Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday things

More on O.J.

Answers -- of a sort -- to some of the questions that I posed on Tuesday are beginning to emerge. Most of them are summarised by Publishers Lunch, drawing on US press reports.

You may remember that I wondered aloud about who initiated the book that dare not show its face in the first place. Was it O.J. himself, an agent, lawyer, publisher, friend of his late wife's, or who?

Publishers Lunch (using the Wall Street Journal* as source) quotes Yale Galanter, O.J.'s usual lawyer/spokesman, who says, 'It wasn't ours to begin with,' adding, 'The project started, was conceived with and always belonged to HarperCollins.'

(*Note: the WSJ is one of those papers with a death wish that won't let you in unless you're a subscriber.)

In other words, if I read this aright, the project began in the devious mind of Judith Regan, which surprises me not at all. And if she dreamed it up, I would expect her to control every aspect of it. Which, I imagine, others in the HarperCollins arena would not be unhappy about, because then she could take all the blame.

And what about the money -- which is what it's all about really -- who's been paid and how much? Galanter says, 'He [O.J.] doesn't have a reaction one way or the other [to Murdoch's decision to dump the book] because all of his contractual obligations have been fulfilled.' He adds: 'There were no contingencies about it being published, or how many copies had to be sold or any of that stuff. All that's done.' He admits Simpson was compensated already and says those obligations 'weren't contingent upon any type of book or interview.'

Which I take to mean that O.J. got paid a flat fee up front. We don't know how much, but the figure originally suggested in the National Enquirer was $3.5 million. PL thinks that attorneys acting on behalf of the murdered woman's family will force a disclosure of the actual figure in due course.

The ghost writer for If I Did It was Pablo Fenjves, a former co-worker of Judith Regan's at the National Enquirer, who was also a witness for the prosecution in O.J.'s criminal trial (he heard a dog barking, which apparently was enough to get him on the witness stand).

Finally, if you are remotely interested, PL points out that the page for the book is still up, and you can read some customer reactions, the most interesting of which are perhaps the tags that people have attached to the book: e.g. boycott (49), disgusted (31), and so forth.

Selling yourself for fun and profit

Ever heard of Squidoo? You probably should have. Anyway, if you're a writer, looking for yet another way to get your name known for zero money, Marti has a free ebook that tells you how to do it. She seems to have alarming amounts of energy.


An agent once reminded me, when she thought that I was approaching something in an excessively objective manner, 'You know, Michael, 'this is a very friendly business.'

How friendly is made clear in a post by bookseller Bob Gray, who takes a dim view of Random House 'letting go' an elder statesman of the travelling rep brigade. (Link from Lynne Scanlon.)

24 varieties of anger

If you are interested in the effect that emotion has on physical health, then you might, perhaps, be interested in Brenda Shoshanna's new book, The Anger Diet. I don't say I recommend it, please note -- because for one thing I haven't read it. But I just say that if you are interested in mind/body interaction you might be interested in Shoshanna's identification of 24 kinds of anger and ways to deal with them.

Collaborative authorship

A formidably complicated project is under way which will allow a million (give or take a few) contributors to write a book on good practice in business management. It's all very Web 2.0 and Wiki and all like that. Big names are involved: Pearson, Wharton, MIT.

Still in fashion

Sex is apparently not about to go out of fashion. Publishers Lunch announces that Jennifer Stevenson has contracted with Del Rey (agent Donald Maass) for a series of books which will probably be called The Sex Files.

One of these, Brass Bed, is about an English lord who is bound to a brass bed by a witch's curse until he satisfies 100 women -- the one hundredth being a Chicago fraud detective called Jewel Heiss.

Good grief, this Stevenson woman clearly has a deranged imagination and her books should be denounced by all right-thinking persons. If you wish to dispose of your ARC, send it to me and I will see that it is dealt with appropriately.

Great minds

In search of plagiarists, Paul Collins discovers that, er... lots of people use similar phrases. Unless you happen to write 'It seems to me that this should not be unusual', in which case, apparently, you're on your own. (Link from Literary Saloon.)

Slava's Snow Show

Yesterday evening to the Theatre Royal, Bath, to see Slava's Snow Show. This is hard to describe. It certainly isn't a play -- not a line of English spoken all evening, and only a sentence or two in anything. It isn't a musical, in the ordinary sense. Neither is it ballet or opera. It isn't circus, though Slava is often described as a great clown. There is certainly quite a lot of mime.

In any event it's very beautiful and enthralling and funny, and you should see it if you get the chance. The tour of England finishes this week, but it's been seen all over the world and it is in the Teatro Olimpico in Rome in December. Find it if you can.

It's Russian, originally.

Digital doings

If you are interested in the impact of new technology on printing and publishing, the place to go is Digital Publishing News.

The first big change, DPN claims, is the invention of new display technologies, so called e-paper.
By 2010 these will be commonplace and widely used for reading printed documents including newspapers, books, and magazines, and in so doing will have a profound effect upon all sectors of the publishing industry.

The second technology driven revolution is the arrival of Web 2.0, the next stage in Internet evolution, which thanks to high power personal computers and broadband communications looks set to completely change the way that we all use the Web.
Note to the boys who write this stuff. New technology does not do away with the need to use the occasional comma and hyphen.

Further freaks

Further to my review on Monday, Dave Lull* writes to tell me that Leslie Fiedler wrote a well respected book called Freaks: Myths and Images of the Secret Self. 'Witty, erudite, outrageously imaginative,' said the Library Journal, 'Freaks is a sober historical survey of social responses to physical abnormality.'

