Saturday, May 01, 2004

Some links while you wait 

The problem with being in a city where one can actually do stuff and hang out with friends and drink is, well, you end up doing just that. So, the copiously detailed, ridiculously long Edgar Awards report remains on the backburner for now--perhaps it would have been easier if I'd been blogging live from the ceremony, like the guy I sat next to during the dinner. But alas, I am technologically impaired, so this did not happen.

But the world at large covered the Edgars too, like the Globe and Mail with their Canadian angle on Sylvia Maultash Warsh's win for PBO. Though Rebecca Caldwell's coverage is a little boilerplate, no matter--nice to see such an article anyway. Especially because it was the only PBO on the list I actually read (and enjoyed immensely, too) so I was happy to see Warsh take the prize. Hopefully it will lead to bigger and better things for her.

And then there's the Japanese coverage. Considering how many freaking camera people were around blinding every attendee with the continuous use of flash, it's not terribly surprising that the papers and TV stations have been reporting on the ceremony and more specifically, Natsuo Kirino's "failure to win" the award. The Japan Times has a nice shot of Kirino with a bunch of microphones in her face. The Manichi Daily Times' report is somewhat dry and humorless, and Japan Today screws up by referring to Ian Rankin as a British writer. Oy. OTOH, considering how little time Ian spent doing Edgar-related stuff, I don't think the mistake will bother him overly much....

Speaking of Rankin, the only paper that seemed to find it worthy enough to report on was the Houston Chronicle, in their roundup of the award winners.

The G&M's crime beat is rather expansive in general today. Margaret Cannon's crime columnincludes warhorses like Jonathan Kellerman, Elizabeth Peters and James Patterson. The last one, to be honest, threw me because do we really need another review of another goddamned Patterson novel? But then I read Cannon's opening comments and understood:

The inside-flap teaser reads: "One of James Patterson's best-loved heroines is about to die." My first reaction was, "I live in hope."

Oh dear. But so fitting nonetheless.

And then there's poor Peter Robinson, entrusted with the task of reviewing Michael Connelly's THE NARROWS. Funny, I thought print reviews weren't allowed to run until Monday, when the book is officially released, but maybe this doesn't apply in Canada*, I don't know. So, read the review at your peril because honey, it's spoiler city.

In this interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Harlan Coben is making noises--small ones, but noises nonetheless--about returning to his Myron Bolitar series after next year's standalone is published. Should we believe him? And even if we do, does it mean he'll actually give fans what they want should he actually try getting back in the saddle of the series? Eh. We shall see....

And finally, because I just thought the idea was so weird: the German band Super Smart has decided to forsake all conventional means of getting their new music heard and will, instead, solely release selected tracks as ringtones. It's gonna catch on. I may not like it, but yes, it's gonna catch on....

*remember too that I wrote about my thoughts on the book a couple of weeks ago, so obviously, the Canadian thing is quite pervasive....

Friday, April 30, 2004

So forth, the Nevermores 

[Edgar report later, or perhaps tomorrow. In the meantime, the winners are posted here.

As I'd said before, I didn't attend the Agents & Editors party because I had my priorities straight--i.e., I needed a nap. Instead, my friend Mary and I got to Partners & Crime about a half-hour before the festivities were to start, and could see just how bedecked the store was. Gorgeous food platters everywhere, balloons and flowers, too. I said hello to my former colleagues and caught up a bit, but at a little past seven, it was already becoming obvious that conversations would be a premium.

I don't believe they expected the kind of crowd they got--which was large. Extremely large. Several chairs were set up so that took away some valuable space but it didn't make all that much of a difference. It also was extremely cool, as Ron pointed out in an earlier post, to be offered a pate or delicacy from the likes of Anthony Bourdain, who is a good friend of store co-owner Maggie Topkis. I didn't get to talk to him but he was hard to miss, being so tall and with his distinctive visage.

I was introduced to Jason Starr and had a great conversation about noir, the two upstart imprints Hard Case Crime and Point Blank Press and how Scottish writer and editor Allan Guthrie has his hands all over those new publishing outlets. Also made some nice conversation with Colin Harrison, author of THE HAVANA ROOM, a title which would have a lot more significance later on in the evening. And as I mentioned before, I finally met Olen Steinhauer as well as his agent Matt Williams. Some of Tuesday's partiers were in attendance Wednesday night as well, including Lauren Henderson, S.J. Rozan, Ken Bruen, Rebecca Pawel, Jim Hime, and James O. Born, while others stopping in after the A&E Party included Lee Child, Alafair Burke, and Katherine Clark. And more, oh so many more, but my memory bank has limited capacity, after all...

