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Comment from the book world in January 2004

January 2004

Penzler on crime

26 January 2004

Style - that is to say, literary style - matters. How well an author writes, the use of metaphor, simile, and other literary devices matters. Plot matters. Tell a good and fair story, have an arc that establishes the characters and the ensuing action, maintain intriguing subplots, and reach an inevitable and satisfying conclusion, and I'm yours. Create three-dimensional characters, people I want to know more about, or forget the whole thing. If there are no fully developed heroes, villains, victims, suspects, red herrings, or detectives (official or not), I might just as well be putting letters in little squares in a crossword puzzle. I bring the same set of requirements to a mystery novel as I would to any work of general fiction.

And here's the deal. If a cat solves the crime, I burn the book. I spit on it with disgust, I rip out the pages in a fury, I stomp on it in a rage until it bleeds, and then I mercifully end its worthless life by burning it. If you love books in which a cat or a dog or even a damned goldfish is smarter than the detective and deduces the conclusion, skip this column. You will never find a moment of joy here, unless or until I lose my mind.

Otto Penzler introducing his new column The Crime Scene in the New York Sun

'A diabolical shame'

19 January 2004

Writers should 'get out there and do it themselves. There are 150,000 books published each year but there are so many unsolicited scripts sent to publishers that they are missing good, talented writers. It's a diabolical shame. Writers should look at new ways of publishing, like the internet and self-publishing... You have to be careful because there are companies out there that will rip you off. There are vanity presses who charge an absolute fortune and give little in return.'

Reverend Graham Taylor, author of Shadowmancer, quoted in Writers' ForumBritish writers' magazine which is highly recommended for all writers. It features wide range of news and articles which help writers to improve their work and get published:

'The middle man to culture'

12 January 2004

‘When I first entered publishing, the bookseller was the middle man to culture. In today's philosophy of the chains and the bottom line, a new form of censorship has begun, where your publishing imprint has to be on the 'accepted' list before a sales rep or a book will be welcomed or considered. This is a form of cultural censorship which bodes ill for society’

British publisher Frank Cass, who sold his company to Taylor & Francis last year

'I needed to be somebody'

5 January 2004

‘I started writing in earnest at 22. I thought: I am a wreck and have no money and am in poor health – and so how am I going to impose myself on the world? I was seethingly ambitious, I don’t make any secret of that. I needed to be somebody. The only way I could think of was by writing. Because all you need is paper and pencil and you can do it horizontal. But it was never an escape, nor was it the place I was running to – because it wasn’t a refuge – but it was what enabled me, it was my source of power…’

Hilary Mantel, in an interview with Kate Kellaway in the Observer on publication of her much-acclaimed memoir, Giving up the Ghost.