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Saturday, February 07, 2004

Your Weekend Crime Fiction Update 

Perhaps the second most popular question a mystery author gets (the most popular is....well, take a guess in the comment box) is "when will your book be made into a movie?" or some derivative thereof. The Observer takes this a bit further and ponders why certain books get the film or TV treatment while others never quite make it. Their case study is Peter Robinson and his Inspector Banks novels, which would seem tailor-made for a long-running series a la Morse, but so far, no bites. Personally, I could take it or leave it, but the books are marvellous, and his latest, PLAYING WITH FIRE, is just another example of a masterful author at work.

Speaking of PLAYING WITH FIRE, it's the lead review in Marilyn Stasio's column this week, and her reaction mirrors mine, though she's much more coy about it, as Stasio is wont to do. Also making the column is Jenny Siler's Moroccan-set FLASHBACK (mostly a rave for the setting and character), William Kent Krueger's BLOOD HOLLOW (again, mostly a rave) and Laura Van Wormer's THE KILL FEE, which is so gleefully skewered that it makes me wonder if Marilyn included it just so she could do something like that; romantic suspense isn't her usual fare, after all.

The only weekly mystery columnist in North America is Oline Cogdill, and she fixes her reviewing eye Joseph Finder's PARANOIA, which has managed to keep its sea legs in the NYT Bestseller List and jump up a spot to #14, thereby flexing its HypeMonster (TM) muscles rather nicely. Anyway, Cogdill likes the book a lot.

In the same paper, Book editor Chauncey Mabe devotes his column to Colin Harrison's THE HAVANA ROOM, which has been garnering some very nice notices--this one included.

Margaret Cannon is back this week with her roundup for the Globe and Mail, which is not quite as hefty as in previous columns but still rather substantial. She waxes positively rhapsodic about PARANOIA (although her use of "Generation Y" makes me gnash my teeth to the point of near pain), thinks Guy Walter's WWII alternative history novel has some nice potential, enjoys the latest Hamish McBeth book (I've lost count too), raves on and on about Ken Bruen and Charles Fleming's new books, and spotlights the work of Metta Fuller Victor, who is allegedly the first person to write a full-blown detective novel, as she did in 1866 with THE DEAD LETTER.

Jumping across the Atlantic, we're greeted with the first crime column of the year from professional gadfly Maxim Jakubowski, who comes up with the line of the year thus far: "Orion is the Manchester United of the crime publishing league..."Well bloody hell, they certainly are, considering the sheer volume and quality of crime writers they publish. I'd list them but I don't really want to waste bandwidth. The context for the comment is to highlight the recent launch of the New Blood Campaign which I've discussed several times before here. Maxim reviews David Corbett's THE DEVIL'S REDHEAD, which he deems the best of the bunch. Also crossing his desk is Jilliane Hoffman's RETRIBUTION (which he likes?!?!? Ah well, degustibus non es disputandem and all that) Tonino Benacquista's HOLY SMOKE, and a quartet of novels by the late Manuel Vasquez Montalban.

Also in the Guardian, Christopher Brookmyre's new novel BE MY ENEMY gets the full-scale treatment from Mark Lawson, who loves the politics but wonders if Brookmyre's writing style has suffered over the years. The Scotsman ran an interview with Brookmyre last week that I missed the first time around, and another one that also reviews his latest book.

At the San Francisco Chronicle, Jenni Yabroff reviews Laurie Lynn Drummond's ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU, a short story collection about female police officers and their daily lives and struggles. It's crime fiction but much deeper. My review of the book should, hopefully, appear in the next few weeks.

No link yet--the Telegraph is disgustingly slow about these things--but Karin Slaughter is interviewed by William Leith about her just-released collection LIKE A CHARM:

Each story, which charts a moment in the history of a charm bracelet, stands alone, but when you read the stories together, they form a novel. The bracelet always brings bad luck, and ends up in all sorts of places: the Mississippi, a Second World War bomb site, a woman's private parts. In every story, you think, "Please don't make that happen", and then it does. It's not the same thing as a Karin Slaughter novel, but it is extremely well-worked. "Let's face it," says Slaughter, "we don't need to write short stories. It's not like that's the high-dollar thing to do. We're doing it because it's fun, because it's a celebration of writing."

The launch party for the collection was held this past Thursday in London, and it was amazingly well-attended by authors and other UK publishing stalwarts. SHOTS Assistant Editor and perennial man-about town Ali Karim posts a preliminary report; the full write-up will appear in the next issue of the Magazine.

And finally, it's not crime fiction in the slightest--but how could I not link to Jessa Crispin's roundup of the latest and greatest in graphic novels for the WaPo Book World? Excellent work by our favorite Bookslut.

Friday, February 06, 2004

I confess, again 

I started realizing this a couple of years ago, back when I was still working at the bookstore. But my recent trip to New York and the book haul I brought home with me cemented this conclusion. I don't know whether to be happy or sad, but I think I'd better accept that:

I am a trade paperback snob.

I love them. They are the perfect compromise between the bulky hardcovers that I don't want to ruin because it'll make their first edition value decline sharply, and the mass market paperback that feels cheap to the touch and can--and often should--be thrown away after one use. Trade paperbacks still fit on the bookshelves, have spiffier covers and somehow treat the words they contain within them with respect. No wonder most, if not all, literary fiction these days is reissued in trade paperback.

The disadvantages? Well, they are more expensive than mass market, and at least in Canada it makes me just a little bit queasy to spend 20 bucks (or more) on a paperback. And they don't fit in your purse and pocket quite like a mass market one does, but really, those are minor quibbles. Because when I find that a hardcover release I've eyed for a while but put off is suddenly available in trade paperback, I'm a very happy girl.

It?s only in the last 10 years or so that trade paperbacks have become so prevalent on bookstore shelves. In large part, it's due to the proliferation of book clubs, which demanded a compromise between the bulky, expensive hardcover and the "cheap throwaway" that is the mass market format. A paperback that was printed on better quality paper with a nice typeset and a reader's guide at the back did the trick, and at least in literary fiction, they are everywhere?when was the last time a contemporary novel was released in mass market? They exist, but are getting rarer. But in genre fiction, trades are only more recently gaining a larger foothold. For romance readers, they buy trade paperback when they want chick lit, erotic romance, or occasionally, anthologies. They still grumble--not uncommon in a genre that screams bloody murder when a favorite author "graduates" to hardcover--but are slowly reaching out to the larger-format paperbacks. Science fiction & fantasy may be even slower to the mark, but even so, I'm seeing a gradual increase in the number of trade format books available. Sometimes it's to start a new line; Catherine Asaro, who is one of the few SF/F authors I read, has just written her first fantasy novel, published in trade by Luna, a new line of novels geared towards female readers. The jury's still out on whether trades will stick in SF/F, but my guess it that it will--eventually.

