Thursday, January 31, 2008


A Live Interactive Worldwide Web Event and Book Club First:
Oprah Joins Author to Teach a 10-Week Webcast Series of Classes on

CHICAGO, IL – “Being able to share this material with you is a gift and a part of the fulfillment of my life’s purpose,” Oprah Winfrey said on Wednesday, January 30, 2008, as she revealed the 61th Oprah’s Book Club selection “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle. She added, "It was an awakening for me that I want for you, too."

For the first time ever, readers around the world will be able to participate in a free, live interactive classroom discussion, led by Winfrey and Tolle. Each weekly class will correspond to a chapter from “A New Earth,” with the discussion focusing on the chapter’s themes. The 10 weekly sessions will be webcast every Monday night from March 3 through May 5, at 9:00pm ET/6:00pm PT. To pre-register for the class, log onto

Published in 2005, “A New Earth” encourages a collective sense of commitment to changing the way we live for people who want to make a difference. With the knowledge that we live in a time desperate for global change, renowned spiritual teacher Tolle’s book answers the question: what can one person do to enact that change? With clarity and in practical terms, he gently leads readers to a new level of consciousness, awakening them to their lives’ purpose and inviting them to envision a new earth where peace and fellowship are the norm.

“A New Earth” is published internationally in the English language by Penguin Group, one of the world’s premier global consumer trade book publishers. The 10-part interactive worldwide web event is a pioneering venture that will have the potential to reach an unprecedented number of readers in all English-language territories far and wide. With key market positions in the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, Canada, India, China, New Zealand and Ireland, Penguin Group will be able to share this Oprah’s Book Club selection with a worldwide audience.

John Makinson, Penguin Group Chairman and CEO, commented, "Penguin is one of the world's few truly global publishers and all of us are honored to be working with Ms. Winfrey on this ground-breaking project. ‘A New Earth’ is an unforgettable manifesto for a better way of life. Its message reaches across boundaries to illuminate and enrich the human spirit everywhere. Eckhart Tolle teaches us to change the way we view the world and make connections to each other."

Oprah’s Book Club works with the American Library Association (ALA) to distribute thousands of free Book Club selections donated by each publisher, to school, public, and community college libraries nationwide. The Chicago-based ALA,, is the oldest and largest library association in the world with more than 64,000 members.

As the biggest book club in the world, Oprah's Book Club has approximately one million online members. Each of its selections have skyrocketed to the top of bestsellers lists. Enrollment is free and provides members with access to benefits such as online discussion groups, reading questions, and Q&A sessions with the author. To join, log onto

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" has remained the number one talk show for 21 consecutive seasons, winning every sweep since its debut in 1986.* It is produced in Chicago by Harpo Productions, Inc. and syndicated to 212 domestic markets by CBS Television Distribution Group and to 135 countries by CBS Paramount International Television.

*Nielsen Cassandra Ranking Report - Nov'86 to July '99 and Wrap Sweeps, Nov '99 to July '07. Primary Telecasts Only.

About Eckhart Tolle:
Eckhart Tolle is a contemporary spiritual teacher who is not aligned with any particular religion or tradition. In his writing and seminars, he conveys a simple yet profound message with the timeless and uncomplicated clarity of the ancient spiritual masters: “There is a way out of suffering and into peace.” Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, he travels extensively—taking his teachings throughout the world.

For further information please contact;

Sandra Lees
General Manager Publicity and Promotions
Penguin Group (NZ)
Phone (09) 442 7461
Mob 021 897705


Wednesday 20 February, 6.30pm onwards at The Ponsonby Belgian Beer Cafe (the old Ponsonby Post Office), Three Lamps Corner.

Everyone welcome!

Please feel free to wear your most glamourous waistcoat and your most gorgeous silver jewellery!
And start remembering your Paul Greenberg stories!

Buy your own drinks & food (nibbles or dinner - they do great pots & platters of musssels)

Please RSVP to

The Women's Bookshop105 Ponsonby RoadAuckland, NZ
Ph: (09) 376 4399Fax: (09) 376 4365


Batya Gur Harper US $14.95

I bought this book at the superb McNally Robinson Bookstore in Soho, NY during our recent visit and have now finally got around to reading it.

Batya Gur (1947-2005) lived in Jerusalem, where she was a literary critic for Haaretz, Israel's most prestigious paper. She earned her master's in Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and she also taught literature for nearly twenty years. She wrote five other Michael Ohayon mysteries.

I hadn't heard of her previously and have to say that I am most impressed with her protagonist Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon. Sadly this is the final book in the series as the author died in 2005.

In this story, set within Israel 's official television channel, a popular set designer is crushed to death by a marble pillar. It is assumed that this was an accident but when another member of the staff dies suddenly the police Chief Superintendent is called in to investigate. He quickly realises that he has a tangled multiple murder on his hands.
Brilliantly told within the daily chaos of the news division of the television station with great characterisation being a notable feature.

Warmly recommended to those who enjoy detailed and challenging murder mysteries.


Aaron Cook is the enthusiastic, optimistic and personable young man who runs

Among other things he gives visitors to his site the opportunity to read and rate pre published books on line.


Here is an interesting site that is worth a visit.

Thanks to Christchurch man-about-town, bookseller and publisher Brian Phillips for bringing this to my attention.

Huff and puff: 3 little pigs blown away

Paul Bibby writing in the Sydney Morning Herald

The classic children's story Three Little Pigs may appear innocent, but a new children's book based on the tale has been rejected for an award on the grounds that it would offend Muslims and even builders.
A CD book for school children, The Three Little Cowboy Builders , was dismissed by judges from the Bett awards, a competition run by the British Government's technology agency for schools.
The judges' statements, reported on the British technology website, Merlin John Online, included the comment: "Is it true that all builders are cowboys, builders get their work blown down, and builders are like pigs?
"The idea of taking a traditional tale and retelling a story is fine, but it should not alienate parts of the workforce. Judges would not recommend this product to the Muslim community in particular."

Ann Curtis, an author and founder of the company which developed the virtual book, Shoofly Publishing, said the statements themselves were racist.
"I felt disbelief, to be honest. As a small company, we have a strong ethical and moral grounding. We support the rights of all children in the world to have access to education.
"To be told that we cynically set out to alienate minority groups is a very narrow-minded view."
However, the organisers of the awards said that the book was rejected for a range of reasons.
"The reason The Three Little Cowboy Builders was not shortlisted was that it failed to reach the required standard across a number of criteria," they said in a statement.
"The issues highlighted were a small selection from a much broader range of comments ... the product was not sufficiently convincing on curriculum and innovation grounds to be shortlisted."
Surely this is pc gone mad? Here are some reactions....
New Literary Program to Make Its Home Online

By Motoko Rich writing in The New York Times overnight:

Daniel Menaker, who left his post as executive editor in chief of the Random House Publishing Group in June, is moving online in March to be the host of a new Web-based book show.

Photo by Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Daniel Menaker is to be the host of “Titlepage,” an online show.
The show, to be called “Titlepage,” will feature a round-table discussion between Mr. Menaker, 66, a former fiction editor at The New Yorker, and a group of four authors. The first episode will be streamed online at on March 3. The idea is to take advantage of the fact that it’s much easier to post video online than to get a show on television.
“Titlepage” will combine elements of “Apostrophes,” a popular French literary program; “The Charlie Rose Show” on public television; and “Dinner for Five,” in which a group of actors discussed their craft, on the Independent Film Channel.
The show is the brainchild of Odile Isralson and Lina Matta, documentary filmmakers. “It’s not really a brilliant idea in the sense that I grew up with it,” Ms. Isralson, 46, said. “I’m originally from Belgium and I grew up watching ‘Apostrophes.’ I moved to New York in 1983 and always wondered why it didn’t exist.”

