Sunday, September 30, 2007

Eyes on the Prizes

This weekend brought thousands of crime-fiction authors and fans to Anchorage, Alaska, for the 18th annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, named in honor of 20th-century writer, critic, and editor Anthony Boucher. It was a chance for readers to hobnob with novelists whose work they’ve admired, and for writers to party amongst themselves and hear what the people who buy their books think of their efforts. Oh, and did I mention the partying?

As usual, Bouchercon was also the occasion during which a variety of annual commendations of several varieties were handed out. Below is a list of the winners. Click on the name of each award to find information about other books nominated for those same prizes.

Best Novel: No Good Deeds, by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins)
Best First Novel: Still Life, by Louise Penny (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
Best Paperback Original: Ashes and Bones, by Dana Cameron (Avon)
Best Short Story:My Father’s Secret,” by Simon Wood (Crimespree Magazine, Bouchercon Special Issue)
Best Critical Non-fiction: Mystery Muses: 100 Classics That Inspire Today’s Mystery Writers, edited by Jim Huang and Austin Lugar (Crum Creek Press)
Special Services Award: Jim Huang, Crum Creek Press and The Mystery Company

Best Hardcover: The Dramatist, by Ken Bruen (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
Best Paperback Original: An Unquiet Grave, by P.J. Parrish (Pinnacle)
Best First Novel: The Wrong Kind of Blood, by Declan Hughes (Morrow)
Best Short Story: “The Heart Has Reasons,” by O’Neil De Noux (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, September 2006)
“The Eye” Award (recognizing a lifetime’s achievement: Stuart M. Kaminsky
The Hammer” Award (recognizing a memorable private eye character or a series): Hollywood gumshoe Shell Scott, created by Richard S. Prather
St. Martin’s/Private Eye Writers of America Contest Winner: Keith Gilman

Best Mystery Novel: The Virgin of Small Plains, by Nancy Pickard (Ballantine)
Best First Novel: Mr. Clarinet, by Nick Stone (Michael Joseph Ltd./Penguin)
Best Non-fiction: Mystery Muses: 100 Classics That Inspire Today’s Mystery Writers, edited by Jim Huang and Austin Lugar (Crum Creek)
Best Short Story: “Till Death Do Us Part,” by Tim Maleeny (from Death Do Us Part: New Stories about Love, Lust, and Murder, edited by Harlan Coben; Little, Brown)
Sue Feder Historical Mystery: Oh Danny Boy, by Rhys Bowen (St. Martin’s Minotaur)

Best Novel: The Night Gardener, by George Pelecanos (Little, Brown)
Best First Novel: Still Life, by Louise Penny (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
Best British Novel: Priest, by Ken Bruen (Bantam Press)
Best Thriller: The Messenger, by Daniel Silva (Putnam)
Best Paperback Original: The Cleanup, by Sean Doolittle (Dell)
Best Short Story: “The Right Call,” by Brendan DuBois (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September/October 2006)
Don Sandstrom Memorial Award (for lifetime achievement in mystery fandom): Beth Fedyn.

READ MORE:Mystery Writers Convene in Alaska with CSI Experts, Judges, and Cadaver Dogs,” by Steve Quinn (AP).

Friday, September 28, 2007

Review: Crescent City Cooking by Susan Spicer

Today, in January Magazine’s cookbook section, contributing editor Diane Leach reviews Crescent City Cooking by Susan Spicer. Says Leach:

Susan Spicer is proprietor of New Orleans restaurants Bayona and Herbsaint. With her long-awaited cookbook, I was hoping for a taste of a now lost New Orleans. I opened Crescent City with a mixture of sadness and anticipation. What was still there? What had been lost?
The full review is here.

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Review: Tomorrow All Will Be Beautiful by Bridgid Lowry

Today, in January Magazine’s section featuring books for younger readers, contributing editor Sue Bursztynski reviews Tomorrow All Will Be Beautiful by Bridgid Lowry. Says Bursztynski:

The author is well-known for funny, sad, gentle novels for teenagers. She does them beautifully but, despite the cover blurb and the enthusiastic endorsements from teenage girls on the cover, this book is not aimed entirely at young adults.

