Saturday, January 17, 2004

Weekend update 

First, for fans of Denise Mina's marvellous books set in and around Glasgow, some bad news: FIELD OF BLOOD, the first in a new series starring young reporter Paddy Meehan on the beat in Glasgow in the early 80s, has been pushed back from an April 2004 release to March 2005. According to the folks at Transworld, her UK publisher (she's published by Little, Brown in the US), the recent birth of her first child combined with various marketing factors at work to set the series launch more firmly in motion contributed to the delay. Although I'm disappointed in the news, if pushing the release date back makes for a better book, I'm all for it.

The Save Our Short Story Campaign has updated with two new stories in the ongoing online anthology: one from editrix Val McDermid, and the other from Moira Forsyth. The anthology continues with two stories each month until July.

Robert McCrum rhapsodizes on what's becoming a lost art in the age of the PC: the first draft as put to paper by pen.

Tessa Hadley's new novel EVERYTHING WILL BE ALL RIGHT is reviewed all over the place; a rave from the Observer, and another from the Guardian review, and still another from the Independent.

At the WaPo Book World: Jeffrey Frank's BAD PUBLICITY is fiction that's less funny the truth of Washington politics; Deborah Davis adores Tracy Chevalier's new novel; Gavin McNett gets a headache from Tibor Fischer's latest; and Mary Roach (the author of STIFF, which was hugely enjoyable) is wonderfully enthusiastic about Bill Bass's new book about "The Body Farm," the Tennessee forensic pathology institute devoted to discovering the mysteries of death and what transpires afterwards.

At the NYT: Truthfully, not a hell of a lot. Walter Mosley's THE MAN IN MY BASEMENT is given a bit of a thumbs-down; Stephanie Zacharek's review adds further credence that Gavin Lambert's biography of Natalie Wood is a must-read; and Terence Rafferty finds that John Le Carre might be becoming a bit of a hothead in his old age.

Elmore Leonard's MR. PARADISE marks a return to his stomping grounds of Detroit--at least fictionally (he's been living in the vicinity for decades.) Not surprisingly, the Detroit Free Press is all over it: Marta Salij comments on the things you learn from his novels, and there's extra information on why he's turned back to Detroit. In related reviews, David Gilmour at the Globe and Mail uses the new book as a springboard for talking about Leonard's overall appeal.

Speaking of the Freep, I've been sort of aware that author Lev Raphael reviews mysteries for the paper but have been sadly negligent in linking to them, especially when he's so good at panning stuff in an elegant fashion. For example, see his review of Jilliane Hoffman's RETRIBUTION from earlier this year:

Should you bother reading it? Perhaps, if bad writing and a far-fetched plot with an unbelievable villain don't bother you. But "Retribution" will probably make a strong film, and it's unlikely the movie will be worse than the book.

Like, ouch. Last week's crime roundup features reviews of Joseph Finder's PARANOIA (he liked it, which surprised me somewhat), Tom Mitchelltree's BLINK OF AN EYE (which was less warmly received) as well as a reissue of Eric Ambler's espionage novel THE SCHIRMER INHERITANCE.

And finally, an obligatory Rick Mercer article. I, foolishly, missed his debut, but will be watching Monday night. Although in terms of cool comedy pundits, he doesn't quite match up to Jon Stewart--it's the eyes, after all...

The funniest thing I have read all week 

No book news update till later tonight (or perhaps tomorrow) but how could I resist commenting on this: hot on the heels of the success of the first "CSI" show in Vegas and then the spinoff in Miami is news of a new spinoff slated for the 2004-05 fall season--CSI: New York.

Now, of course, having an all-but-thesis-approval M.S. in Forensic Science (which, hopefully, will no longer be a hyphenated state by month's end) I can safely say that there are two questions I get asked the most when I tell them what I've studied. The first is "wow, do you get to work with dead bodies and stuff?" and #2 is "so what do you think of that CSI show?"

So, what do I think of CSI? In theory, it's great to see crime scene investigation and forensic science brought to a national, if not international level. And the shows make it look oh-so-glamorous. In reality, of course, it's anything but, and I break down the major differences as follows: first, CSIs don't interrogate suspects in real life. That's what detectives and beat cops are for. Second, real CSIs and forensic scientists would absolutely kill for the kind of equipment they use on the show. Government or private lab budgets simply don't allow for that. But it doesn't make for good TV to do the following:

"We need a rush on this case now! Can you get the DNA results by tomorrow?"

"Sorry, but we're still working with analysis equipment from 10 years ago. We'd have to spend six months to a year validating each and every sample we've ever worked with on the new, faster equipment."

"But it's new and fancy equipment and it'll give the results quicker!"

"Not if we have to validate it first, go through inspection, and make sure each and every prior sample--thousands, if not more--give the same results with the new equipment. Never mind that we need to get a government grant to explain why we need it when the old stuff works just fine."