What, then, of crime fiction? It's a genre that looks down somewhat at the mass market form. On the one hand, mass market is crucial for increasing sales of authors who may have only had middling to fair success (if that) in hardcover. But of course, then there's the Paperback Original, which I've dubbed the "ugly stepchild" of the mystery genre. Many readers simply won?t look at a PBO, deeming it too lightweight, the writing quality weaker, or whatever insult one wants to give. There are gems amongst the rubbish, but finding them is difficult even to a dedicated reader like myself. Fortunately, the trade paperback PBO is increasing somewhat, thanks to the efforts of some concerted publishers. Three Rivers Press publishes Maggie Estep, Sparkle Hayter and Lauren Henderson in trade; all authors who write distinct books that don't quite fit, somehow, in mass market format, but are, for whatever reasons, not ready for prime time. Hence, trade paperback. Estep, in particular, did quite well in the mystery crowd last year with her debut mystery HEX (which, inexplicably, was not submitted by her publisher for Edgar Award consideration in the PBO category.) A love song to Coney Island, horseracing, and the power of friendship, it was a delightfully quirky, somewhat experimental book?and would have died completely in mass market format. So Kudos for Three Rivers for realizing Estep had an audience waiting to find her, and which eagerly awaits her next book. Other publishers getting on the trade bandwagon include upstart publisher Akashic Books (which published Nina Revoyr's Edgar nominated PBO SOUTHLAND, as well as highly regarded books by Chris Niles, Daniel Chavarria and Tim McLoughlin), HarperCollins' new imprint Dark Alley (releasing reissues like Dennis Lehane's MYSTIC RIVER and new titles with offbeat voices), and Random House's Strivers Row (which specializes in African-American voices). 2004 promises even more trade PBO novels; I'm looking especially forward to the newest from Estep, Hayter, and Nichelle Tramble, to name a few.

Are all books suited to trade paperback? Not necessarily. Suspense and thrillers that are meant purely for entertainment (and do so wonderfully well) seem perfectly fine for the mass market, and I'd think the publisher made a big mistake if those authors had suddenly moved up a notch to trade paperback. But some recent releases in mass market have made me give pause. Michael Gruber's TROPIC OF NIGHT is not your garden-variety thriller; not when it delves into African culture, Santeria, and magical realism. I would have pushed for trade paperback, but HarperCollins elected otherwise. They made the same decision for Lawrence Block's SMALL TOWN, which is certainly a thriller but is also very much a novel of New York?one that only Block could write, with his skewed sense of humor and ferociously clean writing style. I harbor the idea that Laura Lippman's EVERY SECRET THING will be released in trade paperback later this summer; it, to me, seems more suited to it, but I don't necessarily think this will be the ultimate decision. I, too, was happy to see books like Ken Bruen's THE GUARDS, David Corbett's DONE FOR A DIME (pending release is June), Kevin Wignall's PEOPLE DIE, and Sujata Massey's THE SAMURAI'S DAUGHTER (pending release is July) get the trade paperback treatment, because I think those authors belong in that format.

And why, you may ask, do I care so much? Because when a publisher chooses trade paperback, they want the book to stay in print for a long time. They want the book to last. When they choose mass market, they don't necessarily expect a legacy, or success in perpetuity, but instead, want quick sales right now. So what's better, short term sales or long-term importance? It's a tough call, but some books simply lend themselves more to one format or another. And publishers, when faced with such a choice, should try to make the right call as much as possible.

All I know is that if it were up to me, there'd be lots more trade paperbacks available.

Happy birthday 

Like OGIC, I'm going to wish Terry a very wonderful happy birthday. Should have known you were an Aquarius too, my friend.

The morning's news 

OK, this is getting yawningly boring: be involved in a scandal, and get a book deal. Happened to Joseph Wilson, happened yesterday to the Happy Homewrecker, and now Greg Dyke, newly ousted BBC New chief, jumps on the pricey bandwagon, as he inks a deal for a cool one million pounds.

Christina Patterson asks a provocative question in light of the bad films, books and poetry inspired by Sylvia Plath's poetry? Was she any good? The answer, according to her, is a resounding yes.

Andrea Levy is considered to be something of a pioneer in Black British writing, paving the way for minority authors like Meera Syal, Hari Kunzru, and Monica Ali to find success. The Independent meets Levy, whose novels examine the divide of white and black cultures in England.

Poet laureate Andrew Motion--better known for trying to rap like Eminem--is asking the government to make a concerted effort to stop the sale of manuscripts abroad, saying that they are "an important part of the UK's heritage."

April 19th marks the announcement of the Independent's Foreign Fiction Prize, voted to the best book translated from English and quite a lucrative prize at that.

Robert Birnbaum interviews Azar Nafisi, the author of READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN, her memoir of struggling to read good literature in the face of suppression and a culture decidedly against that sort of thing. The SF Chronicle profiles Nafisi as well and further highlights just how risky her pursuit of greater literature really was.

Jane Dunn decided to examine the lives of Elizabeth I and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, in a dual biography. Peter Kurth of Newsday enjoys the book tremendously but finds a prior knowledge of the historical time might aid in fully grasping the significance of Dunn's biography.

And finally, Aussie men rate low on the seduction scale--they think romance is fast food and alcohol, according to a recent study. Somehow, I am not surprised in the least by this bit of news....

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Hammett Award Nominations 

As reported on Deadly Pleasures and other places, the International Association of Crime Writers has released their shortlist for the best mystery novel of 2003 that demonstrated literary excellence:

Giles Blunt, THE DELICATE STORM
Carol Goodman, THE SEDUCTION OF WATER
Michael Gruber, TROPIC OF NIGHT
Dennis Lehane, SHUTTER ISLAND
Laura Lippman, EVERY SECRET THING

Congratulations to all the nominees! I think this is a fine list, and shockingly, the only book I've yet to read is Carol Goodman's. Otherwise, well, you know my opinion on Laura and Dennis's books, and Giles Blunt managed to create a suspenseful, Canadian-set book that went into an incredible amount of fascinating detail about the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ)--the only organization that led to the War Measures Act being invoked in Canada. And Gruber's novel was a stunner. Going to be hard to pick the winner, which will be announced at Bouchercon 2004 later this year.

