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Friday, February 13, 2004

And some actual book news to report 

Random House UK will merge two of its formerly independent branches, Harvill (which specializes in novels in translation and has an especially good foreign crime section) and Secker & Warburg into the new imprint Harvill Secker. This will not affect publication under both imprints for the time being, and no date has been set for the first or the "merger" books to be published.

Matthew Pearl, author of THE DANTE CLUB, is interviewed at length in the Guardian. I've long suspected that Pearl isn't a big fan of the limelight and is extremely introverted, and my suspicions are generally confirmed:

When asked if people cosy up to him now that he is hot property in the literary world he laughs. "Nobody ever thinks it's cool to hang out with me," he says, without a hint of self-deprecation. The success of the novel surprised him. But the length of time it takes to get a book published gave him sufficient space to get over it, although the attention still makes him a little awkward. "I don't like my birthday. I don't like things that are directed towards me. It took me a long time to get over people asking me to write my name in the book," he says.

Pearl's next novel is "already in the pipeline" set a decade before the Civil War, and he's toying with ideas for his third book.

Publishers have found yet another way to piss off booksellers: selling books through their own websites. Granted, this has been going on for ages and I don't know that many people that actually buy books through a publisher. However, some small presses are speaking up about the benefits of doing such a thing.

Indigo, the parent company of the Chapters and Indigo superstores in Canada, saw a dip in profits last quarter. CEO Heather Reisman blames the shortfall on "cost pressures in its online business."

Two more short stories, one by Laura Hird and the other by Julia Widdows, are up in the Save Our Short Story anthology.

With the news that children's author Jacqueline Wilson is now the most borrowed author in UK libraries, she's profiled in today's Guardian.

And finally, Ron links to the Book Babes' latest column, this time about literary snobbery against so-called "airport" books. I agree with him on many points, but especially this:

Fiction doesn't "put us inside the souls" of anybody, for starters; but it does enable us to find common ground for identification with characters whose lives may or may not differ superficially from our own, but who possess the same motivations and ambitions, the same setbacks and frustrations, as we do in our own lives. Good fiction requires us to suspend very little disbelief, I believe, and that only in regard to outward matters of time and setting, because if we cannot believe in the characters, then there is simply no point to continuing to participate in the story. If an "airport book" can convince me that its protagonist is acting plausibly, I'm there, and if Jonathan Franzen or someone of that ilk stuck an unbelievable character into a novel, I'd be the first to chuck it across the room.

How true. If the characters don't appeal to the reader in some way, shape or form that they want to spend 300-500 (or more) pages with them, then it's not worth reading for that particular person. Literary, commercial--I just want good writing, good structure and good characters. After that it's all icing.

New phrase alert 

to Tivoli: when an adult starts acting wildly immature for one's age, i.e. mental age regression. Symptoms include revisiting behaviors normally manifested in high school years, such as gossiping behind one's back, forming cliques, and other related behaviors. Also known as "doing a Tivoli." Phrase named for the title character of Andrew Sean Greer's novel THE CONFESSIONS OF MAX TIVOLI (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004).

Examples of proper phrase usage:

1. On hearing a friend has engaged in egregiously immature behavior: "God, you're totally doing a Tivoli, aren't you."

2. In the course of conversation: "Don't Tivoli on me, won't you grow up already?"

It remains to be seen if this new phrase will be adapted in popular lexicon.

Call of the cattle 

It all started a month ago when my best friend N rang me up.

"I have something to tell you," she said.

I played dumb because well, I didn't know what she was going to say. "What is it?"

"I'm going to audition for Canadian Idol."

"REALLY? Omigod that is SO COOL!!!"

And so, at the crack of dawn, I woke up, picked her up and we made our way to Lansdowne Park, where more than 1,000 aspiring wannabes queued up for their chance at Canadian pop "stardom." I use the quotes because frankly, last year's winner, Ryan Malcolm, is so unbelievably bland that I can't see him progressing beyond half-hit wonder status anytime soon, even as he preps for his Big Canadian Tour. But this isn't about mocking last year's Idol winner. It's about the process.

First answer: no, I didn't audition. I really couldn't be arsed, as my Brit friends say, because I didn't want to hang around all day waiting....waiting...and waiting some more. Never mind that as a classically trained singer, much of what passes for pop music eludes me in that it clashes completely with the proper way to sing. N has been taking pop vocal lessons for a few years now and this was her day, so I wanted to be around to give her support.