Well, you get the idea. So why do I think CSI: New York is such a bizarre idea? I guess if I had done my schooling, internships and known various levels of scientists in Vegas or Miami, I'd have the same reaction, but frankly, I don't think so. New York just doesn't have that same kind of gloss and veneer that those towns do, and so the show setting would have to be, well, dark and gritty. Which may be the point. But also, there are just too many people around, whether at John Jay College, the NYPD crime labs (or the ones in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Yonkers, Westchester, you name it) to criticize and nitpick. And believe me, we are really good at that sort of thing, and we're not going to get a swelled head over the idea.

Or maybe it's me. But then, one of my new pet peeves in reading crime novels set in New York is that I notice when writers get procedure wrong, be it for policework or worse, anything whatsoever to do with the medical examiner's office. Say "coroner" and I'll be gritting my teeth through the rest of the book. If, as one writer did once, you have the Chief ME go to every scene of a crime, you've just failed my credibility test. That's why the office has medicolegal investigators. But enough of my own preaching, and it's a digression. The point is that credibility-stretching is bad enough when set in Vegas and Miami, but it could cause some serious snickerings in Manhattan. Which, granted, is what New York excels at, but why bother?

Especially when the prospect of CSI: Los Angeles could be far more attractive.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Diaries are so 20th century 

Seen over the transom:

Judy Goldschmidt's debut middle-grade novel THE SECRET BLOG OF RAISIN RODRIGUEZ, written as a web-log by a larger than life seventh grader, chronicling the ups and downs of puberty during her tumultuous first year at a new school, to Eloise Flood at Penguin's new YA imprint Razorbill, by Leslie Morgenstein at 17th Street Productions (world English).

I can just see it now. Upcoming titles of note: BLOG OF A MAD BRIDE. BRIDGET JONES' BLOG. THE PRINCESS BLOGGINGS. Feel free to add a title of your choice....

RIP Olivia 

Author Olivia Goldsmith, who had gone into Lenox Hill hospital for a plastic surgery procedure and reacted so badly to the anesthetic that she was in a coma for several days, has died at the age of 54. It's a real shame, because as Ed points out, this should never have happened:

Just as she was about to go under, she had a violent reaction to the anesthesia, which incapacitated her. And now she's dead.

All because of an image, all because of a stinkin' author photo, all because we still judge books by their back covers rather than their innards, and all because civilization cannot stop pestering, whether deliberately or subconsiously, the older, the fatter, the more wrinkled, the more infirm, the non-Caucasian, and anybody else who doesn't fall into the harsh physical virtues dictated by Vanity Fair and People. Olivia Goldsmith's death isn't just a terribly premature end for a writer who was fun. It also shows that ideals have spiraled completely out of control. Or perhaps it just confirms them.

Goldsmith's death did not have to happen. And yet it did. And the publishing industry, with concerns of gloss and glamour, won't stop perpetuating these shameful conditions. It will continue defaulting to the purty lil gals (Nell Freudenberger) or the hot young things (Zoe Trope), rather than the magic of the offerings. This is nothing less than a goddam tragedy. Because we lose authors like Goldsmith in the process.

Although I really do believe Goldsmith's solution is relatively rare at least in book publishing (though obviously not in the entertainment industry), I hope it's a wake-up call of sorts to publishers who won't consider authors until they've seen the glossy head shot and assessed their marketability quotient. Sure, it's about what sells, but it's also about the writing resonating with the reader, and if it does, the writer can be a supermodel or a troll--it doesn't matter.

Like I said, a bloody shame.

Defending the genre 

Well, the controversy surrouding the now-infamous Ben Yagoda piece from Salon is still raging. But I must say, if anyone can stick up for mystery fiction, it's Ed Gorman, the former editor of Mystery Scene, author, editor of several wonderful anthologies and all around good man. Read what he has to say.

A late start for Friday 

The thing with living at home temporarily and generally adopting a somewhat slothful, lazy existence is that I can sleep late when I like. Except on weekdays, I normally don't, because I do like to be up at a reasonable hour. But sometimes, it's necessary--especially when temperatures continue to stay at a disgustingly arctic level (-43 C windchill this morning. Ain't it grand?)

Anyway, to the news. First, Orion seems to have a lot of success with dead authors. The Robert Ludlum juggernaut (he still writes novels! Amazing for a dead guy, but granted, not as amazing as V.C. Andrews' prolific output since her own death in '86) staggers on, and Orion's making good money off of Rene Goscinny, the creator of Asterix.

And speaking of Orion, they launched their New Blood Initiative this week in grand fashion, as all nine authors were partaking in various festivities relating to the launch of each of their debut novels. The big party was last night at Browns (more details forthcoming when I hear from my sources) but Tuesday night, Alafair Burke, Richard Burke, Victoria Blake, David Corbett, and Denise Hamilton were reading and signing at the Ottakars bookshop in Putney. Check out this lovely photo of the five of them.

