Even richer in books (therefore poorer in time!)

After the excitement of the other day, when I reported on some tempting book deliveries, my busy postwoman (at the moment) has provided two more titles that are now jostling for my attention. As I am still reading the same book as I was when the earlier books were delivered (The man from Beijing by Henning Mankell), I can see I have a problem.

The first book to arrive, all the way from California, is B-very flat, the latest novel by the very talented Margot Kinberg, whose blog, Confessions of a mystery novelist, is a must-Bflat Moneytoburn_lg read. Margot's first novel, Publish or Perish, is an academic mystery with a light, pacy tone but an underlying serious message about the pressures of research life. The second book is about a talented violinist, and you can see the really rather beautiful, classy video trailer for it here. I am so much looking forward to reading this novel, and thank Margot for her generosity in sending it to me, and for the charming message she wrote inside the book.

The second book also comes from the United States, this time in proof form from its generous publisher, Harper Collins. Money to Burn by James Grippando is a topical thriller in which Ivy, the lover of Michael, a young Wall St investment banker vanishes on their honeymoon. Some years later, Michael is the victim of cyber crime, in which his investments are wiped out, he's on the verge of bankruptcy and he is suspected of criminal espionage by the police. Grippando has written fifteen previous novels, a few of which I have read (one of them, Lying with Strangers, I reviewed), and was a trial lawyer for twelve years. I can't wait to read this one.

Other reviews of Publish or Perish are at:

Reactions to Reading

Mysteries in Paradise

DJs Krimiblog

Melissa's Bookshelf

Bernadette and why I read crime fiction

Reading As I am a bit short of time and inspiration today, I thought I would return to that old chestnut of "why I read crime fiction". This thought was sparked on this occasion by an excellent post by Bernadette of Reactions to Reading blog (a must-read blog), with the title Am I a traitor to my gender? The question arose from the announcement of the Orange prize long-list, in which the chair of judges, Daisy Goodwin, is saying (in Bernadette's words):  she despaired over the number of the submitted novels (129) which were what she termed ‘misery memoirs’. Covering such topics as rape, bereavement and child abuse a lot of the novels, according to Goodwin, were lacking any pleasurable or joyful element.
I just want to say thank you Daisy. I don’t know you from the proverbial bar of soap but thank you from the bottom of my heart for expressing what I have been feeling for several years now

Bernadette goes on to highlight examples of "misery fiction written by women" over the years, and wonders who is buying and (presumably) reading it. Women, she assumes, rather than men. As a result, Bernadette turned to crime fiction, but now has the "hopeful thought that with someone of Daisy’s opinions on this matter guiding the choices for this year’s longlist it might be safe for me to venture back to the ‘literature by women’ shelves without needing a new prescription of Prozac."

Among other reactions, Bernadette's post made me recall why I read crime fiction. As I wrote in a comment there, for about 10 years I dutifully read the Booker shortlist each year, but got so dispirited and fed up with it all. All those miniature accounts of depressed, languid women, etc. In those days, I also consistently read new “good” literature, particularly American, as defined by the reviews. Talk about male self-indulgent rubbish! (Philip Roth, Richard Ford, Martin Amis etc) . Such horrific navel gazing self-importance that they would think readers would be fascinated by all the tiny details of their (often paralysed) existence.

So, ultimately I gave up and now I read mainly crime fiction – which is ghettoised by many opinion-formers as “crime fiction” but I always experience, and see, it as “traditional story telling” which has its roots in Greek drama, other classical drama to and including Shakespeare and beyond,  and the great Victorian and other period novels. The books I loved as a child and young woman were by Dickens, George Elliot, Arnold Bennett, the Brontes, Wilkie Collins, Emile Zola and so on,  and before that Conan Doyle, Lancelyn Green, Stevenson, Rosemary Sutcliffe, C. S. Lewis et al. – to me, crime fiction is a natural extension of those.

Crime fiction is plot-driven, true, but the better examples of it have much additional depth in terms of character, craft, setting, conviction (political or ethical beliefs, for example) and insight. Crime fiction, like children's fiction (think J. K. Rowling), is not afraid to tackle the big issues. Literary fiction, in attempting the same, is too often self-regarding, tentative (one can almost feel the author's awareness of the "literary" review, along the lines of "the goalkeeper's fear of the penalty" to quote Wim Wenders), and hence over-personalised or over-intricate. I would even go so far as to suggest that the better literary fiction has its roots in crime fiction, thinking of Ian McEwan's evolution as a novelist, for example.