Talk of the Town 

The blogiverse is already abuzz with their thoughts on Woody Allen's oeuvre, thanks to Terry's admission that other than Radio Days, he's not much of a fan of Allen's movies. Like Ed, I pretty much agree with the opinion that Allen just ain't what he used to be. I'm also much more likely to enjoy his early comedy efforts--Sleeper still makes me laugh in a stupid kind of way, never mind Bananas and Take The Money and Run--but I can do without the pseudo-Bergman business and the ponderous navel gazing that predominates his later, "more mature" work.

But Terry's earlier post about heading to Makor for the first time interested me a great deal more. When I lived in New York, I went to the Upper West Side club a few times (though not as often as my Sunday afternoon favorite, Tonic), mostly to hear friends or klezmer bands play (or in some cases, both at the same time.) Unfortunately, I found that it didn't work well with more uptempo dance music, but it is a great venue for jazz and related things. It's also worth noting that Makor gave Norah Jones the opportunity to gig there on a weekly basis before she became such a huge star. In fact, that's how I'd heard of her--when I first moved to the UWS, in the summer of 2001, my roommates subscribed to Makor's bimonthly newsletter and I'd leaf through it, wondering who this girl was who played there all the time who spelled her name with an "h". I never did see her act then, and occasionally I kick myself for missing out, just because I could then say I saw this international star playing, of all places, a Jewish club.

And yes, I can attest to the "kosher meat market-ness" of the place, though it still may not quite compare to the Friday night madness that is this....

Morning oddities 

Delayed, due to some network & cable issues, but here they are:

So, I've hit upon the perfect way to get a book deal: find some rich old CEO dude and interview him for my magazine, then shag him silly and get him to leave his wife. Add a little controversy, a little uproar, then let everything simmer and die down and boom! I get to split 4 million bucks. Well, it works for some people...

No. 15 Usher's House--the setting for James Joyce's wonderful short story "The Dead"--has been restored to its former glory.

Mark links to a bunch of articles about the emerging "Street Lit" genre. Just based on the weekly Publishers Lunch roundup of deals, I can attest to how popular this subgenre is getting.

A new quotation smith? Looks like David Brent of the UK television show The Office is responsible for more familiar quotes than Shakespeare in the 25-44 age group.

Yet another article on Irish darling Cecilia Ahern. She'd never heard of Chicklit, and puts in a reference to the crappy Irish boyband Westlife because "I was going to take it out, then I thought no, why should I? I know plenty of 30-year-old women who listen to Westlife in their car. They're the Irish band, like them or not."

Issue five of Shred of Evidence is now up. Check out stories by Stephen D Rogers, Robert W. Tinsley, and Ray "Saturday Boy" Banks.

And finally, meet Alexandra Mosca. She's posed for Playboy, dated gangsters, and is most certainly not your typical undertaker.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

A blogger by any other name 

Oh, the plight of anonymous blogs. At Gothamist, they start preaching that anonymity is simply wrong, wrong, wrong; at Salon, they act like they've hit on something cool when, in fact, they miss the boat by a few yards and try to be cute in coining a "term" that won't stick. I mean, AnonyBlogs? Like, that's so dotcom.

Anyway, Lizzie asked Our Girl in Chicago for her opinion on the matter, since she's a) pseudonymous, or anonymous, or whatever you want to call it and b) a mighty fine blogger. OGIC delivers with a response that echoes something I've been mulling over a while:

I like the anonymously written blogs I read, and in many cases the anonymity of the blogger contributes to the effect. I appreciate the sheer variety of voices, styles, and approaches of the blogs I visit every day, and for those bloggers who are anonymous to identify themselves would be a step in the direction of flattening things out?perish the thought.

What's struck me about the whole anonymity debate is that it's assumed that blogs should always adhere to journalistic integrity, and so by being anonymous, they can dish it out but not take it in return, so to speak. However, the more I read (and become addicted to) blogs, the more I believe that it has less in common with journalism and more in common with fiction writing, even if they never actually write something "fictional". And, considering my own slant here, I see some parallels to how mystery and suspense fiction is constructed. Surprising? Not necessarily.

First, the best blogs have to get to the point quickly to hook the reader. They can do this with a killer subject line that makes you laugh right away, or link to a news item with the highlighted portion emphasizing the most absurd part of the story, or better, constructing a funny paragraph with the highlighted portion linking to the item in question.

Second, the best blogs know how to construct their content to keep reading. Just when you think they've put up a fantastic post--oh wait! Here's another one. Just when you think that earlier post couldn't get more thoughtful, provoking, or controversial, they are back with another one. Blogs know how to move quickly, efficiently, and keep the reader strung along.

Third, the characters. Much as the form has come along way from Teenage Girl Syndrome and the all-too-personal LiveJournal-type blogs, over time, we come to care about who we're reading. Personal details get slipped in, or there's a cast of dozens who get blogrolled all the time. A community is fostered, and our hero/heroine has a wacky/supportive/caustic supporting cast to keep things interesting. Or, at the very least, to link to on a frequent basis.

Fourth, setting. My own favorites--just check the right-hand link for them--are very much a slave to their current habitat, be it the unique obsessiveness of New York or a whole host of others: Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Baltimore, Portland, Detroit, and so on and so forth. Even when they aren't necessarily trying, the sense of place comes through. I may spend an inordinate time talking about my NYC and London days, but I live in Ottawa now, and it can't help but bleed through in what topics I choose on occasion.

And that leads into item five: topics, or plot. Some blogs are all over the place; others stick to a chosen topic and never deviate. But the topics aren't interesting if they don't have a compelling character relating them, and not just anyone can talk about a topic at hand. Kind of like how character and plot are so intertwined.

