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  • Scott Pack on Sebastian Beaumont

    Wed, 18 Mar 2009 03:54

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    Scott Pack praises Sebastian Beaumont:

    Sebastian Beaumont's debut novel Thirteen blew me away when I read it a couple of years ago. Its unnerving blend of the mysterious, the confusing and the unexplained won't be for everyone but it was perfect for me. It reminded me of the first time I read Haruki Murakami, or The Magus, it was that good.

    Beaumont's follow-up book, The Juggler, quite literally caught me by surprise when it fell through my letterbox last month. I had no idea it was due, but don't get me started on how crap the book industry is at creating awareness of new books (unless your name is Julie Myerson and the book in question is about your drug addicted son, of course). My feelings of surprise were swiftly supplanted by excitement: if this book turned out to be half as good as its predecessor then I was in for quite a ride. I braced myself accordingly.

    And a good job too for The Juggler isn't half as good as Thirteen. It is better (more...)

  • Scott Pack on John Connolly

    Thu, 12 Mar 2009 03:10

    Scott Pack admitting he likes crime fiction and going on to discuss John Connolly:

    Now here's the thing, if you were to ask me if I would consider myself a fan of crime writing I would probably answer in the negative. I wouldn't put myself in that bracket, not out of any literary snobbery but simply because I don't read much of it.

    Having said that, it dawned on me that I have enjoyed, greatly enjoyed, most of the crime books I have read. The vast majority, in fact. Some of them would rank in my Most Exciting Top 10 if such a list existed. So I should really reassess my position on the genre. I suppose I am a fan and should start thinking of myself as such.

    More specifically, I should consider myself a fan of the books of Chris Simms, Chris Ewan, James Ellroy and Miyuki Miyabe. But the two finest crime writers I have sampled to date, two whose work ranks right up there with some of the very best fiction of any genre are Arnaldur Indridason and John Connolly.

    Indridason writes unusual, cold case, grim Icelandic crime. Connolly writes disturbing, edgy, haunting American crime. And it is his work I have sampled again recently.

    Dark Hollow is the second Connolly novel to feature private eye Charlie Parker, also known appropriately enough as Bird. It is a year after the events of book one (I won't spoil it for you but suffice to say quite a lot of people die) and Bird is renovating his new home in the Maine of his childhood, attempting to start afresh. When he does a favour for a young single mother and hassles her no-good ex for overdue child support she and her son wind up dead and the ex goes on the run with the mob on his tail. Throw in a decades old serial killer case and Bird finds himself kept rather busy.

    The ingredients may not stand out as original for the genre but Connolly's style is distinctive. There is a dark mood pervading the book. It broods, and it sucks you in. There are elements of horror but they are there to disturb, to trouble, not to shock. One reviewer describes Connolly as a cross between Wilkie Collins and James Ellroy and that is an excellent comparison. Others have labelled his work as supernatural crime which I think gives the wrong impression. Dark is the word I would use, or haunting.

  • Mary Beard on literary festivals

    Wed, 04 Mar 2009 04:36

    Mary Beard's take on literary festivals:

    Literary festivals are huge fun -- but also unnerving affairs if you're a performing author. The question is: what counts as a successful festival gig? Is it filling the hall they've assigned you? That's easier if the organisers have not expected a huge turnout and have given you a modest room with a modest number of seats. "Standing room only" is always good for morale, even if only takes 40 or so punters to achieve it. The other way round -- when a few faithful followers (usually friends and relations) are dotted around a vast hall fit for a best seller -- is at best a salutary reminder that one's own obsession with one's own book is not actually widely shared. At worst it's a real put-down.

    Or do you judge it by books bought and signed? Is an audience of 40 each of whom buys a copy of your latest tome more a success than an audience of 500 if only 10 decide to take a copy home with them? There's a good deal of humiliation in store here too. I dont imagine that there's a single "ordinary" author who hasn't been in a joint signing session, where the queue to get a signature out of the other authors snakes right out of the "signing tent" -- while you're sitting there "unbought", talking to an old student or a friend of your parents who has taken pity on you (more...)

  • The Paris Review Interviews

    Fri, 12 Dec 2008 06:25

  • Blogs rule!

    Fri, 12 Dec 2008 06:25

    The US-based litblog MobyLives reports that:
    Book blog readership has grown exponentially and a new study says that so has the influence of blogs on book sales. The study, conducted by Jupiter Research and BuzzLogic, found that blogs "have more impact on purchase decisions than social networks," and that "Blogs create a conversation and trusted resource that influences purchase decision." According to a report on ClickZ, "The survey also finds consumers are influenced by blogs at the moment of purchase decision... likely because bloggers establish themselves as an authority on a topic, particularly in niche areas, and create a relationship with the consumer."
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