Though the endings of crime novels are often overly complicated and let the book down, as if the author does not have enough confidence to let the book speak for itself but needs some artificial climax, the best of crime fiction does not do this. Non-English language crime fiction escapes this problem far more often than English language novels, in my reading experience. But it is great that we seem to be returning to a view that these exciting, dramatic novels are actually "worthy" (I use the term ironically in case that isn't obvious.) The prizewinning success of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (and its inclusion on this same Orange long-list) may indeed be the turning of a tide. From the Guardian review: Though set in Henry's court and, overwhelmingly, about his long, panting battle to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, Wolf Hall is really the story of Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith's boy who became the king's right-hand man. When we first meet Thomas, he is sprawled on the floor, bloody and beaten. His father, drunken Walter, has just put the boot in and not for the first time. "Inch by inch forward," he orders himself, as he crawls, spewing and fainting, resolutely out of the life he was born to.

Alphabet in crime fiction: Andrew Vachss

V I first discovered Andrew Vachss back in 1986, by reading his first novel, Flood, on its UK paperback release. At that time there was no internet and no fancy author website, so I just read Flood and many of his subsequent novels, without knowing anything about the author apart from what was written on the blurb of the books (which I still have): "Andrew Vachss is an acknowledged expert in the USA on juvenile delinquency and child abuse. Before becoming an attorney specialising in the abuse of children, he had worked variously as a probation officer, fruit picker, furniture mover, cab driver, credit collection agent, gambler, advertising copywriter and photographer."

The main character in Flood, and subsequent novels, is Burke, who lives under the radar in New York, operating in the shady world of child abuse and worse. "Burke is the great scam artist, the never-suckered city poacher and part-time private eye who operates in a world of the utmost depravity. The only risks he takes are the bets he places on horses. Burke has been everywhere, He has seen war. He knows who to let into his life and who to keep out. His speciality is survival."

In a series of six novels, we follow the adventures of Burke as he helps a woman to find the man who raped her and killed her best friend's daughter (Flood); tracks down a child porn ring (Strega); searches for a gang who kidnap and kill prostitutes (Blue Belle); tries to rescue a Flood_tpb3_lg Anotherlife_tp_lg hooker's kidnapped daughter (Hard Candy); looks for runaways (Blossom); and rescues child victims of an urban voodoo cult (Sacrifice). You get the picture. In most of these books there is at least one female "love interest" (to put it politely), and a small circle of regular characters who band together with Burke to solve whichever assignment he has taken on, or who help him in his frequent encounters with danger as he continues his crusade against child abusers, people-traffickers and so on. The only member of this band I recall is an engaging little man called "the Prof", which is not short for Professor but Prophet. Some of the blurb comments: "Burke is a con-man, a survivor, a cynic, and a very dangerous guy. I've not met a character so though and yet so attractive" (David Morrell in The Washington Post). "Move over Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, you've got company" (Cosmopolitan) (!). "Vachhs writes like a cold switchblade…full of extraordinary and powerful imagery (Time Out). "A brutal, compelling style, intricately plotted and driven by sharp, uncompromising street prose which roars with authenticity" (The Guardian).

Although I really liked these books, I think they must have got a bit repetitive after a while. The author may have thought so too, for he wrote two other books and then returned to Burke with Down in the Zero – in which "PI Burke is back for another horrifying journey into the seamy underworld where childhood doesn't exist". This book was written in 1994, and was my last encounter with the author. Checking out his seriously strange website, I see he has written many more in the Burke series in the interim – eleven to be precise, as well as a lot of other things, including appearing on Oprah. The latest Burke novel is called Another Life, and perhaps, on reading its blurb, it is rather strange timing that I have returned here to Andrew Vachss after his books have been sitting on my shelves for (in the earliest cases) more than 20 years:

"Another Life is the end of a journey that began with Flood, Andrew Vachss' first novel featuring career criminal Burke and his Family of Choice. "I didn't set out to write a series. Who but a terminal narcissist would?" the author says of his 1985 debut. But twenty-three years–and seventeen Burke novels–later, Andrew Vachss is finally bringing down the curtain on a series that has been described as "urban nightmares" by Publishers Weekly, and "strong, gritty, gut-bucket stuff" by the Chicago Tribune. Anyone who has felt a part of the family that includes recurring series characters Max, the Mole, Michelle, the Prof, Terry, Clarence, and Mama–characters the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says "are as sharply defined as if they were etched in steel"–will want to be there for the end of the journey, as best-selling, award- winning author Andrew Vachss ties up the loose ends, and sends his Family of Choice off to … Another Life."