According to Jiro, Ruth Cavin and Thomas Dunne will be honored with the 2004 Poirot Award, given by the Malice Domestic convention for their lifetime achievement and contribution to the mystery field. The award will be presented on May 1 at the Convention banquet. More information is available in this press release.

Bill Clinton's memoir is now expected from Knopf in mid-2004. We shall see if this actually transpires.

Looks like things with Conrad Black are getting even more messy. Latest allegation? That he used company money to buy historical documents related to his biography of FDR. It turns out he spent 12 million bucks on it, and so, where did the money come from?

Candace Allen has written written a novel based on the life of jazz trumpeter Valaida Snow. The Independent finds out more about Allen's impetus for doing so and her own relationship with music.

The Bookseller interviews Jason Webster, longlisted for the Guardian First novel award, and BBC journalist Rageh Omaar, whose reporting on Iraq has secured him a book deal from Penguin.

And finally, actress Uta Hagen is dead at the age of 84. She created the role of Martha in Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, now remembered as a scenery-chewing exercise for Liz Taylor and Dick Burton.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

You're not going to see this judging panel for the Booker 

Evaluating the shortlists for the WH Smith Book Award:

Journalist Martin Bashir, known to all for looking on in horror as Michael Jackson rhapsodized about the joys of sharing his bed with children.

Fergie, the Duchess of York, famous for toe-sucking and weight-watching.

Robson Green, an actor who is a lot shorter in person than he appears to be (shared an elevator with him at the Harrogate Festival and he barely came up to my shoulder, and I'm 5'7".)

Linda Barker, of "Changing Rooms" fame.

Janet Street-Porter, editor-at-large of the Independent.

I wonder what the judging panel of a similarly themed People's Choice Book Award in the US (which, thank heavens, doesn't seem to exist) would be....?

Beating a dead horse? 

Nancy Drew returns in March with four new paperbacks--updated for 21st century hipness. Gah, I remember being a young pre-teen and reading the "Nancy Drew Files" updated paperbacks. And they sucked compared to the original, quasi politically-incorrect originals penned by Mildred Wert Benson back in 1930. So why do this again? I hate when books are "updated" for the times. Like Gordon Korman's classic MacDonald Hall novels, which were revamped for their 25th Anniversary reissue last year. Now Bruno and Boots use cell phones and text message each other! The evil 515 and the computer paper is history, replaced by a rogue software program in The Wizzle War (formerly known as The War with Mr. Wizzle)! Sheesh. Or maybe I'm just a reactionary.

I Heart Return of the Reluctant 

First, Ed makes a compelling case for striking "the royal we" from journalistic and literary record. (and he quotes James M. Cain, too, which is always a good thing.) Then there's his comment (underneath the last post) discoursing on why Rachel Greenwald's manhunting thesis is false. We're (oops, I'm) flattered, even if it's not necessarily completely believable.

A slow Thursday 

So far, so slow, but here's a few choice cuts:

Hot on the heels of his security issues in India, Salman Rushdie's getting involved in moviemaking. He'll pen the screenplay to "The Firebird's Nest", which will look at a middle-aged writer's romance with a much younger woman. Guess who's playing the leading lady? Padma Lakshi...Rushdie's much-younger girlfriend. And it's not based on his real life? Uh-huh.

And according to Mark, seems Rushdie's India trip was research for his upcoming novel, though it won't be ready for a couple more years yet.

Toby Clements of the Independent calls Matthew Pearl's THE DANTE CLUB "an unusually arresting piece of crime fiction." Ian Thomson likes the book quite a lot as well.

Whitney Pastorek reviews Colin Harrison's THE HAVANA ROOM, a thriller that's been getting a heap of buzz as well. Although, as Maud points out, it's the kind of book that really only works in New York, it works awfully well.

A little late is Oline Cogdill's latest crime column; a nice review of Charles Todd's standalone THE MURDER STONE, a look at the Dick Francis Companion, and a thumbs-up for Denise Swanson's PBO.

Why are people so fascinated by the Romantic Era? Byron, Shelley, Keats--living fast, dying young. You know, kind of like rock stars. But such fascination isn't likely to go away soon--in fact, it's multiplying.

In aping the well-known and well-regarded Edinburgh Fringe festival, a group of Scottish authors are getting together to organize the Edinburgh Book Fringe Festival, to be slated for this summer. It's designed to promote lesser-known Scottish authors. Works for me.

And finally, what's the secret to finding a husband? According to Australian author Rachel Greenwald, it takes some careful planning, increased activity and oh yeah, a really good push-up bra.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Here comes a blockbuster 

If Joseph Finder's PARANOIA finds its way to the New York Times bestseller list, it will be the least surprising thing since THE DA VINCI CODE made it (the only shocker was how long it's lasted in the top spot.) Why? Because St. Martin's has been hyping the shit out of this book since May, when Book Expo America took place. See, that's the new new thing in publishing: first, get everyone in the house behind the book, from the head honchos to the squawky interns to the squealing publicists to those dudes in the mailroom. Next, rally the troops at the major trade show conferences where they will saturate the buyers and sales reps with galleys and promotional materials; then they in turn talk up the book to the big distributors, and both double-team the booksellers. Then the advance reviews come in from the likes of PW, Kirkus, and Booklist; even if their word is god, it doesn't matter. Once the bandwagon atmosphere has taken over, with booksellers talking amongst themselves and getting the word out to special customers, by the time the book's actually released into the public domain, those in the know are bloody sick of the whole thing and have moved on to something else. Even if said book goes gonzo on the major lists.