Which leads to the most important thing that makes blogs, certainly the best ones, as compelling as they are: voice. OGIC mentioned it in the above quote, but for me, it is absolutely critical. If the blog voice doesn't grab me, I may not stick with it. But if it does--I will pay attention and keep to it. And so too when I read books, or critique or review them, ultimately, the book lives and dies by its voice. It has to have a solid structure, or at least a reasonably consistent one, and have the foundations in place, but after that, it's about the unique stamp of the author. Same with blogs. The structure may be imposed by the software used or general writing skill, but it's only a starting point; after that, it's all up to the blogger to communicate as effectively as he or she can. That's why "patois" blogs like Whatevs and So Sayeth the Peabs have become so popular to the point of inventing a new form of dialect. They take their topics of choice (entertainment/media and politics, respectively) and completely mess about with it using their own unique, hyper-kinetic voices. It's funny, exhausting, and damn near original. It may not be to everyone's tastes, but there is no denying their voices in this blogging culture. Which, of course, is well on its way to bleeding into mainstream popular culture as well.

And the point about voice is that it's almost independent of the actual person behind it. Plenty of novels, great ones certainly, were written anonymously or with a nom de plume. Does it change their importance or their entertainment factor? Not a chance. Jane Austen was still Jane Austen when she was published simply as "A Lady," or the Bronte Sisters when they were published with masculine pseudonyms. And there are plenty more examples along those lines. But if TMFTML, Atrios, OGIC, or any of your favorite anonymous bloggers suddenly "came out", it might change things briefly, but only briefly. In the end, it's the way they tell a story--the way they blog--that is the most important thing of all.

In the end, every book, and every blog, tells a story. And how the story unfolds is what keeps us hooked, keeps us compelled to the very last page--or when the blogger decides to hang it up.

The numbers game 

Sara Nelson, who hasn't written for the Observer in a little while, reports that publishers are less than thrilled with BookScan, which tracks how many books actually sold instead of using the arcane, insane formula that most (read: NYT) bestseller lists use:

"We talk about the BookScan numbers in editorial meetings," said one prominent publisher who didn?t want his name used?and who then admitted that the numbers are not always factored in when projects go to auction. "On the one hand, we want to buy books that sell, and BookScan can give us an indication of how well a project might sell," this person continued. "On the other hand, when you want a project, you usually have to pay more than somebody else. The competition can get very heated?and you end up paying more than you probably ?should,? based on the numbers, because you don?t want somebody else to publish it." Besides, an editor hell-bent on acquiring a book can be perversely happy about being in the dark, numbers-wise. "O.K., sometimes I knew the agent had puffed up the author?s track record," said one former editor. "But I was grateful to be able to talk back to a skeptical marketing department that had doubts about selling the book I really wanted. Nobody had inarguable numbers."

In other words, it's just too damned logical and practical for the publishing world. And that scares them to no end because when they put their weight behind their project babies and they don't do well, that becomes just a little bit of a problem. Of course, what BookScan doesn't do is predict: just because something sells in one particular year, doesn't mean it will the next year or the year after that. So having the raw data at one's disposal is good, because it is--in theory, since so far, Wal-Mart isn't included--an accurate indicator of how a book is doing sales-wise. But it won't tell you if such a book will lead to other similar books selling well in the future. So in other words, logic is great and necessary, as is business sense; but a little passion and enthusiasm goes a hell of a long way, too.

Of course, the expression I like to use when I talk to authors and publishing types is that "so-and-so book/genre/author doesn't sell--until it does."


Midweek snippets 

One day, George Orwell and a friend, Dennis Collings, decided to go bury some items in a mound at Suffolk Common. Little did they know that they were being watched by two ten year old boys, who thought they were archeologists excavating. So what's buried there? Not surprisingly, Orwell's biographer, DJ Taylor, is curious about the matter as well.

Australian crime writer John Carroll is quite prolific but still underrated in his country compared to people like Shane Maloney and Kerry Greenwood. Today's profile in The Age hopes to change that.

The Japanese media pick up on the news that Natsuo Kirino is one of the Best Novel nominees for the Edgar Award, and comment that she's the first Japanese author to be nominated for an Edgar of any kind.

Mark T. Conard's debut noir novel DARK AS NIGHT is reviewed at January Magazine by Kevin Burton Smith, who finds it "impressive." I really, really need to get a copy of this book. UglyTown does it again.

March 3 is Awards Night in the Canadian literary world. Over $133 000 in prizes will be awarded to books as part of the 3rd Annual Great Literary Awards Event at the Arts & Letters Club in Toronto.

It's all Natalie Wood all the time--not only is Gavin Lambert's biography of her getting raves, now Peter Bogdanovich is making a made-for-TV biopic. The fever spreads....

Author M.M. Kaye has died at the age of 95. When I was a kid I read THE FAR PAVILLIONS several times and loved it for its wonderfully evocative descriptions of 19th century India.

Helle Nice was once the fastest woman in the world--she was a model, then a dancer, and then reinvented herself as a race car driver in the 1930s. Miranda Seymour's biography of the woman, THE BUGATTI QUEEN, is examined in The Scotsman.

James Ellroy's next project is to pen the screenplay for the Robert Evans-produced biopic on Hollywood lawyer Sidney Korshak. (link from Maud.)

USA Today jumps on the HypeMonster (TM) bandwagon that is Cecelia Ahern's debut novel and career in general. It's just another fluffy profile, though she promises she'll never "write murder mysteries or anything like that." Aha, just as well, perhaps.

And finally, Haynes Publishing, known far and wide for its car manuals, has just launched a Sex Manual to "ensure men can deal with bedroom breakdowns as well as mechanical ones." Look people, we know that men link sex and cars in their mind--must we make this connection so damned obvious? Still, Haynes expects to sell about 100 000 copies of the book--a long way away from the 8 million copies of the car guide....

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The new blame game 

"Robert Blake's defense blamed Marlon Brando's son, Christian, in a court hearing Tuesday for the slaying of Blake's wife and said that the younger Brando is currently a fugitive.

Blake's attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., said Brando fled and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Outside court, Mesereau said Brando was wanted for a probation violation in Washington state.

"We think there's a compelling case far stronger that (Brando) did it than that Mr. Blake did it," Mesereau said.


What's interesting is that there's no mention of Brando's rather notorious past. Perhaps it's only a minor detail...?

Paging Woodward and Bernstein 

Grambo has the scizz on the latest development in what's already been nicknamed "Tittygate":

CBS is moving to bounce Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake from next Sunday's Grammy Awards amid the national uproar following their X-rated, prime-time Super Bowl stunt.

