Sunday, 31 August 2008

Collecting Books: Something for Everyone at The York Book Fair

“Books, books everywhere, but not a minute to lose.” Interested in collecting books? A £3,200.00 scarce, limited edition copy of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with 4 signed and numbered aquatints, is just one of the highlights on offer at this year’s York Book Fair. But visitors will have to be quick. You’ll have an average of four minutes at each stand if you want to visit them all.

The annual York Rare and Antiquarian Book Fair, the largest of its kind in Europe, will open at 12.00 noon on Friday 12th September 2008 at York Racecourse. Now in its 33rd year, this year's fair will be attended by nearly 200 leading dealers, who will gather to offer rare, antiquarian, unusual and hard to obtain out-of-print books on all conceivable subjects.

"As someone who travels 6000 miles to the York Fair it is my main buying event of the year," Mark Weber, Bookseller, Tucson, Arizona is quoted on the Book Fair's site as saying. Aquila Books exhibits from Canada. They specialize in books dealing with Polar Exploration, Western Canadiana, Mountaineering, the Canadian Pacific Railway and Early Voyages among many other areas.

However it is not a strict trade show by any means, with around 40% of visitors welcomed from the general public. The Fair coincides with the launch of “Start Collecting Books Now”, a new Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association initiative aimed at reaching the-man-in-the-street who may be considering collecting books, in the hope of generating new collectors in a field where there is something for everyone's taste. Prices range from a few pounds to tens of thousands of pounds, so there are items for serious collectors and first time-buyers, and those new to collecting alike. As part of the initiative, a booklet is available drawing together information on how and where to buy books, visits to fairs and bookshops as well as tackling buying online.

“There is a reburgeoning interest in the physicality of books,” said Tony Fothergill, Manager of the York Book Fair Committee, in an interview with The View From Here, "at the same time as the ever-increasing volume of books available in digital formats. You can compare it with the current re-interest in vinyl LPs in the music industry (in relation to increasing music online downloads). Books will always have a place. There is something unique about holding a book in your hand, which was in someone else’s in the time it was written.”

One of the items with potentially mass appeal is the trilogy by Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials; The Subtle Knife; and The Amber Spyglass. All first editions, all first issue, all first state dustjackets, all signed on the title pages. Price set at £5,000.00.

“Books fetching high prices now, are often those driven by popular momentum outside of the books themselves. Films generate interest,” said Fothergill. “It’s all about supply and demand. At the time of the films, there was insatiable demand for copies of The Lord of The Rings, which has probably peaked now.”

The delightful artwork for both the Fair and the initiative was created by Mark Hearld, a York based artist, whose recent projects include work for Penguin Books, and the poster for the forthcoming Tate Britain’s Curwen Studios 50th anniversary exhibition. Mark said about the project, “It has been exciting working for the PBFA following in the great Edward Bawdens’ footsteps. I am passionate about books… collecting books so taking on this commission is just right. I’ve learned to draw cats in the process but I think it is the mice which hit the spot!”

Jill Tiffin, of The Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association, who has masterminded the project, said “there is no doubt we need to reach a wider and younger audience. We hope this initiative will be the first step in attracting a new generation of book collectors”.

Event Details:

When: September 12-13
Book Fair Hours:
Friday, September 12th, 12.00 noon - 7.00pm
Saturday, September 13th, 10.00am - 5.00pm
Venue: The Knavesmire Suite, York Racecourse
Venue Tel: 01904 638227
Car Parking: Free Parking on site
Motorway Junction: A1 (M) J.1
Nearest railway station: York (1 mile) free shuttle bus service
Type of Fair: General antiquarian and secondhand books, maps and prints

Complementary tickets are available to print online or admission is £2.00 at the door.

Artwork copyright Mark Hearld, used with kind permission from The York Book Fair.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

World-Class writers bring live poetry to Snape Proms

If you think dancing girls and eating fire belong to a good night out, and that there’s nothing wrong with a bit of moral disorder, then we’ve an event that’s just for you.