The full review is here.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Review: Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time by Lynne Eldridge and David Borgeson

Today, in January Magazine’s non-fiction section, contributing editor Mary Ward Menke reviews Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time by Lynne Eldridge and David Borgeson. Says Menke:
If Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time simply repeated facts based on research, readers would be overwhelmed and quickly lose interest. Fortunately, that’s not the case; the book includes charts, graphs, recipes (most of them sound surprisingly tasty) and “practical points” (suggestions) to enhance learning and show the reader how simple it is to make adjustments in their lives. At the back of the book, there are worksheets and appendices and an index that makes it easy to search by topic.
The full review is here.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Review: Baby Crimes by Randall Hicks

Today, in January Magazine’s crime fiction section, contributing editor James R. Winter reviews Baby Crimes by Randall Hicks. Says Winter:
Hicks spins a good yarn, with character touches that echo classic private eyes such as Jeremiah Healy’s John Francis Cuddy. Just as Cuddy would talk to his dead wife at her graveside (sometimes with replies), Dillon spends time on a landlocked boat in his grandfather’s orchard, talking to the old man, asking for advice. It’s a clever device for getting inside Dillon’s head, and, like Healy, Hicks doesn’t get too maudlin about it.
The full review is here.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Reincarnationist Heads for Second Life

Imagine the book tour of the future. Travel has gotten to be expensive and difficult. Security at airports makes flying unpleasant and cutbacks at airlines make food even worse than that. Here in the future, even if an author did want to tour, hardly anyone would show up. Between their jobs, their families and their social networks, no one has time to actually attend author events in person.

Those things being the case, instead of packing a suitcase, that futuristic author might spend some time getting an avatar ready. She might then send the avatar into a virtual performance space where she could read from her book in front of many -- perhaps hundreds -- of other people’s avatars, accomplishing in a single evening what would have taken a great deal of travel and too many airline lunches and all without ever taking off her pyjamas.

For M.J. Rose, hot on the trail of promoting her new novel The Reincarnationist, the future is now and it looks... experimental. On Tuesday at 5 pm EST, a reading event for The Reincarnationist will take place in the ether at Second Life. An avatar of the actor who reads the audio version of the book will do a reading, after which Rose’s avatar will hold court, taking questions from an audience of avatars.

“I’m really looking forward to the event because it’ll be an interesting experiment. There are nine million Second Life members, so just announcing the event will go far in getting more people aware of the book. Plus it’s exciting. People are spending a lot of time online and this gives me an opportunity to reach them in a fun environment.”

With a background in advertising, Rose is no stranger to innovative marketing techniques, something visitors to her book marketing-themed blog, Buzz, Balls and Hype, rediscover every day and that the publishing industry at large has been taking notes on for the last decade.

“A little more than seven years ago everyone thought I was crazy when I did what Salon called the first virtual book party on line. Since then I’ve been committed to trying everything new to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to book promotion.”

If a recent spate of media mentions are any indication, Rose’s blend of attention to old and new media is working. Rose says that the “SecondLife event is kicking off stage two of the promotion [for The Reincarnationist]. The book has been out for three weeks and the publisher just went back to press for a second printing and stores are reordering. I’ve done about 12 days of the book tour with about five or six more real life events left plus a 40-50 blog tour that kicks off the first week of October.”

Rose says she’s as aware as anyone of how competitive her field has become. “People don't buy a book they haven’t heard of. The marketplace is very crowded these days and I know too much about how hard it is to compete and what it takes.”


Happy Birthday, F. Scott!

Jazz Age writer Frances Scott Key Fitzgerald (The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby) was born on this day in 1896. He died of a heart attack when he was way too young, on December 21, 1940. Who knows what he could’ve produced, had he lived past age 44?


