world of fashion.

Caroline Upcher, by the way, has multiple skills. She has worked as an editor in various publishing houses, and under her own name wrote Falling for Mr Wrong. But it is her work as 'Hope McIntyre' which is perhaps of most interest to readers of this blog.

Hope McIntyre's How to Seduce a Ghost is the story of a (female) ghost writer called Lee Bartholomew; it has been described as 'a ripe old yarn of murder and passion'. It reveals how a ghost writer has to struggle to make a screwy celebrity sound sane and wise, and it is, of course, pure fiction, and not remotely related to the Hope/Caroline's real-life experiences.

Speaking of ghosted books, here's one just begging to be written. Tucked away in the Public Agenda section of the Times is a story picked up from the Daily Mirror about a Bournemouth man who was arrested by the police for kerb-crawling. The police watched him pick up a prostitute. They they waited until he was parked in a secluded car park and finally arrested him in a 'compromising position'.

Nothing very unusual about that, except that this man is 95.

Let's see now: How to Have an Active Sex Life in Your Nineties -- a Sinner Reveals His Secrets. Or, Getting It On When You're Getting On. Or, Passion for Pensioners.

OK, so it it needs work. But there's a book there, dammit.

Tim Worstall, blogger and editor of 2005 Blogged, has a comment piece in the Times. It's all about giving money to the government. Apparently there are a few people who freely give money to the UK government, over and above what they have to pay in taxes: five of them, to be precise. Tim's point is that we should only pay attention to those who recommend higher taxes if they can show us their receipts for such voluntary gifts. Without such receipts, he suggests, we can safely ignore them.

Finally, this morning's Times has an article about barn owls, which apparently have had a terrible breeding season. A cold March was followed by a wet May, which killed off parent birds.

A spokesman for the Barn Owl Trust says that it's the worst year he's ever known, and he blamed it all on changing weather patterns caused by global warming.

At which point I sighed deeply. Not just because I have recently read Michael Crichton, but because I remember very well a conversation that I had in about 1963 or so.

I was driving along the A47 in East Anglia, in pouring rain, when I saw a man in RAF uniform by the side of the road, so I stopped and gave him a lift. We got to talking about the weather.

'It's the bomb,' said the RAF man firmly. By which he meant the atomic bomb, or its bigger cousin, the hydrogen bomb. 'All my mates in the RAF reckon that things have never been the same since we started testing.'

And it was true, of course, that in the years from 1945 onwards, several big nations had been testing their bombs: the Americans, the British, the French.

So, if tomorrow morning you draw back your bedroom curtains and find that it's pouring with rain, just remember this: it's all because of the bomb; or global warming; or global warming caused by the bomb; or some variation upon same as yet undiscovered.

There is no possibility whatever -- none at all, and you should clear your minds of the very idea -- that it might just be raining.


Anonymous said...

I love the one sage in The Times who noted, "Books appear to be cool at the moment. They are quite cool with young people as well as older people.” Like blue running lights on your car, I guess. Cool.

Steerforth said...

Re: 'It's the bomb' - I can believe it. Apparently, everyone born during the early 60s, when nuclear bomb tests were at their peak, has unusually high levels of Strontium 90 in their teeth and bones.

PS - If you want to see one of Britain's largest nuclear bunkers, visit my blog!

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