Audiences at the Poetry Prom at the UK’s Snape Maltings Concert Hall on Wednesday 27 August at 7.30pm will have a rare opportunity to hear live selected poems by Margaret Atwood and Alastair Reid, two international writers of the highest calibre.

This is the sixth year that a Poetry Prom – programmed by The Poetry Trust at the invitation of Aldeburgh Music – has been part of the popular Snape Proms series. Each of the previous Poetry Proms has attracted 600–800 people – probably the biggest single-event poetry audiences in the UK – and this year the tent is expected to be a complete sell-out. As of August 26th, 90 tickets remain of th 820 capacity.

Although Canada’s world-renowned Margaret Atwood is best known for her novels, her very first publication was a book of poetry – The Circle Game (1964) – and a further fourteen volumes have followed, most recently The Door (2007). She last visited Suffolk in 2004 when she appeared at the 16th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival – The Poetry Trust’s flagship annual event – and the Poetry Prom offers a further chance to experience the power and range of the poems that she has been writing steadily throughout her glittering literary career. Her life is one that many writers may dream of becoming their own true stories.

The octogenarian Scot and tireless traveller Alastair Reid considers language to be his constant home, and poetry – “language at its most thrilling” – his way of rejoicing in the world. His natural charisma and witty, eloquent poems were the big hit of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in 2006. He has written more than forty books of prose and poetry including definitive translations of Latin-American writers Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda. His Outside In: Selected Prose and Inside Out: Selected Poems will be published this August.

Says Naomi Jaffa, Director of The Poetry Trust:

“It’s such a coup and an incredible privilege to present Margaret Atwood and Alastair Reid on the same stage at Snape. They’re both utterly wonderful poets and brilliant communicators live, so we’re in for a huge treat at this year’s Poetry Prom.”

For those who make a holiday of it, some wilderness tips. The setting at Snape Maltings Concert Hall is unusual and a haven for birdlife with its expansive estuary. The tidal river is a place of glistening mud and shallow open water, filled twice a day by the incoming tide and rich in wildlife throughout the year. The animals in that country surroundings, include rare seals and cormorants.

As of August 26th about 90 tickets remain, 20 of which are only made available first come first served on the door to be in the Prom, front section where you sit on a cushion. Seats are also available and cost £14. Prom £6. Contact Aldeburgh Music Box Office: telephone 01728 687110 or online It should be noted that the performance is not suitable for children.

Author note: so, how well do you know your Atwood? Did you already find ten of her works ‘hidden’ in the article?

Editor’s Notes


The Poetry Trust is one of the UK’s flagship poetry organisations, delivering a year-round programme of live events, creative education opportunities, courses, prizes and publications. The annual Aldeburgh Poetry Festival (7-9 November 2008) is the Trust’s core and most high profile activity. The Poetry Trust is based in Halesworth, Suffolk.

The annual Snape Proms are organised by Aldeburgh Music. While the June Aldeburgh Festival probes the depths of classical, contemporary and experimental music, the Snape Proms offers a more eclectic mix of performances, spanning classical, jazz, blues, folk and world music as well as comedy and poetry.


Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939 and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson. Canada’s most eminent novelist and poet, she has published more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Apart from short interludes of guest teaching, she has been a full-time writer since 1972. Her work has been translated into thirty-three languages and she has received major literary awards in numerous countries.

Alastair Reid was born in Whithorn in 1926 and grew up in Scotland. After war service in the navy, he finished his studies at St Andrews University and has subsequently spent much of his life in the Americas, North and South. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, he has published more than forty books – poems, prose and translations of work by many Latin American writers, Borges and Neruda in particular. His poetry collections include Whereabouts (1987), Weathering (1978) and To Lighten My House (1953). On the Blue Shore of Silence (2004) is a selection of his translations of Neruda’s poems of the sea. A pamphlet of his poems, When Now is Not Now, was published by The Poetry Trust to coincide with Alastair’s appearance at the 18th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Enid Blyton: Modernising the Classic? - Part Three

Modern Markets
How far do you go to market your book by making the writing fit modern market expectations? Should you write the story you want to and to hang with the market, (HP, JKR - who could have known?) or if your main goal is to get published, first make sure that your plot, setting and characters will appeal to your target audience and the market gatekeepers - your agent or editor? How well do you know your ever changing market and can your writing keep pace?