If you've written one of these manufactured blockbusters, congratulations to you. Just be prepared to be Maslin-ized and then some. Although in Finder's case, she finds the book to be OK in terms of brain candy, just pedestrian in terms of the writing.

And if you're at the same house as a Blockbuster Baby and not getting enough attention, well, boo hoo but that's how it's going of late. And I don't see things improving much in that regard.

Saving the Short Story 

From today's PW Newsline:

Larry Dark, a former editor of Anchor's The O. Henry Prize Stories as well as a handful of other collections, has his own brilliant twist up his sleeve: He has lined up an anonymous donor to contribute to an annual $20,000 prize for a book-length collection of short fiction as well as two $1,0000 prizes, for The Story Prize, which he says is the most lucrative annual fiction prize in this country.

"I want to give an editor a chance to go to their boss and say 'This collection may not sell so well but we can buy it and it has a 1 in 50 chance of winning this $20,000 prize,'" Dark says. Because the focus is on cultivating new stories and new writers, he says he is barring anthologies as well as work that has previously been published in book form. He will allow collections of novellas.

Dark has assembled a powerhouse advisory board that includes San Shepard and Binky Urban, as well as Atlantic Monthly editor Michael Curtis and Yale UP's John Donatich. Dark will mostly choose the three-title shortlist himself, and then hand off the list to a panel of rotating judges.

Currently the prizes are set up to last for three years, and Dark says he hopes they will continue indefinitely. The inaugural awards will be given out next January in Manhattan, with Sherman Alexie emceeing.

At $20,000 , the Story Prize will pay out as much as the National Book Award and $5000 more than the PEN/Faulkner. While it won't have the
cachet that can lead to more sales, Dark says he hopes that won't be the case for long. "I know it's a big ambition, " he says. "But I want
to bring as much cultural advocacy for the story as there is for poetry."

Hoo yeah, that's a nice bit of dough to throw at short story writers. Question is, when's the cutoff date for eligibility? Is it for stuff published in 2003, or are only 2004 collections considered? I suppose that will all be ironed out in the near future, but in any case, the shortlist should be interesting, once it is finally announced.

Good for research 

Reported at Publisher's Marketplace today:

Forensics expert Frederick Zugibe, M.D. and writer David Carroll's DISSECTING DEATH: SECRETS OF A MEDICAL
EXAMINER, featuring 11 of Dr. Zugibe's most high-profile cases, explaining exactly how he cracked them using reasoning reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, to Stacy Creamer at Broadway, in a very nice deal, by Ed Knappman at New England Publishing Associates (NA).

In looking over Zugibe's credentials, they are most impressive. He was Chief Medical Examiner of Rockland County, NY from 1969 till early 2003, and has written a lot on pathology and forensic pathology. Zugibe's biggest claim to fame is his work on the Shroud of Turin and other matters relating to Christ's death. Never mind that there hasn't really been a good book by a medical examiner since Milton Helpern's long-out-of-print book AUTOPSY (Michael Baden's first book wasn't bad, but he spent too much of his time ranting against the perceived injustices against him. Eh.) But here's hoping that at some point, and soon, Charles Hirsch sits down and writes his memoirs. As the Chief ME of New York City, he'd no doubt have a great deal to say about his work, his life, and its context in all matters of New York City. And frankly, he's one of the most brilliant, professional people I've ever had the chance to come across.

Picture of the day 

A while back, Ian Rankin found out that his alma mater of Edinburgh University would be awarding him an honorary doctorate--he never actually finished the one he started, leaving the world of academia behind for full-time fiction writing. Slight problem: the award would be announced at the December graduation, the same one where his wife Miranda would obtain a Master's in Public Health. After a bit of friction in the Rankin household, they did make it up on graduation day.

In any case, belated congratulations to both of them on their degrees.

New York vs. the 2012 Olympics 

So the bookies are offering 7-1 odds that NYC will lose out on the Olympic bid. Wow, that close? I'd have figured the bookies would have made it a bigger longshot, but perhaps they don't want to completely blow their wad in the unexpected instance that the city actually does secure a bid. I actually wrote about my own disdain for the whole idea late in 2002 (second item, after I whine about the then-proposed, now boringly commonplace subway fare hike) and my current opinion isn't much changed. Don't see it happening, don't see why they are even bothering, and besides, the minute there's any rumblings of additional construction on the West Side, the lawsuits start rolling in.