There are free excerpts of most of the books, either in e- or audio format, at the author's website, The Zero, as well as a host of other sinister and unsettling material.

Crime Fiction alphabet series at Petrona.

Mysteries in Paradise, home of the crime fiction alphabet. Visit this link if you would like to participate.

Footnote on the V in this post. I found to my shock that there is no V in the royalty-free letter series I have been using to illustrate my crime-fiction alphabet series. Why I did not check the alphabet first to make sure all the letters were there, I don't know. I've therefore had to choose a different font for V, which I find rather disturbing. Normal service will be resumed next time.

Book rich, time poor

MfB Great excitement at Petrona Towers as the postman has been busy in this past week – I think my recent meeting with Karen must have had something to do with it! In rapid succession I have received Tell Tale by Sam Hayes; Hit by Tara Moss, the impossibly attractive Australian author who has been signed up for the new imprint MaxCrime ; and Complicit by Nicci French, the pen name of the excellent writing team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. All marvellous temptations, and I am totally unsure which to read first (all suggestions gratefully received!).

I also see to my mock-horror that Robert Crais's new novel, The First Rule, is (apparently impossibly but true) £5.84 on Amazon for the hardback – irresistible. (Ian McEwan's Solar, eagerly awaited by me, is now down to £8.54 on Amazon, a better deal than the £9.50 being offered elsewhere.) I have not quite bought these two books yet, but am teetering on the brink.

Despite all these temptations, the book I have just started reading on the train home tonight, and am enjoying tremendously (I am up to page 55) is The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell. I am very much enjoying this novel which so far has a cast of interesting 50- and 60-somethings! The translation is by the marvellous Laurie Thompson, who as ever produces a naturalistic account, so in tune with the material.

Here is a brief extract from p. 37, from the thoughts of Judge Birgitta Roslin:

Staffan Roslin had been a year ahead of her at Lund, where they both studied law. Their first meeting was at a party given by mutual friends. Immediately Birgitta knew he was the man for her, swept off her feet by his eyes, his height, his large hands, his inability to stop blushing.
But, after completing his studies, Staffan did not take to the law. he decided to retrain as a railway conductor, and one morning he appeared in the living room dressed in a blue-and-red uniform and announced that at 12.19, he would be responsible for departure 212 from Malmo to Alesta, and then on to Vaxjo and Kalmar.
He became a much happier person.

Reading and reviewing update for mid-March

61HRS_uk_hcs Roomsweptwhite_indexpage At the moment I am even more overwhelmed than usual with books – not that I am complaining, far from it.

  •  I am continuing with my attempt to read as many of the books eligible for this year’s CWA International Dagger as I can before the shortlist is announced, which is one vein of incoming novels. (Latest news on that front is here.)
  •  Then there is the crime-fiction alphabet, which has moved into its final and most challenging phase. 
  • I met Karen of Euro Crime last week, always a great experience, usually resulting in an influx of reading material. Our last meeting was no exception.
  •  And then there is the regular flow of books into Petrona Towers, from my own purchases online and in bookshops (often as a result of excellent blog reviews I read), as well as from various generous publishers and friends.

On Friday night I completed editing and “faffing with” my three in-draft reviews and sent them off to Euro Crime: The Rising by Brian McGilloway, Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer and At Close Quarters by Eugenio Fuentes. All three books are jolly good and I highly recommend them.

This weekend I have read two of the novels Karen provided, 61 Hours by Lee Child, and A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah . I’ve been drafting reviews of those two books today (Sunday). I enjoyed them both but not quite as much as the three I reviewed previously.

Now, I have to decide what to read next. While I am desperately, eagerly anticipating the publication of Solar by Ian McEwan on 18 March (Thursday!), I think it will be The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell. I must also write something for the next letter in the crime-fiction alphabet, which is V. I know my author, but have not thought in detail about the post, yet.

