Daniel Craig on a tea towel

Go here if you want a Daniel Craig tea towel: Alpha Mummy – Times Online – WBLG.

Well, actually, don’t. Although you can have a look at said tea towel by going to Caitlin Moran’s Times blog entry above, her link to the place for ordering it doesn’t work. Probably, by now, someone has provided the correct link in the comments. But before you get too excited at the prospect of Daniel on a tea towel, it is just words, no images — although I am a words rather than an images person, I would make an exception for DC on a tea towel — to me these particular ones lack the charm of the personification.

Caitlin Moran’s blog post is mildly amusing in another way — yet another one of those posts in which the blogger mentions someone’s inability to spell while themselves not spelling correctly.

To return to Daniel, I am sure he will make a good Lord Asriel, but honestly, it is a part made for Viggo. Definitely a missed opportunity there. I’ll forgive whoever made that decision, though, as Nicole Kidman is inspired casting for Mrs Coulter. (Viggo M and Nicole K have appeared together, in the film of a Henry James novel, Portrait of a Lady. Bit different from Northern Lights or, as we must learn to call it, The Golden Compass.)

Web metrics in the Economist

Web metrics | Many ways to skin a cat | Economist.com.

The Economist this week (above) gets to grips with the puzzling world of web visitors, page views, download stats, "time spent", and what they all mean for the curious publisher, blogger or author in terms of how many people are reading their output. The piece gets it right to my knowledge — for example a "hit" is a less useful statistic than a "page view" because the former measures every graphic on a page as a separate visit. However, page views themselves, as well as session-length metrics, have their own problems, as outlined in the Economist article. And don’t forget the stories of the hard-to-navigate websites that pride themsleves on the length of time visitors stay — while all the time the visitors are desperately looking everywhere, not being able to find the information they need.

One thing is for sure: only believe a publication’s visitor statistics claims if the statistics are independently verified — for example "Counter compliant". (Here is some information about Counter.)

Sunday salon: Picador blog

I’ve been following with interest the relatively new Picador blog, which rapidly distinguished itself in my eyes from all the very many litblogs, and indeed the very many publishers’ litblogs, by being a lively, conversational place about the wider world of books, bookselling, commuterdom and above all, reading, from an eclectic mix of contributors. I fell into conversation, as one does, with Jenny Geras, who runs the blog, and she very kindly agreed to consider a submission from me on the subject of our Sunday Salon. I hope that the post might encourage a few new members to join this stimulating yet leisurely (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms) discussion group.

I do recommend checking out the Picador blog: the posts are varied yet pertinent. Here is Jenny Geras of Picador on books that made her cry (one of her list had that effect on me, but so did many others — I cry very easily when I read). Here’s Ed Woods of Waterstone’s Books Quarterly asking where all the good contemporary war novels have gone. A post I particularly like is one by Jonathan Ruppin (who works at Foyles and writes the "paperback preview" report for the Bookseller) on the best books to read while travelling on the Underground (or any form of public transport, I guess). There are lots of comments to these posts, and to others, creating a real conversation on topics both highbrow and lowbrow (their definitions!). This blog really has a bit of a knack for what we book fans like to chat about, it is nicely designed and a friendly air. Oh, and it also features great publishing questions of today, such as what we all think of the widely reported decision by Picador to forego the hardback format for some of its books.

(Disclaimer: Picador books is a division of Macmillan. In my day job, I work for Nature Publishing Group, which is also owned by Macmillan.)

Bloggers’ brunch at Profile books

Have you ever heard of a bloggers’ brunch? I hadn’t, until I went to one today, courtesy of Benjamin Usher of Profile books (the hosts) and Karen Meek of Euro Crime (the putative guest, who could not attend, so I was very generously allowed to attend in her place, as Euro Crime’s roving reporter).

