Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Burning Down The House

I thought it worth sharing an article from today's Guardian that seems to be sparking fierce debate in rainy old London. In the midst of the larger debate over the fate of the publishing industry, the book market in general, and, at least over here, the looming Christmas war on book prices, writer Stuart Jeffries has written a well-articulated observational piece on his country's biggest bookstore, titled no less than "How Waterstone's Killed Bookselling."

You can read, debate and twitter about the piece to your own heart's content, but I thought it was worth passing along if for no other reason than this quote by literary agent Bill Hamilton about one of my own favorite writers, Ian Rankin.

"Rankin was selling nothing at all for the first few novels he wrote, but publishers knew he would take off and so they kept with him. The opportunity isn't there to do that any more because sales are so low that you lose too much money initially, even if you make money later. That old, very successful business model doesn't make sense any more. Thanks to the prevailing way in which books are sold there would be no new Rankin."

Welcome to Rome. Now where's my fiddle?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

House of Cards

One more, while it's crossing my mind. This past Sunday, The Denver Post published my review of Cowboys Full by James McManus. You can get the full lowdown in the review but it's my humble opinion that this thing is the definitive history of poker up to this point.

I interviewed McManus by email, briefly, a few months ago and anybody who has even the slightest interest in the guy's work ought to chase him down for a longer interview. I have a feeling he pours most of his effort into his work but I'll bet he tells a great bar story.

He wouldn't tell me what attracts him to poker in the first place, and a lot of that angle is covered in Positively Fifth Street anyway. But I did get an answer to what turns him off about a game: "What repels me," he said, "Is how easy it is for a person to play his hand perfectly and lose all his money to an idiot who gets lucky on the final card."

And that's life, in a nutshell.

You can also set alternate takes on the book from Jack Broom at The Seattle Times, and even more intriguingly from Rick Kogan at The Chicago Tribune, who opines, "Now that this book is on the shelves and what should be a number of best-seller lists, perhaps he will have the time and the inclination to finish his long brewing novel about Las Vegas."

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The good: the newest issue of Bookslut is up, right on time. Inside you'll find my preview of some books due out next year, and a few that seem not to exist at all. Go forth, and read, "Things That Are Good" to get the lowdown on new titles by Don Winslow, Charlie Huston, John Burdett, Walter Mosley, Duane Swierczynski and Dennis Lehane, among others, that should be out within the next year.

The (not-so) Bad: I gave some good-natured ribbing to Winslow's publisher for not releasing the eagerly awaited (by me) sequel to The Dawn Patrol, called The Gentlemen's Hour, this year, even though it's already been published in the UK. As happens, I'm not the only one who's been giving that absence some thought. I got to chatting with the unassailable publishing industry overseer and crime writer extraordinaire Sarah Weinman about the subject over the past few days.

Not only did Sarah dig up her own scoop - that Winslow is getting beaucoup bucks to write Satori, a sequel to the Trevanian thriller Shibumi, for Grand Central Publishing - but she managed to find the lowdown on the missing sequel. Don Winslow is jumping ship.

The Ugly? Publisher's Marketplace reports that (tragedy!) The Gentlemen's Hour will be published in the United States...in July of 2011...by Simon and Schuster, and not Alfred A. Knopf. Apparently, there are more books in the deal, too. S&S will first publish Winslow's standalone thriller, Savages, plugged as "a gritty, humorous, and drug-fueled ransom thriller set amidst the Baja Cartel in Laguna Beach, CA."

So, good news and bad news in the mix. Does it balance out? We'll see when the ink hits the paper next year. I think the lesson here is always ask Sarah first. She knows all.

EDIT: No, I am not ambitious. Yes, I am tenacious. I managed to track down the great and gracious Don Winslow for an interview about Savages, Satori, and The Gentlemen's Hour. Further bulletins as events warrant.