Answerable and unanswerable questions

Some questions, some answers: some obvious, some mad, some interesting — from the web this week.

When will Flickr let you upload videos? Bit obvious, you might think in the YouTube era. They've been talking about it for ages — but when will it happen? Next week, maybe? (via Video Voo)

When can you listen to Mark Thwaite of the Book Depository talking about book blogging on the radio? Earlier today is the answer, but thanks to BBC Radio 4's "listen again" feature you can catch up with the programme for the next few days.

What is going to make "blooks" and e-readers such as Kindle redundant? Podiobooks, according to Molly Flatt at the Guardian Unlimited. Unless we are talking Harry Potter or exam revision, not at Petrona Towers, however.

Why is bookselling on the UK High St "flat"?(Bookseller news) Lots of answers to this one, but to pick one, how about ringing the changes on the offers? Borders, Waterstones, WH Smith, and smaller chains such as British Bookshops, all have exactly the same 2 for 1 or 3 for 2 or whatever, offers. Why can't some of these chains have different books on offer? Central control and publisher deals are the reason, I am sure — but a bit of nose cutting off to spite face is going on here, especially as more of these shops are installing cafes and otherwise encouraging long stays by customers (not only inadvertently at T5). If each bookshop was more autonomous, it could be more flexible about offers, and – er – sell more books.

Oh well, back to more realistic questions. Would you accept a dinner invitation with Socrates? No thanks, says Mary Beard. Find out why at her posting at A Don's Life.

Finally, when do too many Cooks spoil the broth? When they are called Gray, or Gary, or Gary J, as PrairieMary found out when writing about that estimable genre, Montana Noir (see also yesterday's Petrona post and comment).

Books suffer from T5 fallout

Passengers and would-be passengers were not the only people to suffer in the chaos that is Heathrow Terminal 5, it seems. According to the Bookseller news, "Hughes & Hughes' two new branches at Heathrow Terminal Five have experienced a shaky start to trading after the problematic opening of the airport's fifth terminal. Sales were down 70% on budget, after dozens of flights had to be cancelled owing to a combination of security, staffing and IT problems." Not only is the lack of passengers affecting the number of potential sales, but the shops are having to process credit-card transactions manually. "Around 70% of the concessions don't have the lines for using credit cards," one of the bookshops' assistant managers said. "BAA has been saying it's our machines but the company that provides them say they are fine. Everyone is blaming each other and we're caught in the middle.Considering the shops that are here it's quite funny that people are having to use these stone age machines to pay for something from Gucci."
If I were stranded at an airport for many hours with no flight, I'd head straight to the nearest bookshop (assuming I'd finished the two books — one current and one next — that I invariably carry about my person). But admittedly I might not be prepared to stand waiting in yet another queue to be able to buy anything. I suppose the obvious option faced with all of this is to move to the bar instead and order a stiff drink – paid for in cash.

Sunday Salon: this week at Euro Crime

Sunday SalonLate-breaking news: the weekly reviews are up on Euro Crime and Jo Nesbo's Nemesis (see previous post) is one of them. Fiona Walker is Euro Crime's reviewer. Her view? "….as thrilling and gripping as his previous books would lead you to hope. Harry may be your stereotypical alcoholic cop, but he still manages to feel completely original and as engaging as this kind of protagonist is able to be, which is rare, given that the genre is as saturated with them, as their blood is with alcohol."

The other reviews at Euro Crime this week include mine of two books: Martin Edwards's The Cipher Garden, a cleverly written mystery involving a small set of suspects; and Nicci French's Losing You, which I call an unbearably tense book with an overwhelmingly exciting plot. No special effects needed, either. Geoff Jones reviews Natasha Cooper's latest, A Poisoned Mind, a good story tackling social issues, although the main character seems to be somewhat beset by wimps. Ed O'Connor's Primal Cut, a slice of violent London crime, is in Sunnie Gill's frame:not a book for the faint-hearted, apparently. And Euro Crime herself, Karen Meek, reviews The Chameleon's Shadow by Minette Walters, described as a gripping read by a master story-teller.