As an addendum to this post, a couple of people recently have asked a question, or made an observation, that I hear frequently, which is how do I manage to read so many books. The answer is pretty simple:

  • Apart from work and domestic duties, I don’t do anything else (I rarely go out and I don’t watch TV for example).
  • The books I read are mainly crime fiction and so pretty easy to read.
  • I love reading, I can’t imagine anything else I would rather do with any spare time I have. So I do it everywhere: while travelling, in waiting rooms, before and after any event I do attend, and so on, as well as when I’m at home.

Independent foreign fiction prize long-list

TNW I am slow off the mark compared with Norman over at Crime Scraps, but several crime novels are included on the long-list for this year's INDEPENDENT FOREIGN FICTION PRIZE. I was alerted to this news by email by Simon Clarke, Amazon reviewer supreme, and by Francois von Hurter of Bitter Lemon Press.

The full long-list is available at the Independent link above. Of these, the "crime" novels are: 

Claudia Piñeiro Thursday Night Widows (Miranda France; Spanish) Bitter Lemon Press

Boris Akunin The Coronation (translated by Andrew Bromfield from the Russian) Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Philippe Claudel Brodeck's Report (John Cullen; French) MacLehose Press

and, not crime but translated by Anthea Bell, the excellent translator of Andrea Maria Schenkel (The Murder Farm and Ice Cold) and other authors, who was recently awarded the OBE:

Rafik Schami The Dark Side of Love (Anthea Bell; German) Arabia Books

Julia Franck The Blind Side of the Heart (Anthea Bell; German) Harvill Secker.

From the Independent article, by Boyd Tonkin:

And, as a properly global shop-window for the range and depth of fiction in translation available in Britain, the long-list of 15 books that we have selected strikes this judge – at least – as a mixture as robust, alluring and diverse as ever. From Berlin (Julia Franck) and Calcutta (Sankar) to Buenos Aires (Claudia Piñeiro) and Baghdad (Hassan Blasim), and from a Russian historical mystery (Boris Akunin) and a Congolese low-life comedy (Alain Mabanckou) to a French wartime blockbuster (Jonathan Littell) and an Italian trio of coming-of-age novellas (Pietro Grossi), our choice accesses all areas of world fiction in form as well as theme and place.

I can highly recommend Thursday Night Widows: I reviewed it at Petrona and Karen Meek reviews it in glowing terms at Euro Crime. It's one of those deceptively light, charming and witty books which has a serious, but subtly presented, underlying message.

I have not yet read Brodeck's Report, though it is on my shelf. The novel recently featured in the Not the TV Book Club which is being organised by Kim of Reading Matters and other lit bloggers.

Excerpts from At Close Quarters, by Eugenio Fuentes

Fuentes I've recently finished At Close Quarters by Eugenio Fuentes. My review will shortly be submitted to Euro Crime, but in the meantime I thought I'd share some small extracts from this lovely book:

The only solution was to go to the detective. He was a quiet guy for his trade, but Samuel remembered him well, a tall calm person who waited patiently for his answers. Neither had Samuel forgotten his questions or the way he'd phrased them. Because he did not put you on the spot like a priest or a lawyer, but asked things in the manner of a doctor who won't give a diagnosis before he has all the information and cannot but sympathise with the patient.

Cupido pictured the kind of people living there: a slightly pretentious middle class, so used to comfort, security and consumerism that they would get anxious if, of a morning, they didn't find at least three menu options in their capacious fridges. An urban middle class, well adapted to their times, who regarded the past century as deep in the past, who had barely any recollections of the countryside, the fields which seemed to them an exotic place one could never return to. A satisfied middle class, not necessarily conservative, for whom luxury did not consist of jewels, dresses, aristocratic circles, owning land, founding big companies, or consolidating lineages of prestigious surnames whose scions achieved more than the parents, but a sceptical, well-meaning middle class who often had children rather late in life and did not expect them to be heroes or landowners or millionaires or geniuses, but were concerned only with their well-being, people who were happy for their children to have a professional future like their own present, untouched by uncertainty, conflicts and global instability.

"What kind of person do you have to be to become a private detective? What happened to him that he chose such a profession?"
"I don't know. It used to be said that they were all ex-cops… fired from their jobs because of drinking problems."

Not only the soldiers answered the call. Patriotic voices could be heard coming from the civilians' stands, while the detective remained in stony silence, alone and removed from everyone around him. He was no longer touched by stories that weren't intimate and individual. Any collective outburst to do with politics, religion or one's homeland left him cold.

