A tale of two bookshops

Sam_read Sam_read_2 Sam Read of Grasmere in the Lake District (north-west England) is the Times readers’  favourite independent bookshop. A feature in the 26 January Bookseller describes the business as 90 per cent tourists with a small core of loyal local customers. The shop has been in Grasmere since 1887. Books on building dry stone walls, books by or on Arthur Ransome and Beatrix Potter, Wordsworth and other lake poets, as well as maps and mountain books all have a high and regular turnover.  The article concludes "Other than a 5 % discount for locals, Nelson [the bookseller] doesn’t compete on price, and sees no reason to. ‘When I see paperbacks in Asda for £3.73 I wonder how I’ll sell any — but I do’ ", Elaine Nelson is quoted as stating.

Elsewhere in the same issue of the Bookseller is a column about Wicked Wendi Store Ltd, which started life on Amazon in 2005 when Wendy Allman was ill and couldn’t work.  Wendy had a lot of books at the time and thought she would "get rid of a few". Before long she was visiting charity shops to find titles and was regularly selling 25 books a day on the Amazone marketplace. The store now has 1.5 million listings on Amazon (UK site) and sells an average of 1,000 to 1,500 a day, across all genres — almost all sales through Amazon. Although the recent postal price increases have decreased the profit margin, Wendy is quoted as saying that the well-organised Amazon system beats selling on eBay, where posting is said to be a "really messy business" and where the customers can be "weird". Wicked Wendi Store aims eventually to sell commission-free through its own website, "but we will always sell through Amazon" says Wendy.

So, there are two more jobs for which I’m going to apply in my alternative universe (the first two are librarian and bus driver).

Nuts in May

A look forward to some paperbacks due for May publication in the UK. Squirrel them away in your Amazon basket if you want an insurance policy against future reading drought.  Source, quotes and grammar are from the Bookseller.

Relentless by Simon Kernick. "No longer ‘one to watch’ as he has now risen and produced this ‘breakthrough’ thriller. Terrific."

Bad Debts by Peter Temple. "Brilliant….Introducing a complex Don Quixote-style character with a love of horses and carpentry. Great fun." (First of the Jack Irish series.)

Borkmann’s Point by Hakan Nesser. "A really different, thoroughly enjoyable Swedish first UK novel but written in 1994 so presumably there are lots more to come. My reader was most impressed, a "thinking" whodunit, not action-led, but a slow moving yet totally gripping tale."

The Shadow Walker by Michael Walters. Introducing Inspector Nergui of the Mongolian Serious Crime Squad — fascinating background to a very male, race-against-time thriller."

A Thousand Suns by Alex Scarrow. "A dual-time, present day/Second World War, first novel of wartime secrets and the attempt to protect America from exposure. Dramatic and different. Good one."

The Second Horseman by Kyle Mills. "…a career thief, framed and imprisoned, turns FBI pawn to steal $250 million to buy warheads (fake?) from the Ukraine. My reader loves him."

Prayers for the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno. "In only 35 years’ time America will be an Islamic republic" A frightening, Orwellian notion."

Sunstroke by Jesse Kellerman. "It’s fast-paced, drug-related, edge-of-the-seat stuff, apparently."

Made in Heaven by Adele Geras. "A novel that revolves around the preparations for a perfect wedding with the inevitable infighting. She is very good on family conflict."

The Year of Henry James by David Lodge. "…his musings on discovering others were writing about his subject, and then winning the Booker! A comic, yet ultimately sad, work."

Shame by Karin Altvegen. "A psychological thriller in Ruth Rendell vein from an acclaimed Scandinavian author."

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory.  "One of her best, enhanced by being in three narratives;  Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and the dreadful Jane Boleyn."

Digging to America by Anne Tyler. "A story of two very different families adopting Korean babies. Superb."

The Broken Souls by Jack Kerley. "…another Carson Ryder psychological serial killer thriller."

The Missing by Chris Mooney. "Penguin’s commercial lead crime blockbuster for 2007, I’m told. Based in Boston."

There are lots of others, including titles by major sellers James Herbert, Martina Cole, Chris Ryan, Alexander McCall Smith, Monica Ali, Michael Dobbs and Alan Titchmarsh. But the ones I have highlighted are the ones I’d read, in an ideal world. What is one to do?

OUP goes to the crime movies

I recently discovered various university press blogs, and have been following one of them, the Oxford University Press blog. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when today I discover that it runs a monthly crime film round-up. This month, the film reviewed is  The Departed . I presume crime films are a personal sideline of the OUP official blogger(s), and not strictly "core" to a university press business.

I am allergic to Martin Scorsese, whose latest outing is reviewed this month at the link above, but previous films reviewed have included the very good "A history of violence" (disclaimer: anything connected with Mr V. Mortensen gets a minimum "very good" rating on this blog, even when he’s beardless, as in this particular case), and the intriguing-seeming "Babel", recently opened in the UK. As well as stand-alone reviews, there are thematic entries as well. Worth checking out.