So, the show. There was much to it, and I won't get into everything, but the people at Partners went all out and their efforts were duly rewarded with laughter and guffaws--and some occasional surprises. After quickly dispensing with some industry awards ("Stupid Publisher Tricks," "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors" Award to Amazon for violating agreements about US/UK distribution and ordering) they got right into the opening musical number, set to the tune of "Fugue for Tinhorns" from GUYS AND DOLLS. In "Fugue for Booksellers," a shy lass is just trying to find the right book for her, and she's bombarded with choice: hardboiled (Ken Bruen's THE GUARDS), erudite (Jasper Fforde's LOST IN A GOOD BOOK) or cozy? As that mantle was represented by Lauren Henderson's FREEZE MY MARGARITA, it wasn't exactly, erm, accurate. And Lauren protested in turn throughout. I watched her gesticulations from the back and I can't say I blame her--surely a cat mystery would have worked in her place? But the parody was nicely done (nicely sung too, since Kate Nesbit, the manager, is a classically-trained opera singer) and got a hearty round of applause.

Many of the award winners were not in attendance, but Andrew Klavan (winning for the most grabbing opening line in a crime novel for DON'T SAY A WORD) sent in a rather hilarious speech in thanks, as did Thomas Perry and Ed McBain for their award wins. Colin Harrison accepted in person for the "Havana Award", as over the last year, a whole bunch of books were set or used the city name in the title--Harrison's irony, of course, is that his book has nothing to do with Cuba. Which was why he won. He was a good sport about it though.

To close the evening, there was the "Better Dead than Read" Award for worst opening paragraph of one of three categories: Hardboiled, historical, and cozy. Two of the honors went to the lovely and talented Donna Moore, meaning she won more Nevermores than anyone else that night. The first win elicited a loud roar from a certain section (with an isolated cheer in the back, from, well, me.) That entry combined the hardboiled cliche--but told from the point of view of a teenager taking care of his baby sister. For some reason it was just great to watch people like Bourdain laughing uproariously at Donna's comedic touch--and she claims she's not a writer! Not yet, maybe, but all in due time...

Afterwards, there was cake. Oh, and it was glorious, and I barely had any because I was going out to dinner. Tried to corral Ken Bruen into coming along, but he was otherwise engaged, and ended up at a nearby bar (one of my favorites, the Stoned Crow) along with Lauren, Jim Born, Ron, Jason Starr, and others. I heard the next day that the drinking went on a while--that, in fact, some persons never actually got any sleep....

Meanwhile I celebrated Donna's win with her, Olen, Rebecca, and Bev and Kathy from the 4 Mystery Addicts list. We talked about the Edgars, publishing war stories, slush pile horrors, and why inexplicably, Pawel's books aren't available in Spanish, considering they are set in wartime Spain. Hopefully, that will change now.

And so I was in bed at a reasonably early hour--with little idea of what was in store for the Big Show. And as for that account, like I keep saying--stay tuned...

Thursday, April 29, 2004

And still abbreviated 

So that fuller report on last night's Nevermores that I'd promised for today? Well, OK, I kinda lied. Or at least didn't quite factor in the level of overprogramming that ensued (job interview in the morning, followed by a business lunch.) And considering that I'm just about to get dressed and will be heading out the door in due course for the opening cocktails of the Edgar Awards, that report--and the one of the Edgars proper--will have to wait till tomorrow or beyond. Ah, the life of a carousing young blogger in Manhattan. But I'll have my trusty notepad and a pen that only works half the time, scribbling down the dish and noteworthy items of the night.

I'll be sitting at one of two tables fronted by Partners & Crime along with my friend Mary, Maggie Griffin, Lee Child, Alafair Burke, first novel nominee James Hime, and several others. I'm looking forward to seeing Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Karin Slaughter, Val McDermid, and a whole host of other writers who haven't yet achieved barfly status this week. And hey, maybe I'll even run into Graydon Carter, who's getting a special raven (for investigative pieces in VANITY FAIR) which will evidently be handed to him by Dominick Dunne, another favorite of mine. One never knows what can happen at these Edgar bashes, after all.

More tomorrow--if I don't see you in the Grand Hyatt hotel bar after the awards are done.

Day Two, Abbreviated 

...is forthcoming tomorrow--at least, the full story. But here's a sneak peek:

--Didn't go to the Agents & Editors party in the end, and from what people told me later on, the party wasn't as filled to the brim with people as it usually is. Just as well--the few hours of relaxation I had worked wonders, and I do believe I am fully in the swing of things now.