The world of teenagers was incomprehensible to him. He didn't find it easy to communicate with them; at times they spoke like parrots and at others barely used one-syllable words. He was disconcerted by their sudden oscillations between apathy and excess, the enthusiasm with which they embraced some fashion and the scorn with which they later rejected it, their nearly violent sulkiness and their occasional, impulsive displays of affection, the sincerity of their promises and the ease with which they broke them, their lack of appetite and their feeding frenzies.

Alphabet in crime fiction: Nicola Upson

U The charming Nicola Upson is the author of two (so far) novels about an unusual detective – Josephine Tey. This dramatic device is doubly nested: Josephine Tey was the pen name of Elizabeth MacKintosh, who, although she lived only to the age of 55, wrote several crime novels, including the acclaimed The Daughter of Time (rehabilitating Richard III), The Franchise Affair (in which a girl accuses two older ladies of abducting her) and Brat Farrar (is the handsome young man really the heir to a fortune?). MacKintosh had another pen name, Gordon Daviot, under which she wrote many plays and novels. A brief biography of this fascinating, talented woman, whose books and plays I have enjoyed,  can be found at Nicola Upson's website.  The second "nesting" comes in the fictional character of Tey as created by Upson: although not a detective as in the novels by her fictional counterpart, she is presented with murders to solve – and so Josephine Tey, writer of crime fiction, features in "her" own crime fiction.

Nicola Upson in her first book, An Expert in Murder (I quote from my Euro Crime review), "imagines Josephine Tey visiting London in the 1930s, both for a performance of Richard of Bordeaux and for a business meeting to plan a touring version of the play and the opening of her next effort, a life of Mary Queen of Scots. On the train from her home in Inverness, Josephine meets and befriends Elspeth, a young fan, whom she arranges to meet later in the week, after a performance. On arrival at King's Cross, Josephine goes to stay with the Motley sisters, real-life theatre designers but in AN EXPERT IN MURDER, also cousins of Josephine's long-term companion, police inspector Archie Penrose (said here to be the model for real-life Josephine Tey's fictional detective, Alan Grant). She soon discovers that Elspeth was cruelly murdered just after the train arrived at King's Cross." (read on here.)

The second novel in the series, which I have not read, is An Angel with Two Faces, set in Cornwall, where tragic events occur while Josephine is working on her second novel. The author gave a lovely reading from this novel at a recent book event at Waterstones, and from that extract, it sounds very good, and "Josephine Tey-like".

More about the author.

Karen Meek's Euro Crime review of An Expert in Murder.

Jane Jakerman reviews the same book at The Independent; Mark Lawson at The Guardian, and Joanna Hines, also at The Guardian.

Angel with two Faces reviewed by Jane Jakerman at The Independent.

Crime Fiction alphabet series at Petrona.

Mysteries in Paradise, home of the crime fiction alphabet. Visit this link if you would like to participate.

New books for June in the UK

Aca11 Shadows_new1 According to the 5 March Bookseller, June is looming! Lots of books will be published for the first time this month, leading to images of sitting in the sunshine with a good read, a floppy hat and a glass of iced water….

There does not seem to be too much on offer on the translated fiction front. Anne Zouroudi has a fourth in her Greek Detective series, this one called The Lady of Sorrows (Bloomsbury). I am afraid I haven't even read the first yet, so I must rectify that omission as soon as I can. Apparently each novel is based on one of the seven deadly sins, and this one is the turn of Wrath. However, as there is no mention of a translator at the author's website, and she was born in England, I assume the books are originally written in English.

Zoe Ferraris has a second novel coming out, City of Veils (Little Brown), a sequel to her debut The Night of the Mi'raj (US title Finding Nouf) which won the LA Times first fiction award. The new novel features a murder of a young woman on a Jeddah beach. The author is US American, so again I assume the original language of her books is English. And there is a strong-sounding debut on offer, The Priest by Gerard O'Donovan (Sphere), in which the daughter of a prominent Spanish politician is attacked. The case is given to DI Mike Mulcahy, recently returned to Dublin from Spain.

Andrea Camilleri, though, can be said with some certainty to write his books in Italian. His latest Inspector Montalbano mystery, The Wings of the Sphinx (Picador) involves the death of a young Russian immigrant, and is doubtless translated by Stephen Sartarelli with his customary elegance and erudition. Apparently August Heat, the previous novel in the series, will be published in mass-market paperback simultaneously.