An archive of the OUP crime-film column is at this link.

Persons of suntan

Link: Language Log: Not objectionable.

Geoff Pullum of Language Log takes issue with someone who has cited him as saying the phrase "person of color" is objectionable. He did not say that, writes Prof Pullum, he said that the phrase is correct grammatically. However, he hates it and would not use it, any more than he would use the phrase "persons of suntan" for people who had been on the beach all day.

"That’s what the worst of the grammar grumblers and usage whiners consistently fail to see: that their personal dislike of (say) split infinitives does not determine automatically that split infinitives are incorrect in Standard English. Your dislike of split infinitives might instead simply mean that you hate them: they might be (and in fact are) fully grammatical at all stages of the history of English, and often recommended as the best choice on style grounds, and sometimes obligatory if you don’t want to completely rephrase, and you still might hate them. In that case, don’t use them. End of point."

Robert Crais’s The Watchman

Link: BrothersJudd.com – Review of Robert Crais’s The Watchman: A Joe Pike Novel.

Spring reading

Some books that will be published in the USA over the next few months, via Publishers (sic) Weekly:

Nerve Damage by Peter Abrahams (March).  Described as a gripping suspense novel with first-rate action and suspense, "but fans may find fewer insights into human nature than in such brilliant earlier books as Oblivion and End of Story".

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (March). "Though Black makes an occasional American cultural blooper, he keeps divulging surprises to the last page so that the reader is simultaneously shocked and satisfied."

Cover Girl Confidential by Beverly Bartlett (March).  …"witty and irreverent, with a keen sense of what makes American pop culture simultaneously attractive and ridiculous".

Looking Good Dead by Peter James (March).  "The rapid-fire suspense builds to a terrifying, graphic conclusion that leaves tantalising room for future installments in the series".  (Reviewed on Eurocrime website.)

Glass Houses by Jane Haddam (April). A baffling serial murder case in Philadelphia "effortlessly melded" with the latest developments in the romance between her FBI profiler hero and his longtime lover, "the author deserves plaudits for making the long and complex Gregor-Bennis relationship accessible to first-time readers".

Lots more to choose from in the 15 January issue of Publishers Weekly.

Personal intergrity doesn’t wash with the Bible folk

Link: Harry Potter case – myth vs. truth « Librarian’s place.

If my mood wasn’t bad enough after receiving that unwelcome email from Amazon (see previous post), Dave Lull has sent me a link to one of the silliest, most wrong-headed and obtuse articles I’ve read in a long while. (See Librarian’s Place post at link above.) So the "ban Harry Potter movement" is not trying to ban the books from bookshops or libraries, just from the school classroom. Oh, that’s OK then.

We are not amused

Amazon has joined the (soft) p*** brigade. I was not impressed to receive this email from them today (from which I have removed the product links):

Dear Amazon.co.uk Customer,

Valentines Day is nearly here, and as a previous sex and sensuality or erotica customer, we thought that you might like to know about our more adventurous gifts for Valentines Day…treat the one you love…or even yourself or browse the rest of the Sex and Sensuality range in our online store.

Order today and start saving:
++ Adult Toys
++ Adult Sex Games
++ Erotic DVD
++ Up to 40% Off Erotica Books

Happy shopping
Brian McBride
Managing Director

I wouldn’t complain if I was in fact "a previous sex and sensuality or erotica customer", but I am not.  Just as well I am not a sensitive little old lady or a Church of England vicar, though. 

Goodbye Clockwork Orange estate

The last 200 or so houses on the Tavy Bridge estate in Thamesmead, south-east London, are being demolished. The estate is famous (or according to the Times, infamous) for being the backdrop for Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film "A Clockwork Orange" — you remember the scene where Alex and his droogs beat up the tramp? That’s the place. Again according to the Times, "some locals think that the film’s depiction of youth disorder tainted the area’s reputation". The houses are being demolished, it is said, as part of a regeneration project. (I’ve lived and worked in one of those for almost 25 years and it isn’t by any means finished yet.)

Agoraphobic Caveman

Link: The Dilbert Blog: Agoraphobic Caveman.

If you are Scott’s friend, you’ll either ignore him or tell him a lie in his comments (see the post at the link above for enlightenment). I think Scott Adams puts very well the dilemma of many a modern person — not just the football fan who can’t stay up late enough to watch the ludicrously protracted Match of the Day Featuring Every Premiership Match in the League to Maximise Sponsorship Revenue, and so has to go around with noise-reduction headphones on until there is a window to watch the replay, but also the average multitasker, who does not, of course, have time to actually watch TV at all. There are those of us walking around who are several series behind in 24, and a series behind in other cases (eg Desperate Housewives – Desperately Absent Viewer, I call it).

I am so bad on the time management front that I’ve even had to outsource the recording process to my daughters. By the time I get around to watching all our taped programmes, the technology will be obsolete. Looking on the bright side, I’ll be so old that my memory will have completely vanished, so I won’t know if I ever did accidentally find out that crucial plot twist before I saw the episode in question.