Ms. Isralson and Ms. Matta, who is now head of programming for an English-language television channel in Dubai, approached Mr. Menaker last summer with the offer to be the host and to act as editorial producer.
Mr. Menaker said the idea appealed to him immediately because he had always been frustrated that he didn’t have enough opportunities, either as a publisher or an author, to speak directly to readers.
“We’re hoping to let people listen in on the kind of conversation they might like to have themselves if there were a group of three or four people in a room,” said Mr. Menaker, who is married to Katherine Bouton, deputy editor of The New York Times Magazine, and has written a book of humor with Charles McGrath, a writer at large at The Times.

The first episode will feature Richard Price, who wrote “Clockers” and the coming “Lush Life”; Susan Choi, author of “A Person of Interest”; and Charles Bock, whose debut novel, “Beautiful Children,” went on sale last week.
The second, which is to be posted online two weeks after the premiere episode, is to feature all first-time authors: Sloane Crosley and Julie Klam, memoirists, and Ceridwen Dovey and Keith Gessen, novelists.

Ms. Isralson said that initially the program would be financed by private backers, but that it was seeking corporate sponsorship, though probably not, Mr. Menaker said, from publishers, so that the content could be kept independent.

South Bank awards honour Rowling
Author JK Rowling has been given an outstanding achievement prize for her success with the Harry Potter books at the South Bank Show awards.

Arctic Monkeys scooped the award for pop music, while This is England beat Atonement to pick up the film prize.
BBC Three series Gavin and Stacey was awarded best comedy, and Channel 4's The Mark of Cain, about UK troops in Iraq, claimed best TV drama.
The awards will be broadcast on 3 February on ITV1 at 2240 GMT.
Rowling joins a list of previous winners of the top prize at the awards, including Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, Helen Mirren, Richard Attenborough and last year's recipients, The Who.

TV Drama: The Mark of Cain
Classical Music: Traced Overhead: The Musical World of Thomas Ades
Pop Music: Arctic Monkeys for Favourite Worst Nightmare
Visual Arts: Andy Goldsworthy at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Comedy: Gavin and Stacey
Dance: Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company
Film: This Is England
Literature: Mohsin Hamid for The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Opera: The Turn of The Screw
Theatre: Saint Joan
Arts Council award: Daljit Nagra for Look We Have Coming To Dover!
Breakthrough award: Jennifer Pike

Outstanding achievement: JK Rowling
'Worst break-up'
Accepting the prize, the 42-year-old told the audience that saying goodbye to Harry Potter in her final book was more painful than the ending of a relationship.
"It has been the worst break-up of my life - far worse than splitting up with any man," she said.
"But it has also been wonderful to stop and draw breath and think, 'My God, look what's happened with an idea I had 17 years ago on a train'."
Rowling told the BBC that the final book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was her favourite.
"I think it is the best book that I have written. It was my favourite story and I got to say all the things that really the books have been about all along, but I've never been able to be open about."

The South Bank Show awards, hosted by Melvyn Bragg, recognise British achievement in music, theatre, television and the arts.
The theatre award went to the National Theatre's production of Saint Joan.
Artist Andy Goldsworthy beat Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger in the visual arts category for his work at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Poet Daljit Nagra won the Arts Council England Decibel award for his debut collection, entitled Look We Have Coming to Dover! and Mohsin Hamid won the literature prize for The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
The Times Breakthrough award, voted by members of the public, was presented to up-and-coming violinist Jennifer Pike.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Books 'most popular online buy'
More books are sold on the internet than any other product and the number is increasing, research suggests.
Pic shows Amazon's UK warehouse, Getty Images.
Story from BBC.

Polling company Nielsen Online surveyed 26,312 people in 48 countries. 41% of internet users had bought books online, it said.
This compares with two years ago when 34% of internet users had done so.
The company said much of the increase was in emerging markets, such as South Korea and India, with British consumers in 10th place.
Nielsen says more than eight out of ten internet users purchased something in the last three months. That is a 40% increase on two years ago, to about 875 million shoppers.
1. South Korea - 58%
2. Germany - 55%
3. Austria - 54%
4. Vietnam - 54%
5. Brazil - 51%
6. Egypt - 49%
7. China - 48%
8. India - 46%
9. Taiwan - 45%
10. UK - 45%
Percentage of internet users buying books online. Source: Nielsen

The largest percentage of people buying books in any country was South Korea at 58%. Nielsen estimated that equated to 18m people.
In the US, 57.5m customers were estimated to have bought books. But that only equated to 38% of internet users.
In the UK it was calculated to be 14.5m people, or 45% of those online.

The King of Reading

by Nick Paumgarten writing in The New Yorker January 28, 2008

Art Garfunkel (left)

Candidates for political office, and the reporters who cover them, like to believe that a reading list reveals a great deal. In recent years, the cherished-book list has become as compulsory a component of the Presidential campaign as a church affiliation or a health-care plan. Hillary Clinton named “Little Women” and “The Poisonwood Bible.” Mike Huckabee: the Bible and “Mere Christianity.” Barack Obama: “Song of Solomon” and “Moby-Dick.” John McCain: “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” When mishandled, the book thing can lead to grief, as when Mitt Romney cited “Battlefield Earth,” by L. Ron Hubbard, or when John Edwards, four years ago, went with I. F. Stone’s “The Trial of Socrates,” which earned him the skunk eye from Robert Novak. (“Did [Edwards] know of evidence that Stone received secret payments from the Kremlin?”)

Then there is Art Garfunkel, who is not running for President but who has nonetheless provided the world with a list: the Garfunkel Library, a chronological index of the thousand and twenty-three books that he has read since June, 1968. He has been recording their particulars neatly on sheets of loose-leaf paper—forty or so titles to a page—for nearly forty years. About a decade ago, he posted the list on his Web site (which he pays a fan in Levittown to maintain). It begins with Rousseau’s “Confessions” and ends with Booth Tarkington’s “The Magnificent Ambersons,” which he finished before Christmas. In between, the list ticks off, at a rate of 2.16 books a month, a dazzling syllabus that’s a testament to steroidal self-improvement, as well as to the magical time-furnishing powers of royalty checks. Foucault, Balzac, Chesterton, Heidegger, Spinoza, Hazlitt, Milton, Proust: he has slayed them all, and let us know.

Against the temptation to sneer at such ostentation, one may pit an appreciation that a celebrity has so resolutely done his homework, and taken such delight in it. In the winter and spring of 1969, much of which was spent on the set of the film “Catch-22,” where the reading habit really took hold, he got through “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” “Catch-22,” “Candide,” “The Great Gatsby,” “War and Peace,” “Portnoy’s Complaint,” “Down and Out in Paris and London,” and “The Brothers Karamazov.” In September of 1981, the month of his reunion concert with Paul Simon in Central Park, he nailed “Nicholas Nickleby,” and then, in the following months, moved on to Jack London, Henry James, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Rabelais, and Kant, among others. December, 1982: the Book of Job, “The Search for Alexander,” “Stephen Hero,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “Justine.” September, 2001: “The Waves.”

The list contains just—just—enough low- or middle-brow work to suggest sincerity. In the spring of 1996, between “Flaubert in Egypt” and “I, Claudius,” he took on “You’ll Never Make Love in This Town Again,” by Robin, Liza, Linda, and Tiffany. In February, 2004, he gave Dan Brown a go before returning to Flaubert and Aristophanes. He has read several books by the actress Carrie Fisher, one of Simon’s ex-wives, as well as “Simon and Garfunkel: The Definitive Biography” (in May, 1998, two years after it was published, and just before moving on to Plato and Locke).

“I avoid fluff,” Garfunkel explained last week, on the phone from a Marriott in Florida. “The stuff that men are always reading on planes: I don’t read that.” He also doesn’t read postmodern fiction—the Garfunkel Library contains no Pynchon or Barthelme. “I tried ‘Gravity’s Rainbow,’ and I thought it was fraudulent,” he said.

