Sunday, July 26, 2009

BOOK CHANNEL INTERVIEW

Yes, this is me talking about THE KILL CALL during an interview at Lowdham Book Festival this June:

Monday, July 6, 2009

“MOST BOOK FESTIVALS IGNORE MOST PEOPLE”

I recently did a couple of events for Lowdham Book Festival, the largest festival of its kind in Nottinghamshire.

I won't be surprised if you've never heard of Lowdham. It's a medium sized village about midway between Nottingham and Newark, and it's a bit too easy to pass through it on the A612 and not notice it at all. But the book festival is 10 years old, and it's been growing in leaps and bounds. It even has spin-offs in the form of a film festival and a winter weekend, in addition to the summer festival.

This year, 6,000 people attended a total of 54 events in and around Lowdham. Every venue in the village is used, from the Women's Insitute to the Methodist chapel, and a series of tents set up behind the village hall. The village is also lucky enough to have its own independent bookshop, The Book Case.

Lowdham isn't really like any other book festival I know of. It has music, as well as books. And on the last Saturday it becomes a cross between a book festival and a village fete, with allotment holders selling their produce, and local people turning out in their thousands to support "their event". Every session on the last day (and there are lots of them!) is free. The atmosphere is buzzing.

One of the tireless organisers of this festival, Ross Bradshaw, has been blogging about Lowdham , and book festivals in general. His view is that many festivals become indistinguishable, with a similar line-up of 'celebs' promoting their latest books, and no real connection to their location. Lowdham does have its big names, but that's certainly not what it's about.

Read Ross's take on festivals here:

Friday, July 3, 2009

SCARTHIN BOOKS

Congratulations go to Peak District independent booksellers Scarthin Books of Cromford, on being shortlisted for this year's Independent Bookseller of the Year Award.

Recommended by DC Ben Cooper in SCARED TO LIVE as "a quirky little bookshop", Scarthin Books is the kind of place you rarely find these days. In fact, even if you happen to be in Cromford you might not find it, as the shop is located up a steep back street known locally as 'The Promenade'.

Inside, you can have fun wandering through stacks of old books, or try to find the cafe - which is a bit like walking through the wall on the platform of King's Cross station to travel on the Hogwarts Express.

Great to see a team of unashamed individualists like Dave, Kathy, Guy and Wendy getting among the awards!

Check them out here:



Wednesday, July 1, 2009

DUNDEE BOOK PRIZE

Way back in the dim and distant past (well, it was 1999, to be exact), I had a novel shortlisted for the first ever Dundee Book Prize.

My book was called THE HOWFF, and it was set in Dundee, which was one of the criteria for the award in its first year. I didn't win, of course - but a month later I signed a contract with HarperCollins for the first two titles in the Cooper & Fry series, so I wasn't too upset!

In those days, the Dundee prize was worth £6,000, which already made it the most valuable prize in the UK for an unpublished novel (outstripping the £5,000 Lichfield Prize). The winner in 1999 was Andrew Murray Scott with a book called TUMULUS, which was duly published by sponsors Polygon. But my main memory of the award presentations in Dundee was the fact that I was rubbing shoulders with literary types such as Rosamund Pilcher, Liz Lochhead and Douglas Dunn. Heady stuff for a crime writer!

This all came back to me this week, when the latest winner of the Dundee Book Prize was announced. Scottish writer Chris Longmuir received the award, now worth a whopping £10,000, for DEAD WOOD - a novel about a serial killer, inspired by a real-life series of murders in Dundee 30 years ago. Yes, folks, it's a crime novel.

Chris Longmuir has been struggling for years to get published, and I can imagine what it must feel like for her right now. You can read more about her on her website:


Well done, Chris!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

'DYING' IN IPSWICH!

I'm delighted to say that the 8th Cooper & Fry novel, DYING TO SIN, is this year's 'Festival Read' for Ipswich Arts Festival, which takes place in July.

I'll be appearing at the festival to discuss the book with readers on Saturday 11th July (6.30pm) at the Waterfront Building, University Campus Suffolk.

If you'd like to be there, you can book a place by phone on 01473 433100 or online at:


For more information on the festival, visit their website:


See you there!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

NATIONAL PARK CRIME

Uriah Robinson's Crime Scraps blog recently ran a quiz in which readers had to name all 10 national parks in England - and nominate a crime novel set in each one. 

What a great idea. Dartmoor, of course, gives us 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' (one of the earliest examples of 'rural noir'). The Yorkshire Dales belong to Peter Robinson ('Gallows View') and one of the most recent national parks, the New Forest, is the setting for Anne Granger's 'A Mortal Curiosity'. 

Oh, and I'm happy to say that there were no challengers for the UK's very first national park, the Peak District, where most readers who entered the quiz named 'Black Dog'. 

For the full list and lots more, check out the blog:

Monday, April 6, 2009

SCORING A GOAL FOR LITERACY

In the UK, Premier League footballers have been chosen as role models to encourage children to read more books. The decision coincides with a study by the National Literacy Trust, which reveals that boys are twice as likely as girls to say sports people can inspire them to read, and that children from the poorest families are also likely to chose sports people as their heroes.

