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The Editor's View June 06


John Jenkins

John Jenkins' monthly column from Writers' Forum magazine

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A new slice of Orange . . . Edgar Wallace in a hurry . . . Sniping at Catherine the great . . . Secrets of romantic novelists

AWARDS come – Orange – and awards go – Whitbread. Designed of course to give the sponsor maximum publicity for minimum expenditure. It doesn’t matter whether it is sport or literature, motor racing or opera.

The three women short-listed for the Orange award for new writers have already achieved distinction by the quality of their writing.

Sales will be healthy as they already have publishing deals and the few thousand pounds prize money will rattle away like loose change. The award is supposed to be for emerging talent but this trio – all in their thirties – have emerged.

Naomi Alderman is a graduate from Oxford who went on to study creative writing at the University of East Anglia. Her book Disobedience examines life in an orthodox Jewish community in North London. Characterisation is marvellous and the plot has saga-like qualities which will build for Naomi a loyal following of fans.

Olga Grushin was born in Moscow, moved to Prague then back to Russia where she studied at Moscow State University. Like all sensible Russians who don’t own football clubs in England, she now lives in the United States with her husband and young son. Washington D.C. no less. Her book, The Dream Life of Sukhanov, also published by Viking, has won rave reviews and she is well into her second novel.

Yiyun Li is a Chinese writer who has also opted for life in the USA. She grew up in Beijing and has been living in America for the past 10 years. Louise Doughty, who chaired the judges, described Yiyun Li’s short stories as a wonderful collection. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is published by the Fourth Estate.

A marketing man’s dream for a global company: an Englishwoman, a Russian and a Chinese (see below).

The final award was due to be made at the Royal Courts of Justice. After The Da Vinci Code hearing at the RCJ the old place must be getting quite a literary reputation.

* * *

EDGAR WALLACE, one of the most prolific and entertaining crime writers we have ever had, forms the subject of a riveting article by Steve Newman in this issue. Wallace earned huge sums of money and yet died in debt.

Not that it took long for his estate to become rich, once the author was no longer able to gamble and spend the gains.

On one occasion he received an advance from his American publisher and delayed and delayed delivery of the manuscript until such time as he had run out of excuses. In desperation he cabled the agitated American publisher to say: "Am visiting New York in autumn. Will bring ms with me."

The relieved publisher cabled back thanks and said he would organise a party to welcome the British star. Wallace went aboard the Mauritania at Southampton with two secretaries, never moved from his cabin for the five days and got off in New York with the manuscript in his hand. Honour saved.

* * *

WHY IS it that success and mega sales by some authors bring a snooty whiff of disdain from the literati? A lunch time Radio 4 slot had four authors discussing books and authors and they were invited to comment on Catherine Cookson.

Their tone was so condescending. If you put all their sales together they couldn’t match the sales of one Cookson book.

Moral somewhere.

* * *

WHAT do you call a gathering of romantic novelists? One like the 300 gathered at the Savoy Hotel for the annual presentation award for the romantic novel of the year. A chapter. . .a folio. . .how about a volume?

For any would-be novelists attempting to mine this reach genre there was advice aplenty.

Credible characters. . . have a happy ending. . .exotic location. . .must have some sex. . .a little erotica is not out of place. . .appeal to women 35 upwards. . .

It would have been interesting to put a figure on the number of books written by the members assembled. After all, the entries numbered 231.

Did the winner contain all these ingredients? Gardens of Delight by Erica James certainly seems to. Was love in the air? Certainly. Publishers were there in force and nobody loves writers of romantic novels like they do.

Olga GrushinOLGA GRUSHIN was born in Russia and now lives in Washington DC


Yiyun Li Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing before moving to the States 10 years ago


Naomi AldermanNaomi Alderman graduated from Oxford then studied creative writing at East Anglia






John Jenkins, Publisher, Writers' Forum


Read the article about setting up WritersServices which was originally published in Writers' Forum magazine.

© Writers International Ltd 2006. Reproduced from Writers' Forum magazine by kind permission of the editor.