“I read for the reading pleasure, not for the gold star,” he went on. “Reading is a way to take downtime and make it stimulating. If you’re in the waiting room of a dentist’s office and don’t want to twiddle your thumbs, you turn to Tolstoy.” (“Tolstoy is the king of writing,” he said.) Garfunkel prefers paperbacks, which he shelves in his study when he’s done. He writes vertical lines in the margin next to passages he finds exceptional, arrows next to references to places he’d like to visit, and a little circle next to any word he needs to look up. “I’m anal compulsive,” he explained. He once read the Random House Dictionary, back to front.
Though he has yet to update the Garfunkel Library on the Web, he recently finished reading “The Black Swan,” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, which Simon had recommended. Garfunkel had just left a message on Simon’s answering machine, asking whether he had skipped a chapter that the author had suggested the reader skip: “Did you do that, Paul?”
He hadn’t heard back. If Simon were to reply that he had not, would Garfunkel feel—
“One-upped?” Garfunkel asked. He laughed. “Paul is, after all, one of our greatest writers.” (He did say that while Simon was born three weeks earlier, technically he was older. “I was conceived first. Paul was one month premature.”)

Asked what was on deck, in the Garfunkel Library, Garfunkel sighed and said, “You know, I’m getting tired of reading. I’m thinking of giving it a rest for a couple of months.” ♦
I love The New Yorker covers - this one by Mark Ulriksen is called Winter Pleasures and shows the sun shining in to the main concourse of Grand Central Station, one of my favourite spaces in NY.


Story from The New York Times overnight:

Brian Selznick, the author and illustrator of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” uses the word “obsessed” a lot. As in: “I was deeply obsessed with ‘Star Wars’ ” (elaborate pencil drawings of Princess Leia and Darth Vader that he did as a 10-year-old hang on a wall of the art studio in his Brooklyn apartment) or “I remember being really obsessed with the ‘Virgin of the Rocks,’ ” by Leonardo da Vinci (a sketch of the angel from that painting hangs in the hallway).

In someone less genuine, the word might sound affected. But for the irrepressibly curious Mr. Selznick, it merely describes how he feels about so many things.
It is also an obvious source of his talent. His obsessions with old French movies, automatons, clockworks and the filmmaker Georges Méliès inspired “Hugo,” which earlier this month won the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children.
At 533 pages it is the longest book ever to win that award, although more than 300 of those pages are pictures that, like movie storyboard frames, propel the story forward. In the novel, a boy who lives in an attic in a Paris train station desperately tries to fix a broken automaton — a kind of robot — that also interests a mysterious toy-stall owner (who turns out to be Méliès) and a young girl.

“The way the illustrations told the story was so exquisite,” said Karen Breen, chairwoman of the Caldecott judges committee and the children’s book review editor at Kirkus Reviews. “It was a favorite right from the start.”

The book, published last year by Scholastic Press, was a finalist for a National Book Award in young people’s literature. It has spent 42 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list for children’s chapter books and sold 130,000 copies in hardcover, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales.
On a recent tour of the funky duplex apartment that Mr. Selznick, 41, shares with his partner, David Serlin, a professor at the University of California, San Diego (the couple also rent an apartment in La Jolla), he pointed out many treasures on display. In a bathroom, the walls were covered with movie stills and sketches for a puppet theater piece that Mr. Selznick had based on the life of Christine Jorgensen, one of the first people to undergo a sex-change operation. In the studio upstairs, a collection of more than 50 snow globes clustered on shelves beneath a grandfather clock.
Mr. Selznick, who is tall and lean and has wavy brown hair, wears round black-rimmed glasses that make him look like a grown-up Harry Potter. He eagerly excavated items he collected while researching “Hugo”: a small chest of drawers packed with 19th-century pocket watch parts bought at a flea market in Paris; two sketches of Cupid riding in a chariot that had been drawn by an actual automaton housed in a Philadelphia museum.

“While I was working on the book,” Mr. Selznick said, “there were people who said, ‘You’re doing a book about French silent movies and clocks for kids? That sounds like a very bad idea.’ ” But, he said, his editor told him, “If these elements are important to the main character they will be important to the reader.”
Mr. Selznick, whose grandfather was a cousin of the legendary Hollywood producer David O. Selznick, grew up in East Brunswick, N.J., the oldest of three children. He always knew he wanted to do something involving art, but rejected perpetual suggestions that he should illustrate children’s books. At the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, he even skipped a visiting lecture by Maurice Sendak.

“Everyone was clamoring to get in,” Mr. Selznick said. “Now I feel extremely stupid.”
Instead he immersed himself in the theater scene at nearby Brown University, and then applied for a spot in set design at the Yale School of Drama. He was rejected, and he started to think that maybe his family and friends were right about the children’s books.
He took a job at the Eeyore’s Books for Children in Manhattan, now defunct, and began writing and drawing “The Houdini Box,” about a boy who almost meets the great magician. The book was published in 1991.

He started getting commissions to draw for other authors, and attracted the attention of Tracy Mack, a Scholastic editor. They worked together on several titles, including biographies of Walt Whitman and Marian Anderson for children.
Mr. Selznick loved the work, but it started to feel insufficient. “I just suddenly saw myself for the rest of my life illustrating picture-book biographies,” he said. “I didn’t want to be doing the same thing forever.”

A six-month funk followed. Mr. Selznick spent time reading and ruminating. Then a fragment of an old idea resurfaced when he remembered being captivated by “A Trip to the Moon,” one of Méliès’s early movies, and learned that Méliès had once owned — and then discarded — a collection of automatons.

Mr. Selznick wrote a 30-page draft — without pictures — and submitted it to Ms. Mack. The outline of the story was there, including Hugo, the automaton, the old man and the little girl.
He gorged on old French movies like François Truffaut’s “400 Blows” and René Clair’s “Under the Roofs of Paris.” Homages to both appear in the book. As he started to think about how movies told stories, Mr. Selznick said, he realized that he could do something similar with his book.

He stripped out written action scenes and replaced them with drawings. Suddenly, what started as a 150-page book took on a door-stopping heft; a three-page written introduction, for instance, morphed into 46 drawn pages.
Mr. Selznick said he still needed help from Ms. Mack and another editor, Leslie Budnick, to prune the remaining prose.
Because he tended to think in pictures, he just described what he saw in his head. He gave an example: “Hugo turned to the old man and the old man looked at Hugo and Hugo looked up and said ‘Give me back my notebook’ and the old man put his hand on his hips and said ‘I’m not going to give you back your notebook’ and Hugo got really mad and spit on the ground.”
The editors’ suggestion: “Give me back my notebook.” “No.”
“And suddenly,” Mr. Selznick said, “it was a scene.”
Though he didn’t give many details, Mr. Selznick said he has hatched another novel that will, like “Hugo,” be told partly in pictures.
Ms. Mack said that for many authors, a book like “Hugo” would have crowned a career. But, she said, “To me, this is just the beginning for Brian.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Award winning broadcaster leads Montana New Zealand Book Awards judging panel

Award winning broadcaster Lynn Freeman is the convenor of the 2008 Montana New Zealand Book Awards judging panel.

Freeman is joined by David Elworthy and Tim Corballis.

Freeman, hosts Radio New Zealand National’s The Arts on Sunday show and fills in on Nine to Noon when the main presenter is away, is a theatre critic and a Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards judge. She is also on the board of the Playwriting agency, Playmarket and served on the panel selecting the Arts Foundation of New Zealand Arts Laureates. She resides in Wellington.

Christchurch based David Elworthy, a veteran in the publishing industry, started his career as a New Zealand diplomat with postings in both London and New Delhi. He then joined A.H. & A.W. Reed as an editor, eventually becoming their Editorial Director. He then became the Publishing Director for Collins for 10 years before he and his wife Ros Henry founded Shoal Bay Press, which they ran successfully for 20 years before selling to Longacre Press.

Wellington writer Tim Corballis, brings a young voice to the judging panel.
In 2005/2006 he spent a year in Berlin as the Creative New Zealand Berlin Writer in Residence. In 2002 he was the Randell Cottage Writer in Residence and in 2000 he was awarded the Adam Foundation Prize and a Modern Letters Fellowship for his work towards an MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University in Wellington.

All three judges are looking forward to the challenge of judging.
“As judges, it is our privilege—and our challenge—to engage thoroughly with the full breadth of a year’s writing”.