We arrived at Lansdowne at about 6:45 AM and the place was already mobbed. The doors had opened 9 PM last night for those who wanted to get an early audition. Though it crossed N's mind, she's 26 (so just making the cutoff point for age) and like me, too old for that kind of shit. Sure, it was a gamble coming in so "late" but the line moved quickly, and we crossed our fingers that she'd get an audition today and not tomorrow. As we moved up the line, we befriended two girls behind us; neither's goal was to be the "Next Canadian Idol", but they were just there to have fun and get experience, which was N's goal as well. This would be her last shot, and why not? Luckily most of her friends and work colleagues were incredibly supportive and excited that she was going through with it; there was a lot of vicariousness going on. Our friend M nearly convinced me to give it a go as well, though sanity prevailed.

Anyway, I passed the time by joking around about the most inappropriate songs one could present to the Idol judges. Worthy candidates included songs by Metallica, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and so on. I started singing "Freakin' at the Freakers Ball" but nobody paid attention. Many were too busy screaming their lungs out at the first glimpse of a TV camera, what with all the local stations there to witness the melee. Most people were too sleepy, nervous, or zoned out.

N and I were very much the "old kids" in the line; the average age had to be about 20 or 21. So many young people convinced they were it, or at least there to get some experience. Though most kept their mouths shut, a few vocalized; one girl who by appearance alone seemed a good candidate to get tossed, what with the dog collar, leather jacket, piercings and cropped 'do, had a very strong, clear voice. It'll be interesting to see if she makes it past this round of auditions. One of the girls behind us turned to a large young man in the next row up and asked if he'd auditioned last year, which he had. She recognized him from the TV broadcast. He knew the drill, but he looked as clued out as the majority of folks.

Moving further up the queue, the security guards showed up to collect ID cards and fasten wristbands on the contestants, who were also required to sign the most prohibitively "CYA" release form I've ever seen. No rights, no nothing. So it's really not a good idea to sing something you've written because voila! The Idol people now own it forever and ever. Of course, everyone signed it without hesitation, or at least, not a whole lot of it.

Finally, we reached the front of the line, and the contestants were asked to step forward. Not being one, I was kicked out of the line and waited in the back. When N emerged, she now had the distinction of being Number 710. The good news is that her audition would be today; but she'd have a long, long wait.

It took some more time before the auditions began, and so the crowd was "entertained" by a couple of producers, who introduced Idol host Ben Mulroney (blathering on about having "lots of fun" and the usual bullshit) and then Mr. Malcolm, who not-so-casually slipped in the news that he'd be back in Ottawa in mid-March as part of his tour. He has an "entourage" now which followed him as he made his way to the stage to speak. That cracked us all up.

By 10 AM it was obvious that N was all right, having made an instant support group of fellow contestants. Her audition won't be till the late afternoon at the earliest, and it'll be in two stages: first, groups of five go in together and sing, one by one, in front of show producers, who then pick out which should move on to round two, where each contestant sings alone. If they move on, then they face the scrutiny of the TV judges on Monday or Tuesday. Which means, of course, more waiting, and more queueing.

So now I wait. How will she do? Will she enjoy herself and sing well? Will she make it past the first round or both? It matters, but not so much, because just making the decision to get up at an ungodly hour and going was gutsy enough. I'm plenty proud of her now, but I'm waiting for that phone call later in the day, that's for sure.

UPDATE: I got the call around 7 PM, and well, instant stardom is not meant to be. Evidently the groups of five were housed in tiny trailers, making it all too easy to get stressed out and psyched out. N sang fine, but the judges didn't let her get to the next round. But the other folks she hung out with were in the same boat. So, no, they won't be stars, but I think some friendships were forged. Looking back on it from the day after, it was a little bit crazy and a lot exciting. But I don't envy the folks moving on to meet the celebrity judges. It just means more waiting, more nerves, and more tension.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Friday Morning Roundup 

(posted late Thursday evening because of breaking developments which I'll discuss later on Friday.)