--I think, well certainly I hope, that Monsieur Hogan made some worthwhile author contacts during the evening. It was certainly cool to see him take in the Edgar Week stuff.

--The Nevermores were wonderful, and crowded. I mean, it was a complete crush. I could circulate, but barely, and found myself wishing to be outside in "Smoker's Corner," where there was some fresh air to be had. I managed to get outside just once, and couldn't stay because the show was just about to start.

--Ken Bruen was, once again, in hot demand. He was supposed to join my group for dinner but was last seen in deep conversation with Jason Starr, someone whom I had a very nice conversation in parts throughout the evening. I suspect they decamped to a nearby bar, and for all I know, they are still there....

--Finally got to meet up with Olen Steinhauer, First Novel Edgar nominee and blog denizen. He's just as charming and thoughtful as his comments here indicated, and then some.

--Donna Moore is a star, as she was the only recipient of two Nevermores--it was lovely to see her brilliant comedic writing displayed and eliciting consistent guffaws for the audience. Will she listen to the masses and heed the call of her Muse? Well, everybody loves a cliffhanger...

-And shockingly, yours truly barely indulged in the scrumptious birthday cake that was in display. Truly a sign that this was a special evening (or that it was way too close to dinnertime, and the full meal won out. But oh, that chocolate cake....)

And now, to all, good night, for I must be up and about at an earlyish hour to take care of some real and actual business. But stay tuned for the full wrap-up of the awards, their winners, and who was there and what they said.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Day One 

Truth is, I'm out of practice.

It used to be that I could slip into my "New York persona" with relative ease after some time away. I'd leave the airport, hop into a cab or the M60, arrive at my apartment or wherever I was staying and lo, the suburban Sarah could morph into urban Sarah: eyes slightly narrowed, darting everywhere, daring anyone to mess with me. Jumping into subway cars as soon as the doors opened, people be damned, then honing in on the first available empty seat even if it meant I had to squish in between two people who shouldn't be wedged apart. Walking faster, in a slightly more frantic, hurried fashion.

But this time, it took some more effort. I usually like early morning flights: it's the first thing in the morning, and it leaves the rest of the day to get things done. I arrive, take a nap after I get in, then face the day with whatever energy I can muster up. Which was how I was going to tackle things, of course--except by the end of the night, and earlier than usual, I flagged. My head seemed elsewhere, everything was a blur.

Now, sitting here all by myself, I'm getting some clarity again. Putting pieces together, letting the events as they happened coalesce into the story I'm trying to tell. But it's a process that's taking a little longer, making me think all the harder.

Which is all a big, slightly grandiose way of saying I'm bloody tired. And that getting home early has its benefits, for my itinerary, which is close to bursting as it is, is just about ready to explode. More on that as it develops.

So, you ask, what about the partying?

Right. So things started in a low-key fashion, after pulling myself together and taking the IRT to Times Square, followed by a brisk walk right into Coliseum Books, where Edgar nominees Rebecca Pawel, James Hime, and Robert Heilbrun were scheduled to read. But really it was an excuse to finally meet up with Ron--after finding him in the mystery section, interestingly enough. After chatting at length about our recent and older shared history, we looked over to the cafe and realized the event had begun. We made our way there, stood for a bit, and when the event manager offered us seats I promptly swung my bag and knocked over a few of the remainder books. Yup, I'm always remembered wherever I go...

Anyway, each of the trio read from their debut novels, of which Pawel's, the Spanish Civil War-set novel DEATH OF A NATIONALIST, is the only one I've read (though that will be rectified soon, as Hime, with his "neo-western" THE NIGHT OF THE DANCE, and Heilbrun--son of the late Carolyn aka Amanda Cross--with his legal thriller OFFER OF PROOF, showed some deft writing and storytelling skills in the excerpts they read out) and then fielded some of the dumbest questions I've ever heard--and having spent 2 years as a mystery bookseller, I have, alas, heard plenty.

The kicker was this (paraphrased, please blame the fatigue)

aspiring writer to Robert Heilbrun: how did you pick that particular title?

Heilbrun: which one?

writer: "the people vs. XXX XXX."

I turned to Ron and whispered, "I think that's our cue to leave."