“We are all anticipating – and looking forward to – many a robust round table discussion over the next few months, as we hone down the pleasingly extensive list of eligible books.”

The judges are very aware of the task ahead of them and the impact their choices will have on the reading public.

“Looking back on the first 12 years of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, one is struck first by the quality of the work submitted by New Zealand
authors and publishers, and secondly by the increasing impact of the
Awards on the New Zealand scene. Betting on the Awards may not yet have been taken up by the TAB, but book sales, let alone the interest expressed by the general media, reflect the keen interest of the New Zealand public,” the judges said.

The judging of New Zealand’s best books published during the 2007 calendar year is carried out across eight categories – Fiction, Poetry, Biography, History, Reference & Anthology, Environment, Illustrative, and Lifestyle & Contemporary Culture – and follows strict guidelines.
This is the 12th year of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Judges take into account enduring literary merit and overall authorship; quality of illustration and graphic presentation; production values, general design and the standard of editing and the impact of the book on the community, with emphasis on issues such as topicality, public interest, commercial viability, entertainment, cultural and educational values and lifespan of the book.

Each category has a specialist advisor to assist the judging panel. This year’s advisors also boast strong writing and publishing credentials:

Fiction – Diane Brown is a poet, novelist and memoirist, and the co-ordinator and tutor for the Aoraki Polytechnic Creative Writing Course in Dunedin. Her publications include the collections of poetry Before The Divorce We Go To Disneyland, (winner of the NZSA Best First Book of Poetry at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 1997); Learning to Lie Together, novels If The Tongue Fits, and Eight Stages of Grace, travel memoirs Liars and Lovers and Here Comes Another Vital Moment. She is currently writing a novel, Hooked.

Poetry – Anna Jackson lectures in English and American literature at Victoria University of Wellington. She has published four books of poetry with Auckland University Press, most recently The Gas Leak. She lives in Island Bay with her jeweller husband Simon Edmonds, and children Johnny (13) and Elvira (11).

History – Jock Phillips is General Editor of Te Ara, the Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Previously New Zealand’s Chief Historian, he was also the founding Director of the Stout Research Centre for the study of New Zealand society, history and culture. His ten published books on New Zealand history include collections on the major Maori tribes of New Zealand, and on the settler and immigrant peoples of New Zealand. He is just completing a book on the history of British immigration to New Zealand.

Biography – Julia Millen is a biographer, historian and fiction writer whose works include biographies of New Zealand novelists Guthrie Wilson and Ronald Hugh Morrieson. Her social history works include: Kirkcaldie & Stains and Bell Gully Buddle Weir; about the department store and the legal firm respectively, Salute to Service, on the RNZ Corps of Transport; and Breaking Barriers, on IHC New Zealand. She has an honours degree in music, has compiled and presented programmes for Radio New Zealand Concert and was librettist for two New Zealand operas.

Reference and Anthology – Margie Thomson was a journalist for more than 20 years, working on a variety of publications but mainly for the New Zealand Herald where she wrote features before becoming the Books Editor. Over the past 10 years she has edited books pages for Canvas, Herald on Sunday and Next magazine. Last year she left the media to take up a position as the Books Promotions Manager for Whitcoulls.

Environment – Simon Nathan is an earth scientist, with a long standing interest in environmental history. He has written biographical accounts of several New Zealand scientists, most recently Harold Wellman: a man who moved New Zealand. For the last four years Simon has been Science Editor of Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand which launched "The Bush" theme in 2007, dealing with New Zealand's natural environment.

Lifestyle and contemporary culture – Ann Packer is a freelance writer who last year won the Montana New Zealand Book Awards Lifestyle and Contemporary Culture category with Stitch, featuring New Zealand textile artists. She lives in Eastbourne and walks to Days Bay each morning before starting work on subjects as diverse as children’s books, homes, gardens, arts, travel and visiting authors. Ann has raised three children and worked as a community arts advisor, International Festival administrator and teacher.

Illustrative – Artist Dick Frizzell, having worked as an animator, commercial artist and illustrator, has no qualms about blurring the categories between his commercial work and art. His paintings are often a pastiche of images drawing on modern art and graphic design. In 2005 Frizzell was invited on the Antarctic artist programme. Frizzell’s works are held in major public and corporate collections and his 1997 retrospective exhibition, Dick Frizzell: Portrait of a Serious Artiste, toured major public art galleries of New Zealand.
(Courtesy Gow Langsford Gallery)

The winner in each category receives a prize of $5,000. Each category winner is eligible for the Montana Medal for non fiction or poetry/fiction, both of which carry a prize of $10,000.

The finalists across all categories will be announced on Tuesday 10 June.

The winner of the poetry category will be announced on Montana Poetry Day on Friday 18 July. All other winners will be advised at the awards ceremony in Wellington on Monday 21 July 2008.

The principal sponsors of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards are Montana and Creative New Zealand. The awards are managed by Booksellers New Zealand and supported by Book Publishers Association of New Zealand, the New Zealand Society of Authors and Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd.

Broken Pencil - January 28, 2008
The Broken Pencil
Indie Writers Deathmatch Has Begun

To witness the carnage go to

The top eight have been selected! Vote now! The battle begins!
Broken Pencil's first ever winner-takes-all online short story contest begins! The top 8 submissions have been selected from aspiring writers around North America and the world. Now it's time for our readers to vote and our competing writers to do whatever it takes to make it into the top four.
Each week, two stories will be pitted against each other in the online arena. The authors will be in constant communication with their audience through a blog which they can use to hype their story or talk trash their opponent.

The top four vote-getting stories (all of which will be published in the Spring issue of Broken Pencil) will then begin a final battle for victory. The bruised but triumphant writer will have his or her story published in Broken Pencil's upcoming Fiction Issue, and will also receive an Indie Lit Library -- tons of great books from groundbreaking small presses ECW, Conundrum, City Lights, Brindle & Glass, and Arsenal Press -- as well as $250 cash and a Broken Pencil prize pack!
January 28th:
Mustache Story by Michael Sasi (Vancouver, BC)
Last Winter Here by Emma Healey (Toronto, ON)
February 4th:
Gynecomastia by Janine Fleri (Astoria, NY)
Panties by Greg Kearney (Toronto, ON)
February 11th:
Amsterdam at Midnight by Graham Parke (Eindhoven, Netherlands)
The Worst of Us by Sarah Gordon (Winnipeg, MB)
February 18th:
Sickness by Jessica Faulds (Edmonton, AB)
Spawning by Kimberley Idol (Las Vegas, NV)

'Plot to kill' Nobel laureate
Richard Lea writing in The Guardian Monday January 28, 2008

Assassination target? Orhan Pamuk. Photograph: AP

Thirteen people have been arrested in Turkey as part of an investigation into an ultra-nationalist gang reported to be planning the assassination of Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk.
According to reports in the Turkish press, the author of international bestsellers including My Name is Red was targeted as part of a campaign to sow chaos in preparation for a military coup, scheduled for 2009.
The suspects have now been remanded in custody, among them retired military officers and the lawyer Kemal Kerincisz. The latter has been instrumental in the pursuit of a series of writers and intellectuals through the courts, filing cases against Pamuk himself as well as the novelists Elif Shafak and Perihan Magden and the murdered journalist Hrant Dink.

Evidence cited in the Turkish media links the gang with a number of incidents which had been
blamed on Islamist groups or separatist factions, and raises the prospect of
an investigation into long-standing suspicions of illegal activity within the
military and judiciary.

"These groups within the state have always existed," said a spokesperson for Istanbul's Free
Expression Initiative, Sanar Yurdatapan, "but they've never been charged
before. They were protected."
The charges brought against the suspects are not yet known. The investigation is being carried out under the terms of a law restricting media coverage.
"This could be a big development," continued Yurdatapan, suggesting that because figures very
high in the military establishment have been connected with such groups it
remains to be seen whether the cases will be brought to trial. "We are
afraid to have hope."