Sources told The Post the network will demand the two stars be tossed from 46th Annual Grammy Awards if CBS's probe shows the duo schemed in advance to expose Jackson's pierced breast during the halftime spectacle.


Schemed in advance? What is this then, conspiracy to commit a topless act? Will CBS uncover a tape of Janet and Justin talking with 18 minutes mysteriously missing? Will it turn out that her original costume was stolen in a burglary of her apartment building? The speculation never ceases.

I was busy with other things, so I missed the spectacle in question, but frankly, all this uproar about breasts--it's something I'm just not getting at this particular moment. OTOH, it's a fine way for Miss Janet to get her name in the papers again, and well, I must applaud that sort of ingenuity--if only because she's managed to outdo a certain starlet--with her ex, at that.

Clarification necessary 

After yesterday's semi-wild events concerning the release of the Edgar Awards nomination list, cooler heads are starting to prevail--certainly at this end. (A good night's sleep coupled with relief at personal developments will do that.) Thus, I should make clear that in reporting what had happened, I wasn't trying to criticize the MWA's handling of things--gently chide, perhaps, and--gasp--even be a little bit snarky, but in the end, I wholeheartedly agree with the comments here and elsewhere that Michael Connelly's withdrawal from the Best Novel list was the right move. In fact, it appears that Connelly had requested that Little, Brown not submit LOST LIGHT for consideration in the first place--but the request was ignored by the publisher and the book went through the submission process anyway.

So what to do? Obviously, mistakes happen, and no submission process is ever perfect. Never mind that to the best of my knowledge, a sitting president has never been nominated for Best Novel before. But considering that the submission list for each category had been publicly available on the MWA's website for months, it would have behooved the publisher to ascertain--considering Connelly's request--that if LOST LIGHT was on the list, that some action could be taken to remove it. The submission list has been crucial in making sure that books were submitted by the November 30 deadline, that novels originally listed in one category by mistake could be moved to another, and-well, if you're me--to start placing your bets. Sure, it's an extra bit of double-checking in an age when no one has enough time to do the first check, but there can't be anyone who wants a repeat of the awkwardness of the last couple of days.

So for the publishers--double check with your authors that their book is submitted, since it's your responsibility to do so, or make sure that a book should NOT be. Make sure that it's being submitted in the right category--sure, publishers may promote a book as a "debut" but if there's a pseudonym used or it's for a different genre, it's not a first novel anymore. Same goes with short stories--just because a story appeared in an anthology published in the year of submission, doesn't mean that was its first appearance in a published format, be it in print or online. No doubt I'm stating the obvious and like I said, mistakes occur; but let's hope they are caught earlier and that next year's nomination process goes much more smoothly.

Tuesday roundup 

Let's start off with what appears to be totally pointless news: the paperback edition of Harry Potter V: The Voyage Home (oh wait, that's not the title, is it) will be out in the UK on June 10. Um, didn't the entire world rush out to get the hardcover? Somehow, a PB edition isn't likely to get those who didn't want to read it willing to do so now. OTOH, maybe Bloomsbury's tired of cranking out the 32nd edition of the hardcover...

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday, which commemorates the date used in James Joyce's ULYSSES--and Ireland plans a five month extravaganza celebration in Dublin.

A rare copy of T.E. Lawrence's SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM--one of only two known to be inscribed by the author-- is expected to fetch 35 000 pounds at auction in New York later this month.

Now that Amazon is finally making a profit, must they discount their books so deeply? This is what's being asked by the Seattle Times, but my own feeling is that the discount is what still makes people likely to buy books from them--and if they stopped doing so, people would stop buying.

Whitbread Award winner Mark Haddon answers readers' questions at the Guardian. Topics include his method of research (nothing specific, just used his background working with disabled children) and his next novel, BLOOD AND SCISSORS, "a comedy about nervous breakdown and skin cancer."

Chris Lehmann reviews Chris Abani's novel of a young boy named Elvis coming of age in Nigeria, in what looks to be a fascinating read.

Ed audioblogs about the "healthy rage" inherent to the bookblogger.

Michael Moore, regular Joe? Well, that's what he wants the world to think, even if they aren't quite buying it.

So has all the controversy surrounding Bill Keller's comments to the Book Babes forced him to name a successor more quickly? Some in publishing seem to think so. (link from Maud.)

And finally, the work of celebrity photographer George Zimbel is now being exhibited in the Charlottetown, P.E.I. gallery. He speaks to the Globe and Mail about his life, career, and his opinion of current photojournalists:

"It's a scummy way to make a living, frankly," he says. "You get an exclusive picture of someone that immediately goes all over the world and your agent can sell it like 10 times and you make $50,000. I never made $50,000 on anything."

"They track people. They intrude. I don't intrude." He's often asked if he conversed with the famous people he's photographed, but Zimbel says his policy is he doesn't speak unless spoken to because it interrupts the dynamic of the photograph. "I consider celebrities as workers. They're just workers, as we all are. Everybody is always asking, 'Did you get to talk to this one or that one?' Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But they're doing their job and I'm doing my job, and I've always felt that way."

Monday, February 02, 2004

And it gets even better... 

...as obviously, there's some misalignment in the MWA's astrology chart, especially in light of this latest development:

Michael Connelly, president of the Mystery Writers of America, has withdrawn his 2003 Edgar nominated novel, Lost Light, for Edgar consideration, because he is currently serving as president of the organization. The Board reluctantly agrees to his request thanks him for his leadership.”

And because the book was published in 2003 and thus eligible for consideration, the MWA has evidently elected not to substitute another book on the shortlist--which means only four books are now up for Best Novel.

Although my first reaction--well, the first was to ponder what kind of crack the MWA smoked today--was to wonder why Connelly elected to withdraw his book from consideration now when last year, he was in essentially the same position, I've been corrected on this point--at last year's Edgars, he was the president-elect and had not actually begun serving his time until after the awards. Still, one has to wonder why this matter wasn't vetted before the shortlist was released last night. Or perhaps, this is a very unusual position for an author to be in, to have a nominated book and be the serving president for the awarding organization in question. And I suppose, had Connelly kept his name in the hat, there might have been accusations of some sort of conflicts of interest or influence--which wouldn't even be justified because LOST LIGHT was a very, very good book. But whatever the case, it just looks awkward, and no doubt that another book won't make it on the list will cause a considerable amount of controversy, especially considering how many other worthy books are deserving of the spot.