I reviewed an extract from a children's novel recently, set in France. The descriptive prose was beautiful, clear and full of sensory delights - but the children say 'Fancy...' and are called Timmy and Sally. No matter how good the story might become, I fear that the author will just have no chance of making it past an editor's desk. At least, it seems, probably not past that of those behind the new “cool” Enid Blyton books.

Is this what the market wants? How well do the gatekeepers know the readers? I know I devoured every one of the Famous Five and in the 80's they certainly hadn't had a makeover with "Madonna-style" leg warmers nor did they warn each other of dangers via the pioneering models of a mobile phone, and I didn't expect them to.

Blyton once said that criticism from people over the age of 12 “didn't matter”, but the over-twelves in the publishing world decide what gets allowed through the gate to reach those target readers.

Open Sesame?
How do we convince the gatekeepers, the agents, editors and publishing houses, that what we have written will sell? Let’s be honest, as an author, no matter how well you feel you have done your research and know your market, it is their job. Those gatekeepers are the professionals in their field, just as you wouldn't try open heart surgery without a medical qualification and experience, what makes you think you know your book will sell better than they do?

However, don’t be put off by rejection if you believe in your work. On rare occasions, you may be right. Don't forget, after all those rejections, when the first Harry Potter was published in 1997, the novel was considered to have such modest prospects that Bloomsbury ordered a first print run of just 500 copies. And 300 of those were distributed to school libraries.

The market demand needs to pull the book from the publisher to convince them it is wanted. But it is a finely balanced partnership with the quality of the writing pushing the writing to stand out from the crowd, and saying to the gatekeeper and the reader, "pick me." New authors' energy and the advice given to them, seems most often to focus on the query letter, the pitch to an agent or publisher, but these people are not going to promote it (at least not until you are famous). Telling them how good your book is in itself, even why it is different from what is already on the market will not be enough to take it on and make it a success. The gatekeepers are in business and need to know it will sell. Therefore, in my opinion if we are targeting commercial success, we should change our mindset to focus first on the market and show in the query how we meet it. Who are your target buyers and readers? Why will they read what you are writing? What is similar to your work and what statistical data do you have to show it sells? If you can convince them why your book gives them something new that readers want and have some data to prove it, you have one part of the key to take to the gatekeepers.

Modernising our meaning?

So for the other part, how do you convince a reader of the merits of your work? Excellent writing, a good plot, well-rounded and engaging characters go without saying, there is no room for second-best writing in today’s market. But beyond that I believe, it is the values we have as a writer that shine through. If we believe in what we are writing and why, and can apply vision, passion and discipline, I believe you will find your market success. You need to make it happen. Think Christopher Paolini, Eragon.

Being true to ourselves as writers, makes modernity and classicism unimportant. If you write a book that has never finished saying what it has to say to its audience, you write well. And we can just hope it will be as loved sixty-six years on as Blyton’s Famous Five.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Melbourne awarded UNESCO City of Literature

We congratulate Melbourne on becoming the second UNESCO City of Literature. The first was Edinburgh, awarded in 2004.

A pioneering live link between the two Cities of Literature is scheduled for Sunday, when three times Booker Prize winner, Salman Rushdie’s event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival will be linked live to the Melbourne Writers’ Festival in Australia. Nam Le, the renowned Vietnamese born author, based in Melbourne, will be broadcast to an audience in Charlotte Square live from his event in Australia.