Amis the £3k an hour professor

Maev Kennedy writing in The Guardian
The annual salary is relatively modest - but it's the hourly rate offered to Martin Amis by Manchester University to be a visiting professor of creative writing which puts the novelist into the Premiership footballer league.
His salary has now been disclosed under Freedom of Information legislation, at £80,000 a year - or £3,000 an hour, according to disgruntled union representatives who have seen the shedding of hundreds of posts, from technicians to lecturers, as the university tries to balance its books.
They claim that although he may put in longer hours, the contract obliges Amis to work only 28 hours of the year: 12 90-minute postgraduate seminars, four public appearances and one session at the summer writing school.

Most other visiting academics are paid between £20 and £50 an hour, but the university has made other celebrity signings, including a brace of Nobel prize winners, the economist Joseph Stiglitz and the scientist John Sulston.

Dave Jones, senior Unite union organiser, said: "We understand why people like Martin Amis are being sought by the university and recruitment is a competitive business.
"But I think those staff who are left after the various redundancies and early retirements need to know that there will also be investment into their careers as well."
Applications for the creative writing course increased by 50% when the news broke of Amis's new role.
If You Can’t Win the Case, Buy an Election and Get Your Own Judge

By Janet Maslin writing in The New York Times
January 28, 2008

“The Appeal” is John Grisham’s handy primer on a timely subject: how to rig an election. Blow by blow, this not-very-fictitious-sounding novel depicts the tactics by which political candidates either can be propelled or ambushed and their campaigns can be subverted. Since so much of what happens here involves legal maneuvering in Mississippi, as have many of his other books, Mr. Grisham knows just how these games are played. He has sadly little trouble making such dirty tricks sound real.

By John Grisham
Doubleday. $27.95.
(Published by Century in Commonwealth NZ$40)

Building a remarkable degree of suspense into the all too familiar ploys described here, Mr. Grisham delivers his savviest book in years. His extended vacation from hard-hitting fiction is over. However passionately he cared about the nonfiction events he described in “An Innocent Man,” his strong suit remains bluntly manipulative, no-frills storytelling, the kind that brings out his great skill as a puppeteer. It barely matters that the characters in “The Appeal” are essentially stick figures. What works for Mr. Grisham is his patient, lawyerly, inexorable way of dramatizing urgent moral issues.

The jumping-off point for “The Appeal” is that a mom-and-pop law firm wins a big Mississippi verdict, triumphing over a chemical company that has spread carcinogenic pollutants. But this victory could turn out to be hollow, because the deep-pocketed corporate defendant isn’t giving up without a fight. The New York-based Krane Chemical swings into combat mode, first by taking stock of these small-town lawyers. The mom and pop are Wes and Mary Grace Payton: nice people, good parents, nearly broke. Krane’s stealth envoys quickly determine that it wouldn’t take much to push the Paytons over the edge.

But the Paytons themselves are little more than a nuisance to Krane. The precedent created by their case is what matters, and the company’s real objective is to make itself safe from similar attacks in the future. In order to arrange that, Krane needs the Mississippi Supreme Court. Another nuisance: Mississippi Supreme Court justices can’t simply be appointed. They have to be elected.

Now the stakes start to ratchet up. So a corrupt senator puts Krane’s greedy billionaire C.E.O., Carl Trudeau, in contact with Troy-Hogan, a mysterious Boca Raton firm that specializes in elections. There is no Troy. There is no Hogan. There is no record of the nature of the business conducted by this privately owned corporation, which is domiciled in Bermuda. For two separate fees, one acknowledged and the other, larger one delivered quietly to an offshore account, Troy-Hogan will do its magic. “When our clients need help,” says Barry Rinehart, Troy-Hogan’s main power player, who radiates the same expensive sartorial confidence that Trudeau does, “we target a Supreme Court justice who is not particularly friendly, and we take him or her out of the picture.”
This multipart process involves choosing a victim and creating rival candidates from scratch. Soon the stealth saboteurs have trained their sights on a justice named Sheila McCarthy. She is not a liberal ideologue, but she can be made to sound like one (“a feminist who’s soft on crime”).
She’s not an operator or a politician. She is unprepared for a campaign fight. And the only special interest group that ever supported her is suddenly a liability. (Anti-McCarthy mailings will trumpet the question “Why Are the Trial Lawyers Financing Sheila McCarthy?”) As Mr. Grisham points out in one of his book’s many moments of indignation, there’s no need for the architects of a smear campaign to answer such a question. All they have to do is keep on asking it.
Meanwhile the covert operators create their own man: Ron Fisk, a political newcomer. “They picked Fisk because he was just old enough to cross their low threshold of legal experience, but still young enough to have ambitions,” the book explains. Fisk is also new enough to be wowed by perks like private jets, which allow him to make so many more campaign stops than his rivals can, and by all the new attention lavished on him by his backers. He barely has time to wonder why they find him so appealing or where all those campaign funds are coming from.
And for a UK review read this one from The Times.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Populist prejudice
Crime books easier to write than 'serious' novels?
That attitude is, frankly, cobblers

Mark Lawson writing in The Guardian.

Seriously underrated ... John Banville (top) and Michael Dibdin

Ian Rankin, Britain's best-selling mystery writer, often quotes a review suggesting that the latest DI Rebus story "almost transcends the genre of crime fiction". This rudely qualified compliment rankles with Rankin because it typifies the refusal of review pages to break down the wall of condescension which separates the kind of fiction that is set for exams and given prizes from the kind that sells in supermarkets and has clues and a solution.
But, depressingly for Rankin and other practitioners of the genre that he almost
managed to transcend, there now seems to be documented case law for the view
that crime books are easier to write than so-called serious novels.
This week, Joan Brady - a talented American novelist living in Devon, who won the Whitbread prize in 1993 - received £115,000 in an out-of-court settlement from a cobbler close to
her Totnes home. The novelist alleged that fumes from solvents used at the
plant had caused her physical distress and mental distraction.

One example given of her problems - and here we come to the reason that Brady should probably not walk down any dark alleys filled with crime writers - was that she had become so
confused by the fumes that she was forced to abandon a serious novel, Cool
Wind from the Future, and turn instead to mystery fiction, with Bleedout.
So, in the course of a compensation dispute, we have medical and legal support for the traditional
libel against crime writing: that it is done by authors whose brains aren't
fully working. Perhaps, in the way that the dim in showbusiness became known
as airheads, leading crime and thriller writers should in future be designated

Who Is Grady Harp?Amazon's Top Reviewers and the fate of the literary amateur.
By Garth Risk Hallberg Posted Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008 in SLATE

Full disclosure: It was late at night, in a fit of furtive self-Googling, that I discovered the first Amazon customer review of my debut book of fiction. "Superb," wrote Grady Harp of Los Angeles. "Fascinating ... addictive." Not to mention "profound." Such extravagance should have aroused suspicion, but I was too busy basking in the glow of a five-star rave to worry about the finer points of Harp's style. Sure, he'd spelled my name wrong, but hadn't he also judged me "a sensitive observer of human foibles"? Only when I noticed the "Top 10 Reviewer" tag did I wonder whether Grady Harp was more than just a satisfied customer. After a brief e-mail exchange, my publicist confirmed that she'd solicited Grady Harp's review.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, but I had imagined Amazon's customer reviews as a refuge from the machinations of the publishing industry: "an intelligent and articulate conversation ... conducted by a group of disinterested, disembodied spirits," as James Marcus, a former editor at the company, wrote in his memoir, Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot.Com Juggernaut. Indeed, with customers unseating salaried employees like Marcus as the company's leading content producers, Amazon had been hailed as a harbinger of "Web 2.0"—an ideal realm where user-generated consensus trumps the bankrupt pieties of experts. As I explored the murky understory of Amazon's reviewer rankings, however, I came to see the real Web 2.0 as a tangle of hidden agendas—one in which the disinterested amateur may be an endangered species.