News o' the morning 

To start off, looks like the movie version of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency is a go. Sydney Pollack is now scheduled to direct, and actresses like Oprah Winfrey, Queen Latifah, and Whoopi Goldberg have expressed interest in playing Precious Ramotswe. Nooooo! Get someone totally unHollywood, please!

The first draft of Jack Kerouac's ON THE ROAD is well, going on the road. The draft, which unspools as a 120-foot long scroll, will be touring across the country for the next few months.

The WH Smith book award shortlists have been announced: and JK Rowling's on the adult fiction one, along with Ian Rankin, Mark Haddon, Colum McCann, and James Herbert.

Everyone's been linking to the story of 19-year-old Helen Oyeyemi's book deal, but she does come across as a rather intelligent sort, although it'll be interesting to see how the book actually fares.

Salvador Dali's centenary is this year--and things have gotten off to a rather rocky start, as biographer Robert Descharnes claims that the Dali Foundation has cut him out of a rightful share of cash and royalties. This battle's been raging on for a decade, and shows no signs of stopping now.

Canadian author Jonathan Bennett is interviewed at January Magazine.

Achmat Dangor's new novel deals with some brutal subjects: rape, unwanted pregnancy, family tragedy and murder. It's based on the story of his grandfather, but is also a metaphor for the ugliness of what has happened in South Africa not so long ago.

The entire staff at OneWord radio, a station devoted to book happenings, readings and discussion, has been let go (or "made redundant," as the Brits say.)

In book reviews, Leslie Marshall's debut A GIRL COULD STAND UP is approved by the Independent. Peter Biskind's take on the Independent film industry (and Harvey Weinstein, too) is enthusiastically favored by the NYT. The Evening Standard calls Audrey Nifenegger's debut "The Next Lovely Bones." The Philly Inquirer finds the new biography of Patricia Highsmith to be, perhaps, too detailed for its liking.

And finally, to all those obsessives who adore the Lord of the Rings: go find something else to do. Although for some, it'll be LOTR-related anyway.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Light reading fare 

My short story "The Heckler" is part of this week's edition of Pindeldyboz. It's based on one of the true stories my father has recounted many times throughout my life. When he recalled it a few months back, I thought it best to stick to the adage of "writing what you know." Of course, I took some liberties with many of the details, but that's the fun of fiction, after all. Enjoy.

Words fail me 

" Lyricist Martin Charnin, whose big claim to fame is Annie, is working on a musical adaption of the comic strip Broom-Hilda, creating songs from the catalog of the late composer Leroy Anderson.

The book is being written by, of all people, Kurt Andersen, former editor of New York magazine (and co-creator of the lamented Spy)." (link from Mermiac via Gawker.)

Jesus Christ, this has "train wreck" written all over it. Or more likely, it'll never get out of the workshop phase, since the whole out-of-town tryout thing died a couple of decades back (New Haven! Philly! Boston! Ah, those days are long gone now. Or better left to Toronto, perhaps). Well, if this project doesn't pan out, perhaps they can start work on their next attempt to dominate Broadway: a musical treatment of the glory days of Kurt, Graydon et al. What'll it be called? SPY! You heard it here first.

And what is up with the proliferation of musical-related news? Even the Anonymous One, Satirical Be He got in on the act this morning, impressing us greatly with his breadth of musical knowledge (though nobody but nobody beats this man.)

UPDATE: Alex posts a list of subjects that may well be musicalized in the next few years. We're really curious about the Andrew Cunanan idea, if only because the 11 o'clock number has to have Andy, in women's garb, singing "Just a Gigolo" after he's shot Gianni Versace in front of his house.

A ravenous set of deals 

Gosh it's been a while since I picked apart the Deal Lunch, so, without further adieu:

Advisor to the Noel Coward Estate for 20 years Barry Day's THE NO?L COWARD LETTERS, the first and the definitive collection of letters -- only a handful of which have been previously published -- to and from a man addicted to corresponding with friends and enemies, including a long list of famous contemporaries, to Vicky Wilson for Pantheon, in a nice deal, by Ed Knappman at New England Publishing Associates (NA).

Oh, now that sounds like it could be a hell of a lot of fun, but then, I'm a rather big fan of Mister Coward. Droll, witty, and totally of his time.

In the "slightly pointless" dept:

Peter Doggett's THERE'S A RIOT GOING ON: The Untold Story of Rock and The Revolution, exploring the socially revolutionary ambitions of rock 'n 'roll in the late sixties, to Andy Miller at Canongate, in a nice deal, for publication in 2006, by Rupert Heath at the Rupert Heath Literary Agency (world).

Um, hasn't this been explored to death already? Or did I miss something?

Ignore this if you're a happy Republican:

Jack Huberman's THE BUSH-HATER'S HANDBOOK, "a godsend to those looking for a concise, mordantly entertaining overview of the Bush record, summarizing, detailing, and bewailing all of the more important Bush administration outrages, and some of the more trivial ones, to George Miller at Granta Books, in a nice deal, by Lizzie Kremer at Ed Victor, on behalf of William Clark Associates (UK).