So the 20 Premiership clubs have each nominated a player as a "reading star". Eight out of the 20 clubs selected their goalkeeper as the best role model. 

Now, those 20 players have been asked to name a favourite book, and the results are very interesting. The choices range from Homer's 'Iliad' to 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'. 

British readers familiar with our current crop of England players might have no trouble guessing which of them aspires no further than the first Harry Potter book. But who chose Homer?

Read the full story in The Independent

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

THE KILL CALL COUNTDOWN - DAY 1

With the last few hours to go before publication day, I'm going to leave you with a taste of Dovedale, the area I've been researching for the next Cooper & Fry novel. This is a favourite with visitors to the Peak District, and is one of its prettiest attractions. 

They include a picture of one of the Money Trees - old trunks with hundreds of copper coins hammered in to them for good luck.

Let's hope some of that luck comes our way this year!



Tuesday, March 31, 2009

THE KILL CALL COUNTDOWN - DAY 2

It's April Fool's Day tomorrow. Mmm... Usually we spend the morning searching our newspapers for the most unlikely story, which is usually easily identifiable as a spoof. At the moment, there are so many unlikely stories in the news that it might prove a bit more difficult this year. The Home Secretary claiming the cost of porn films on her expenses, anyone?

Well, the day before publication of THE KILL CALL I'll be spending in the Peak District. I'll be somewhere out in the neighbourhood of Dovedale, hoping that the weather will hold out and that the Easter holiday crowds haven't arrived yet (you don't want to be in Dovedale on a Bank Holiday).

Because, yes, I'm currently working on the next Cooper & Fry novel after THE KILL CALL. Ideally, publishers like the next book to be finished before the previous one is published. They're not quite to going to get it, but being a bit behind on my deadline is nothing knew. 

So while you're all getting stuck into the new book, my head will be full of a brand new story for Ben Cooper and Diane Fry. I'm giving nothing away. Though I suppose you might have guessed that a location in Dovedale comes into it somewhere...

For a glimpse of the attractions of Dovedale, try:

or

Copies of the new book are becoming available in lots of places. I think the cover of the hardback looks great, and is very tactile (I just love that embossing!). When you manged to get hold of it, please take the time to visit the Stephen Booth Forum to share your opinion.

Finally, a correction to the details of the event in Ely at the end of April. The phone number was wrong, and we now have a start time. This is the correct listing:

THURSDAY 30th APRIL, 7pm
Ely Library, 6 The Cloisters, Ely, Cambridgeshire - talk to readers.
For details, phone 0345 045 5225.

Monday, March 30, 2009

THE KILL CALL COUNTDOWN - DAY 3

George in New York City has checked in to let us know that his copy of THE KILL CALL has already arrived in NYC today, courtesy of Amazon UK and the Royal Mail. So obviously those of you who haven't ordered your copies yet are missing out big time!

The Book Depository are also shipping advance orders. As a result, THE KILL CALL is now their number 2 crime bestseller, sandwiched in between two different editions of Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO:

Book Depository bestsellers

Further events during the summer for readers in the UK:

SATURDAY 25th APRIL, 2pm
Warsop Library, High Street, Warsop, Nottinghamshire - talk to readers.
(For details, phone 01623 842 322)

THURSDAY 30th APRIL (time to be confirmed)
Ely Library, 6 The Cloisters, Ely, Cambridgeshire - talk to readers.
For details, phone 0845 045 5225.

THURSDAY - SUNDAY 14th - 17th MAY
CrimeFest convention, Marriott Royal Hotel, Bristol.
including:
Friday 15th May, 9 - 10am - 'The Big Heat' police procedural panel, with Edward Marston, Alison Bruce, Pauline Rowson and Michael Walters. 
Friday 15th May, 10.30 - 11.30am - 'Write what you know' panel, with Colin Campbell, Keith McCarthy, Priscilla Masters and Sue Walker.
website: 
http://www.crimefest.com

WEDNESDAY 20th MAY, 6pm
Bollington Arts Centre, Wellington Road, Bollington, Cheshire - event for Bollington Festival.
Tickets £6 (children £4) bookable online at: 
http://www.bollingtonfestival.org.uk/eventDetail.asp?eventId=178
by phone on 01625 573863 or by email: 
boxoffice@bollingtonfestival.org.uk

TUESDAY 26th MAY, 7.30pm  
La Zouch Restaurant, Kilwardby Street, Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire - talk to Ashby Writers' Group.
For details, phone 01530 413371.
website: 
http://www.freewebs.com/barneyc/index.htm

SATURDAY 11th JULY, 6.30pm 
Waterfront Building, University Campus Suffolk, Ipswich - 'Festival Read' event for Ipswich Arts Festival. 
(this year's Festival Read will be the 8th Cooper & Fry novel, DYING TO SIN)
TIckets £7/£5 concessions. For more information or to book a place, phone 01473 433100.
website: 
http://www.ip-art.com

SATURDAY 12th SEPTEMBER, 2.30pm 
Reading Town Hall, Reading, Berkshire - 'Pyschological Crime' panel for Reading Festival of Crime Writing.
(Details to be confirmed)
website: 
http://www.readingfestivalofcrimewriting.org.uk

Shortly, I will also be signing copies of THE KILL CALL for several UK book dealers who specialise in signed first editions. These are the books for you collectors out there. If you're itnerested, try one of these dealers:





In the USA, specialist mystery bookstore The Poisoned Pen will also be shipping some signed copies of the new book. But remember that numbers are limited!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

THE KILL CALL COUNTDOWN - DAY 4

Thanks to Sharlene of Toronto, who has emailed to tell me that HarperCollins Canada are now giving April 17th as their publication date for the THE KILL CALL. Amazon Canada agree with them - though Chapters Indigo still say it's May 15th. We shall see...

