Sunday Salon: brutal blogging and biography

Sunday Salon Quite an amusing little spat about the role of blogging and book reviewing has been going on in this past week.  In a post on the Picador blog, Patrick French, author of a new "warts and all" biography of V. S. Naipaul, writes "I don’t like blogs. Bloggers are bores; bores are bloggers. Have you ever read an interesting blog post? Neither have I." He appears to have lowered himself to write the post in order to promote his book, which he duly "talks up" – you can read that, if you care to, by visiting the Picador link. Mr French abruptly switches from this eulogy to his own efforts as a guest blogger in a final paragraph:

"Since this is a blog, I had better break the tendency of a lifetime and write something random and personal. I have flu, and this afternoon I have to take a train to the Oxford Literary Festival. This morning (we moved house on Monday) my car was towed away since it had an incorrect variety of resident’s parking permit in the window. So I spent the day looking for the car, and then handed over quite a lot of money to the helpful people who were controlling the vehicle pound. They had a notice in their office which stated: ‘Please do not shout at us we are only following best practice and provide a parking service!’ If I write another blog post next week, I promise to be full of the joys of spring, and to give praise to Britain’s estimable parking attendants and journalists."

All stimulating stuff. But another aspect of the same book is described on This Space blog by Stephen Mitchelmore. Having read the book, Yasmin Alibahabi-Brown announces in the Evening Standard "I certainly will not buy another book by this egomaniac." (She means Naipaul, who is made to seem deeply unpleasant in the book, it seems, not French! Though prehaps she had not read Mr French's Picador blog entry when she wrote those words, as she could then have included both authors in her decision.) Mr Mitchelmore is singularly unimpressed with Ms Brown's line of reasoning, as he describes in his thoughtful post. She asks: "What would we do if we found Richard Branson beat his mistress and drove his wife to death? Or if the BBC's director general spoke of his addiction to paid sex?" To which Mr Mitchelmore responds: "Let me guess: offer them loads of cash to write drivel in moronic London newspapers?" There is no arguing about that, at least.


Sunday Salon: Economist reviews crime fiction

Sunday SalonEven when you think you are fairly well-read in a genre, in my case crime fiction, you can discover all too readily that you aren't. This week's Economist has a round-up of reviews of recent crime-fiction books, and I've read none of them. Matt Rees's second book, The Saladin Murders, is called "outstanding".  A Vengeful Longing by R. N. Morris is "a real pleasure to read". A Death in Vienna by Frank Tallis is "an enthralling narrative", and Stratton's War by Laura Wilson (the only one of the quartet already on my list) is "enjoyable" and "intelligent".

The Economist link I've provided is to subscription-only content. If you'd like to read some open reviews of these books, I recommend Euro Crime. Here are reviews of Matt Rees's pair: The Saladin Murders and The Bethlehem Murders. Euro Crime also runs reviews of A Vengeful Longing, A Death in Vienna (UK title Fatal Lies) and links to Reviewing the Evidence's review of Stratton's War. Thanks, Karen — the Euro Crime reviews make me even more convinced that I'd enjoy these books – for as the Economist puts it: "Atmosphere is everything in crime fiction, as four new books make clear."