There's a nice new feature at Euro Crime: at the end of each review are links to details of the author's other books, and to other Euro Crime reviews.


Sunday Salon: Norwegian, Australian and Montana noir

Sunday SalonAre there any book readers and reviewers out there in the blogosphere that aren't in Sunday Salon? 😉 Yes, I see from my online reading, one or two. I'll highlight a few blog posts of possible interest to salonists.
Here is another review of Jo Nesbo's latest, Nemesis, this one at Material Witness. "This is another assured, skillful book from Nesbo, who has a gift for narrative as strong as that for dialogue, and is fast establishing himself in the very top tier of European crime novelists." (For some more Nesbo discussion, see International Noir Fiction.)
Peter Rozovsky, familiar to crime-fiction readers as the Detective Beyond Borders, reviews Adrian Hyland's Moonlight Downs for the Philadelphia Inquirer. When I read the book it was called Diamond Dove, and I couldn't agree more with the standfirst of Peter's review: "Adrian Hyland's debut novel explores lovely and forsaken terrains of land and soul."
PrairieMary writes a fascinating post about Montana Noir — the post itself is an open letter to an author of the genre, Gary J Cook, but it also lists some examples, one of which is Red Harvest, by the master himself, Dashiell Hammett. It's enough to make me want to go and read it again. Returning to Gary J Cook, here is PrairieMary on one of his books, Wounded Moon: "it was a good thriller besides — all the best heroes get martyred. All the best lovers escape having to live happily ever after, washing the dishes and fixing the car. And there was a dog named "History." "

That Amazon decision

There are lots of posts, comments and discussion everywhere about Amazon's recent decision only to sell print-on-demand books if the printer used is Amazon's own Booksurge. Perhaps the best analysis I've read so far is this one on O'Reilly Radar, a post which has the added benefit of, at the end, a set of links to other coverage at Publishers Weekly, Library Thing, Booksquare et al. Whatever one might think of the business decision, it seems to signal the end of Amazon as a collaborative network of partners (buyers as well as sellers), and the start of Amazon as a traditional business, competing with publishers and competing for readers. As a consumer, I preferred the old "we can join them we don't need to beat them" approach. Now I have to go to more sites to find what's available and hence I want, instead of being able to compare everything on Amazon. (Maybe everything wasn't in fact on Amazon before, but I thought it pretty much was, apart from the odd obscure out-of-print book. That "user faith" is something the site has now lost, in my mind.)

Lifestyle of a successful author

Author Brian McGilloway has won all kinds of awards and plaudits for his debut novel, Borderlands — among others, it was the (tied) consensus favourite read for 2007 among Euro Crime's reviewers. His second novel, Gallows Lane (no apostrophe), is published this week and looks set to equal the success of his first (take it from me, I've read it). But can he afford to rest on his laurels? Not according to an interview on the Macmillan new writers' blog:

"What is your typical writing day?
My typical writing day starts usually around 8.30 pm. I work full time in Derry which means I leave the house at eight in the morning and get home after five most days. Having a young family, little is done about the house until after the children go to bed around eight. Then, a mug of tea, a quick check of e-mails and I get started. I write for an hour or two per day for the months during which I’m actually writing. I aim to write 1000 words per day, though frequently I manage 2500, and sometimes I struggle to make 250. I tend to write most during the summer holidays, generally late at night."

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Legs, pygmy love queen and cheese

Via the news:

If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs was crowned the winner of the Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year, after a record-breaking 8,500 votes (33%) online…..The runner-up is I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen (20%) and in 3rd place is Cheese Problems Solved (19%).

If this kind of thing is your cup of tea, you'll be pleased to know (via the same link) that Aurum Press is to publish a book celebrating 30 years of The Bookseller's Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, a small-format hardback gift book, How to Avoid Huge Ships and Other Implausibly Titled Books, out in September." It will feature the original jackets of the best winners and runners-up since the prize was launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1978". All for a mere £9.99.