Ian Rankin, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trustee said “We’re really pleased to be linking up with a city on the other side of the world, building a stronger relationship between Edinburgh and Melbourne.”

Catherine Lockerbie, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival said “I’m delighted that Melbourne is joining Edinburgh and especially pleased that we will be celebrating the designation at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with the world’s first live satellite link-up between the two Cities of Literature on opposite sides of the globe – a truly exciting prospect.”

According to the UNESCO website, the designation provides a focus for literary activities and attracts prestigious events (such as the Man Booker International Prize for Literature to Scotland). But events aside, Edinburgh is the home of many world-famous contemporary authors, boasting many historic literary legends, as well as an active literary community.

However, it is generally believed that the location will benefit most from the award, through the recognition and attention generated, for events and related business and tourism. According to preliminary estimates, Edinburgh, UNESCO City of Literature was expected to generate approximately £2.2m a year for the city and £2.1m to the rest of Scotland, in terms of income from hosting major new festivals, events and conferences in the city, higher levels of tourism and relevant book sales.

Professor Dennis Haskell of the University of Western Australia and one of the judges in the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, told The View From Here, "Melbourne will use it to draw more attention to its annual Writers Festival, which has been struggling a little. It is a city with a strong writing community.”

UNESCO Cities of Literature work together to build strong global partnerships: encouraging literary exchanges, creating cross-cultural initiatives and developing local, national and international literary links. Each City will also be dedicated to pursuing excellence in literature on a local level, engaging citizens in a dynamic culture of words.

The UNESCO Creative Cities titles are permanent, non-competitive designations intended to recognise:

* Past - a strong cultural heritage
* Present - vibrant and diverse contemporary cultural scene
* Future - aspirations and vision to develop cultural potential

Steven Carroll, author of The Time We Have Taken, the winner of the 2008 Miles Franklin Literary Award, said the designation confirmed that Melbourne was the cultural centre of Australia: "Melbourne has over the last century inspired some of the greatest works of Australian literature. There is just something about the place."

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Enid Blyton: Modernising the Classic? - Part Two

Market expectations
What was is about the Famous Five that has made them appealing to millions since 1942? The stories and characters were written over decades, and Enid Blyton withstood some criticism over the apparently perpetual youth of the gang who experience a world of perfect endless summers. It was famously highlighted by J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series when she talked about Harry in an upcoming release, "In book four the hormones are going to kick in - I don't want him stuck in a state of permanent pre-pubescence like poor Julian in the Famous Five!"

The stories were adventures, mostly set in an escapist holiday setting and free of adult supervision. The description of their life and appearance, and to some extent their attitudes may have been distinctly post-war Britain, but the ideas and values of the Famous Five are universal. It is truly a ‘Classic’.

Modernising the Classic?

Italo Calvino (1923 - 1985) said: ‘A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say’.

What is it that the Famous Five say to us today? What was it that Enid Blyton was trying to tell us?

The BBC wrote about the subject, “Many teachers (ABB note: and I also believe agents and editors) now think that children should have more examples of heroes from backgrounds that they can relate to. Children aged 7-10 - the prime readers of Blyton's adventure stories - are now told tales of parents divorcing, children in care, and life on a council estate. In the 1980s, Enid Blyton's work was banned from Nottingham Libraries amid allegations of it not being politically correct. A media furore started and many other libraries followed suit. Despite best efforts of many well-meaning teachers, plenty of today's children would rather read Enid Blyton than a worthy tale of parents divorcing on a council estate."

I agree wholeheartedly. Why do children read and what are the readers' expectations? The readers may want to be entertained or escape to a fantasy island, regardless of their background. Let's face it; even Harry Potter attended boarding school.

Five pluses and minuses, that "modernising" Blyton might mean?