Although it should be noted this is for the UK only--no US deal in sight.

From the man who called TMFTML the "must-read blog of 2004" (uh oh, does that mean it's over already?)

ESPN.com Page 2 writer Jim Caple's tentatively titled GEORGE STEINBRENNER IS A BIG, FAT IDIOT, a humorous look at all there is to hate about the Yankees, to Gary Brozek at Plume, by Stacey Glick at Dystel & Goderich (NA).

That being said, I'll read it, since I'm a proud Yankee-hater myself.

For serial killer and celebrity fans:

Sociologist and anthropologist Dr. Gini Graham Scott's HOW WE KILL: Changes in Murder in Changing Times, a pop sociology approach to changing patterns of murder in America, and HOMICIDE AMONG THE RICH AND FAMOUS, a pop-sociology approach to the type of murders committed by the rich and famous, combined with short dramatic stories of especially compelling cases from the 1800s to the present, to Suzanne Staszak-Silva at Greenwood Books/Praeger, by Mike Valentino at Cambridge Literary, with the help of PublishersAndAgents.Net (world).

The only problem with these kinds of books is that they never go into anything with great detail. Which may be the point, I suppose.

Putting a new spin on "Animal Husbandry":

Amy Helmes's BOYS OF A FEATHER: A Contemporary Field Guide for Men, an illustrated tool for boy-watching that identifies the 20 most common species of guys -- including the Flamingo, the Peacock, and the Turkey -- and offers women useful classifications tools to help
spot a potential mate and avoid the bad eggs, to Michelle Howry at Perigee, in a nice deal, by Elisabeth Weed at Kneerim & Williams (world).

Now, turning to fiction and all that. Already making huge headlines:

With his most recent bestseller Pompeii receiving strong reviews, Robert Harris is moving houses, beginning with a political epic of antiquity, part of a trilogy set over the last forty years of the Roman Republic that will follow the intertwined lives and careers of the men who
struggled to rule Rome, as well as the women who influenced them behind the scenes, to David Rosenthal at Simon & Schuster (Harris's original editor at Random House) and Louise Burke at Pocket, in a three-book deal, by Michael Carlisle at Carlisle & Company (US).

Which reminds me, I really have to get my hands on a copy of POMPEII. Sounds like good fun, if you ask me.

In the big fat thriller dep't:

The next two thrillers by NY Times bestselling author Kyle Mills, beginning with FADE, about a retired and dying legendary CIA assassin who's on the run after he resists being forcibly unretired by Homeland Security, to Kelley Ragland at St. Martin's, by Simon Lipskar at Writers House. Film rights are with Robert Bookman at CAA. UK rights to the same two titles, again to Carolyn Mays at Hodder Headline, in a good deal.

And this might make the folks at the Literary Saloon quite happy:

Jeanne Kelly and Nathan K. Mao's translation of Qian Zhongshu's FORTRESS BESIEGED, first published in China in 1947 and "arguably the greatest Chinese novel of the twentieth century," to Jeffrey Yang at New Directions, in a nice deal, by Kathi Paton at the Kathi J. Paton Literary
Agency. The Foreign Language Teaching & Research Press will publish the English edition in China, and the Peoples' Literature Press of Beijing will publish a Chinese-English bilingual edition, sold by Joanne Wang.

In the "totally unrealistic" dep't:

Galt Niederhoffer's A TAXONOMY OF BARNACLES, the madcap story of an brood of six girls growing up on New York's Upper East side, whose eccentric father proposes a contest to determine which of them will inherit his fortune, to Elizabeth Beier at St. Martin's, by Joy Harris.

If it were realistic, they'd be backstabbing each other every which way they could, engaging in lawsuits, cutting each other out of wills and trust funds: you know, like those happy-go-lucky Pritzkers.

In the "next big thing" dep't:

British author Jane Hill's first novel GRIEVOUS ANGEL, a thriller about love and obsession set in the American South, to Susan Sandon at Random House UK, and to Claire Wachtel at Morrow/Harper, in a pre-empt, in a nice deal, by Luigi Bonomi at Sheil Land Associates.

and this:

Holly Kennedy's first novel THE TIN BOX, about a woman who has been hiding a secret from her husband for the past twenty years, to Clare Eddy at Forge, by Liza Dawson at Liza Dawson Associates, with Chandler Crawford handling foreign rights. Rights have been sold
to Marion von Schroeder in Germany, Belfond in France, Sonzogno in Italy, Oceanida in Greece, and Cicero in Denmark.

Mysterious Press has a couple of new pickups as well:

Louise Ure's first novel FORCING AMARYLLIS, about a trial consultant assigned to the murder trial of the man she believes also brutally attacked her sister, to Kristen Weber at Mysterious Press, in a nice deal, by Philip Spitzer at the Philip G. Spitzer Literary Agency (NA).