In the final analysis, it most certainly had to have been a crazy day at the office....

Edgar Awards update 

The Best Short Story nominations list has had to be amended when Mystery Writers of America received word that one of the nominated authors, upon notification, indicated his work was from an earlier year and submitted inadvertently by his publisher. Aware this made the work ineligible, he graciously withdrew his nomination. The corrected category results follow:

“Bet on Red” – High Stakes by Jeff Abbott (NAL-Penguin)
“Black Heart & Cabin Girl” – Blood on Their Hands by Shelly Costa (Berkley Prime Crime)
“Aces and Eights” by David Edgerley Gates (AHMM – December 2003)
“The Maids” – Blood on Their Hands by G. Miki Hayden (Berkley Prime Crime)
“Cowboy Grace” – The Silver Gryphon by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Golden Gryphon)

Now, the details: originally, Clayton Emery had been nominated for his short story "Totaled", which had appeared in UNDERTOW, a short story collection featuring New England-based writers like Kate Flora and G.H. Ephron. This collection was published in 2003--however, Emery's story was first published by Thrilling Detective in 2002. Because of the earlier publication, "Totaled" was rendered ineligible and had to be taken off the shortlist.

So oddly enough, a story that had appeared in an online magazine did get nominated for the Edgar after all--but only by accident. Still, I very much hope that no such accidents will occur and that first, the MWA will make extra sure to double-check when short stories first appeared (whether in print or online publications) and second, that an online story will make the shortlist for real next year. We're getting close....now let's make it happen.

Seeing my shadow 

Like others, blogging will be of a lighter nature this week. But I've posted lots in the last day or so, and feel free to content yourselves with that or visit the folks in the right-hand column. For those who know already--thank you for your thoughts and support, as they are very much appreciated. For everyone else, say an extra prayer or two for my mother--or as my dad put it, for the surgeon first.

UPDATE: So far, so good. Surgery went well, and things seem to be all right for the moment. Thanks for everyone who has emailed and commented--it means a lot to me and my family.

Notes for a Monday morning 

Think Janet Maslin's Friday notebook was annoying enough? Well, have no fear, it gets worse, as she reviews the new Grisham book. Ah well, more fodder for MaslinWatch...

It looks like Janet Frame was writing up a storm right up until she dead--and that's good news for fans and publishers. Rumor has it that she finished a fourth volume of her autobiography.

Mexico City has started its own "Get Reading" program: 250,000 books given away in their underground to curttail crime. Hope the idea sticks.

Oops. Patrick Anderson doesn't buy into the Joseph Finder HypeMonster (TM) Effect, calling PARANOIA "another example of the dumbed-down, manipulative junk that publishers think they can force-feed to the mass audience."

The Richard and Judy Book Club picked Joseph O'Connor's STAR OF THE SEA as their latest pick--and unsurprisingly, sales of the novel have zoomed.

And finally, I missed the whole halftime show brouhaha, but for two takes that made me laugh early this morning (laughs well needed, as I explained before) there's Terry's understatement and Grambo's compare/contrast.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Analyzing the Edgar Nominees 

First of all, allow me the opportunity to giggle a bit at the awarding of one of the Raven Awards to Graydon Carter. OK, it's to VANITY FAIR, but still--you want convergence of all the things I talk about on this blog--crime fiction, gossip, publishing, and the New York media world--it's all encompassed in that one gesture. Too damned funny. But congratulations to Carter on the honor.

Now, to the shortlists:

In my mind, BEST NOVEL is actually about what I expected. I'd had a feeling that Ken Bruen's THE GUARDS would be on there, and had mused to myself a few days ago that they couldn't possibly nominate Michael Connelly again--but here he is. There's one well-received foreign crime novel, and one new chestnut--Ian Rankin--who gets on. And of course, the surprise--Jacqueline Winspear, who is the first debut novelist since Julia Wallis Martin (for A LIKENESS IN STONE) to make the Best Novel grade. Sadly, Laura Lippman's EVERY SECRET THING was the book I had hoped would be on the list, but instead gets the "elephant in the room" honor (normally, that would go to Dennis Lehane's SHUTTER ISLAND--since he had the honors two years ago for MYSTIC RIVER--but frankly, I doubt people were much expecting the book to make it on there--seems like mutual agreement that he's moved on to more literary pastures, and I'd be surprised if his future books are even submitted for consideration.)

BEST FIRST is interesting; I was talking to a friend this afternoon about it and had said that there were about 12 books that I could have happily had on the list. It was a particularly good year for debuts, and no doubt, some people will be miffed that William Landay's MISSION FLATS, Lono Waiwaiole's WILEY'S LAMENT, Wallace Stroby's THE BARBED-WIRE KISS, Alafair Burke's JUDGMENT CALLS and Tom Franklin's HELL AT THE BREECH didn't make the cut, among other worthy candidates. But the final list isn't that out of left field. Rebecca Pawel's novel was pretty much a shoo-in when one of the committee members waxed rhapsodic about it at some length on one of the mystery mailing lists, and its blend of history, mystery and character was astonishingly well-done considering the author is 26 years old. When I read Olen Steinhauer's book on the train home, I finished it thinking that if it made the Edgar list, I'd be totally fine with it. And so I am. Jim Hime's book has been well-reviewed and was the one debut I most wanted to read before the nominations were out, and now will have to get a rush on it. Heilbrun's book, too, has garnered some very good notices. Which leaves Martha Conway. Although it may be harsh to designate 12 BLISS STREET as the "WTF" candidate, well...at the very least, it was largely ignored, and those that did read it thought it a tad too experimental or beyond their ken.

Looking at BEST PBO, it's the usual mix of interesting books and no-notices. It's hard when you're the ugly stepchild of the mystery community, but frankly, what would do PBOs a lot of good is to get more of them in trade. Which is why I'm anointing Nina Revoyr's SOUTHLAND the front-runner. Though I haven't read it yet, it's supposed to be a very multi-layered novel with rich characterization. It's been reviewed in a lot of print publications and taken quite seriously, which is good to see. As for the other nominees, Jeff Abbott is on there again, though I think now that he's gone hardcover in the UK, his days in the PBO world are severely numbered; I believe Deadly Pleasures favorably reviewed the Christopher Hyde novel as well. I know next to nothing about Sylvia Warsh's book, but the learning curve's going up dramatically: it's the second book starring Toronto physician Rebecca Temple, whose mother-in-law is a Holocaust survivor and who gets embroiled in a mystery spanning three decades. Bloody hell, a Canadian mystery? I think I might like this book. And Joel Goldman writes legal thrillers for Pinnacle; beyond that, I know little at this point.