Review: Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book by Aye Jay

Today, in January Magazine’s art & culture section, contributing editor and January art director, David Middleton, reviews Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book by Aye Jay. Says Middleton:
You don’t tend to think of heavy metal music as a genre that is filled with an overabundance of jocularity or frivolity, but as I flip through Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book I must reconsider my position. Metal can be fun, silly and -- yes -- perhaps even thoughtful and educational. So on page eight, after you have played connect the moles on the face of a prominent member of Motorhead, go to page nine and do a brain teasing heavy metal sudoku -- with all the sixes filled in, of course. Color Glenn Danzig, do the Monsters of Rock Crossword then guide Ozzy Ozborne through a maze in order to get him to Ozzfest.
The full review is here.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

King at 60

In his book On Writing, Stephen King commented on his relationship with his wife, Tabitha:
Our marriage has outlasted all of the world's leaders except for Castro, and if we keep talking, arguing, making love, and dancing to the Ramones -- gabba-gabba-hey -- it'll probably keep working.
King, who is the author of over 50 bestselling novels, was born on this day in 1947.


Review: Worse Than Boys by Catherine MacPhail

Today, in January Magazine’s children’s book section, contributing editor Sue Bursztynski reviews Worse Than Boys by Catherine MacPhail. Says Bursztynski:
It has often been said that boys will bully each other physically, while girls will bully each other by exclusion and words. I work with teenagers, and it is true that friendships, especially those of girls, break up and re-form at the drop of a hat. It’s part of being a teenage girl, as is cringing with embarrassment about your mother.
The full review is here.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Authors on the Air Radio Program

I’ve been writing reviews for January Magazine for several years. Since April of this year, I’ve also been co-hosting a weekly radio program, Authors on the Air, on WGNU-AM 920 in St. Louis, Missouri. Billed as a program “about books and the people who write them,” Authors on the Air invites writers of all genres to discuss timely topics, the creative process and how to get published.

You can catch Authors on the Air on Fridays from 1 to 2 PM Central Time. Go to and click on “Listen Live.” During the show, listeners are invited to call in at 1-877-920-9468 with their comments or questions.

This week, September 21, our guest is Lisa Lindley, author of Never Alone: One Family’s Hope for Finding Peace While Living with the Paranormal. In the past five years, Lisa, her husband and their three children have lived in not one, but two haunted houses in the St. Louis area. It will be interesting to discover what motivated those real estate decisions ... or what unseen force was guiding her hand!

Review: The Follower by Jason Starr

Today, in January Magazine’s crime fiction section, contributing editor Anthony Rainone reviews The Follower by Jason Starr. Says Rainone:
The case could be made that no one is better than Jason Starr when it comes to writing repellent psychopathic characters. This particular skill flowers in The Follower, his newest thriller, set on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The story builds around Peter Wells, an unstable stalker who’s come into an inheritance that allows him plenty of free time in which to set up his latest victim, a 22-year-old woman named Katie Porter.
The full review is here.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

All’s Right

It seems as though a romance this significant should have happened on February 14th, but it was on this day in 1846 that one of the greatest literary romances came to its logical conclusion. On September 19th of that year, after a passionate courtship that lasted nearly two years and was conducted mainly in writing, Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning married in secret against the wishes of her family. Browning was 34, while Barrett Browning was 40.

By all accounts, the couple lived happily and productively in Italy. Barrett Browning gave birth to a son, Robert Wiedemann Barrett Browning, when she was 43.

As individuals, each half of this talented couple were counted among the most significant poets of the Victorian era. Barrett Browning, who had always been somewhat delicate and who may have suffered from tuberculosis, died in Florence in June of 1861. Barrett died in venice in December of 1889.


Today is Talk Like A Pirate Day. I thought about letting the day slip by without mentioning it but... seriously? How can you not?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Giller Prize Longlist Announced

The longlist for the 2007 Scotiabank Giller Awards was announced yesterday. This narrows the field to 15 from the 108 books submitted for consideration. The Scotiabank Giller was named in honour of the late literary journalist Doris Giller. It was founded in 1994 by her husband, Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch, and is Canada’s richest literary prize: it awards $40,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English and $2,500 to each of the finalists.