I always thought old Leslie was slightly barmy myself. It was an article in Esquire that did it. He quoted William Faulkner talking about how a man always hated his wife, and said something along the lines of 'How true'. Speak for yourself, I thought.

*Dave Lull, by the way, must be the world's greatest tipper-offer in the book world. Google "Dave Lull" and see. And by the look of him he reads even more than I do. Can't be good for you, Dave. Try to get out more.

They don't make 'em like that any more

I have been doing some research into Soho recently. More of that later. But I thought you might, just possibly, be interested in an article about Sandy Fawkes, a character who might best be described by that hackneyed term 'colourful'.

Sandy was one of those formidable drinkers who drift into Soho, find their own favourite position on the end of a bar in one of the famous pubs, and then stay there more or less for ever. See my bit on Julian Maclaren-Ross for news of a few more of the same.

Can you bear it?

I don't care to tackle the book myself, but, for those strong enough, Alan Hall and Michael Leidig have written a book called Girl in the Cellar. This is an account of the ordeal of Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian girl who was kidnapped at the age of ten and held prisoner for eight years. Excerpts can be found in the Times this week.

Latin is such fun

Do you remember how much fun your Latin lessons were? No, no, don't go away. They weren't as bad as all that. And Joel Rickett (deputy editor of the Bookseller) points out that a little book called Amo, Amas, Amat and All That is selling very nicely (1,000 copies a week) as a Christmas-stocking filler.

Rickett also reckons, by the way, that Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion is going to surprise everyone with its sales this Christmas. 'Its a real heavyweight book,' he said. '... but every year, there's something that comes from leftfield and I think this is it.'

Not another one!

The Times reports that Rudolph K has been nicking rare books from the University of Erlangen in southern Germany. Estimated value £541,000. That bloke in Manchester was an amateur by comparison.

Blair and Archer

I made reference, the other day, to that undeservedly criticised and much-put-upon chap, Jeffrey Archer. And a correspondent reminds me that, by a complete coincidence, there is also a chap called Archer in John Morrison's 2005 book, Anthony Blair, Captain of School. So here, just to set the right tone for the weekend, is a brief extract from the epilogue to that novel -- an epilogue in which, I may say, something very nasty happens.

But we will not dwell on that. Let us, instead, draw moral succour from the fact that chaps who get into a spot of bother here and there can always redeem themselves. Well, more or less.
'Did they really send you down at the Old Bailey? What happened, exactly?'
Archer paused again. He drew a circle in the sand, and continued.
'Some business about share certificates, and loans, and promissory notes. I won't bore you with the details. Take my advice, never trust a lawyer and especially not a judge. I now know, the prisons are full of innocent men who have been tripped up by the law.'
'How awful,' said Blair, shaking his head.
'When they let me out, I travelled here and decided to stay. And how about you? I heard about the Mesopotamia business.'
'I was innocent too,' said Blair. 'But I managed to stay one step ahead of the lawyers. The way I see it, you have to follow God and your conscience. What counts is knowing, deep down inside, that you're doing the right thing.'
'Good for you, old chap,' said Archer. 'Wish I had. Of course, I wasn't religious back then. That might have helped. At least I never got anyone killed.'
Blair decided to change the subject. 'Did you ever get that novel published?' he asked.
'Not yet. Publishers are such duffers. But I'm going to persevere.'
'I might try writing a novel some day. The mater always said I was good at making things up.'


Anonymous said...

Re OJ, News Corp has now confirmed the monies paid. The total deal was worth $880,000 of which $100,000 went to a ghost writer (or scriptwriter as they euphemistcally put it) and 15% to a middleman. $663,000 went direct into OJ's pockets - that's £346,000. The poor chap only gets about $1,700 a month from his $400,000 pension pot so I guess Murdoch and psycho publisher Judith Regan have been most helpful.

OJ has also cheerfully admitted that that the book was no confession - in other words, Regan lied about that. She'd also claimed that all monies were paid via a "middleman" to benefit OJ's kids. No mention of them in the latest bulletins.

Madame Arcati

Anonymous said...

I just read the article on Sandy Fawkes what a remarkable story!
Dylan in a skirt.
You are right of course we will not likely see the likes of these again.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed anyone's left who remembers taking Latin. For all its horrors, it was a discipline--and we certainly don't want that in our schools today.

Don said...

Actually Latin never left schools entirely. It wasn't an option at my high school in the early 80s but the Catholic and public schools in the next town over did offer it (a friend's brother opted for Catholic school specifically so he could take Latin!). And my college had a small but vigorous classics department which offered Latin and Attic Greek (I took three semesters of Latin, but was defeated in my first semester of Greek).

Amo Amas Amat is, if I'm not wrong, an old-ish book. I think it dates back to at least 1990 if not earlier. I seem to remember hearing something about it either in college or shortly after graduation.

Anonymous said...

Dave Lull is also known by some of us as OWL -- omnipresent Wisconsin librarian. I have a blog set up just for the articles he sends me at

Anonymous said...

PS my 11 year old daughter is studying Latin. And no, it isn't a private school. And yes, it is her favourite subject.

Anonymous said...

I have had a tee shirt for 20 years which is, sadly, about to I fall apart, bearing a yachty badge with the motto "Esse Litorem Maris Amo"* round the outside.

The Blessed Terry Pratchett has cod Latin "punes" in, I think, "Feet of Clay", his wonderful golem novel. And there's "Carpe Jugulum", of course (vampires, Jim, but not as we know them.

* I like to think of it as "I do like to be beside the seaside".

archer said...

My lawyerly view of the O.J. matter, which I expound with my usual sense of studied moderation, may be found here.

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