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL seems quite a strong category: the Highsmith book is there, as is the Amelia Peabody compendium. Would have been nice, from a personal standpoint, to see my friend Jon Jordan make it, but alas, it wasn't to be.

BEST FACT CRIME: lots of goodies here, most of them expected from my view. I've wanted to read the Arnold Rothstein book for some time, as do I for the Mary Phagan/Leo Franks book.

As for BEST SHORT STORY: God people, what's it going to take to get a story published online to make the cut? Are you blind? There's so much good stuff that ends up in places like Plots with Guns, SHOTS, Hardluck Stories, Shred of Evidence, Thrilling Detective, 3rd Degree--you know, kind of like blogs. But I expect it may take a little while.

In the last category I feel like commenting on, the MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD--I'm glad to see Sujata Massey on the list, as she's an underrated favorite of mine. I suspect, however, that Virginia Lanier will take it, as sadly, she passed away late last year. Good writer, and endured an amazing number of health hardships.

And to end: I wish all the nominees well, and I'll see them all during Edgar Week.

2004 Edgar Award Nominees 

You heard it here first (if you aren't on the MWA loop, that is). Comments to come in the next post:

BEST NOVEL

The Guards by Ken Bruen (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Lost Light by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
Out by Natsuo Kirino (Kodansha International)
Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown)
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (Soho Press)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR

12 Bliss Street by Martha Conway (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Offer of Proof by Robert Heilbrun (William Morrow)
Night of the Dance by James Hime (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Death of a Nationalist by Rebecca Pawel (Soho Press)
The Bridge of Sighs by Olen Steinhauer (St. Martin's Minotaur)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

Cut and Run by Jeff Abbott (NAL-Penguin)
The Last Witness by Joel Goldman (Pinnacle)
Wisdom of the Bones by Christopher Hyde (NAL-Penguin)
Southland by Nina Rovoyr (Akashic Books)
Find Me Again by Sylvia Maultash Warsh (Dundurn Group)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL

Mystery Women, Volume 3 by Colleen Barnett (Poisoned Pen Press)
Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium edited by Elizabeth Peters and Kristen Whitbread (Morrow)
Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan
(HarperCollins)
The American Police Novel: A History by Leroy Lad Panek (McFarland)
Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson (Bloomsbury)

BEST FACT CRIME

Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder by Steve Hodel (Arcade Publishing)
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (Random House - Crown Books)
Judgment Ridge: The True Story Behind the Dartmouth Murders
by Dick Lehr and Mitchell Zuckoff (HarperCollins)
And The Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan & the Lynching of Leo Frank by Steve Oney (Pantheon Books)
Rothstein: The Life, Times & Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series by David Pietrusza (Carroll & Graf)

BEST SHORT STORY

"Bet on Red' - High Stakes by Jeff Abbott (NAL-Penguin)
"Black Heart & Cabin Girl" - Blood on Their Hands by Shelly Costa (Berkley Prime Crime)
"Totaled" - Undertow by Clayton Emery (Level Best Books)
"The Maids" - Blood on Their Hands by G. Miki Hayden (Berkley Prime Crime)
"Cowboy Grace" - The Silver Gryphon by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Golden Gryphon Press)

BEST YOUNG ADULT

The Last Treasure by Janet Anderson (Dutton Children's Group)
Feast of Fools by Bridget Crowley (McElderry - Simon & Schuster)
Acceleration by Graham McNamee (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House Childrens)
Death and the Arrow by Chris Priestly (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Uncovering Sadie's Secrets by Libby Sternberg (Bancroft Press)

BEST JUVENILE

The Malted Falcon by Bruce Hale (Harcourt Children's Books)
Bernie Magruder & the Rats in the Belfry by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Simon & Schuster/Atheneum)
Lily's Ghosts by Laura Ruby (HarperCollins Children's Books)
Dust by Arthur Slade (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House Childrens)
Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception by Wendelin Van Draanen (Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House Childrens)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY

Law & Order: Criminal Intent - "Probability", Teleplay by Gerry Conway. Story by Rene Balcer & Gerry Conway
Law & Order: SVU - "Coerced", Teleplay by Jonathan Greene
Monk - "Mr. Monk and the 12th Man", Teleplay by Michael Angeli
Monk - "Mr. Monk and the Very, Very Old Man", Teleplay by Daniel Dratch
The Practice - "Goodbye", Teleplay by Peter Blake & David E. Kelley


BEST MOTION PICTURE SCREENPLAY

The Cooler, Screenplay by Wayne Kramer & Frank Hannah (Lions Gate Films)
Dirty Pretty Things, Screenplay by Steve Knight (BBC, Celador Productions, Jonescompany)
Monster, Screenplay by Patty Jenkins (MDP Worldwide)
Mystic River, Screenplay by Brian Helgeland, based on the Novel by Dennis Lehane (Malpaso Productions)
Runaway Jury, Screenplay by Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Rick Cleveland, Matthew Chapman, based on the Novel by John Grisham

THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD

Ricochet by Nancy Baker Jacobs (Five Star Publishing)
A Bloodhound to Die For by Virginia Lanier (HarperCollins)
Samurai's Daughter by Sujata Massey (HarperCollins)
The Body in the Lighthouse by Katherine Hall Page (Morrow)
Song of the Bones by M.K. Preston (Intrigue Press)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD

Sandy Balzo
The Grass is Always Greener (EQMM - March 2003)

GRAND MASTER

Joseph Wambaugh

RAVEN

Ray and Pat Browne Library for Popular Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University, in recognition of its long-standing work in collecting and preserving detective fiction

Vanity Fair Magazine, Graydon Carter, editor, in recognition of their coverage of True Crime

SPECIAL EDGAR(r) AWARD

Home Box Office, in recognition of the creation and production of their ground-breaking crime series such as The Sopranos, Oz and The Wire.