The shortlist for this year’s Giller Prize will be announced on October 9th with the winner to be awarded in a televised black-tie ceremony on November 6th.

The 2007 Scotiabank Giller longlist is:
  • Soucouyant, by David Chariandy (Arsenal Pulp Press)
  • Zero Gravity, by Sharon English (The Porcupine’s Quill)
  • Helpless, by Barbara Gowdy (HarperCollins Canada)
  • Late Nights on Air, by Elizabeth Hay (McClelland & Stewart)
  • The Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill (HarperCollins Canada)
  • Stormy Weather, by Paulette Jiles (HarperCollins Canada)
  • Lauchlin of the Bad Heart, by D.R. MacDonald (HarperCollins Canada)
  • The Reckoning of Boston Jim, by Claire Mulligan (Brindle & Glass)
  • Conceit, by Mary Novik (Doubleday Canada)
  • Divisadero, by Michael Ondaatje (McClelland & Stewart)
  • A Secret Between Us, by Daniel Poliquin, translated by Donald Winkler (Douglas & McIntyre)
  • The Assassin’s Song, by M.G. Vassanji (Doubleday Canada)
  • The Architects Are Here, by Michael Winter (Penguin Books Canada)
  • October, by Richard Wright (HarperCollins Canada)
  • Effigy, by Alissa York (Random House Canada)


Review: From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain by Minister Faust

Today, in January Magazine’s SF/F section, contributing editor Andi Shechter reviews From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain by Minister Faust. Says Shechter:
There’s no way around it though. From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain is a romp. It’s hilarious, it’s edgy, it’s smart and it’s a hoot. The premise is silly enough -- group therapy for some of the world’s superheroes. Minister Faust not only knows psychobabble and uses it well, but he gets into the personalities of the various heroes and villains with exceptional wit and talent.
The full review is here.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Review: Run by Ann Patchett

Contributing editor Diane Leach spends some time with Ann Patchett’s latest work of fiction, Run. Says Leach:
It is testimony to her talent that Patchett can take what often feels like an unwieldy or unworkable plot and render it seamless. Both Magician and Bel Canto wind lovely, aching stories about the possibilities of love and its ability to transcend conventional boundaries. Taft is weaker, but never for a moment does protagonist John Nickel forget the limitations imposed by race.
The full review is here.

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Review: Loyal Comrades, Ruthless Killers by Slava Katamidze

Contributing editor Pedro Blas Gonzales reviews the non-fiction work Loyal Comrades, Ruthless Killers by Slava Katamidze. Says Gonzales:
Gathering and utilizing the intelligence delivered to the west by the many Soviet defectors through the years, the author is able to paint a picture that few myopic or disingenuous intellectuals can continue to evade or “deconstruct.” Simply stated, the Soviet Union’s mechanism of state terror was the premier manifestation of state-organized murder and terror of the 20th century.
The full review is here.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Simpson’s Farce

We’ve refrained from commenting at all on the stomach-turning mutations of the Simpson book saga. We weren’t shy -- we seldom are -- but the clamour everyone else was making was enough, somehow. More than that. Through all of the odious permutations to this story, there’s been something untouchable about it. Almost as though any type of comment was more than what was deserved. And maybe -- just maybe -- there was a touch of denial in that response. As though if we ignored it hard enough, it would all just go away.

Well, we ignored. And it went away. And then it came back in a different form. As I write this, it’s a top bestseller. Despite all our ignoring.

In Friday’s Los Angeles Times, Pat Morrison nailed the odiousness perfectly:
When someone pulls on gloves to open a book, it’s usually a priceless volume: a Jane Austen first edition or a signed galley proof of “Harry Potter.”

I wanted to put on gloves to read “If I Did It” also, but for different reasons. The “yuck” factor in O.J. Simpson’s “hypothetical” account of how he would have murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman is so high that the needle soars right off the scale.
We won’t revisit this one. We don’t need to. This isn’t literature. As Morrison says so well, “the book fits Karl Marx’s useful observation about history: first act tragedy, second act farce.”

’Nuff said. Here’s the link to Morrison’s piece.