So we did, heading uptown to Black Orchid, where, as expected, the place was mobbed. In fact, I think it was more crowded than last year, because then, I managed to speak to everyone I pretty much wanted to and met up with new faces. This time....I saw Keith Snyder in the distance, never got a chance to say hello. I saw Chris Niles (with longer hairdo! I think it's in the air, and the new 'do suits her) but didn't get to talk to her, though I did catch up with her husband, Roderick Huntress. I believe Charlie Stella was in attendance but didn't see him, and only got a quick glance over at Mark Conard (author of yet another Uglytown triumph, DARK AS NIGHT) lingering by the stairwell. Barely got a chance to speak to my friend and blog regular Alina Adams, although I did see her speaking to some other folks, including M.G. (Moira) Kincaid, who was there with her daughter Heather--and who had braved a freak snowstorm to arrive just in time.

But I did manage to catch up some with Rebecca Pawel, who commented on the oddity of having to read from an excerpt of her first book when book #2 is out now, book #3 is in revisions and book #4 is the one on her mind. It really does go to show what kind of lead time is de rigeur in the book business. Also had a chance to speak briefly with Jim Hime, who was dubbed by a Black Orchid regular as "one of the five nicest authors in the business," a statement that I'd be hard pressed to disagree with, based on first impressions alone. I also spoke with upcoming debut author James O. Born, whose WALKING MONEY (not out till mid-June) is already racking up some serious buzz. A bookseller friend in his native Florida suggested he attend, and so, here he was. Smart move.

Lauren Henderson was bedecked with a fuzzy white hat that was the perfect place to hold her nametag; she's really been keeping her head down of late, what with her tongue-in-cheek nonfiction tome THE JANE AUSTEN'S GUIDE TO DATING due out later this year and two romantic comedies coming out in the next year or so. Charles Todd was his usual entertaining self, and offered the news that he's switching gears, trying his hand at a noir novel set in the 1940s, which is certainly a departure from the Ian Rutledge WWI-set books he co-authors with mother Caroline. And MWA Office Manager Margery Flax was a well deserved goddamned ray of sunshine all the goddamned time--and my goodness, that woman had me in stitches for much of the night.

The Brit contingent--author or not--was out in full force. Tony Broadbent, the author of the critically acclaimed SMOKE, was in town ostensibly on business, but was talked into coming to the party tonight and the Nevermores tomorrow, hopefully. Anyone who within ten minutes of meeting me is already making sardonic comments about my hairstyle is someone I want to hang out with more. The persuading person, as it happened, was the redheaded firebrand Donna Moore, who'd blazed into town a mere 3 hours before the party--and hardly looked worse for wear. She keeps pretending that she's not a real writer, but no one believes her--and if one of her entries for the Nevermore "Better Dead than Read" contest wins a prize, even fewer will believe her protestations...

Ken Bruen was there, but not till late--he too was a late arrival but looked, well, pretty damned chipper. There's something about him that lights up a crowd, and it's with good reason that a whole lot of people are cheering him on for Best Novel--and, as I remarked to my friend Jonathan Matthews, I wouldn't mind in the least.

Oh and naturally, I had my fangirl moment.

Donald Westlake stood at the back signing books. Many of them. I wedged myself near the bookshelves to his right, speaking to Bonnie, working up the nerve to say something, anything. Jonathan Santlofer waltzed in and got his copy of THE ROAD TO RUIN signed, then J.L. Abramo did the same thing. Finally I managed to offer my hand and attempt to keep the gushing to a minimum. I asked what was happening with the Dortmunder reissues--THE HOT ROCK in spiffy trade paper, but what next? Soon, Westlake promised, once rights issues with publishers previously in existence could be worked out. Alas, DANCING AZTECS won't be reissued anytime soon, but he did tell me how much fun he had writing the book, because it kept spiralling out of control. Me, I just love the book because it was my guide to New York--the vast majority which I still haven't seen.

So this closes day one--and I do hope this burst of hypergraphia will suffice till the next installment. As for pictures, I know there will be some. Stay tuned.

Greetings from the Apple 

After enduring a fairly uneventful but far-too-early flight, I'm safely ensconced in Manhattan on what is looking to be a perfectly gorgeous beginning to a wonderfully lovely week--not just weather-wise. After a well-deserved rest (and I want to finish my flight reading) I'll head for the first installment of Edgar Week: a booksigning by three of the Best First nominees at Coliseum Books at 5:30 PM, followed by the Black Orchid Bookshop's annual pre-Edgar party, where a whole host of authors, including Donald Westlake, Meg Cabot, Rebecca Pawel, Lauren Henderson, Charlie Stella, Chris Niles, M.G. Kincaid, and Katherine Hall Page (to name but a few) will be in attendance.