1. In Touch: Young people feel closer affinity with the characters
2. New readers: a previously unreached audience inspired by the writer’s creations
3. Language: contemporary dialogue is understandable for more readers
4. Book sales: Overall quantity of books sold increased
5. New storylines: possible based on new technology

Considerations: making something old into something new
1. Trying too hard to be cool: Young people don’t want to be patronised: a fine line
2. Material expectations: does the use of gadgetry increase expectations of what is 'the norm' for YA to own?
3. A contrived fit: Do your characters want to act or speak in a way that does not fit your specific modern mould?
4. Cannibalisation (overlap: possible reduced original book sales as the new product is bought instead of the existing one
5. Quickly outdated: how quickly did ipods become mainstream products> how soon until the next must-have gadget appears and the previous is out of date?

Communication or commercialism?

Enid Blyton herself wrote in an enclosed environment, her childhood and later family life imposed restrictions on her, which you could consider were an inspirational force behind her escapism adventures. Was her Mother repressive? Was her first husband a fool? What was it that she was trying to say that society did not permit? She planned fewer, but continued to write more books in the series after achieving commercial success.

Leo Rosten (1908-1997) summed it up so,

“A writer writes not because he is educated but because he is driven by the need to communicate. Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood.”

As writers, I believe we all need to understand why we are writing and what are we trying to say. Perhaps it is critical, just as in the new Blyton books, to understand, are we writing primarily to be commercially viable or to communicate what it is that drives us to write? If the former, the market is of paramount consideration. It may change the way we write, what we write and when, dramatically. But is that what we want our writing to be driven by? (Part three follows on Monday, to conclude the article: "Enid Blyton: Modernising the Classic?"

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Enid Blyton: Modernising the Classic? - Part One

Following the recent poll by Costa which recognised Enid Blyton as Britian's best loved author of all time, we take a look at her writing in a contemporary setting, and ask what makes it a classic, and why is it being modernised?

Nineteen Forty-Two. January 17, the birth of Muhammad Ali, American boxer. June 12: Future essayist Anne Frank receives a diary for her thirteenth birthday. November 19 - WWII: Battle of Stalingrad, turning the tide of the battle in the USSR's favor. Daily war events of significance in the struggle for dominance, in Europe, South Asia, Africa and at sea.


Against this backdrop, a writer in her mid-forties, wrote the first in a world famous fiction series. Now, sixty-six years later, the British Enid Blyton stories, 'the Famous Five' have undergone a revamp. The results, a new series of cartoons, released in May in the UK and new books published by Hodder. Vivienne Endecott of the Enid Blyton Society is quoted as saying she was "wary" about the Disney associated makeover. "Anybody can write about four children and a dog, and my concern is that modern kids ... will think that the Famous Five is all about gadgets and multiculturalism."

If you’ve seen anything of the contemporary Max, Jyoti, Dylan and Allie, not to forget Timmy the dog, and know the original stories, you could be forgiven for agreeing with her. To me, they appear very similar to the cartoon Scooby Doo, but the dog is less cartoonish, the group younger and more ethnically diverse.

Market pull
It is said that Blyton intended to write eight books in the series but, owing to commercial success, she went on to write twenty-one full-length books featuring the characters. By the end of 1953, more than 6 million copies of these books had been printed and sold. Today, more than a million copies of the original books are still sold annually, making them one of the biggest-selling series for children of all time. Why then, consider the need for a modernising makeover? Moreover, why should we as writers, care? Because if the gatekeepers to publishing believe it is important to consider, so should we.

Market demands
Chorion brand development director Jeff Norton says, “Famous Five: On the Case is a great example of how we, as the brand guardian, celebrate the heritage of a property while making it fresh and relevant for new generations of fans."

I personally believe it is simpler: the brand commercial success is too big to do nothing with, but rubberbands and pencils don’t look much on-screen to today’s children. In contemporary western households where Saturday morning television for under-tens is the norm, children expect to see a certain amount of action. It is ironic that one of the most passive activities I can think of (where the one-way ‘push’ of visual information should hold the viewers’ attention) needs to be action-packed to be considered exciting. The original books are absorbing, their impact on me as a reader was anything but passive. I remember being pulled into a physically active world of adventure, where cycling and being in the Great Outdoors was taken for granted. On TV, the finer sensory descriptions, which an author can use to engage a reader’s imagination and makes reading so much more interactive than the small-screen, are missing. The compensation, more visual action.