Galley Kitty Moves On

Since 2005, Sarah Weinman’s idiosyncratic voice has reverberated through Galley Cat, the self-proclaimed “first word on the book publishing industry.”

Last Wednesday, Weinman announced that she was leaving the galley to editor Ron Hogan in order to pursue other interests:
In other words: after two years, thousands of posts, scores of parties and readership that's more than quadrupled since Ron and I took over GalleyCat in October 2005, it's time to see what's out there beyond the publishing industry's idiosyncratic, mercurial and fascinating borders.
Weinman, who is a January Magazine contributing editor, will continue to helm her own blog, contribute columns to The Los Angeles Times and The Baltimore Sun and plans to “spend more time on neglected matters: fiction-writing, my own crime fiction-centric site, or making some use of that forensic science degree after all.”

Good luck, Sarah! We’ll be watching you.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Agatha at 127

Today marks what would have been the 127th birthday of the creator of what are -- arguably -- some of modern literature’s best-loved and best known characters.

According to Christie’s official Web site, Agatha Christie was born Agatha Miller in Torquay, England, on September 15, 1890. She got the last name -- Christie -- when she married her husband, Archibald Christie, in 1914. The couple’s daughter, Rosalind, was born in 1919. The couple divorced in 1928.

By that time, Christie had already gained a reputation as a writer. Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920 and included that nutty but now internationally beloved Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Christie would go on to include Poirot in 54 short stories and 33 novels.

In 1930, Christie married archaeologist Max Mallowan. She accompanied Mallowan on many of his digs and was undoubtedly creatively influenced by the relationship and her time spent in the Middle East. This is best seen in the novels Murder in Mesopotamia, from 1936, and Death on the Nile, from 1937.

Christie was given England’s highest honor in 1971 when she was awarded to the Order of Dame Commander of the British Empire and created as Dame Agatha. She continued to write prolifically until the time of her death in 1976. Her last novel, Sleeping Murder, was published the year she died and featured her other much beloved recurring sleuth, Miss Jane Marple.

Dame Agatha died peacefully at home on January 12, 1976.

According to The Writer’s Almanac, September 15th is a big day in the world of literary birthdays. In addition to Dame Agatha, other writers born on this day include Robert Benchley, James Fenimore Cooper, Robert McCloskey and François VI, duke de La Rochefoucauld.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Review: The Secret Hangman by Peter Lovesey

Today, in January Magazine’s crime fiction section, contributing editor Stephen Miller reviews The Secret Hangman by Peter Lovesey. Says Miller:
At a time when British crime fiction seems tipped toward the noir edge of things, it is a treat to come across a classic puzzle story. Such is the reward in store for readers who delve into the ninth entry in the Inspector Peter Diamond series, The Secret Hangman.
The full review is here.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Turning Over a New Leaf

Unless you’re George W. Bush, it’s pretty much impossible these days to ignore warnings about the progress of global warming, the imminent demise of the polar bears, and the impact of population increases on the earth’s finite resources. But have you ever thought about how much environmental damage you’re doing, simply by reading books?

Eco-Libris has. And as penance, Eco-Libris -- a service of California-based Redwood Visions Consulting LLC (which apparently strives “to bring high-level Internet business expertise to the world of green and sustainable businesses”) -- wants you to help subsidize the restoration of far-off forest lands. As its Web site explains:
Hey, we know you love books. Who doesn’t? But what about all the trees that are used to produce the paper for these books? About 20 million trees are being cut down EVERY YEAR to produce the books sold in the U.S. alone. What can you do about it? Well, here’s a suggestion: stop reading .. NO, NO. just kiddin’.

A better solution would be to start planting trees for all the books you read. To let you do just that, we thought up Eco-Libris, a means to balance out the paper in your books by planting trees. To maximize your impact, the trees will be planted in developing countries, benefiting both the environment and local communities.