As Edgar Week rolls on, I hope to post event reports and pictures, notwithstanding any technical difficulties that may occur. I'll also be blogging the Edgars (though the report won't show up till mid-Friday at the earliest) and whatever else occurs throughout the week that's worth mentioning. I'm just glad to be here--and if you see me at any of the above parties, tomorrow's Nevermores, or the Edgars, please do say hello--looking forward to meeting old friends and new ones.

The Orange Prize shortlist 

The finalists for the all-women's prize were announced earlier today:

Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (Bloomsbury)
Shirley Hazzard, The Great Fire (Virago)
Andrea Levy, Small Island (Review)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus (Fourth Estate)
Gillian Slovo, Ice Road (Little, Brown)
Rose Tremain, The Colour (Chatto and Windus)

It seems to be a rather surprising list, according to the Independent:

The Orange prize for fiction delivered its usual surprises yesterday by omitting the Man Booker contenders Monica Ali and Zoe Heller and the Nobel prize laureate Toni Morrison from its shortlist.

Instead, the £30,000 prize for women's writing will be contested by six writers including one first-time novelist, an author whose last work was published 23 years ago and two veterans.

Well let's see, we have one NBA winner, Margaret Atwood, and some other interesting choices. Would have loved to see Stella Duffy make the list, but one can't have everything, I suppose. The winner will be announced on June 8th.

Choice linkage 

This is the only time I'll link to an article about it because god knows there will be a truckload before the book is out: Bill Clinton's memoirs will be published in late June, and he'll be at Book Expo America in Chicago flogging the book. Sonny Mehta, Knopf's larger-than-life impresario, is editing Clinton's book, entitled "My Life." No doubt the major American papers will serialize the serious parts, while the UK tabloids will focus on the naughty bits.....

Before John Gregory Dunne passed on a few months back, he'd completed his final novel, which is out now. Michiko reviews it and finds it "gripping" and generally a fine novel of social commentary.

Whenever I read a book in translation, I always wonder how much of what I read is the author's voice and how much is due to the translator. Toshiki Taguchi, a Japanese translator who's worked on crime fiction, offers his take on the business for the Yomiuri Times.

Walter Mosley spoke to NPR's Cheryl Corley about his new book, THE MAN IN MY BASEMENT, and the themes he is trying to explore in his work.

The Times-Picayune are big fans of John Connolly's BAD MEN, commending the author for his gifted storytelling and his deft writing. Works for me.

CNN takes a look at John Lawton's new spy novel BLUFFING MR. CHURCHILL and is highly, very highly impressed, essentially saying this author can play with the big boys of espionage fiction.

And finally, USA Today has a long review and profile of Steve Almond's new non-fiction tome CANDYFREAK. The last word? Some of Almond's signings will have a tasting segment, "during which attendees can sample the sweets so thoroughly researched and lovingly described in Candyfreak." Oh crap, I'm going into sugar shock right this second....

Monday, April 26, 2004

More on the Lawrence Block booksigning article 

Interestingly--but perhaps not surprisingly--a bit of a backlash seems to be setting in about Block's attitude towards those who are after the signed copy, using all means possible. Steve Miller, one of Mystery News' able columnists, struck a harsh note in the comments to the original post:

Several booksellers have told me that when you arrange for a Lawrence Block signing, you never know if you'll get Good Larry (charming, witty, eager to please and more than willing to converse with anyone who engages him) or Bad Larry (monosyllabic, obviously wants to be somewhere else, mood ranging from annoyed to downright surly). It appears Bad Larry turned in this piece for the Village Voice.

What an ingrate. A pro like Block should never lose sight of the fact that these creepy fans and collectors all have one thing in common -- Block gets a royalty on every book he signs whether it's an overpriced hardcover or a paperback.

I must admit I didn't get much sense of churlishness on Block's part at all, and said as much. But Lee Goldberg, in linking to the Voice article, had a rather thoughtful take which bears notice:

Larry is being a bit disingenuous... as much as he questions the value of signed books and the desire readers have to get their books signed, he's certainly taking advantage of the market more deftly and agressively than any author I know. Not only does he tour extensively to support his books (as he should), he also runs a small business through his website and his newsletter -- and literally out of the trunk of his car -- selling signed copies of his backlist and other editions. It's rare to find an UNSIGNED Block book. So while he may question the whole signed-book-mania, he's certainly profiting from it and, no doubt, hoping the craze doesn't wane. Who can blame him? I admire his writing and his salesmanship. But given the way he's embraced the signed book market, I found the tone of his entertaining piece a bit puzzling...