Market implications on content
In the preview clip I have seen, (The Case Of The Impolite Snarly Thing) the Five will cycle across the moor in search of a mythical beast (sounds like Scooby Doo, right?). Dylan decides that his ‘rumpus’ needs some cycle padding (UK readers read ‘trouser seat’, for US readers ‘pants seat’, but note, this may be rather perplexing for young British viewers, who only see superman wear his on the outside) - I can only presume they chose a made-up word so as to avoid PC conflict. His inflate-a-pants demonstration goes awry - the life raft technology takes on life raft proportions. It is somewhat humorous as Allie, (the Malibu born daughter of the original Anne) lets out the air. It seems the dramatic visual gags are given more weight than the story, which involves unmasking a pirate DVD operation (anyone else think that sounds somewhat contrived and remarkably like brainwashing our children to be ‘anti-piracy’ at a young age, Disney?) Gone too is the old-style language - “gosh!”

Hodder will publish thirteen books for the new Famous Five show. To me, this means they will create a new TV spin-off product, rather than a replacement for the originals. A repositioning of the brand to create increased market share. Yes there may be some cannibalisation to be seen, but I would think it is expected to be minimal. Most people, who would have bought an original, will not be into the new version, which is so different. However, those who may not have bought the classic versions may be tempted to buy the TV-spin off books. The classics are not being revamped, merely cloned with enhancements.

(Enid Blyton: Modernising the Classic? Parts two and three follow)

*image ©Disney 2008

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Costa 2008 Poll: the British Public’s Cherished Authors of all Time

One of the world’s favourite storytellers, children’s author Enid Blyton, has been named the best-loved author of all time, in a new poll released today.

The creator of The Famous Five, Malory Towers and Noddy wrote more than 700 stories over a 40-year career, and has sold over 500 million books around the world. Despite her death in 1968, around eight million of her books are still sold worldwide every year, including more than a million Famous Five tales.

The results form part of a research project, commissioned to mark the 2008 Costa Book Awards, which looked into the British public’s most cherished and best-loved authors of all time. The poll proves that children’s classics are still held to be the best. J.K. Rowling came third and is one of only two modern writers in the top ten.

A spokesman for Costa, which carried out the poll, said,

”Enid Blyton has kept millions of children entertained over the years with her tales of mystery, adventure and magic. To top the poll of best-loved authors, as well as still selling millions of books around the world, shows her stories are timeless and will be read by children for years to come.”

Jeff Norton, Director of Brand Development at Chorion, owners of the Enid Blyton publishing estate, responded: “We are delighted that the British public has voted Enid Blyton its best-loved author. Her storytelling is timeless and this result confirms that her books are still a firm favourite today. What makes Blyton so successful is her imaginative, exciting and magical style. Her writing has sent countless young readers on thrilling adventures and we hope that new generations will continue to enjoy her enchanting stories.”

The Costa Book Awards is unique in that it’s the only literary prize where children’s books are judged alongside adult books.


So who was Enid Blyton? What is it that makes Enid Blyton’s writing timeless? And why then is the Famous Five currently undergoing a revamp in a new series of books and on TV?

Nineteen Forty-Two. January 17: the birth of Muhammad Ali, American boxer. June 12: Future essayist Anne Frank receives a diary for her thirteenth birthday. November 19: WWII: Battle of Stalingrad, turning the tide of the battle in the USSR's favor. Daily war events of significance in the struggle for dominance, in Europe, South Asia, Africa and at sea.

Against this backdrop, a writer, already in her mid-forties, wrote the first in a world famous fiction series. Now, sixty-six years later, the British Enid Blyton stories, 'the Famous Five' have undergone a revamp.