Ian Rankin, who's been everywhere in the news of late because his latest book is just out in the US and he's a crime writer God in the UK, was in the unusual position of attending a crime scene in his neighborhood. The dismembered remains of a convicted sex offender were found in a garden in the affluent Merchiston suburb of Edinburgh, though the victim was likely killed elsewhere. It remains to be seen whether the murder will figure in a future novel of Rankin's, but one has to say that it makes for excellent first-hand research...

Greek author Panos Karnezis is interviewed in the Independent about why, after studying engineering, he switched gears at 30 to write fiction and became a literary success. His debut novel, THE MAZE, is out now, and being a sucker for many things Greek, I'm looking forward to reading the book. In other Greek-set novel related news, one of my favorite crime writers, Paul Johnston, will (allegedly) have a new book out this fall after all. THE GOLDEN SILENCE, the third Alex Mavros novel, is slated for a September release. I'm still drooling over the cover.

Oh, that Michiko. She's rather charmed by Lucy Ellman's DOT IN THE UNIVERSE, which is only now getting its US release.

And hey, look at this! THE DA VINCI CODE has been unseated from the top spot of the Times' Bestseller List? Who could be the culprit? Oh....it's Grisham's latest, THE LAST JUROR. What fun is that? Other debuts making the list: The latest in Laurell K. Hamilton's paranormal bonkfests starring Meredith Gentry is at #4, yet another Star Wars book is at #9, and newest HypeMonster (TM) candidate Cecelia Ahern jumps in at #18.

Who's the queen of English libraries? Not Catherine Cookson. After 17 years, she's lost the title of most-borrowed author to Jacqueline Wilson. Talk about tides turning.....

HarperCollins UK is on a serious roll. They were buoyed by last fall's success of David Beckham's autobiography, and are flush from signing ex-BBC chief Greg Dyke and now a new biography of John Lennon.

Newsday's Book Review is already up for the most part: among the featured books are Brad Land's harrowing memoir of fraternity life; an interview with Lynne Cox, author of SWIMMING TO ANTARCTICA; and a review of Yasmina Khadra's Afghanistan-set novel.

Another Joe Ezsterhas profile, this one courtesy of the SF Chronicle.

Carmen Bin Laden, the former wife of Osama's brother, has written a memoir that's a bestseller in France. It's now found an English publisher as Virago has signed the book up to be released next year.

Bookninja reports that David Berlin, the editor-in-chief of WALRUS Magazine, is stepping down due to health reasons. He'll be replaced by Paul Wilson.

And finally Lawrence Block's tour schedule for THE BURGLAR ON THE PROWL is now up at his website. What distinguishes this from most other author tours is that Larry will be spending the bulk of his time at local libraries across the country. If you've never had a chance to hear him read from his work, you must. He's really one of the best. A couple of months before the publication of his controversial novel SMALL TOWN last year, he participated in a reading at the 5th Avenue Church with many other literary and acting folk like Malachy McCourt and Eli Wallach. Block read a portion of the book which described the genesis of a particular restaurant where many of the characters meet in pivotal scenes. The fictional restaurant bears some relation to Elaine's (87th and 2nd Avenue) but the sheer narrative and panache with which the passage was read got, by far, the longest and loudest applause of the afternoon. Sadly I had to dash out right away but at least I got the chance to witness the crowd's enthusiastic reaction.

Blind Item rehash 

Speaking of the New York Post, at the tail end of 2003, they closed with the following blind item:

WHICH dashing Democratic presidential candidate used to be infamous for trying to steal other guys' girlfriends? The lusty lawmaker had a habit of doggedly pursuing attractive young women after meeting them at D.C. dinner parties even if they were already spoken for.

Wonder if the guesses are being narrowed down with the current flurry of activity....

That's why it's my favorite paper in the whole wide world 

New Yorkish teaches us how to create an instant front page New York Post headline. (link from Gawker.)

The Quarterlife  

Today's my birthday, although honestly, I've been telling people I'm twenty-five for the past few weeks--it's less awkward that way. I expect it will be rather low key, since I already did the combined birthday/anniversary lunch with my parents a couple of days ago, and won't be celebrating with friends till the weekend. But I like birthdays, and what they signify, and this one seems to be fairly important. I'm now on my own when it comes to dental and extra medical coverage. I can now rent a car (well, once I get fully licensed in the next few months.) And I think this marks the first year where I've basically caught up to my peers.