Is it a chicken-and-egg scenario? A subject that probably bears more thought and analysis but at least in some superficial form, makes for an entertaining article? On the one hand, the vast majority of writers would love to be in Block's position, to have collectors hankering after first editions of a prodigious backlist. But with such demand comes the pitfalls, and ultimately, it's likely all about balance. Or it's just about getting folks talking, like we're all doing now.

In which case, I think Larry's succeeded rather well.

Separated at birth? 

Dale Brown (left), techno-thriller writer, is in the news of late because he was found guilty of tax evasion. Dan Brown, of course, is the author of the bestselling novel THE DA VINCI CODE.

I always got them confused whenever I browsed the bookshelves, but I hadn't realized there was a physical resemblance as well! Or maybe it's just me...

Signed, sealed and delivered 

Hat tip to Matt Haber for alerting me to Lawrence Block's article in this week's Village Voice on the vagaries of touring, meeting rabid collectors, and the whole book signing thing. As readers of this blog know, Larry's currently on tour promoting his new book THE BURGLAR ON THE PROWL, and this experience, combined with a whole host of others, has left him rather nonplussed about signing books:

A dozen or so years ago, somebody worked out what to do with the author's spare time. Instead of sitting around the hotel all day waiting for an evening event, he could improve each shining hour by hopping from store to store signing stock. Early on, store personnel were hard put to know what to make of the notion, but they got the hang of it, even as the writers learned to overcome their natural reserve and set about forcing their signature on stores whether they wanted it or not.

And the stores caught on big-time when they noticed that signed books tended to sell. A signed book quickly became a sine qua non for collectors. The best comparison I can think of is to the dust jacket. Until 50 years ago, the book's paper wrapper was there to draw attention in a store, and to protect the book until someone actually sat down and read it. At that time it was commonly discarded—which is why so few books with intact dust jackets survive from those early days.

Collectors collectively decided that a book with a dust jacket was more desirable, and hence worth more, than an unjacketed one. Indeed, only a jacketed copy was regarded as truly complete. Books from the '20s and '30s are still collectible without jackets, but a rare book of that vintage may be worth 10 or 20 times as much if it has a jacket. More recent books, unless of great rarity, are essentially worthless without a jacket.

Over the past decade, collectors have come to regard an unsigned book as similarly incomplete. "I have it," you'll hear someone say, "but it's not signed." If the author is still alive, the sentence ends a little differently. "But it's not signed yet," the collector will say.

Can you see where this is going? You have to sign the new books in order to get them sold, and you have to sign the old ones to make your readers happy.

I used to be rather signing-happy, for a reason: it afforded me a quick and easy way to meet a favorite author, have a brief word or two about how much I loved the books, and get the book scrawled in the process. But after a couple of years as a bookseller and having to make sure that some folks didn't monopolize the author's time by having him or her sign book after book after book, the signature decreased in value for me. Besides, even though I have far too many books in the house, I don't consider myself a collector--I just like owning books I love. And while I still like getting books signed, I'd rather the inscription mean something to me than just get a token signature so I can turn around and hawk it on Ebay. It just seems rather tawdry.

Which is why, when I fly into New York tomorrow, I'm only bringing a select few books with me. One, it's way too much trouble to schlep every book I think I might like signed considering which authors will be around. And two, it's not a bad idea to limit myself to a couple of books per author--tops--so that I'm not one of the monopolizers. I learned this the hard way after attending a Bouchercon where, for one reason or another, I forgot to get half the books I brought with signed--mostly because I couldn't be bothered chasing down authors for their signatures when I could actually have a conversation with them. I think the same will go for much of this week....

LAT Festival wrapup 

As promised, reports are starting to trickle in. First, a semi-official one from the LA Times themselves, who say that 130,000 brave souls showed up to peruse the offerings and get their books signed by their favorite authors. Damn, that's a rather large number of people.

Roger Simon has pictures, with an especially telling one of Elmore Leonard: if the temperatures were in the mid-90s, why on earth is Dutch wearing a sweater?!

Lee Goldberg, Simon's fellow panelmate, offers up his take on the Fest as well, especially his meeting up with legend (and favorite of the entire blogosphere, it seems) Donald E. Westlake:

By far, though, the highlight of the weekend for me was the hour or so I spent after the book awards chatting with Donald Westlake (first with Dick Lochte, who introduced us, then later with my brother Tod and Denise Hamilton). We talked about writing styles and techniques, the book business, screenwriting, and the movie adaptations of his work. We also talked about some of our favorite authors and he shared some marvelous anecdotes about Rex Stout, Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, Evan Hunter and my buddy Richard S. Prather. I was wowed. He's a living legend and a hell of a nice guy, too.

