Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wednesday wonders

Death on her hands

Last Saturday's Irish Times ran an interview with the State Pathologist, Prof. Marie Cassidy. She does the same job that Quirke does -- Quirke being the main character in Christine Falls, by Benjamin Black, aka Booker prize-winner John Banville, of which more when I've finished reading it.

Of course there are quite a few lady pathologists around these days, particularly in fiction and drama: e.g. Patricia Cornwell's novels and Silent Witness; for the latter, it is suggested, Cassidy was the model. Nevertheless, if I were a trade publisher I would sign up Prof. Cassidy for a ghosted autobiography. Fast.

Jeffrey from the ashes

'You can’t keep a good man down,' says the Sunday Times, 'nor indeed Lord Archer.' How very rude. Bloody true though.

Bestselling novelist Jeffrey Archer, Lord Archer to his friends, was always a shade economical with the truth, and was ever ready to exercise his vivid imagination; the result was that, in 2001, he got sentenced to four years in the slammer for perjury. As is the English way, he served two of the four and then got let out. Since then he has exploited his jail time to the full, with a diary of his prison experiences and a book of stories based on tales told to him by fellow prisoners.

Now he's signed a new three-book contract with Macmillan. The first book, A Prisoner of Birth, tells the story of a man who believes he has been wrongly convicted. Well yes. Quite, quite. Who better to write such a tale than Lord A?

Good old Jeffrey. He's always good for a laugh, isn't he? Provided you have a very black sense of humour. I wonder if book-buyers and booksellers will boycott this one? O.J., after all, was found not guilty, whereas Jeffrey did time. Should be a no-brainer really, shouldn't it?

New founts for old

Speaking of the Times, the old lady has had a rejig. The paper has commissioned and adopted a new fount, which is what the rest of us call a font.

Times New Roman was designed in 1931 by Victor Lardent (so Mr Bringhurst tells me); it had 'a humanist axis but Mannerist proportions, Baroque weight, and a sharp Neoclassical finish.' But you probably knew that already. Now Neville Brody has designed something more in keeping with modern needs.
The new fount, Times Modern, blends the traditional and functional lines of the existing Times New Roman and melds them with sharp angular details to give a condensed face that perfectly fits the smaller-sized newspaper.
I don't like it much, but I may get used to it.

How are the mighty

Fifty years ago, the Reader's Digest was arguably the most successful magazine in the world. Run from a country estate in Pleasantville, Westchester County, the RD seemed to be a permanent fixture. I was interviewed for a job there once, come to think of it. Didn't get it.

But times change, and gradually the magazine lost ground. Now the company has been sold for $1.6 billion. Which is still quite a lot of money, of course. The Telegraph gives details; link from

Salesmanship for the self-publisher

Iqbal Ahmed has an article in the Independent which contains some information which will be useful to any self-publisher. Link from

Slightly Foxed

Slightly Foxed is a 'lively quarterly book review for non-conformists – people who don’t want to read only what the big publishers are hyping and the newspapers are reviewing.' It ain't cheap, but a year's subscription for a bookish significant other might be a good Christmas present. (And you could always read it yourself afterwards.)

More on McKeith

Gillian McKeith is a UK-based TV food guru. Her basic routine, in several series of half-hour TV shows, is to take a grossly fat and unfit person, persuade them to stop eating junk food and supermarket shit, and start taking exercise. Not surprisingly, this usually brings about a dramatic transformation in a few weeks.

So far so good. Nothing but good done there, you might think. And there are, of course, books to accompany the TV series, and they sell in vast numbers.

However, the lovely Gillian is another one who is a bit economical with the truth, and inclined to exercise her imagination somewhat; some of her more brazen activities were described here in January 2005.

Now there's more. The Times tells us that Gillian has recently been censured by a government watchdog for selling a range of endorsed herbal sex aids without a licence; furthermore, the sex aids don't actually work.

Gillian McKeith is broadly on the side of the angels in that she persuades people to stop killing themselves; but her business methods are questionable. On her web site she still refers to herself as 'Dr' McKeith, even though, as the Times points out, 'her credentials as a scientist have come under suspicion previously as she obtained a PhD from the non-accredited American Holistic College of Nutrition in the United States.'

Susan Hill blacklisted

I come a bit late to this, it seems, but Galleycat gave me an introduction to the story.

Susan Hill, who is a novelist, playwright and publisher, and excels at all three, did a bit on her blog recently in which she argued that the big-time 'professional' reviewers, in the posh literary journals, are increasingly irrelevant. In the process she was a bit outspoken about the ' – with honourable exceptions – arrogant, lazy, stuck-in-the-mud, cliquey little set of literary editors, and/or "mandarins".'

Now she's had an email from one of these arrogant et cetera, telling her that her books will never be reviewed in his/her journal again. And Susan chooses to let him/her be anonymous, which is too kind in my opinion.

Richard Lea in the Guardian will bring you up to date. Clive Keeble and Steve Clackson are among the commenters.


Anonymous said...

I see "Doctor" (I would prefer to be known as a mandarin) McKeith has coined some original stuff, like "You are what you eat."

Gosh. No wonder she's a dokter.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Susan Hill, I would appreciate it if the editor would step forward. Then we could have a look at the content of the said review and debate about whether or not the statements are true.

I followed such a trail recently because one editor in particular was so disdainful about self-published books and POD. This led me to the editor's remarks about how important its books section was for the culture of America. One glance at its pages was enough to explain why the Books Section was shrinking.

They complain that New York Publishers aren't placing ads in their pages, they complain the New York Publishers are dumbing down the literary establishment, and then they give New York Publishers page-long reviews in their book sections.

Let's hope this new strategy is something other than a suicide mission. Perhaps it is time that they give small press and POD a chance.

Maria said...

On the OJ thing, you've missed the rumors that one of the reasons it was pulled was because it was Not a Confession--yet Regan marketed it that way, implied it, etc. Meanwhile, it was rumored that the buyers were going to be quite disappointed to find that it was not, in fact, a confession, just a platform for OJ to basically say, "I didn't kill them because if I had wanted to, I would have done it differently."

It was beginning to look like there was really no story to be told at all--just marketing and fluff. And perhaps on that basis alone, Murdock decided it was not worth his bother. After all, once word got out that there was no substance to the book, who would buy it? Well, yeah, some would. :>)

Anonymous said...

OJ has now confirmed that the book was not a confession - contrary to Regan's claim - and that he only did it for the money. He doesn't even pretend that he has not personally profited from the aborted project - he says he's spent the lot!

Anonymous said...

There are really too many McKeiths around. Too many people exaggerate their credentials to make what they say weigh more....or, in the case of McKeith, weigh LESS. Excuse the pun.

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