For the longest time, I've felt that I should be older than I am. A lot of it stems from the age of my parents, who are in their early and mid-sixties, respectively--in other words, decidedly not baby boomers, with a different set of references, experiences, and cultural milestones. They also set the tone with their taste for more intellectual pursuits and more "highbrow" tastes, if you call having 3000+ classical, Broadway musical, comedy and jazz LPs in the living room highbrow. And for whatever reason, I was an early "doer": walked at 9 and a half months, read at 2 and a half, and constantly, constantly observed the people and things around me. When I got to school, I was happy at first, but boredom set in, and I itched to do something about it. However, I would not recommend that children skip fifth grade--talk about moving from the frying pan into the fire, at least from a developmental standpoint.

As I moved through high school to graduation, I was two years younger than everyone else, thanks to the now-disappeared Grade 13 that Ontario high schools had, and which I essentially skipped over by doing five years of high school in four. I was the youngest in my social set in college, and the gap between me and the friends I made widened age-wise, so that now I have friends of all ages--but for the most part, I was still the youngest. Except now I find it's not always so. Granted, if I sit on the bus or subway and hear teens talking, I just "don't get it" most of the time; and I'm struck by how young they looked. I couldn't possibly have looked so young at 14, 16, 18, could I? Then I go back to my old pictures and find it to be the case. What happened? Is my self-perception that skewed that I have no sense of how I looked then and how I look now?

I'm considered to be an adult by the children I know or meet, but to my parents' peers, I'm still "my parents' daughter," at least in this town. Many people keep asking me the usual questions: where I am, what I'm doing, with all the unspoken implications of those probing questions. Girls who were 2, 3, even 4 years behind me in school are getting married, having children. I'm not one to be panicked by what others do, but at the same time, I feel a sense of urgency to get as much as I can accomplished, to make the most of the leisure time I have at my disposal. Eventually my life will settle into a more regular rhythm; when, I can't really say. A few months ago, when I returned home from England, I'expected it would be now. Except it hasn't--or perhaps, this is the pace I was meant to be at for the time being.

So, being twenty-five. The "Quarterlife crisis," as some articles and books are calling it, sounding an alarm for a generation of people who are more educated and more unsettled than their parents ever were. More like the Quarterlife Opportunity, if you ask me. I'm not young, but I'm nowhere near old. I'm still, to some degree, dependent on my parents, but they are starting to be dependent on me as well. I have something to prove, but less of it. And ultimately, whatever possibilities become eventualities, whatever opportunities come my way, whenever they do, I'll embrace them, because I know I can.

This morning's news 

Oh god: Janet Maslin jumps on the lad-lit bandwagon, spending most of her space on Kyle Smith's LOVE MONKEY. Speaking of Smith, am I the only one who thinks he bears a passing resemblance to this man?

Thor Kunkel is one of Germany's hottest young writers. But his newest book is causing such a fuss that his publisher has cancelled its publication. Why? Because it's based on the Nazis' penchant for making porn films and allegedly "downplays" the Holocaust.

The Saga of Irwin Schiff, the man responsible for "Federal Mafia" and classic tax avoidance, is not much liked by the government. But courts are skeptical that the IRS can actually make everyone who bought the book un-buy it. Or something like that.

Ian Rankin criticizes the Scottish Executive's decision to close down the Airborne Initiative after a documentary aired showing its problems.

Immanuel Kant, party animal? That's what three new biographies of the philosopher are saying, trying to break him free of the long-standing mold that he was a great big bore.

Bill Hicks is, to say the least, a cult figure in American comedy. A premature death in 1994 at the age of 32 only cemented this status. Now, as his complete works are being published for the first time, the Independent takes a closer look at the man, his comedy, and his influence.

Rebecca Caldwell delves further into the revamping of Nancy Drew for 21st century girls. Only at the end of the article does she bring up the bottom line: will kids who have video games and other instant gratification tools at their disposal even care about Nancy? Time will tell.

Two big blockbusters get major paper treatment: The Boston Globe digs Joseph Finder's PARANOIA, while Dennis Drabelle of the Washington Post speaks highly of John Grisham's latest bestseller.