For every book you balance out, we will send you an Eco-Libris sticker to put on your book cover, displaying your commitment to sustainability and perhaps even inspiring others to become more responsible about their use of natural resources (in case you were wondering -- the sticker is made of recycled paper with non-toxic ink ... oh, and the thank you note too, and yeah, even the envelope).
That sounds downright admirable, even if it does cause you to sweat a bit as you walk through the aisles of bookstores, imagining all the forests that have been toppled and pulped for your reading entertainment. Such guilt might actually make you pay the $1 per book per tree that Eco-Libris charges for every sapling it sticks in the ground on your behalf.

But isn’t it a bit off, and seemingly counterproductive that, at the same time as Eco-Libris (which, by the way, is said to translate from the Latin as “from the books”) is encouraging you to fund the planting of trees, it is willing to send you a paper thank-you note in an envelope? Couldn’t that recycled stock have been better used in, say, the printing of more books for you to enjoy?

More information about Eco-Libris’ project is available here.


Why Didn’t He Do This in the First Place?

From today’s Wall Street Journal:
A controversial memoirist is writing a new chapter in his life -- and this time he’s saying upfront that it’s fiction.

Author James Frey, disgraced in a literary scandal and shunned by the publishing industry last year, is being given a second chance, as a major publisher has agreed to publish his debut novel.

Mr. Frey’s best-selling memoir “A Million Little Pieces” was denounced as a fraud after the Web site in January 2006 revealed numerous discrepencies in the author's gripping account of how his life was almost destroyed by drugs. Mr. Frey had represented his story as factual, and many readers felt angry and betrayed.
More of the Journal’s story can be found here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Feathering Their Nests

Although they aren’t exactly the Pulitzer Prizes, the annual Quill Book Awards have managed to gain something of a popular following, primarily because their presentation is televised in America.

There are 19 Quill categories, with the winners in each reportedly chosen by “more than 6,000 booksellers and librarians” on behalf of the Quill Foundation, a group of media organizations promoting literacy. Among this year’s victors, announced last night, are: The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield (Debut Author); The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (General Fiction); The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore (History/Current Events/Politics); What the Dead Know, by Laura Lippman (Mystery/Suspense/Thriller); and Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson (Biography/Memoir). The full list can be found here.

Winners will be presented with their prizes during a “gala awards ceremony” to be held on October 22 at New York City’s Lincoln Center, hosted by NBC Today show personalities Ann Curry and Al Roker. That ceremony will be televised by NBC stations on the night of Saturday, October 27.

In the meantime, readers are invited to cast their votes for which book among these 19 winners that they think deserves also to be named “The Book of the Year.” Register your choice here. Voting will close on October 10.

* * *
Speaking of literary commendations, California author Joan Didion, best known of recent date for having written the painful book-length essay The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), is to be given a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters during the National Book Awards ceremony on November 14. During those same festivities, Terry Gross, executive producer and host of National Public Radio’s Fresh Air program, will receive the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

These announcements come well in advance of the lists of finalists in four National Book Award categories -- fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature. Those selections won’t be made public until October 10.


What to Read This Fall

It’s a whole new book-publishing season. Do you know yet what you’re going to read this fall? If not, you’ll find plenty of help in choosing. Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors, has recently begun asking its members for their suggestions of which books consumers ought to be sticking their noses into this season. Recommendations so far include The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein (Metropolitan Books); Exit Ghost, by Philip Roth (Houghton Mifflin); Run, by Ann Patchett (HarperCollins); Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo (Knopf); The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, by A.J. Jacobs (Simon & Schuster); and The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz (Riverhead). A collection of those recommendations can be found here.

If what you’re looking for is more crime fiction in your life, though, check out The Rap Sheet’s autumn reads list, which includes Exit Music, by Ian Rankin (Orion UK); Damnation Falls, by Edward Wright (Orion UK); and Blonde Faith, by Walter Mosley (Little, Brown USA).


Monday, September 10, 2007

There Once Was a Title So Mangled ...

It’s Monday again. Let’s start the week off right with a couple of delightful discoveries.