Just picking out a few of the remainder, Harlan Coben has a new novel coming out, Play Dead (Orion), which seems to be a standalone about a woman whose husband goes for a swim on their honeymoon and disappears. Michael Robotham's Bleed for Me (Sphere) is a Joe O'Loughlin series novel about the murder of the father of one of Joe's daughter's schoolfriends. 

Linda Castillo's second novel to feature Amish police chief Kate Burkholder is Pray for Silence (Macmillan). The first book was called Sworn to Silence (or Born to Silence as the Bookseller has it), which bodes ill for my ability to distinguish between future titles and therefore whether or not I have read them. A problem I have with John Sandford, whose 20th prey novel, Storm Prey(Simon and Schuster) is also out in June – this time the bizarrely named Weather (wife of Lucas Davenport, the protag) witnesses a violent drug raid which endangers her life. I usually enjoy these.

Tom Bale, author of the exciting thriller Skin and Bones, has a second book out, Terror's Reach (Preface), about a gang attacking the titular island. The protag is a bodyguard. Peter James's new Roy Grace novel is Dead Like You (Macmillan) – he is always worth reading. Exciting, human, and good detective plots. Christopher Fowler's new novel is Bryant and May off the Rails (Doubleday), about the death of a young woman at Kings Cross tube station. She's probably a commuter who couldn't stand it any more.

Finally for this post (though there are lots of books coming out that I have not mentioned), is the first in an intriguing new series by Michael Ridpath, Where the Shadows Lie (Corvus). The author is moving away from financial thrillers and up north to Iceland, where his protag, a "US-raised homicide detective" called Magnus Johnson, is seconded. I wonder if this series will be as good as the home grown novels of Arnaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigurdadottir? Good news for readers, if so.

The economics of bookselling, based on a Saturday experience

Freeze I'm confused by the "3 for 2" ethos. I was walking past Waterstones yesterday (Saturday) and I noticed a big front-shop display of Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada, a book in which I'm interested on the basis of good  reviews at Euro Crime (by Norman of Crime Scraps) and elsewhere. Looking at the book and a few pages, I was even more interested, so thought I would buy it ("support brick and mortar stores", I was thinking). There was a "3 for 2" sticker on the book – at which my heart sank slightly as I have so many vast piles of books at home – but, gamely, I looked at the price so I could look for two other books of roughly similar. £9.99! Wow.

Undeterred, I searched the crime fiction shelves. I was mildly intrigued by Twisted Wing by Ruth Newman, a debut novel priced at £6.99 with an ecstatic blurb quote by Sophie Hannah. But, try as I might, I could not find a third book which I want to read soon. I looked for several books on my list, which were either not in stock or not on "3 for 2" offers. If I want to buy a book by George Pelecanos, for example, I can buy only one title in the "3 for 2" but no others. All the "3 for 2" books I found in half an hour were either books I'd read or books I didn't want to read. So, I went home without buying anything.

I checked out the same books on Amazon. Alone in Berlin is £4.98 in a Penguin modern classics edition. Twisted Wing is £4.18 in the same edition as on the Waterstones shelf. (I'm also keener on the book since getting home, having read Sharon Wheeler's review at Reviewing the Evidence.)  Other books I had looked at (not in the "3 for 2" offer) were  £2 or £3 cheaper than their in-store counterparts.

Freeze If I had wanted 3 particular books which Waterstones had in stock and on "3 for 2", the price would have been roughly the same as Amazon. But this was not the case, so I do much better by buying the books I want singly or in a personally selected bundle, at a discount price each, on Amazon.

I am not a book publisher or a bookseller, so I don't really know why all this foot-shooting is going on. My understanding is that the bookseller charges the publisher a premium for being included in the "3 for 2" offer, which allows the bookseller to offset the loss by selling at a discount and the publisher gains by selling more books via front-of-store promotions than if the same title was just stuck on the shelves. But aren't they both missing out here? If Waterstones sold all their books at, say, £2 off cover price, without forcing their customers to take 3 instead of 1, wouldn't they sell more books overall? I would have bought 3 or 4 books yesterday if that had been the case, whereas in fact I bought none because I could not create a bundle using "3 for 2",  and the prices of buying the 4 books in which I am interested worked out as about double what I would pay for the same books on Amazon. I want to support High Street bookshops, but not that much – because I can't help feeling that this pricing policy is not in my (the customer's) best interests based on personal choice/market forces, but rather is the result of some deal between retailer and publisher as to what I should be reading.