USA TODAY reviews a debut mystery novel with a ton of buzz: Harley Jane Kozak's DATING DEAD MEN. I read this book a few days back, and thought it quite enjoyable, but it's a little too lightweight for my own tastes. But for those who got off the Evanovich Express and are clamoring for something light and funny that doesn't descend into Energizer Bunny-like activities (never mind the incessantly annoying love "triangle": please. Morelli and Ranger deserve each other, they can leave Steph alone), Kozak's book is the perfect solution.

Susan Vreeland wrote GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE around the same time as Tracy Chevalier's similarly themed GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING. Both became bestsellers. Now Vreeland is back with a book based around the life of Emily Carr, and the Chicago Sun-Times meets her.

Leonie Frieda is the author of a biography of Catherine de Medici, just out now. Her own life broke down in the process as she lost her family and became addicted to drugs. Frieda tells her story and how she managed to conquer her demons.

Make him stop, please. DBC Pierre can't stop gabbing to Lillian Pizzichini about his upcoming projects. His next book, LUDMILA'S BROKEN ENGLISH, is about two Russian schoolboy emigres who get in trouble. His third book, the one he's working on now? It's really exciting him. "I've found a way to make vulgarity acceptable," he says. Dude, just because you change the spelling to "fucken" doesn't make it acceptable. Or amusing. Trust me.

And finally, for those that have been anticipating, salivating, drooling for it--Sept. 21 is your date to mark.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Obvs.-scate 

Oh, that Grambo. With charmingly "goofy patois" that's begging to be dissected by William Safire, he's attracted legions of admirers and a little bit of controversy. Did Neal Pollack's Grammy diary for Salon rip off, er, pay homage to Grambo's own version? Trust Lou Dobbs of CNN to get the scoop in this just-posted exclusive interview with both men. Ol' Lou's been on a role of late, especially after his recent Q&A with the guy who has my vote for President*, the man who has won the heart of Bill O'Reilly and has Bill Cosby kissing his feet: the one, the only: Peabs. Obvs in '04.

*Of course, there's the slight problem that I can't vote in the United States. Something to do with citizenship? A pesky minor detail.

The serial killer DVD set 

"On Monday, the King County prosecutor's office made available 109 DVDs of interviews with Gary Ridgway, who was sentenced Dec. 18 to 48 life sentences without the chance of parole after earlier pleading guilty to killing 48 women in the Green River serial murder case.

Ridgway has the most convictions of any serial murderer in U.S. history.

The disks, totaling almost 250 gigabytes of data, include more than 400 hours of video and nearly 8,500 pages of transcripts, said Derek Dohn, CEO of Chameleon Data, which put the DVDs together."


Now THAT is what I call a treasure trove of information. Albeit, not geared for general public viewing. If you want a copy, it's available--for the very low price of $2,220. True crime writer Ann Rule, however, was one person who anted up the cash to pay for the Ridgway DVDs, for good reason:

Rule bought the DVDs to help with her research for "Green River, Red Blood," a book due out in late summer, she said.

"I wrote 19 books waiting for this to be solved," said the Seattle resident.

She said she hopes the details of Ridgway's methods and motivations will provide cautionary tales to the public.

"I would love to put myself out of business," Rule said, "but there are always more dangerous criminals out there."



I take thee to be my lawfully wedded corpse 

" Dressed in a demure black suit, a 35-year-old Frenchwoman has married her dead boyfriend, an exchange of vows that required authorization from President Jacques Chirac."

"[The bride] told LCI television she understood "it could seem shocking to marry someone who is dead," but her feelings for him had not dimmed. His body was not present for the ceremony."

UPDATE: Trust the deliciously evil folks at Low Culture to put their own spin on the identity of the groom.

Wednesday roundup 

All right, all right, what's everyone buzzing about these days? How the authors of THE NANNY DIARIES got smacked down by Random House. Sara Nelson duly reports all the details in this week's New York Observer.

And in other controversy news, both John Mullan and John Sutherland respond in today's Guardian about Roddy Doyle's contention that Ulysses is unreadable. They both beg to differ.

And who, exactly, is Jennifer Johnston, whom Doyle deems a finer Irish writer than Joyce? Rosie Cowan takes a look at this underrated author.

Bertelsmann (the conglomerate that owns Random House, among other things in its quest for world domination) is a huge investor in Chinese bookshops. The result? They are getting more capitalist, with cafes and better books stocked.

