Useful and useless promotions

Among my emails today was one from my gas supplier, about the London postal strike. The email informed me that this strike was expected to cause major disruption, and would I therefore like to rest more assured and manage my account with them online? (Which I already do, and have done for years.) One person's sorrow is another's opportunity – or in this case, one organisation's sorrow is another organisation's opportunity to show both its rapaciousness and its incompetence. Maybe next time there is a burst main in my area, the Royal Mail will send a person on a bike to my house with a "Post Office Brand Gas Cylinder", compete with compatible (or possibly incompatible) attachments to my supply pipes.

Returning to reality, I was quite impressed by Waterstone's latest crime-fiction promotion, Fresh Blood. In their print magazine and online, they present short biographies and minireviews of books (at "up to 40 per cent off") by 12 authors – they call them "best" and "new" which is not always true, but they are not obvious, lazy choices – they are (of the ones I have read) rather classy selections. They include novels by Brian McGilloway, Yrsa Sigurdadottir, S. J. Bolton, Johan Theorin, Karen Campbell, Nicola Upson and Camilla Lackberg. I've enjoyed novels by all these authors, so I will certainly aim to read books by the remaining five  – Mark Pearson, Caro Ramsey, David Levien, Shona McLean and R. N. Morris. There, good marketing works! (Gas company, please note.)

By the way, Waterstones is also offering a few lucky readers the chance of a free advance copy of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the final part of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Triology (published by Quercus), out in the UK in October. Pre-order the book at Waterstones before 6 August, fill out a form including your card number, sign a confidentiality agreement ;-), and you could be one of five lucky winners of a free pre-publication copy of the book. Further details here.