Can I just say how hugely excited I am to get the chance, hopefully, to meet Westlake tomorrow? I promise not to act like a complete fool ("WHY WHY WHY isn't DANCING AZTECS in print? Please, tell me this, sir.")

Anyway. And finally, Aldo Calcagno writes up the first part of the Festival activities, the Mystery Bookstore's pre-fest signing party that was held on Friday. Boy, he's certainly got the knack and flair for this blogging thing. And he brings extra good news: Scott Phillips' COTTONWOOD is going into a second printing! See, all those good reviews and great word-of-mouth does count for something after all. But I can't believe John Connolly had to foot the bill for dinner once again...he's really got to stop doing that.

Monday monday 

And just to let you all know: this will probably be the last of the morning updates for a while because starting tomorrow, this blog will be all about Edgar, Edgar, Edgar. Edgar Week, that is, with the associated parties, gossip, and goings-on. If I can get my act together, I might even post pictures, too. We shall see. But in the meantime:

When was the last time I lined to Janet Maslin's reviews? I can't even remember. But this time I must as she takes on the new books by Boris Akunin and Alexander McCall Smith, and finds both to her liking, although Akunin's LEVIATHAN seems to fall down by "amplifying racist stereotypes" prevalent in the late 19th century setting the book uses.

Patrick Anderson is entertained by William Lashner's new legal thriller PAST DUE, but wonders whether Lashner could produce a great crime novel a la MYSTIC RIVER if only he'd tone down the wisecracks. Possibly, or he could produce standalone templates a la Harlan Coben....

As WH Smith seems to go into the crapper (and is trying to sell off one of its biggest assets, Hodder Headline) the International Herald Tribune tries to analyze what exactly went wrong.

A newly discovered diary of Albert Einstein's final year of life sheds additional light on the man and his mind, as reported by the Guardian.

Janni Visman's atmospheric new psychological thriller, YELLOW, is reviewed in today's Independent.

Hee hee--BERGDORF BLONDES, the digested read. Almost as funny as Choire's review in the NYTBR some time back.

I don't know what I like better: when Kevin Burton Smith loves a book, or when he doesn't. Either is entertaining, but luckily for George Pelecanos, Kevin really dug HARD REVOLUTION.

And finally, the mysterious--oh hell, it's truly bizarre--death of a leading Sherlock Holmes expert leads to a no-decision after an inquest was conducted. Anyone want to take a crack at solving this mystery?

Sunday, April 25, 2004

LA Times Book Festival Prize Winners 

The awards were given out last night at the Festival and they are as follows:

History: "An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America", by Henry Wiencek
Fiction: "Train", by Pete Dexter
Mystery/Thriller: "Soul Circus," by George Pelecanos
Biography: "American Empire: Roosevelt's Geographer and the Prelude to Globalization," by Neil Smith
Poetry: "Collected Later Poems," by Anthony Hecht
Science & Technology: "Protecting America's Health: The FDA, Business, and 100 Years of Regulation," by Philip J. Hilts
Current Interest/Nonfiction: "The New Chinese Empire and What It Means for the United States," by Ross Terrill
Best Young Adult Fiction: "A Northern Light," by Jennifer Donnelly
Robert Kirsch Award for writing about the West: "Blues City: A Walk in Oakland," by Ismal Reed
Art Seidenbaum Award for first work of fiction: "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," by Mark Haddon

Congratulations to all the winners!

Just another weekend update, if you please 

Now normally, I start off with the Paper of Record because, well, that's what they are. But I'd rather indulge my own personal whims first. And boy, can I ever, as the Scotsman tracks down Eoin McNamee, who has, with his new novel THE ULTRAS, written the best book I have read this year. Luckily, they agree with me, calling it "by far the most ambitious, complex and gripping of McNamee?s novels." The profile is kind of softball, but no matter--it's great to see McNamee get press for this book, which is, well, marvellous. Official publication date is May 5, UK only, but hopefully that will change, if I had anything to say about it.

But enough gushery--besides, it seems rather imprudent to keep on when turning next to Marilyn Stasio's crime roundup, n'est-ce pas? Although she seems to be in reasonable humor this time around, bestowing fairly positive reviews to Donna Leon, Donald E (not that other Donald) Westlake, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Frank Huyler, and Elizabeth Peters, who has opted for a prequel in her latest Amelia Peabody adventure. Meanwhile, David Liss' A SPECTACLE OF CORRUPTION gets the full-length treatment from the Gray Lady, as does Carlos Zafon's exploration of adventure and magical realism, THE SHADOW OF THE WIND.