Another bookshop to close: this time, it's Politico's, located in London's "Artillery Row." It will continue as a mail-order business starting the 15th of March.

Is your debut novel being published in the UK this year? Then don't forget to submit to the Pendleton May Novel Awards. The prize money's increased to 2500 pounds. The catch? You must live in London or the South, and your book had to have been published between October 2003 and October 2004. Last year's winner was Babs Horton for the marvellous A JARFUL OF ANGELS.

One might have thought that in the country where the alphabet as we know it was invented, the written word would still endure. But alas, Arab countries are seeing a decline in reading interest, if the Arab Book Fair is anything to judge by.

Can a diary boost your health? That's what The Age argues, that even 10 minutes of writing a day can help out your mental health. No word on whether 5 hours of blogging actually worsens your mental outlook....

Carrie Fisher, author of THE BEST AWFUL and responsible for the bagel hairdo of the late 1970s, is profiled in the New York Times.

David Kipen of the SF Chronicle is another reviewer raving about THE CONFESSIONS OF MAX TIVOLI.

And finally, so there's all this fighting about Dr. Atkins' health problems leading up to his death. My first question was, why was the Medical Examiner involved? A simple answer: because his death could be directly related to a fall he'd had about a week before his death, the manner of death could not be classified as natural. It's what the ME folks call the "but for" rule: "but for" some outside event, he would not have died in the way that he did. He could have been 100% healthy right up until then and the fall would still be what ultimately caused his death. But people like to fight about all sorts of things....

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

New issue of Bookslut 

...is now up, though Jessa's being kind of low key about the whole thing (good luck tomorrow!) Anyway, lit-blogger content remains high, as Ed the Satirical Wonder contributes a most amusing epistolary review of Elisabeth Robinson's debut novel. I, on the other hand, went for a more scholarly approach in my mystery column, as I use the recent reissue of Dorothy Hughes' IN A LONELY PLACE to talk about what a groundbreaking author she was for her time. As I say in the piece, I'm really eager to get my hands on the rest of Hughes' oeuvre; she doesn't write like anyone else before, during, or since.

The Sara Ann Freed Award 

As reported by Publisher's Lunch:

The Mysterious Press has created the Sara Ann Freed Memorial Award for a first mystery novel, providing a $10,000 advance for publication by the Time Warner imprint. CEO Larry Kirshbaum says, "Sara Ann Freed nurtured many outstanding mystery writers at the beginning of their careers. I can think of no better way to honor her memory than the establishment of this award whose purpose is to launch the career of a talented new mystery writer." Submissions will be accepted from April 1 through July 1 only, for publication in September 2005. Details are available at MysteriousPress.com.

Well, I'm all in favor of anything that gets new voices published, so for those people who might be having some trouble getting their names out there or getting a foot in the door--this might be your chance. And I agree wholeheartedly about Sara Ann Freed--when she died last year, it was a tremendous loss to the mystery community, which needs all the champions in the publishing world it can get.

Westlake vs. Stark 

Terry, in response to a reader question, delves into the dichotomy of Donald Westlake's parallel careers. He's a huge fan of the uber-hardboiled Parker novels (under the Stark pseudonym) and Westlake's Dortmunder novels. Unfortunately, only about half of those books are actually in print; Mysterious Press reissued THE HOT ROCK in spiffy trade paperback a few years ago, but never reissued the books immediately afterwards, which frustrates me b/c I, for one, want to read the series in order and can't find a copy of BANK SHOT. So until I do, I'm going to be stalled on the series for a while. But for those that are caught up, this year offers a double dose of Dortmunder. In April, Westlake releases the short story collection THIEVES' DOZEN--so called because there are only 11 short stories starring the wily Dortmunder and his gang. Then, the following month sees the publication of the newest Dortmunder novel, THE ROAD TO RUIN, which will be launched at Partners & Crime on the 5th of May.

My own favorite Westlake? Hands down, the sadly-still-out-of-print DANCING AZTECS, one of the most joyously comedic novels I've ever read. Take a couple of small-time crooks, a shipment gone wrong, and sixteen dancing aztec priest figures scattered throughout the five boroughs of New York, and you get something that had me in stitches from the first page and never let go. I'm almost scared to reread it because I loved the book that much. But eventually, I will--it's that good.