As well as Andrew and his colleagues at Profile books, we also met the impressive Rebecca of Short Books, which is entering the fiction sphere for the first time, and the phenomenally experienced Peter of Serpent’s Tail (a firm mainly known to me as publisher of Jenny Davidson’s book Heredity, but a quick glimpse of the catalogue showed me that Adrian McKinty is one of their current authors, which allowed me to knowledgeably throw in to the mix the name of Declan Burke). These publishers were keen to hear from the bloggers about their experiences of books and reading on the Internet. I was delighted to learn from Clare and Irene about bookgroup.info, an independent aggregate site for book groups in the UK, and to meet Mary Beard, who as well as being a classics professor at Cambridge, writes for the TLS and blogs for them (A Don’s Life, a regular source of interest to Jenny concerning matters Latin, Greek and otherwise ancient). Other guests included the rushed, on-deadline editor from Pulp.net, "the home of new fiction", whose name I failed to catch, and Stephen of This Space, whose blog I know well and with whom I’ve had several pleasant online interactions.

We all spoke about our own sites and experiences as book publishers, readers and reviewers. Several of us either wore or came away with T shirts for White Bicycles, an autobiography of a music person called Joe Boyd, of whom I’d previously never heard. (As usual, I was by far the uncoolest person there, but this is a role in which I am very comfortable).

When it was my turn to speak, I spoke about the wonderful Euro Crime resource, for which I am privileged to review; and about Petrona, which receives orders of magnitudes less traffic than everyone else present but that isn’t why I like her. People were impressed that not only do I know Frank Wilson, evidently a highly respected and popular figure, but that I’ve reviewed books for his publication, the Philadelphia Inquirer. I had a pleasant talk with Pete of Serpent’s Tail about Euro Crime (upper and lower case) and as a result came away with a pile of books for the bus journey back to Kings Cross and ultimately to Petrona Towers, including several by Manuel Vazquez Montalaban, whom Pete tells me was the inspiration for the name of Andrea Camilleri’s main character. (Thank you to Norm of Crime Scraps for introducing me to Camilleri and enabling me to maintain a little bit of street cred at this illustrious gathering.)

I could write on, but time is, as ever, short. I am now proud owner of three catalogues of wonderful-looking books, an Alan Bennett tea towel, a white bicycles T shirt, and some very tempting additions to my reading pile, as well as two new-to-me websites to explore. The brunch was a lovely initiative and I enjoyed it tremendously. I am horribly conscious now of how little I know about crime and literary fiction compared with everyone else, and how much there remains to read.

Sunday Salon: Eurocrime reviews


Unable to relax in any salons today, I can instead refer you to the excellent Euro Crime: New Reviews for this weekend. Two books that I’ve reviewed and are posted today are The Accident Man by "Tom Cain", which featured on Sunday Salon the other week while I was reading it; and Excursion to Tindari, part of the sublime series by Andrea Camilleri. Other books are reviewed at the Euro Crime link, and there are many, many more on the Euro Crime website.

Kindle fatigue

If I see one more blog post about Kindle, Amazon’s ebook reader in case you hadn’t noticed, I am going to go quietly even more insane. Back in September, I thought Kindle sounded mildly interesting. Now it is on sale, and everyone is either trying it out or expressing an opinion on it (or both). One wave of reviews and comments was rounded up at OUP blog: from the OUP link you can go to articles in Engadget, New York Times, Wall St Journal, Seth Goldin, Telegraph, Switched, Publisher’s Weekly, Errata, Newsweek and Bookseller. If that isn’t enough, you can find more comments at the following locations: Joe Wikert (Wiley), Dave’s Fiction Warehouse (puncturer of pomposity); Booksellers Association (which is different from the Bookseller post via OUP blog); Book Depository; Guardian; Joe Wikert again (on pricing this time); Info NeoGnostic; Content Matters; and last but most definitely not least, Debra Hamel at the Deblog (who wrote the first article that I saw after launch: well done, Debra!).

But, enough already. Uncle!

