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Friday, 23 August 2013

Not the Booker Prize - now who's telling Little White Lies?

I always tell the truth, even when I lie,  Al Pacino once quipped in one of my favourite quotes of all time. Now scriptwriter and novelist Suzie Tullet admits that stretching the truth has helped her to hit the headlines.

Suzie's latest novel, Little White Lies and Butterflies has been shortlisted for the Guardian newspaper's Not the Booker Prize 2013.

Protagonist Lydia Livingstone is approaching her 30th birthday without the elusive man of her dreams. Unconventional she may be, but she longs for a career-free life with a brood of children swarming at her feet.

With her family pressing her to celebrate in style, she runs away to Greece where things gets even more complicated. Pretending to be a chef to avoid the local Romeo, she finds herself cooking up quite a storm...

Little White Lies and Butterflies

This hilarious book grabs your attention from the start with its quirky sense of humour and brilliantly researched settings. Released only three weeks ago by Safkhet Publishing, in paperback and digital format, it soon attracted the interest of Guardian readers.

 Says Suzie 'Although it came as something of a surprise, I'm both excited and honoured to have made The Guardian's Not the Booker Prize short list.'  There are some great books on there, written by equally great authors - to have made it this far feels like an achievement in itself."

Not the Booker Prize was created by the Guardian's book blog in 2009 in  'a pioneering attempt to create a truly democratic reader-judged book prize.'

The final judging takes place on October 14 and the results will be announced at a live online event.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Barbara Cartland rises again... (Maybe Millie's next??)

Oh how easy it must have been to mock Dame Barbara Cartland with her ageing Barbie-doll looks and positively panting prose... And yet, what an amazing woman she was with no less than than 700 novels to her name by the time she died in 2000 aged 98.  I, for one,  welcome the news that 160 of her unseen manuscripts are soon to be published  in both print and digital editions, giving a new generation the chance to discover what old fashioned love was all about.

Dame Barbara, also well-known as Princess Diana's step grandmother, had no problem with making fun of  herself.  She once joked that  Diana only ever  read Cartland romances - leaving her with an unrealistic view of modern men! With the now-unheard of luxury of dictating  her novels, the author produced most of her work at her sumptuous ten-bedroomed mansion in Hertfordshire, once the home of Beatrix Potter.

Scouring the internet for some of  Dame Barbara's more famous quotes, I found one that really summed up her attitude to writing romance: If you read newspapers today you will find things that our mothers and grandmothers would have been shocked to read. It's sex, sex, sex...all the time and it's not what we want.  I wonder what she'd have made of Fifty Shades of Grey?

The 'new' work, entitled The Pink Collection, comes to us courtesy of the author's son Ian McCorquodale in association with M-I Books. The family even run their own website

Meanwhile, I've discovered  that my three-year-old granddaughter has learnt how to write her name, with quite a flourish if the photo, above, is anything to go by. Perhaps one day she'll be writing for 'Millie's and Boon?'


Friday, 9 August 2013

Do you know how to say No?

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Poster

I've never been very good at saying No.  The little Yes word slides out of my mouth before my brain assesses the implications. Yes, I'll work on my day off, yes I'll come to your grandmother's ninetieth birthday party, yes I'll attend one of those jewellery parties where they sell cheap looking pieces at exorbitant prices. So I was fascinated to read this week of a survey of 350,000 books published in Britain between 1800 and the year 2000 which shows a huge decline in the words 'duty' and 'obligation' in the body of the text. No-one told me that these had gone out of fashion...

The survey, carried out at the University of California in Los Angeles, quotes the inimitable Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice fending off an unwelcome invitation from  Lady Catherine de Bourgh. 'I am much obliged to your ladyship for your kind invitation, but it is not in my power to accept it. I must be in town next Saturday.'  Now why didn't I think of that?

Not surprisingly  it seems the words  'choose' and 'get' have increased  in latter years as well as, more significantly, the word 'feel,' a reflection perhaps, of our so-called touchy feely society. Professor Patricia Greenfield, who led the research, believes that this shows 'a shift in society away from living in small communities in a rural environment towards materialistic urban living.'  In other words we've all become more self-centred and prefer to look after Number One.  Now why am  not surprised?

This investigation, published in  Psychological Science journal, also involved more than one million books published in the US during the same  200 year period, including popular fiction and text books. Interestingly, Professor Greenfield used  a very modern approach - Google's word count tool, the Ngram Viewer, which can count word frequencies in millions of books in less than a second.
I wonder what Elizabeth Bennet would make of that?

Friday, 2 August 2013

Val-Ediction? That was the Week that Was...

 A warrant has been issued this week for the arrest of a pensioner who threw ink over a best-selling author. No, I'm not making it up. According to The Times yesterday, Sandra Botham of Sunderland failed to turn up to be sentenced for her attack on Val McDermid, author of The Wire in the Blood,  at a book signing last year.  You may remember that The Wire in the Blood was a successful British crime detection series starring Robson Green that ran from 2002 to 2009.

The defendant apparently held a 28 year long grudge against the author who once wrote of  a woman called Sandra 'shaped like a Michelin Man.'

Meanwhile, the legal firm that leaked J K Rowling as the true author of 'Robert Galbraith's' crime novel The Cuckoo's Calling has had to pay out 'a considerable sum' to charity at her request after one of its partners passed on the gossip. According to today's Daily Mail the author was entitled to the expectation that her secret  would be safe.'

Looking more closely at the  cover of JKR's latest offering I found  this quote 'The Cuckoo's Calling reminds me why I fell in love with crime fiction in the first place...'  The author?  None other than Val McDermid.

Just a coincidence?  Or could it be that truth really is stranger than fiction after all?