Jules Hardy's new deal 

I can't link to the damned thing because it's registration-only, but The Bookseller reports that one of my new absolute favorite authors, Jules Hardy, has inked a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster UK, the same house that has published her first two novels, ALTERED LAND and MISTER CANDID. The first book of that deal is slated for publication in the spring of 2005. Shall I rhapsodize some about Hardy's gifts as a writer, whether she's doing introspective character studies and delving deep into complex familial bonds, or writing a near-gothic suspense novel that manages to skirt the line of serious taboos? She's a fearless risk taker in a world where sameness and gimmickry are often rewarded in publishing more often than not. In short, read her books already.

Tuesday morning QB 

Is Roddy Doyle spoiling for a fight? He votes Ulysses a most overrated novel, saying that it "could have done with a good editor." Next: Doyle's opinion on the wildly unreadable FINNEGAN'S WAKE (true story: my Grade 8 English teacher read us the first page of FINNEGAN. We pretty much begged him to stop after that.) The Guardian then asks some other authors and scholars to give their opinion on Joyce's masterwork.

Valentine's Day is approaching. So what should you splurge on for your loved one: poetry or flowers? According to a new survey, poetry wins that debate. Probably because verse (usually) won't make you sneeze uncontrollably for hours which might put a damper on all things amour...

What to make of Dave Pelzer? He turned his childhood of abuse and torment into a multitude of bestsellers. Not surprisingly, such success has been greated with scorn and controversy, and the Independent takes a closer look at the man behind the success.

Chris Lehmann deems THE CONFESSION OF MAX TIVOLI to be an "engaging, wry and melancholy" novel. I suspect I'll be jumping on the bandwagon myself as soon as I can get a hold of a copy.

Presented here a couple of days late is Dick Adler's crime fiction roundup for the Chicago Tribune. He raves about Scott Phillips' Western COTTONWOOD (which, based on the great reviews thus far, should merit more attention than the publisher intended it to get) and is also keen on books by Barbara Nadel, Edgar-nominee Rebecca Pawel, Kris Nelscott, and Victor Gischler.

Anthony Shaffer, the playwright best known for writing SLEUTH (which will be remade into a film with Michael Caine switching into the Laurence Olivier part and Jude Law taking up Caine's role), died in 2001. Since then, his will has been the subject of a nasty fight in court as family members vie for chunks of the inheritance. A judge has now ruled that Shaffer's mistress cannot claim part of his estate, backing the argument of Shaffer's wives and daughters. Oh, the tangled web one weaves....

So Time Magazine's all over the whole "dude lit" (or whatever) craze that isn't really sweeping through North America? Hmm. I tried reading Kyle Smith'S LOVE MONKEY a few days ago. I loved the first chapter but after that, somehow, it got kind of old. Maybe it's because I'd rather read about the antics of single male bloggers than read it in fiction? (link from one such SMB, Ed.)

So Mickey Spillane claims the whole hard-boiled image is just an act? Uh oh, I think we've found our next candidate for crime writer turning to kids' books. In related news, Elmore Leonard's own foray into kidlit, A COYOTE IN THE HOUSE, will be out in June. (link from Mark.)

Wondering what ousted Orion Chief Anthony Cheetham is up to now? Why, the usual thing. He's trying his hand at a novel, something he hasn't attempted in more than 30 years. (scroll to 3rd item.)

And finally, Gerard Depardieu's estranged son Guillaume has written a tell-all book that will be published in France today. To say it's stirring up a controversy is putting it mildly.

Monday, February 09, 2004

When publicity campaigns attack 

Michael Connelly's next Harry Bosch novel, THE NARROWS, won't be out in stores till May 3, but believe me, his US publisher, Little Brown, is pulling out all the stops in their pursuit of the ultimate goal: the top spot of the New York Times Bestseller list. They may not say as much officially, but they might as well. For one thing, it's an honor Connelly has yet to achieve (he reached #2 with 2001's A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT, but hasn't quite made it that high in the books since.) For another, the actual book is the culmination of something that Connelly had said for years that he would never do: write a sequel to 1996's THE POET, which (no spoiler here) ended with the culprit getting away with his crimes. With that kind of hook--never mind the rumor that a longstanding character may be offed--it seemed like the time for Little, Brown to get their marketing campaign into seriously high gear.