Reviews of Beowulf

I have read several positive reviews of the new Gollum-style (motion-capture) film of Beowulf, and Crime Scraps liked the movie if not the cinema. Although I enjoyed the TLS review, by Carolyne Larrington, who writes that "Zemeckis’s Beowulf is in touch with critical debate about the poem" and also reviews a new translation, by Dick Ringer, in my opinion Henry Gee’s review of the film (on a "mere blog") is transcendental. Please do read it.

Herny re-read the poem before he saw the film (he makes that account a story in itself), then he summarises the story in his inimitable style, and continues:

"What the film does is very clever: it assumes that the poem that has come down to us is a bowdlerized propaganda version (which it assuredly is, having been through several scribal hands since its original composition) – and proceeds to tell us what really happened. In so doing the script exploits all sorts of odd foibles in the text, showing that Gaiman and Avary well those passions read, stamped on those lifeless things."

And there is lots more, Angelina, Keats, Tolkien (coming to a different view than the TLS on that last gentleman): just read it. Lovely.

All I have to do now is to decide whether I can face the hideous Odeon multiplex fleecing operation so soon after last week’s disappointing Elizabeth (only half the required number of beards), or if I can wait until the DVD.

Blogs move into the mainstream

The Copyright Clearance Center announced this week that it is adding blogs to its extensive database of licensable content. CCC will license about 1,000 blogs on business, technology, finance, healthcare, the law and other topics from Newstex, which delivers real-time news and commentary from thousands of newswires, newspapers, magazines, financial and business sources, official government feeds and blogs. The blogs that are part of this agreement will, via Newstex, receive royalty revenue from users of their work.
From the CCC release:

"Blogs have become critical sources of information for CCC’s customers—those decision makers who need to share up-to-date news and insights with colleagues, customers and business partners," said Bill Burger, CCC’s Vice President of Marketing. "Now we’re making it easy for them to use blog content in a host of uses beyond simple linking."

Grand challenges in diseases

In a free-access article in today’s Nature, "Grand challenges in chronic non-communicable diseases" a group of the great and the good in medical and clinical sphere (the Grand Challenges Global Partnership) outline their top 20 policy and research priorities for conditions such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease, that account for about 60 per cent of deaths worldwide, and affect people of all ages, nationalities and social classes. The authors write that the challenges they describe are "intended to reduce the global epidemic of these diseases by making the case for worldwide debate, support and funding, and by guiding policy and research in an evidence-based manner" to galvanize the health, science and public-policy communities into action.

The 20 challenges themselves are outlined in this table, grouped into ways in which to raise public awareness; to strengthen legislation and policies; to modify risk factors; to engage businesses and communities; to reduce health impacts of poverty and urbanization; and to "reorientate" health systems.

Declan Burke in the frame

SONS OF SPADE ( a new blog to me: it is for "spotlighting the fictional PI" and is run by J V D Steen) is featuring a Q&A with the writer for whom Petrona’s flinty heart has a definite soft spot — Declan Burke, author of Eightball Boogie and The Big O. No stranger to wielding the rubber truncheon on his own blog, Crime Always Pays, Declan has left the station to subject himself to the harsh lights of external interrogation. Here’s a sample:

Q. Who do you think will influence the coming generation and in what way?

A. I think Ken Bruen will exert a massive influence on the next generation of PI writers. His Jack Taylor series is genuinely breaking new ground, given that it’s a post-modern appraisal of the notion of the PI and the PI novel – Bruen has gone beyond the conventional three-act investigation of a crime, gone beyond the protagonist as a righter of wrongs, a man or woman who uncovers dirty deeds and precipitates a satisfactory resolution. In Taylor’s world, everyone is equally culpable, and Bruen has inverted the focus of his PI’s gaze so that it’s himself he’s investigating, his morality, the part that he plays in creating the kind of world where good, bad and indifferent all jostle for pre-eminence.

See more at Sons of Spade— there’s lots of other reading matter there, too.