Monday, September 29, 2008


England has been basking in sunshine, so I've snatched some hours the past couple of weekends to read in the garden. I've found my book of the year - The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa. And if you're quick, you can find the hardback overstocks on sale at Dada in Chiswick High Road, opposite the green...and there are lots of other good fiction titles there. The non fiction is definitely at the laddish end of the market - unsurprisingly our household has most of them already due to my husband's serious book buying habit. Not to mention his CD habit with 6 parcels from amazon arriving here some weeks.....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Veritable Hurricane of a Review

Today you can find a blistering review of Banquet of Lies over at Vulpes Libris, by a celebrity no less: Jay Benedict.

It's a fine example of a reader taking a book on its own terms and getting swept away, 'ask not what a book can do for you...' indeed.

There have also been reviews in The Independent and the Daily Mail for DIY: the rise of Lo-Fi Culture by Amy Spencer. The Daily Mail one doesn't seem to be on the website but it said good things like 'entertaining and informative.'

Which is exactly what we try to do.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Old long tail and new gadgets

Yesterday I printed out a submission and read it - I was really keen to see it as I have known this book was coming for over two years. Now, I could have read it on my computer screen, which is a large, matt Apple G5 screen, perfect for, well anything, like writing this blog on. However, I couldn't face two hours reading from a screen. It is just the case that screens reflect light and are tiring on the eyes.

A few days ago I read that Jan Dalley, literary editor of the Financial Times, likes the Sony Reader. She is influential, and I began to worry, a lot.

Today, I am not worrying, because I bet she has picked up and read more books since her experiment with the electronic gadget.

We are currently looking for front list - including comedy plays. But at the same time, I know front list is a huge risk. We've been lucky in so many cases - but many months, it is our backlist that pays the salaries - a sprinkling of sales over 200 titles. Some are doing well just now - Last Exit to Brooklyn is in a banned books promotion at Borders, which is a huge help, and Borders are also promoting The Concubine of Shanghai, as are Waterstone's. But lots of front list does not get picked by the large retailers, and we can work as hard as we like gaining publicity, if they think a book is not going to sell, it does not get a chance. I do feel for the buyers - they have so many books to choose from, and they have to use gut feeling, just as I do. But the thrill when publicity and sales come together, as well as loving working on books, means we do more risky things than anyone with any sense should. Sadomasochism for Accountants with your Kindle, Sir? That'll do nicely.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Attention span?

I've seen two dramas on the box recently, both with high profile, excellent actors, and both of which received damning reviews from the main TV critics. I found the first engrossing and memorable, and worth sitting still for over an hour to see to the end, and the second surprising in the reaction it produced and not as heavy or dark - a story made for a Sunday evening audience who like something to ponder while they wind down before the new week.

The first was a David Hare play with Uma Thurman and Jonathan Price. and Paddy Consadine. When I looked in The Guardian the following morning, I saw that Lucy Mangan had written a damning review, saying how bored she was. I felt like telling her to spend the rest of her life reading her beloved Enid Blyton.

The next play was on last night, with Gina McKee, Fiona's Story. This was a very clever play about a husband who has been looking at child pornography online, and is in line for a trial. When he tells his wife, she has to lie to social services in order to keep their family together, despite the fact that their sex life has been non existent for many years. Her disapproval, fear and lack of trust make the audience start rooting for the sad man who looks at the bodies of children in order to light some kind of a sexual reaction in his body, when all else has failed. His children also blame Mummy for being unkind to Daddy, and they want to stay overnight with him.

So, why the lack of appreciation by the Telly Critics? I think they are just young and have been seduced by the ease of obtaining entertainment. The internet is quick, and drama with only a few actors is slow and demands attention. Kathryn Flett did become engrossed in My Zinc Bed, and good for her. Michael Hann in The Guardian called Fiona's Story 'middle-class misery' and thought it was too dark to tell who Fiona had her affair with (utter bollocks, I am afraid).

The other thing that continues to perplex me, is how and where in the heavenly spheres of those who make the decisions about what gets televised and adapted for the small screen, is it decided that child pornography is suddenly OK. I have spent a good deal of this year banging my head against a brick wall trying to get people to read Feather Man. The main story in Rhyll
Mc Master's novel is about the VICTIM, Sooky, of child abuse which does not result in consumation, but is nevertheless damaging. The book is the story of her trying to stop being a victim. In Fiona's Story, we are drawn into feeling sympathy for someone who has admitted enjoying looking at naked children - surely as bad as someone who has interfered with one. Yet, one story gets broadcast to the nation with some excellent acting, and the other gets a chorus of - oh no, it's too dreadful, we cannot read on. Which leaves me completely at sea.

Maybe I should just publish Enid Blyton.....