Beefing up my Lexis-Nexis entry 

Peter Darbyshire, better known to the Blogiverse as one-half of BookNinja, writes a weekly column for my local paper called "Choice Words" devoted to the week in literary news and book buzz online. Unfortunately, the columns are only available to subscribers, but this week Darbyshire touched upon L'Affaire NYTBR and the widespread reaction amongst blogs, as well as choice ones worth checking out. The usual suspects are mentioned but it was a very nice surprise to come across this paragraph:

Other sites offer what newspapers often cannot: a comprehensive focus on a literary subject or genre. Nepean native Sarah Weinman runs the site Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind (sarahweinman.blogspot.com), a site dedicated mainly to mystery and crime fiction. It's an excellent source of information for the genre, complete with links to articles, reviews and other websites, and it would be impossible for traditional media outlets to offer the same extensive coverage.

Thanks, Peter. Now I suspect I'll be getting phone calls from my parents' friends wondering what the hell a blog is. To which, of course, I'll refer them to Terry's Manifesto.

A moment of beauty 

Last night I went out with a few friends to Dow's Lake Pavillion, the mouth of what is Ottawa's primary winter attraction, the Rideau Canal. It was fairly cold--probably about -27 C with windchill--but we were far from the only ones who wanted to get a bit of night skating in. Unfortunately, I couldn't do much of it at all. I haven't skated anywhere in several years--living in other places will do that--and the only pair of skates I own are a few sizes too small. Thus, I had to rent a pair, and due to timing glitches only had about 20 minutes on the ice. It's a little scary to make the patchy outdoor rink the first foray into skating after years of inactivity--perhaps a local indoor rink where I could hold on to the side would have been easier--but once I got over my dorkish fear I was fine. Then, when time was up, I returned the skates, put on my boots, and went back outside to join my friends.

There's been a bit of controversy of late in the local papers this weekend; the Federal Capital Commission, the folks who make sure the Canal is safe for skating and keep track of statistics, say that it's the "world's longest rink" at 7.8 km. But Dave Taylor of the Citizen decided to test that, and found that according to his calculations, it's only 6.2 km. So what to do if some other place builds a longer rink? A bit of healthy silliness, but I'm only using it to make this point: it's long, and at night, when the snow is barely visible and the lights brighten up the dark sky, it's truly an unforgettable sight.

I don't go out to look for beauty amongst my life and surroundings, but when I find it, I love it. One of the first-ever pieces I wrote was about sitting in a taxicab on my way back into Manhattan. It was night-time and we crossed the 59th Street Bridge, and suddenly all the skyscrapers and lights rose up to meet me. That moment encompassed everything I loved about New York at the time, and still do. So goes for the Rideau Canal. I was walking along the ice to the hot chocolate stand where my friends had skated on ahead of me. Halfway there, I stopped. It was so quiet, and I was all alone with only a few silhouettes ahead and behind me. I turned around and saw the lights illuminating the canal, and felt how wide-open the space was. It was cold, but an exhilarating kind of cold, the one that makes you feel stronger.

No wonder people love to come here and skate.

Briefly 

Mark Watson is a stand-up comic, novelist, and writing a sitcom for the BBC. A busy career path for anyone, but especially so for a young man of 23. He's also eschewed the "write what you know" concept in his upcoming debut, BULLET POINTS, which stars a fortyish psychiatrist to the stars who's looking inward at his own life and failings. Hard not to be jealous, but I think I'll give the book a try when it's out.

Elmore Leonard is interviewed at the Sun-Sentinel this week; it's a fairly long profile that claims he invented "the South Florida novel" and gets into his next project: A COYOTE IN THE HOUSE, his book for teens that's due out in June. Related, Dutch talks about the books that have been adapted to screen and how successful they are. The TV show KAREN SISCO is brought up, which, alas, will not be coming back to the TV airwaves in March as planned. Considering it was the only drama I watched in the fall, I'm kind of bummed.

Espionage, or Spy Lit: there's a rich history of such novels, and Wesley Wark takes a good look at them in the Globe and Mail. Also in this week's G&M Book review is a thumbs-up for Lillian Nattel's novel THE SINGING FIRE, which sounds lovely in a magical realism kind of way. Kind of like Jonathan Safran Foer's EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED but with more research and actual attention to detail.

Peter Guttridge rounds up the usual suspects in crime fiction of late: Pete Dexter's TRAIN, Peter Robinson's PLAYING WITH FIRE (another excellent installment in the Inspector Banks series) Ian Rankin's WATCHMAN, which was written way back in 1988 and only reissued now, two offerings from Bitter Lemon Press (devoted to translating foreign crime novels into English) and Jane Jensen's DANTE'S EQUATION, which Guttridge was impressed with especially.

In other mystery roundups, David Lazarus of the SF Chronicle raves about Joseph Finder's PARANOIA, is less enthusiastic about Laurance Klavan's THE CUTTING ROOM (memo to Ballantine: did you not realize how popular Louise Welsh's novel is? Sheesh) and pretty much trashes Harley Jane Kozak's debut mystery DATING DEAD MEN. Interesting, the last one, because it's about the first bad review I've seen of that book anywhere--the trades all loved it and word of mouth has been quite good. Of course, it could be because folks are desperate for a book that fills the mold Janet Evanovich left behind about four books ago....

Liz Hoggard examines the literary recluse, or when writers simplyi refuse to do any publicity whatsoever. Should they be commended, or disdained?

Israeli literature is getting a lot of press this week. Richard Eder reviews A.B. Yehoshua's new novel for the New York Times, while Linda Grant of the Guardian Review looks at the country as a whole in relationship to its literature, and whether one can write about anything else except the conflicts and terrorism.

I'm a little bit surprised that there's a market for Sherman Alexie's work in the UK, but considering how good a writer he is, why shouldn't there be? Maya Jaggi at the Guardian loves his new collection, TEN LITTLE INDIANS.

Michael Dirda's regular column in the WaPo especially caught my eye this week; he presents an in-depth look at an old gothic classic, Sheridan Le Fanu's UNCLE SILAS.

The Sunday Glasgow Herald has a smattering of book news this week: a general rave for Manda Scott's second installment in her Boudica trilogy, a short interview with Paul Auster, and the news that a famed Scottish murder that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's KIDNAPPED has been "solved" by US academics.

And finally, Terry Teachout's Blog Manifesto is nothing short of essential. Although I would have to disagree on one point: popular blogs can take weekends off when necessary....

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