A News Feature: "Enid Blyton: Modernising the Classic?" will continue in three parts.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Listen to the Terminal Spy from August 19

"The English Autumn was unseasonably warm, and November 1, 2006, the day , Alexander Litvinenko began to die, was no exception."

It reads like a John Le Carré, but THE TERMINAL SPY is the story of the Russian émigré and former intelligence officer, by Alan S. Cowell. Then London Bureau Chief of the New York Times, Cowell covered the story from its inception, and he has written the definitive story of the life and death of Alexander Litvinenko (1962-2006), the events leading to his assassination and its international implications.

Despite the dogged reporting, the trail ends in a confusion of possibilities. Cowell concludes that the quest for a motive for Litvinenko's murder "defied easy answers." But it seems there is just one of two possible conclusions we can draw clearly. The use of polonium suggests high level approval to enable its use in an international assassination, or an extremely dangerous substance believed to be available only in secure military establishments is on sale for the average hitman. Readers will make their own conclusions.

,: A True Story of Espionage, Betrayal, and Murder -- The First Act of Nuclear Terrorism and the New Cold War,", published by Random House in hardcover, went on sale on August 5, 2008.(ISBN: 978-0-385-52355-4) The unabridged WMA Digital Audiobook is due for release on August 19. ISBN: 9781415957097.

About the Author
Alan S. Cowell was the London bureau chief of the New York Times when the events narrated in this book reached their climax. Previously, Cowell served as a correspondent for Reuters and the New York Times in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. He has been based in twelve capitals and reported the news from around ninety countries and territories. Cowell is married and has three children. He is now based in Paris.

This new publication follows a year after the book written by Marina Litvinenko, the former dissident's wife, and a friend Alex Goldfarb : Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB published in June 2007 by Simon & Schuster (ISBN-13: 9781416551652)

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Do you know Great Lovers?

A romantic book of letters by Beethoven, Byron and Napoleon featured recently in the film "Sex and the City". That collection didn't actually exist, but all of the letters referenced in the film were real; so Pan Macmillan decided to create "Love Letters of Great Men."

Taken together, these Love Letters of Great Men show that perhaps men haven’t changed so very much over the last 2,000 years; passion, jealousy, hope and longing are all represented here – as is the simple pleasure of sending a letter to, and receiving one from, the person you love most.

For some of these great men, love is a ‘delicious poison’ (William Congreve); for others, ‘a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music’ (Charles Darwin).

For UK residents, they have five copies of the book to give away this August in a contest. For your chance to win, enter their competition to identify which Great Man pictured goes with which love letter recipient, and tell them who the five pairs of lovers are. Email your answers to

The closing date is 31 August 2008. For questions about the competition, email: - Don't forget: UK residents only.

Here's a clue to get you started.

Think of the song... "I'm Henry the ------ I am"

Book Details
Publication Date 31/07/2008 ISBN 9780230739468
Dimensions 197mm x 130mm
Hardback, 176 Pages
About Ursula Doyle (Ed.)
Ursula Doyle was born in 1967. She lives in London.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn - a Truthful view?

"No other writer of the 20th century has had such an influence on history," says D.M.Thomas in the prologue to the acclaimed biography (ISBN: 978-0756760113) of Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who has died near Moscow at the age of 89, according to BBC reports.

After spending eight years imprisoned (1945-53), during which he was given treatment for cancer, and at the age of 42, Solzhenitsy had written a great deal in secret, but had nothing published. It was his 1962 novella “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch” - (ISBN: 978-0451523105) an account of a day in a Gulag prisoner's life which made him an instant celebrity during the post-Stalin political period.