Jan Brogan's A CONFIDENTIAL SOURCE, about a struggling journalist who finds herself investigating a murder set amidst the illicit dangers of gambling and addiction to which she was the only witness, to Kristen Weber at Mysterious Press, in a nice deal, by Dan Mandel at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates (world English).

I suspect Ure's book will attract some buzz; it shoudl be noted that it's a legal thriller repped by Phil Spitzer, who numbers Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, and Alafair Burke among his clients.

And that's that for this week, although, of course, deals keep rolling in all the live long day....

News for Tuesday 

Hmm, it can't be fun to be a bookseller in the UK. No fixed pricing, supermarkets undercutting you...hell, now they are warring with each other. Right now, Tesco looks to win the overall race, which means they'll probably be selling hardcovers for like, 3 pounds max.

Matthew Pearl, author of THE DANTE CLUB, presents his top ten books for those who love the man who brought us all INFERNO (also PURGATORIO and PARADISO but let's face it, we only want to read about evil and baddies.) Pearl's book, just out in the UK, is reviewed at the Independent.

Jennifer Weiner comments on the plastic surgery mishap that's landed Olivia Goldsmith in critical condition. Agree with her totally--writers are supposed to write, not be models and gorgeous. Although believe me, that's not stopping publishers from asking female authors to send in photos of themselves as part of the whole package deal (but have no fear: just because you're drop-dead gorgeous, doesn't mean you necessarily have the edge over the ugly folk. Emphasis on necessarily.)

(confidential to Lizzie: Perhaps you might want to consider other author photograph luminaries like Jerry Bauer, Jonathan Exley, and Sigrid Estrada. Ettlinger...she makes everyone look a tad alien-ish in the name of art. It's kind of bizarre.)

Want a sneak peek at Jay McIninerney's debut food column? La Spiers is more than willing to give you the scoop.

Dear David Denby: might I suggest some nighttime reading for you? In light of all your troubles, I do believe you would very much enjoy this newly reissued gem from the pen of Donald Westlake. Perhaps it would give you untold insight into your behavior.

Mark Timlin (who will have a new book out from the Do-Not Press later this year, so contrary to popular belief, he hasn't completely disappeared) rounds up some of the usual suspects in mystery fiction. He digs Jilliane Hoffman's debut novel (but not the "dessicated butterfly in a box with the book. A butterfly that caused one friend of mine to leave the room in a hurry when she realised that it was real and not made of plastic or paper as I innocently thought." Um, ack? Anyway, he's kind of down on Alafair Burke and Peter Robinson, but likes Alice Blanchard, Peter Spiegelman and the new Don Harstad. But overall, another cranky outing for Monsieur Timlin.

Kevin Burton Smith reviews Jim Fusilli's latest novel, TRIBECA BLUES. Although there "isn't a single lick to be found," it's more than worthy of its title. I thought it rather good myself.

Holy crap. Harold Shipman is dead.

And finally, the WaPo talks about those who didn't grow up kosher but now keep a kosher home. Hey, it's still working for me, though I've yet to taste shellfish, pork, or much of that trayf business. Can't miss what you can't have....

Monday, January 12, 2004

They didn't forget the anesthetic, and look what happened 

"Oivia Goldsmith, the best-selling author of "The First Wives Club," is in critical condition at Lenox Hill Hospital after reacting badly to anesthesia given to her for plastic surgery, her lawyer said.

The lawyer, Steven Mintz, would say only that Ms. Goldsmith went to her doctor for "personal elective surgery" on Wednesday morning, but two different friends of Ms. Goldsmith said it was an operation to remove loose skin under her chin. Her heart reacted badly when the anesthetic was introduced and she has remained unconscious at Lenox Hill ever since, Mr. Mintz said. "

Edgar Week Symposium 

Schedules willing, I'll be at the Edgar Awards this year, which would mark the third year in a row that I'll be in attendance. Thanks to the folks at Mystery News, I'm now aware of the dates for the major events of Edgar Week. The Official stuff gets started on Wednesday, April 28th with the Edgar Symposium. So if you're a member of the MWA (or about to be) and are still looking for a publisher, agent, or want more advice on the craft of writing, this is a good thing to attend. The Symposium lasts all day and more information can be found here. The Symposium day ends with the annual Agents & Editor's party, something which I've yet to attend because I've been told it's ferociously crowded, but I suspect I may well go this year.

However, the *real* fun begins after the A&E party's over, when people make their way downtown to Partners & Crime for their annual "Nevermores", a spoof of the Edgars that when it's good, it's hilarious. Last year was widely regarded as the best Nevermores in years; my own involvement (hey, I did work there at the time) was limited to dressing up and giving out said awards to the "winners" but of course, everyone was in good humor.