Frank conversation with Frank Wilson

If you are in the Philadelphia area on 11 April, you are welcome to drop in for a date with Frank Wilson, the "(recently retired and much admired) book review editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and (not retired at all but much admired) proprietor of Books, Inq". The "Frank conversation with Frank" is being hosted by Scott Stein, author of Mean Martin Manning, among other books, and is at 2 pm local time, Paul Peck Center, 3142 Market St, Drexel University, Philadelphia. According to Scott, topics to be covered could include:

—Book reviewing (maybe including how books get chosen, what writers and publishers do to guarantee that they will not be reviewed, how one gets to write reviews, what pressures a book review editor faces, what makes a book reviewer good)
—The Philadelphia Inquirer (including why Frank left)
—Declining space devoted to book reviews in newspapers across the country and the future of book reviewing
—Trends in book publishing and writing
—The state of journalism
—Blogging and how blogging intersects with any and all of the above (including what some see as the conflict between professional book reviewers and lit. bloggers and between professional reporters and news bloggers).

It sounds such fun, I really wish I could be there.

Seeing the light, in print

Even though it is seven pages long, I recommend reading this article: The News Business: Out of Print: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker.
(A printable version of the whole thing can be downloaded here.)

"Since 1990, a quarter of all American newspaper jobs have disappeared. The columnist Molly Ivins complained, shortly before her death, that the newspaper companies’ solution to their problem was to make “our product smaller and less helpful and less interesting.” That may help explain why the dwindling number of Americans who buy and read a daily paper are spending less time with it; the average is down to less than fifteen hours a month. Only nineteen per cent of Americans between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four claim even to look at a daily newspaper. The average age of the American newspaper reader is fifty-five and rising."

Yet: "we need to consider what will become of those people, both at home and abroad, who depend on such journalistic enterprises to keep them safe from various forms of torture, oppression, and injustice. “People do awful things to each other,” the veteran war photographer George Guthrie says in “Night and Day,” Tom Stoppard’s 1978 play about foreign correspondents. “But it’s worse in places where everybody is kept in the dark.” "

Reading notes, reviews and interviews

Via Crime Down Under, some reading notes on Sidney Bauer, author of Alibi and two other legal thrillers, which don’t seem readily available in the UK, sadly. (I discovered a similar problem while looking for books by Gabrielle Lord.)

International Noir Fiction revisits Jo Nesbo, with a question about whether series character Harry Hole is more "real" (has a more complete internal life) than other Scandinavian fictional detectives.

It’s a Crime is on a roll just now, with an excellent review of Ritual by Mo Hayder , and the news that The Book Show from SkyArts is now on YouTube, currently featuring an interview with the aforementioned Mo Hayder. There is also a great two-part (part 1 here and part 2 here) report of Ian Rankin’s recent visit to Cardiff University, on what happens next when you’ve finished with Rebus and other crucial matters.

The Gentle Axe by R. N. Morris is reviewed at Revish by "3Rs", who writes "modern historical classic, you’ll have to read it to believe it". Reading Matters features The Ghost by Robert Harris, and Crime Scene NI is blown away by Sam Millar’s Bloodstorm. The same blog is running an interview with Brian McGilloway, author of the superb Borderlands and its recent sequel, Gallow’s Lane.

Table Talk discusses the excellent, award-winning Broken Shore by Peter Temple as part of the Awards Project, which is a lovely initiative. And World Enough in Time reviews The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly and Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, in a post for last Sunday’s salon.

Detectives Beyond Borders features an excellent two-part interview (part 1 here and part 2 here) with Mike Mitchell, Friedrich Glauser’s translator. Meanwhile, Random Jottings discovers the delights of Agatha Raisin (as yet unsampled by Petrona).

Finally, a strange one: M. J. Rose pitches to J. K. Rowling to repackage the Harry Potter books as graphic novels. "Sure, millions of people bought the Potter books, but that’s only a fraction of the population. I know you don’t need the money.  It’s not about that.  My plea to you is that you allow more kids to see how fantastic Harry’s world is in the full-color setting of a graphic novel. Ms. Rowling, the American publishing world is waiting breathlessly for Dan Brown’s next book.  I think they would go absolutely insane over a graphic novel telling of Harry Potter." And so it goes on, with Oprah thrown into the mix.