He was subsequently forced to publish his novels abroad, The First Circle and Cancer Ward, both damning allegories of the Soviet system.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, three years before the first of the three volumes of The Gulag Archipelago was published in the West. Still living in Russia, he had been hiding the novel from the authorities, fearful that people mentioned in it would suffer reprisals. His former assistant revealed its location after interrogation and committed suicide. Solzhenitsyn decided to publish it in the West in response. The Gulag Archipelago offered a detailed account of the systematic Soviet abuses from 1918 to 1956 in the gargantuan network of work and prison camps. Its publication led to his denunciation as a traitor.

In early 1974, rather than put him on trial, the Soviet authorities stripped him of his citizenship and expelled him. In exile, he continued to be a source of controversy, apparently acclaimed and criticized from all sides, West and East.

It was settled in Vermont, USA where he completed the two further volumes of The Gulag Archipelago.

Prussian Nights, a long narrative poem about the Red Army's vengeful advance into East Prussia in 1945, was published in 1977. It was said he composed the poem and committed it to memory 25 years before, during his years in prison.

He was awarded Russia’s top honour for a lifetime of humanitarian achievements in 2007, by now former President Vladimir Putin.

General consensus would state that Solzhenitsyn was a leading writer of the twentieth century, someone who was able to combine truth telling with fiction, and with literary flair. He devoted his life's energy to telling future generations of Russians the truth of their history and of responsibility. About his Western critics Solzhenitsyn himself had said, "They lie about me as if I were already dead."

Now, it is his writing which remains, his truth, perhaps his only unbiased obituary.

BBC, Reuters, Wikipedia

Friday, 1 August 2008

Room for new short fiction at Legend Press

Legend Press are looking for talented, vibrant authors to submit stories for consideration for the fourth in the short-fiction series, ‘The Short Story Reinvented’, planned for release at the end of March 2009.

“Short fiction is the perfect answer for the modern reader on the move who wants to read easily accessible, sleek contemporary fiction,” says Tom Chalmers, Managing Director at Legend Press. “Through this series we hope to reaffirm the short story’s inimitable place in the mainstream market.”

The short stories to be included will be selected in such a way that they will simultaneously complement and contrast one another. Entries should draw inspiration from a stream-of-consciousness style of writing and to follow the actions/thoughts of a single main character. It should reveal a mix of powerful snapshots from a range of different lives. As with all Legend Press publications, the fiction should be non-genre-specific (i.e. no fantasy, sci-fi, crime, heavy romance, historical fiction, or thrillers etc) and of an accessible, but high-quality writing style. There is no limitation on the time-scale of the story but there is a loose physical constriction; the majority of action/thoughts should take place within one room.

“The constriction of the setting we believe will create a broad collection of stories, each drawing the reader in from the first sentence, “said Chalmers. “The term ‘room’ is open to individual interpretation, in so many ways - from a standard kitchen, living room, bathroom to a wider setting such as a church or supermarket etc.”

Joel Willians, previous successful entrant says, "Winning a place in the first anthology was a fantastic feeling. I was in an Internet cafe in Peru when I got the email and couldn't stop whistling to myself all day. It felt as if I'd taken a giant leap forward as a writer." It has changed him and his writing style forever.

"Being published in “The Remarkable Everyday” really helped my confidence. I began to take my fiction writing a lot more seriously. Since then I've had another twenty odd stories published in magazines and been in another four anthologies. I've also achieved success in more than a dozen short story competitions. If it wasn't for getting 'Thursday' accepted, none of that might have happened."

Fellow winner, Josie Henley-Einion's first novel, 'Silence', is out now. On her blog, Josie, where asked to compare herself to famous people lists Madonna, Stephen Fry, Ellen Degeneres, Jodie Foster, Victoria Wood. Her motto: She came, she swore, she conked out. "Examining sexual violence and its repercussions, Silence is a gripping and stylish novel that questions the right of the media to scrutinise and control public judgement." It is Waterstone's Welsh Book of the Month for August.

Our own Paul Burman, of The View From Here, waits expectantly for the publication of his debut novel, “The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore” which will be published shortly by PaperBooks (UK) affiliated with Legend Press.

For submission details view the website at