First, we learn (via Elizabeth Foxwell’s The Bunburyist) that librarian members of Fiction-L, “an electronic mailing list devoted to reader’s advisory topics,” have compiled a rather extensive rundown of book titles and authors’ names that readers frequent garble, distort, or otherwise “butcher.” Just a few of my favorites:

A Race Car Named Desire (aka A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams)
Bonfire of the Vampires (The Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe)
Eat a Cat by Post (Etiquette, by Emily Post)
Fire Hydrant 415 (Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury)
Lame Is Rob (Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo)
Oranges and Peaches (The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin)
Satan in the White House (The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson)
The Canine Mutiny (The Caine Mutiny, by Herman Wouk)
The Lovely Boner (The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold)

And, of course, the best of them all:

Satanic Nurses (The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie)

The whole list, plus some muddled recollections by patrons struggling to tell librarians what exactly it is that they’re looking to find (“That book about Hotey the donkey” [Don Quixote, by Miguel Cervantes])--can be found here.

* * *
Second, who in hell has ever heard of “The Great Limerick Craze of 1907”? Sad to say, we hadn’t, until yesterday, when Britain’s Independent on Sunday brought us this recollection:
In September 1907 a magazine called London Opinion offered a big cash prize for the reader who could come up with the best last line for the following limerick:

There was a young lady of Ryde
Whose locks were consider’bly dyed.
The hue of her hair
Made everyone stare ...
The winning submission was apparently, “‘She’s piebald, she’ll die bald!’ they cried.”

The Independent goes on to explain that the London Opinion “was only one of dozens of papers and periodicals to run such a competition.
This year marks the centenary of what became one of the greatest crazes ever to grip the British nation, as limerick fever took a hold on all social classes. The extent of the contagion was measured by a statement to the House of Commons by the postmaster-general who noted the following year that sales of sixpenny postal orders--the standard entry fee for the contests--had risen from 800,000 the year before to 11 million. Nearly six million were sold in the month of August alone.
In commemoration of that limericking ludicrousness, The Independent has decided to renew the London Opinion’s 1907 contest, asking its readers and others to compose their own “best last line” for the limerick in boldface above. (Just one caution: The paper asks that entrants “resist the temptation to submit unprintably bawdy entries.”) The Independent goes on to promise that “[a] bottle of champagne awaits the 10 best suggestions received by 16 September. E-mail your lines to competitions@ The editor’s decision is final.”

You can read The Independent’s full report here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Interview: M.J. Rose, Author of The Reincarnationist

M.J. Rose talks about her new novel, the danger-strewn path she’s taken to become a bestselling author, the definition of the word “thriller” and who, really, should be self-publishing. Or not:
So many self published authors tell me they’ve self published after being rejected by one or two agents and/or one or two publishers who have criticized the quality of their work. Said it wasn’t well written, or original or needed more work. Those are the last writers who should be self publishing. When I ask them how they know their books are ready to be published, they say because their friends love their work, or their family.

I think no one who can’t get a quality agent should publish on their own. Agents are always looking for new authors and I believe if the book can’t interest an agent, the author would be better served working on his or her craft for a while longer. I had written three horrible novels before I got an agent with a fourth novel. And then
Lip Service was my fifth.

My advice hasn’t changed for the last eight years. Self-publishing fiction is a last step. It’s only an option when you’ve tried the traditional route and rewritten the book a dozen times.
The interview is here.

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Man Booker Shortlist Announced ... and a Consolation

The shortlist for the 2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was announced at a press conference in London yesterday. When the dust cleared, six contenders were left standing:
  • Darkmans by Nicola Barker (Fourth Estate)
  • The Gathering by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (John Murray)
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape)
  • Animal’s People by Indra Sinha (Simon & Schuster)
The Guardian does a superb job of running down the final six (even if they get a little snarkey at times). Also from The Guardian:
Speaking after the event, this year’s chair of the judges, Howard Davies, admitted that choosing a shortlist from what was widely regarded as an adventurous and intriguing longlist had been tough. “We hope,” he said, “that the choices we have made after passionate and careful consideration will attract wide interest.”
Meanwhile, Michael Redhill, one of the longlisted authors, walked away with the 2007 Toronto Book Award a couple of days ago. Redhill won with what turns out to be his ironically titled novel, Consolation. It’s not a bad consolation, either. Redhill will receive about $11,000 along with one of the most prestigious book awards in Canada. And Redhill was in tough company, including the winner of the 2006 Governor General’s Award, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam. Here’s what the 2007 Toronto Book Award shortlist looked like:
  • Inside Toronto: Urban Interiors 1880s to 1920s by Sally Gibson (Cormorant Book)
  • Toronto by Geoffrey James (Douglas & McIntyre)
  • Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam (Doubleday Canada)
  • Consolation by Michael Redhill (Doubleday Canada)
  • Uptown Downtown by Raymond Souster (The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box)