On the surface, Grady Harp seems just the sort of enlightened consumer who might lead us out of Web 1.0's darkness. A 66-year-old gallerist, retired surgeon, and poet, he has reviewed over 3,500 books, CDs, and movies for Amazon. In turn, he has attained a kind of celebrity: a No. 7 ranking; a prominent profile on the Web site; and, apparently, a following. In the week after his endorsement of my work appeared, more than 100 readers clicked on a button that said, "I found this review helpful." His stated mission is to remain "ever on the lookout for the new and promising geniuses of tomorrow." At present, Dr. Harp's vigil runs to about 500,000 words—a critical corpus to rival Dr. Johnson's—and his reviews are clearly the product of a single, effusive sensibility. Jose Saramago's Blindness is "A Searing, Mesmerizing Journey" (five stars); The Queer Men's Erotic Art Workshop's Dirty Little Drawings, "A Surprisingly Rich Treasure Trove" (five stars).
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Such efforts have led a quorum of enthusiasts to hail Harp as a standard-bearer for literary amateurism. "Keep your pen hot, Grady!" one comments. Yet an equally energetic chorus of detractors carps that Harp's Amazon reviews are more self-interested than they might appear. The comment threads accompanying Harp postings devolve into litanies of accusation: GH engages in back-scratching; GH is unduly influenced by publishers; GH has failed to read the book under review.

My own research suggests that GH is no more or less credible than Amazon's other "celebrity reviewers." Harriet Klausner, No. 1 since the inception of the ranking system in 2000, has averaged 45 book reviews per week over the last five years—a pace that seems hard to credit, even from a professed speed-reader. Reviewer No. 3, Donald Mitchell, ceaselessly promotes "the 400 Year Project," which his profile identifies only as "a pro bono, noncommercial project to help the world make improvements at 20 times the normal rate." John "Gunny" Matlock, ranked No. 6 this spring, took a holiday from Amazon, according to Vick Mickunas of the Dayton Daily News, after allegations that 27 different writers had helped generate his reviews.
Absent the institutional standards that govern (however notionally) professional journalists, Web 2.0 stakes its credibility on the transparency of users' motives and their freedom from top-down interference. Amazon, for example, describes its Top Reviewers as "clear-eyed critics [who] provide their fellow shoppers with helpful, honest, tell-it-like-it-is product information."

But beneath the just-us-folks rhetoric lurks an unresolved tension between transparency and opacity; in this respect, Amazon exemplifies the ambiguities of Web 2.0. The Top 10 List promises interactivity—"How do I become a Top Reviewer?"—yet Amazon guards its rankings algorithms closely. A spokeswoman for the company would explain only that a reviewer's standing is based on the number of votes labeling a review "helpful," rather than on the raw number of books reviewed by any one person. The Top Reviewers are those who give "the most trusted feedback," she told me, echoing the copy on the Web site.

Writers' digital row with library - report from BBC.

The National Library of Wales (left) is creating an online archive
Scores of writers are refusing to let their works be scanned for an online archive at the National Library of Wales because they are not being paid.
A year after a near-£1m project was awarded to digitise modern Welsh writing, a dispute between authors and the library has not been resolved.
The library is putting some 3.5m words from 20th Century English and Welsh periodicals and magazines on the web.
But literature promotion agency Academi wants writers to be paid a share.

Academi chief executive Peter Finch said: "It's an extremely exciting programme: what's wrong with it is there is no small sliver in there for paying the writers.
The big issue that is going to face writers everywhere is that certain corporations want to digitise works that are in copyright without paying the authors.

Former national poet Gwyneth Lewis (right) said
"Everybody else in the whole process is getting paid but the writers don't. "We know that in the arts sector, Lottery money is shrinking down to go to the Olympics. A lot of people will be without money."

The library aims to gain permission to digitise the contents of 90 journals, published since 1900, from the publishers. Some 600,000 pages of Welsh literary works, including poetry, translations and reviews, will be put online.
The library has said an offer to take down from its live site material by writers who object is a "reasonable compromise".
Wales' former national poet, Gwyneth Lewis said the issue was a matter of principle.
She said: "This is the thin end of the wedge. The big issue that is going to face writers everywhere is that certain corporations want to digitise works that are in copyright without paying the authors.
"If a writer's work is going to be put on a different platform, rights need to be negotiated with the writer for that extension, and that hasn't happened, therefore they can't have the work."
The National Library of Wales's generous offer to digitalise a selection of Welsh periodicals is a substantial boost to our cultural heritage .

However, some writers are happy for their works to be digitised without a payment.
Writer and publisher Lewis Davies, whose 1993 book Work, Sex and Rugby was voted the best book to describe Wales in the World Book Day campaign in 2003, is in favour.
In a comment on Academi's website, he said: "I feel that the National Library of Wales's generous offer to digitalise a selection of Welsh periodicals is a substantial boost to our cultural heritage and they should be congratulated for securing funding in a competitive world for this project.
"As a writer I've already been paid for my work published in the magazines which are due to be digitalised and the fact that the work which would otherwise be largely lost, unread and scattered is now to be universally available at the National Library of Wales is a significant extra payment in itself."

In an open letter to Academi, national library librarian Andrew Green said: "Since the scope of the project runs back to 1900, much of this research is essentially a historical exercise; the majority of authors involved are dead.
"Our experience has been that 99% of copyright holders are happy to grant consent; the proportion of copyright holders who have not been contacted and would refuse is therefore very small."
The library has been asked to comment.
A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly Government said: "We understand that the National Library of Wales and Academi have been in discussion on this matter and that these discussions continue."

The Wait of the World's on Dan Brown
'Da Vinci Code' Author Has Sluggish Publishing Industry In Suspense Over Follow-Up
By Jeffrey Trachtenberg writing in The Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2008;

Dan Brown's 2003 novel "The Da Vinci Code" was the biggest publishing event in decades, a global best-seller that spawned dozens of literary knockoffs, a cottage industry of explanatory nonfiction titles, and a vast European tourism business focused on sites mentioned in the book.

Now that Harry Potter -- the only bigger publishing phenomenon of the age -- is retired, no book has been as eagerly awaited as Mr. Brown's next novel, purported to be about freemasonry and the Founding Fathers. The problem is, it is still awaited...and awaited...and awaited.
The whole industry is impatient. Book sales are generally sluggish, and one explosive, high-profile title can jump-start sales across the board as customers pour into the stores and walk out with a bagful of titles. When Bertelsmann AG reports 2007 results in March, it will be the first time since 2002 that it didn't get a boost from "The Da Vinci Code."

Meanwhile, the nation's biggest retailers can barely restrain themselves. "We're constantly asking," says Bob Wietrak, vice president of merchandising at Barnes & Noble Inc.
So where is the new novel? It's a mystery worthy of the deepest secrets of the Knights Templar. Mr. Brown, holed up in New Hampshire, isn't saying. His agent, Heide Lange, isn't, either.
"When a major author doesn't deliver, you get down on your knees and pray," says Laurence Kirshbaum, a book agent who heads up LJK Literary Management in New York. "You can't threaten, you can't cajole, you wait."

Back in November 2004, a spokeswoman for Doubleday said the target publishing date for Mr. Brown's next book was 2005, although she noted that "there are no guarantees."
Now, the publisher is hinting that a manuscript is close. "Dan Brown has a very specific release date for the publication of his new book, and when the book is published, his readers will see why," says Stephen Rubin, president of Bertelsmann's Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, whose Doubleday imprint publishes Mr. Brown. Mr. Rubin declined further comment.
What date could that be? Since some of the leaders of the American Revolution were masons, including George Washington, an obvious reference point would be July Fourth. In addition to it being Independence Day, the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4, 1848 in a ceremony hosted by the Freemasons.

There are other more obscure dates that could be significant, however: On Sept. 18, 1793, President Washington led a Masonic parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to lay the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol. It is considered one of the most important events in Masonic history. A third choice? The cornerstone of the White House was laid on Oct. 13, 1792, during a Masonic celebration. (On that date in 1307, the King of France ordered the arrest of Knights Templar. There has been speculation connecting the Knights and the origins of the Masons, although the matter is in question.)