So what have they done? Well, if you're in the biz and you're expecting a sneak preview as only galleys or ARCs will provide, forget it. There aren't any. It's a smart move, for many reasons. Connelly's enough of a brand name that his fans will read him regardless, and those perusing the airport or Barnes & Noble or Wal-Mart will see his books trumpeted everywhere. Name recognition is pretty high, so why spoil the party by revealing what happens to a few lucky souls a few months in advance. Then, there are the T-shirts. When I was in New York a few weeks ago, I stopped in Partners & Crime and saw the swag for myself. The P&C folks were puzzled because all that was emblazoned on the tees was the book's title and release date. That's it. No author title, no details, nothing. They joked that people who might wear it in the city would be asked if it referred to "the Verezzano Narrows" but if so, well, it probably keeps the mystery quotient up.

And now, in a more innovative step, there's the movie. As directed by friend and fellow author T.L. (Terrill) Lankford, it depicts Connelly walking the streets of L.A., describing the inspiration for his writing THE NARROWS and has some audio excerpts of the new book. I do admit to a bit of a giggle when he talked about kids growing up in LA (he was born and raised, and now lives again, in Florida) and it is just a little bit cheesy, but not overly so. In any case, it's an unusual marketing gambit. Whether all of this, plus whatever Connelly and his publisher cook up from now till publication date, gets them their ultimate goal remains to be seen, but suffice it to say, I'm getting my copy on May 3. I wanna know what happens....

Of course, unusual marketing strategies is not a new thing for Little, Brown. They released Connelly's last book, LOST LIGHT, with a CD of favorite jazz cuts. And as reported here earlier (scroll down 2/3 of the page), they will be doing the CD promotional tie-in once more for George Pelecanos's HARD REVOLUTION. Peter Guralnick has contributed the liner notes, and Pelecanos' thoughts on the Soul tracks are available here.

The usual smattering of news and stuff 

A few days ago, it was reported in Publisher's Weekly (and picked up by The Kicker) that the work-in-progress by "Nanny Diaries" authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus had been turned down by Random House, who had signed them up back in 2002. The New York Times dishes the dirt even further, revealing that the authors got back extensive rewrite notes that they did not agree with, and sought out others, including Kurt Andersen (!!) for advice.

Rosemary Goring of the Glasgow Herald dishes out some harsh truths for those millions of souls who think they have a novel in them: trust me, you don't. It's also a review of Elizabeth George's book on writing (!!!) which she finds a good read, if you want to learn how to write like Elizabeth George. Me, I'd rather write like Larry Block (and even he doesn't always write like that anymore.)

Janet Maslin HEARTS Ian Rankin. I mean, it's practically a full-blown obsessive crush now. But what the hell, we all love him to death too. Oh yeah, and he writes some seriously good crime fiction.

Meanwhile, Patrick Anderson looks at the newest book by the man Maslin dubs "Rankin's spiritual soul mate" or something. Anyway, he digs, though doesn't go overboard on the praise.

Should have linked to this yesterday, but forgot: The New York Times Magazine Q&As with Walter Mosley, rehashing the usual stuff, but I must admit, the question asking whether he "had a bar mitzvah" was awfully, ah, out of left field.

The Age profiles James Lee Burke, as his newest novel, LAST CAR TO ELYSIAN FIELDS, is only just out now in Australia.

The BBC is about to devote 8 million pounds to arts and culture programming, after years of criticism that those topics were unjustly ignored by the network. We'll see if the money actually translates into quality programs, however....

Street Lit is definitely gaining in popularity--so much that this report by ABC News devotes a bundle of energy to the growing field in publishing. But is it getting those who wouldn't read otherwise to do so, or sending the wrong message?

How widespread is porn in worldwide culture? Sydney Morning Herald columnist Malcolm Knox's novel A PRIVATE MAN seeks to understand the stranglehold and relevance of pornography within Australian society.

The "Books Alive" program in Australia is geared to getting books into the hands of 4 million "occasional readers" who hardly ever pick up a book. Will it work? Only time will tell.

And finally, Catherine Zeta Jones confirms what the world's known for years: she's a conniving bitch.

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