L'Engle Dead at 88

One of the best loved children’s writers of all time died at home in Connecticut yesterday. Madeleine L’Engle wrote more than 60 books, but was best known for the children’s fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time, first published in 1963.

The New York Times takes an affectionate look at L’Engle’s life today:
The “St. James Guide to Children’s Writers” called Ms. L’Engle “one of the truly important writers of juvenile fiction in recent decades.” Such accolades did not come from pulling punches: “Wrinkle” is one of the most banned books because of its treatment of the deity.
The Times reported that L’Engle died of natural causes. She was 88.


Review: Delible by Anne Stone

Today, in January Magazine’s fiction section, contributing editor Cherie Thiessen reviews Delible by Anne Stone. Says Thiessen:
The subject of a missing teenager is a wrenching one. Although such a plot has a strong likelihood of being a page-turner, such a scenario is not easy to write about. How to accurately convey the agony of a parent, or the loneliness and disorientation of a doting younger sister?

The horror of the death of a child is unimaginable. Equally harrowing is the not knowing, an acute loss that is forever stalled between hope and horror. Stone’s obsession was well translated; the reader is dragged into this pain relentlessly.
The full review is here.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Review: Songs of Innocence by Richard Aleas

Today, in January Magazine’s crime fiction section, contributing editor Anthony Rainone reviews Songs of Innocence by Richard Aleas (aka Hard Case Crime’s Charles Ardai). Says Rainone:
Private investigator John Blake is suffering from an existential breakdown in Songs of Innocence, the second book in the Blake series, by author Richard Aleas. Much of his moral dilemma stems from events he suffered during his debut outing, in the Edgar and Shamus award nominated Little Girl Lost (2004). Blake doesn’t want to be a P.I. anymore (“I was a private investigator once,” he remarks early on. “But then we’ve all been things we aren’t anymore”). Yet, that’s like a Dalmatian dog saying it doesn’t want spots on its fur any longer. Somewhere along the line, his fate has been permanently cast, and Blake can’t stop himself from investigating crimes. Once more, in Songs of Innocence, personal circumstances lure Blake back into the game, and readers can only benefit, because this book provides a terrific and seductive ride.
The full review is here.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Review: Away by Amy Bloom

In January Magazine’s fiction section, contributing editor David Abrams talks about Away by Amy Bloom. Says Abrams:
Tucked into the first ten pages of Away, Amy Bloom’s new novel there is a scene of such horrific intensity, reading it you feel as if your eyes have been splashed with lye. For the rest of this epic, sprawling novel, those few gore-soaked pages will dominate your consciousness.

And that’s just the way it should be, since that scene is the most pivotal one in young Lillian Leyb’s life. Her entire family has just been wiped out during the Russian pogrom, butchered right before her eyes as she feigned death.
The full review is here.

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Review: This Year Your Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

Today, in January Magazine’s art & culture section, a review of This Year Your Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley.
If you or someone you know wants to write a novel -- really wants to write a novel -- I’m fairly certain that this book will help them get there. “I don’t promise a masterpiece,” Mosley warns in his introduction, “just a durable first novel of a certain length,” and later in the introduction he underlines this point. “I can’t promise you worldly success, but I can say that if you follow the path I lay out here, you will experience the personal satisfaction of having written a novel. And from that point, anything is possible.”
The full review is here.

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