Mr. Brown's publisher said several years ago that the next book is tentatively titled "The Solomon Key." In an undated post on his Web site, Mr. Brown writes that it is "set deep within the oldest fraternity in history...the enigmatic brotherhood of the Masons." Elsewhere on the site, he notes that Robert Langdon, a fictional Harvard symbologist who first appeared in Mr. Brown's second book "Angels & Demons" and was played by Tom Hanks in the movie version of "The Da Vinci Code," will "find himself embroiled in a mystery on U.S. soil. This new novel explores the hidden history of our nation's capital."
Up until now, Mr. Brown wrote his books in quick succession: the first, "Digital Fortress," was published in 1998; followed by "Angels & Demons" in 2000, "Deception Point" in 2001, and "The Da Vinci Code" in 2003.
The first three books sold modestly when first released, but the fourth -- about the search for the real meaning of the Holy Grail and the bloodline of Jesus -- was one of the most remarkable stories in publishing history. There are more than 80 million copies in print world-wide, according to Ms. Lange. It served as the basis of a blockbuster movie of the same name, released in 2006. Mr. Brown's earlier titles subsequently became wildly popular, too, each of them selling millions. "Angels & Demons" has 39 million in print.

Mr. Brown's income from all four books, including "The Da Vinci Code" and revenue from the film, has made him a rich man. Forbes magazine estimated Mr. Brown earned $88 million between June 2005 and June 2006, minus management, agent and attorney fees. Dan Burstein, editor of the best-seller "Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind The Da Vinci Code," thinks Mr. Brown may have earned as much as $250 million to $300 million from all related properties.

Many writers have struggled. Charles Frazier, whose debut Civil War novel, "Cold Mountain," was published in 1997 and won the National Book Award, needed nearly a decade to deliver "Thirteen Moons," published in 2006. Although "Thirteen Moons" generated some good reviews, the book never caught fire with readers. It's estimated that there are 4 million copies of "Cold Mountain" in print in the U.S.
"It's a classic case of an author who has written a phenomenon being reluctant to commit," says David Steinberger, CEO of the Perseus Books Group, a unit of Washington private-equity firm Perseus LLC. "The next book almost always underperforms, because the author is already at his zenith. There is only one way to go."

Mr. Brown's timetable was affected by a plagiarism suit brought in the United Kingdom by two of the three authors of "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail." That book, a work of nonfiction published in 1982, explored the possibility that Jesus had not died on the cross but married and fathered a child -- a theme central to "The Da Vinci Code."
Although Mr. Brown was exonerated in early 2006, the matter was time-consuming. At one point, Mr. Brown filed a lengthy personal statement which said of his work habits: "For me, writing is a discipline, much like playing a musical instrument; it requires constant practice and honing of skills. For this reason, I write seven days a week. So, my routine begins at around 4:00 AM every morning, when there are no distractions."

"The Da Vinci Code" was also criticized for factual miscues; this time, he may be taking particular care. "He has toured a number of Masonic temples to get the historical facts correct," says Akram Elias, grand master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia.
The Masons are a fraternal society dedicated to self-improvement and charitable works. Membership is open to all religions and political parties. Although Mr. Brown portrayed the secretive Roman Catholic group Opus Dei in a negative light in "The Da Vinci Code," Mr. Elias says he isn't worried. "Freemasonry will survive Dan Brown," he says.
Meanwhile, some publishing veterans say the wait is understandable. "When you have that level of success, you feel an obligation," says Mr. Kirshbaum. "He's climbing Everest times 10. He probably wants to make the next book perfect."

Waterstone’s Announces 12 Vibrant New Voices

Some of the best, most energetic new writing from emerging international talent is announced in a list of 12 new writers selected by leading bookseller Waterstone’s for its New Voices promotion.

Chosen from scores of titles submitted by publishers, these are the writers Waterstone’s identified as likely future winners of literary prizes such as the Man Booker, Orange and Costa. Hailing from different continents and now living in as diverse places as India, New York and Glasgow, the 12 New Voices authors are as follows (listed alphabetically):

- Aravind Adiga (The White Tiger, Atlantic)
- Charles Bock (Beautiful Children, John Murray)
- David Downing (Silesian Station, Old Street)
- Zoe Ferraris (The Night of the Mi’raj, Little, Brown)
- Sadie Jones (The Outcast, Chatto & Windus)
- Hillary Jordan (Mudbound, William Heinemann)
- Toni Jordan (Addition, Sceptre)
- Richard T. Kelly (Crusaders, Faber)
- Kei Miller (The Same Earth, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
- John Niven (Kill Your Friends, William Heinemann)
- Ross Raisin (God’s Own Country, Penguin)
- Willy Vlautin (Northline, Faber)

New Voices is just one of many recent projects Waterstone’s has initiated to show its commitment to emerging new authors, and to celebrate the relationship between readers and writers. The New Voices promotion forms part of the Waterstone’s Writer’s Year campaign which will see unique and ambitious projects unveiled each month, celebrating the writer and coinciding with the National Year of Reading 2008. The monthly events include giving a high-profile author free reign to choose every single title within a major promotion called The Writer’s Table in May, the launch of the Waterstone’s Featured Poet in October, and the introduction of The Bookseller’s Bursary in April, a scheme designed to encourage budding authors within the company by sending two booksellers on an all expenses paid writing course.

All books by the New Voices authors will be available in stores in time for World Book Day 2008 on 6 March.

Toby Bourne, Waterstone’s Fiction Buying Manager commented:
“One of the most exciting things for readers every year is watching new writers appear on the literary scene and discovering their work. Our New Voices demonstrate a real wealth of talent and variety – a completely different collection of novels from all genres and from authors of different nationalities. These twelve authors have written fresh, challenging and convincing stories and we expect to find them shaping the world of fiction for years to come.”
Longlist Announced for
The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008

Arts Council England has today announced the longlist for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008, in association with Champagne Taittinger.

17 contenders from over 90 entries have been long-listed for the prize, worth £10,000. They are:
The Yacoubian Building by Alaa al Aswany, translated by Humphrey Davies from the Arabic, published by Fourth Estate
Book of Words by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky from the German, published by Portobello Books
The Moon Opera by Bi Feiyu, translated by Howard Goldblatt from the Chinese, published by Telegram Books
Castorp by Pawel Huelle, translated by Antonia Lloyd Jones from the Polish, published by Serpent’s Tail
Agamemnon’s Daughter by Ismail Kadare translated by David Bellos from the French, published by Canongate
Let it be morning by Sayed Kashua, translated by Miraim Shlesinger from the Hebrew, published by Atlantic Books
Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Carol Brown Janeway from the German, published by Quercus
Gregorius by Bengt Ohlsson, translated by Silvester Mazzarella from the Swedish, published by Portobello Books
Shutterspeed by Erwin Morrtimer, translated by Ina Rilke from the Dutch, published by Harvill Secker
The Past by Alan Pauls, translated by Nick Caistor from the Spanish, published by Harvill Secker
Rivers of Babylon by Peter Pist’anek, translated by Peter Petro from the Slovak, published by Garnett Press
Delirium by Laura Restrepo, translated by Natasha Wimmer from the Spanish, published by Harvill Secker
The Model by Lars Saabye Christensen, translated by Don Barlett from the Norwegian, published by Arcadia Books
Bahia Blues by Yasmina Traboulsi, translated by Polly McLean from the French, published by Arcadia Books
The Way of the Women by Marlene van Niekerk, translated by Michiel do Heyns from the Afrikaans, published by Little, Brown
Omega Minor by Paul Verhaeghen, translated by Paul Verhaeghen from the Dutch, published by Dalkey Archive Press
Montano by Enrique Vilas-Matas, translated by Jonathan Dunne from the Spanish, published by Harvill Secker

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize celebrates an exceptional work of fiction by a living author which has been translated into English from any other language and published in the United Kingdom in the last year. This year’s longlist reflects the international scope of the prize and includes writers working in Hebrew, Afrikaans, Chinese and Arabic. Among the longlisted authors is Ismail Kadare, the inaugural Man Booker International Prize winner.