Black Orchid Bookshop also hosts a party during the Week; theirs will likely be on Tuesday, April 27th, the day before the Symposium. And, of course, the actual awards (black tie or thereabouts, aka a good reason to break out the fancy dresses I never wear otherwise) will be held on April 29th. And who are the nominees? Well, those won't be announced till the first week of February. Stay tuned--no doubt I'll have some very choice comments on the final shortlist.

Monday Monday 

40 years ago, Paul Theroux met a couple in a bar in Zambia. He went home with them, and found he couldn't leave. He spent four days as their sex slave, and describes the rather bizarre time in his life for the Guardian.

Jaime Byng, the flashy owner of Canongate, is promoting Giller-prizewinning novelist M.G. Vassanji as the publisher's main pick for the 2004 Booker prize. This is not making Scottish authors happy and accusations are flying around that Byng doesn't care about homegrown authors.

On a related note, current Scottish lit might be changing its tone, from bleak and depressing to well, more lighthearted and satiric. We'll see if this is actually true. Rosemary Goring at the Herald looks at the lack of Scot in the recent awards, but finds a common thread anyway: independent publishers like Faber and, well, Canongate.

And even sort of related to that (is everything vaguely continuous this morning? Not sure) is the imminent reissues of various novels by Georgette Heyer and Dorothy L. Sayers in the UK. Lesley MacDowall of the Independent is one very excited reader.

Janet Maslin really, really digs the new Walter Mosley novel, which I must stress is literary fiction. Thankfully he's good at that sort of thing and I'm looking forward to reading the book. The New Yorker also catalogue's Mosley's diverse output in the last 10 years or so. (link from Maud, who's back with a vengeance. We missed you!)

Meanwhile, Allan Laing rounds up crime novels for the Herald: he raves about Pete Dexter, enthuses about Alafair Burke, finds Ian Rankin's early novel WATCHMAN had potential but was, well, early, and comments on new releases by Peter Robinson, Ed McBain, Donald Westlake, and more.

January Magazine jumps on the Audrey Niffenegger bandwagon.

Patrick Anderson calls John Le Carre's ABSOLUTE FRIENDS "a polemic." Although he's not sure how it will hold up, the fact that the author took on the White House is of literary merit.

Elm Street Magazine, which tried to be an "intelligent women's mag" (or at least, that's what some people tell me; I barely remember the magazine) is shutting down for good. Will it be missed? Hell if I know.

What's the next big thing? Why, big books, literally. Just be prepared to pay a pretty penny for these mammoth tomes.

And finally, Rick Mercer is coming back to TV with a satiric half-hour show on the CBC. I'm psyched, even if it's just the CanCon version of the Daily Show.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

And the epidemic grows 

Several of my crime writing cronies have jumped into the blog world in the last little while. You should all be checking out Jim Winter's Northcoast Exile, where he talks baseball, writing, and all matters Ohio. Dave White's got the New Jersey beat as he awaits glory from his beloved Rutgers team. Ray Banks covers ground in his adopted home of Newcastle-on-Tyne. And now, Gerald So, Thrilling Detective fiction editor, moderator of various cool lists like DetecToday and CrimeSeen, has joined the fray. Welcome aboard, boys.

And still more stuff 

The French Poet Arthur Rimbaud is often presented as a romantic, tragic figure. But the truth, as it turns out from the first-time publication of his complete letters, is rather different.

In the latest "Crime Sheet" from the Crime Writer's Association, David Stuart Davies talks about Orion's new initiative, the Nine New Blood. They have grouped together nine debut UK authors: Americans David Corbett, Denise Hamilton, Alafair Burke and Stuart Archer Cohen, Brits Richard Burke, Victoria Blake, Steve Mosby and John Connor, and Italian Massimo Carlotto and are launching their books at the same time. If you're in and around London next week, be sure to catch these authors--all together or in smaller groups--at several events, including the Ottakars Bookshop in Putney on January 13th, and the official launch party at Browns Courtrooms on St. Martin's Lane on the 15th (but for that, you have to RSVP, or at least go along with someone who's RSVPed....)

Jack Batten, in his bi-weekly crime column for the Toronto Star, wishes that Robert B. Parker would do something, anything, to rev up his Jesse Stone series:

Jesse put down the cinnamon doughnut he was working on. He wiped his fingers on a napkin, and looked up at me.

"Are we back to the subject of Jenn?" he said.

"In for a penny, in for a pound is my motto," I said. "Rita would be great for you. Jenn is not great. Jesse, Jenn's a TV weather girl with brain to match. You happen to be an eminent sleuth, a man who embarks on adventures that are bracing to one and all. When Jenn and her presence assert themselves, your adventures lose lustre."

Jesse took his time answering. "Jenn stays in the picture," he said.

"That's what I was afraid of," I said.

And the latest Holt Uncensored newsletter is up. Pat Holt begins her wishlist for 2004 (#1: Amazon pays authors for used book sales) and a particuarly chilling letter about an author whose agents submitted a book proposal to various editors, and a house that lost the auction proceeded to farm the idea to another author--essentially stealing the author's work. Pretty appalling behavior if you ask me.

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