The funny thing is that the NYT review and Michael Dirda's treatment in Book World both make some light of the "if you like author so-and-so, you'll love this book." Coincidence, or just that the book inspires such ironic accolades? Something to ponder as I consider the rest of the WaPo's offerings, especially Paul Skenazy's crime roundup, which takes aim at Donna Leon (just like La Stasio), Denise Hamilton, Thomas Laird, and Rick Riordan's SOUTHTOWN, which gets a somewhat mixed but mostly positive reaction.

Turkish author Orhan Pamuk is all over the place, now that his new novel, SNOW, is just out in the UK. Well, two places? An interview with the Asian-English website Donga, and a nice piece in the Guardian about driving through Tehran and witnessing the less-than-idyllic life of the city's inhabitants. And speaking of the Guardian Review, it's in pretty good shape this week: reviews of Jenny Diski's devastating take on the biblical forefathers, AFTER THESE THINGS; Martin Sixsmith's SPIN gets another less-than-glowing notice; Patricia Duncker's moody description of writing as the ultimate in outsider adventure; and John Cleese's blurb-busting response to authors seeking such from him (third item down.)

Over at the Globe and Mail, Marion Botsford Fraser offers a few choice suggestions for those seeking South African literature, Zsuzsi Gartner implores readers to give Russell Smith, novelist (as opposed to Russell Smith, satirist) a try with his debut novel MURIELLA PENT; and Martin Levin celebrates those octogenarian writers like P.D. James and Muriel Spark who haven't given in to the ravages of time, and are still writing new works.

At the Observer, Peter Guttridge returns with a nifty roundup of the latest in mystery. He's glad to see John Harvey back on form with a new series character in FLESH AND BLOOD, while new releases from Michael Robotham, Edward Marston, Jim Kelly and Colin Harrison merit attention as well. Otherwise, Robert McCrum marvels over the influence Henry James seems to have on acclaimed novels published so far this year--which may have a good chance at doing very well in future award ceremonies to come; Euan Ferguson has a rather odd screed about not being able to suspend disbelief when reading novels; Lynne Truss is still gobsmacked by the worldwide acclaim for her treatise on proper punctuation, EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES, and BALMORAL, Isabel Vane's bizarre "what-if" about Princess Diana not being dead, is up for review--and overall, it doesn't quite pass the test.

Best of the rest:

Elaine Flinn's debut mystery DEALING IN MURDER has received some great reviews since its release last November, and next weekend, she'll find out if she will take home the Agatha for best First Novel. She speaks to the Californian about her new career and what's coming next.

In this long and charming profile by the Minneapolis Pioneer-Press, P.J. Tracy (the pseudonym for the mother-daughter team of Patricia and Traci Lambrecht) finally reveal the details behind their earlier writing career--P.J.'s been a published writer since the 1970s, and has written 11 romance novels (with an extra 2 in collaboration with Traci.)

Ace Atkins talks to the New Orleans Times-Picayune about his new novel, DIRTY SOUTH, and how he's leaving his blues-infused hero, Nick Travers, behind for the next book or two--it will be very interesting to see when this novel sees the light of day....

NPR considers chick-lit in all its permutations and combinations. The result isn't altogether pretty....

Eileen Dreyer's new medical thriller HEAD GAMES impresses Leslie Doran of the Denver Post. Meanwhile, Alexander McCall Smith's new Precious Ramotswe novel, THE FULL CUPBOARD OF LIFE, has hit US (and Canadian) stores, and Clea Simon of the SF Chronicle enjoys it and wonders if there will be a sixth installment--have no fear, as said installment will be out in the UK later this summer....

In other notable reviews, George Pelecanos is greeted with more praise at the Dallas-Forth Worth Star-Telegram (although the Glasgow Sunday Herald isn't nearly as enthusiastic about HARD REVOLUTION); John Connolly's BAD MEN gains approval by the Kansas City Star as a "deliciously creepy story."

Margaret Atwood is interviewed once again--this time by Chauncey Mabe of the Sun-Sentinel, who catches up with her as she's about to give a lecture at the Coral Gables Congregational Church.

And finally, considering Ed's recent satirical post about just how prolific this woman is, it seems rather fitting to find a new interview with hypergraphia's best friend, Joyce Carol Oates.

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