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.