Antonia Byatt, Director, Literature Strategy, Arts Council England said:

"This year's long list is a fantastic demonstration of the rich range and quality of fiction in translation being published in Britain today. It’s wonderful to see so many languages represented from all round the world: a feast for readers and quite a challenge for the judges in making a decision!"

report from The Guardian.


Following the announcement of Michael Moynahan's promotion within Random House, it is with regret that we have to advise his resignation as President of BPANZ.

Since becoming President in 2005, Michael has done a fantastic job for the organisation and the industry as a whole. The organisation has been restructured and the appointment of a full time Association Director, Anne de Lautour, last year has transformed its administration and effectiveness. Externally Michael's ability to network with other agencies including government officers, departments and organisations has ensured that the importance of the publishing sector to the nation's cultural and economic well being has been effectively represented with tangible benefits for all members.

Michael's inclusive management style has ensured that the opinions and views of all members have been taken into full consideration by your Council. He leaves the organisation in a strong financial position and with the path ahead clearly mapped out.

On behalf of all members we thank Michael for his efforts on our behalf and wish him and his family all the very best for their exciting new life in India

On behalf of the BPANZ Council

Tony Fisk
Vice President.
And a further announcement:
BPANZ Council is pleased to announce that an interim appointment for the position of BPANZ President has been made.

Vice President Tony Fisk will take over the role of President of BPANZ until July 2008 when Council elections will take place. Tony Fisk, Managing Director of Harper Collins NZ Ltd has been a Council member for the past 5 years and Vice President for 3 years so BPANZ is delighted he has agreed to undertake this major role in the organisation.

BookExpo America – May 29-June 1 Los Angeles, CA.

BookExpo America (BEA) is one of the world's leading book fairs serving the $35 billion-dollar U.S. publishing industry and is a venue where Literary Rights are bought and sold.

Gain access to over 30,000 industry professionals, 2,000 publishers, 1,000 members of the media, from 100 countries, including rights professionals who will be working, transacting and participating at BEA.

For more information on the International Rights Center please visit
or contact Melissa Held:

Early-bird rates expire January 31, 2008. To Sign Up Today, go to
The entire book world awaits!

Powell’s to Expand Flagship in 2010 - From PW.

Starting January 2010, Powell's Books in Portland, Ore. will begin construction to add some 10,000 sq. ft. of retail space to its existing flagship location, Powell’s City of Books, and incorporate the 7,000 sq.-ft. of inventory from Powell’s Technical Books, effectively closing the freestanding store, which operates just two blocks from the flagship.

“We don’t see it as closing a store, since we’re incorporating the inventory into our store and it will be given a dedicated room” said Powell’s CEO for strategic development, Miriam Sontz.
The additional retail space will likely be utilized to expand City of Book’s children’s section, which currently occupies some 5,000 sq.-ft. of 75,000 sq.-ft. flagship store.

Sontz said that the store “may decide to add even more retail space, but no decision has been finalized.” Any expansion, which is likely to take the form of adding additional stories to the existing building, will have to be approved by the city.
“We made the announcement so far in advance,” said Sontz, “in part because we wanted to spend 2008 talking to our staff and surrounding community about what they want to add to the store. This is an opportunity for change. Then in 2009, hopefully we can approve the plans and in 2010 start construction.”

Thursday, January 24, 2008


The coming weekend is a holiday weekend in Auckland so I'm taking advantage of that to head off today to the far north to a remote beach to join friends there where I plan to do little except eat, drink, sleep and read! I have five novels from which to choose!

There is no phone or Internet connection up there so this is au revoir until next week.
The picture above is by courtesy of Maryanne Mummery and was actually taken on Great Barrier Island at Christmas but the outlook is quite similar to where we are headed.

All best, back on air after the weekend.



By Michael Coffey writing in Publishers Weekly.

Ishmael Beah, whose story of serving as a soldier in war-torn Sierra Leone has been questioned by reports in an Australian newspaper (here is the original story, and an update), has fired back. Beah has issued a frank statement supporting his position that the dates of his service in the conflicts in his home country were correct. Although over the weekend, Beah wrote a Letter to the Editor of the The Australian, defending his book, in today's statement he goes further, quoting two Sierra Leoneans in support of his version of events.

Beah also describes a months-long back-and-forth with a man named Bob Lloyd and reporters for The Australian, which challenged whether or not Beah's parents were dead. "When they were forced to acknowledge that this has been a hoax," says Beah of the reporters, they tried "to raise questions about the dates" in his book. A Long Way Gone has sold close to 700,000 copies in hardover, according to Jeff Seroy, FSG spokesperson, and a trade paperback is due on August 5.
Here is the complete press release from FSG:January 22, 2008

For months I told Bob Lloyd and The Australian’sreporter, Shelley Gare, through my publisher, my agent, and my adoptive mother, that unfortunately they were wrong, that the man they claimed was my father was not my father, and that my mother and brothers were not alive, as Lloyd claimed. Last week, when The Australiansent reporters to my home in Sierra Leone, they were forced to acknowledge that this has been a hoax.

Now The Australian’s reporters are trying to raise questions about the dates in my book, A Long Way Gone, regarding when the war came to my village. They offer as "proof" a man named Mr. Barry who claims to have been the head of the school I attended when I was young. I have never heard of a Mr. Barry. The principal of my school was Mr. Sidiki Brahima.
The war in Sierra Leone began in 1991. My story, as I remember it and wrote it, began in 1993 when rebels “attacked the mining areas” (my words from the book) in my village while I was away with friends. I never saw my family again. The Australian, presumably, is basing their defamation of me on reports that the Sierra Rutile Mine was closed down by rebels in 1995. But there were rebels in my region, my village, and my life in 1993. They attacked throughout 1993 and 1994 before closing down the mine.

Others from Sierra Leone can bear witness to the truth of my story.
Leslie Mboka, National Chairman of the Campaign for Just Mining in Freetown, was a counselor at Benin Home, the rehabilitation center in Freetown, Sierra Leone, I entered in January 1996. He told this to my publisher, Sarah Crichton, on the telephone today:

“A gentleman named Wilson was here investigating regarding Ishmael Beah’s book, and I told him emphatically−emphatically−that Ishmael’s accounts are accurate and correct. Wilson was going to Mogbwemo to find out if Ishmael Beah’s family was alive. When he came back to Freetown, he said he couldn’t find anyone alive, and the man who said he was Ishmael’s father was actually just a relative. But then he asked, what about confusion with the dates?
And I said, there is no problem with the dates. The rebels made sporadic attacks on the mining communities between ’93 and ’94, leading up to and in preparation for the major assault in ’95. In fact, military personnel were deployed to the area because there were these sporadic raids. Ishmael was caught in one of the earlier attacks.

I told all this to Peter Wilson. I told him everything that Ishmael wrote is accurate and completely factual, and I explained to him what was confusing him.
I do not understand what his paper’s agenda is. I do not understand why they are trying to blackmail this brilliant and honest young man.”
Mboka was contacted by The New York Times when they fact-checked the excerpts of my book which they published. His testimony did not appear in The Australian’s reporting.
My publisher also spoke today with Alusine Kamara, former director of Benin Home, who now lives in Boston.

“I have known Ishmael since he was a soldier and he came to our center. I have read his book, and I have no doubt that what he says is true I do not know why anyone would want to question what Ishmael writes about. He did not write a history of the whole war, he wrote about his experiences. And if anyone has any doubts about what Ishmael went through, or what it was like for those soldiers, I refer them to the BBC World—they made many documentaries about our center.”

I was right about my family. I am right about my story. This is not something one gets wrong. The Australian’s reporters have been calling my college professors, asking if I "embellished" my story. They published my adoptive mother’s address, so she now receives ugly threats. They have used innuendo against me when there is no fact. Though apparently, they believe anything they are told–unless it comes from me or supports my account. Sad to say, my story is all true.

Ishmael Beah