No doubt here in the UK, though, where there are definitely just four days to go! I'll be out and about as usual, meeting readers and signing copies of the new book. This year, my 'launch' signing will actually be in the Peak District. Sounds logical - but I think this is actually the first time it's happened!

The location will be Scarthin Books, in Cromford, which has the honour of being mentioned in SCARED TO LIVE as the "quirky little bookshop" where Ben Cooper is tempted to call in for a slice of homity pie. "Quirky" is definitely the word for Scarthin Books, and I dfon't think owners Dave and Clare would disagree. Their own slogan is "Britain's most enjoyable bookshop".

I'll be at Scarthin Books on Saturday 4th April, between 2 and 4pm. Naturally, I'd be delighted to see you at Cromford. You can also order a signed copy online or by calling 01629 823272.

Following my policy of supporting independent bookshops whenever possible, my second signing for THE KILL CALL will be at another local store, Bookworm in Retford, Nottinghamshire, on Saturday 10th April (10am to 12 noon). Again, owners Paul and Angerla will be happy to take your orders for signed copies in advance. They tell me they are also happy to take overseas orders. Contact them by email at sales@bookworm-online.co.uk - or you can phone with your credit card card details on 01777 869224 (+44 1777 869224 from outside the UK).

Later on, I have a number of festivals and library events to attend. Keep up to date with the latest news of events on the Stephen Booth website.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

THE KILL CALL COUNTDOWN - DAY 5

Near to the village of Eyam is Longstone Edge, another central location used in THE KILL CALL. Longstone Edge is a three-mile-long ancient limestone ridge in the Peak District National Park, prominently situated within sight of many popular tourist attractions. But campaigners say that it is being destroyed by limestone quarrying.

A lengthy legal battle to try to halt work at Backdale Quarry on Longstone Edge appeared to have been lost when the High Court ruled that the owners of the quarry could take as much limestone as they liked, for the next 34 years. The campaign went all the way to the Court of Appeal, which just two weeks ago ruled that quarrying of limestone at Backdale was illegal. 


And here are two views of Longstone Edge - one looking away from the quarrying, and one towards it:









Friday, March 27, 2009

THE KILL CALL COUNTDOWN - DAY 6

The first chapter of THE KILL CALL is now up on the website to give you a taster of the new book. Click here to start reading:


You can also download and read an extract in pdf format from the Amazon UK website.

This year, HarperCollins have also produced an unabridged audio version of the new book. It's read by actor Will Thorp, best known for his role as paramedic Paul 'Woody' Joyner in the BBC series CASUALTY. I was just thinking the other day about all the long-running TV series that have been cancelled during the past few months - including WIRE IN THE BLOOD, HEARTBEAT, INSPECTOR LYNLEY, REBUS and so on... Even THE BILL has been cut back as a result of financial crisis facing TV networks. But the one series that has so far escaped being a casualty is... CASUALTY.

You can find the audio version of THE KILL CALL here.

Those of you who've already followed my hints and pre-ordered the book might find your copies arriving a bit earlier than you expected. Some of the online booksellers like to start shipping books out of the warehouse as soon as they come in stock if they have advance orders. 

THE KILL CALL is still the number 1 crime pre-order at The Book Depository.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

THE KILL CALL COUNTDOWN - DAY 7

One week to go to UK publication of THE KILL CALL. Amazon UK sent out their pre-publication offer today - no doubt making good use of their vast database of previous purchases. How did people find out about new books before Amazon existed? There must have been something... Maybe they typed articles on bits of paper and distributed those in some way. It sounds mad, I know.

Anyway, right now, Amazon are combining THE KILL CALL with two other forthcoming titles - Stuart MacBride's BLIND EYE (due 30th April) and John Harvey's FAR CRY (due 7th May). That's pretty cool. 

And it's wonderful the things you can discover on Amazon. Those reviews, for a start, which give you little horrifying glimpses into the minds of your readers. But I won't go into them now... Checking out the current offer today, I was looking at the page for the new John Harvey novel. Harvey is one of my crime writing heroes, and I've been reading his books for long time. His 10 Resnick titles make up one of the all-time classic series, in my opinion (and I'm usually right, as you know). So I was tickled pink to read on Amazon that 10% of customers who view Harvey's FAR CRY go on to buy... THE KILL CALL. Good taste, I say.

Amazon are also featuring a short interview with me, which you can read here. I was asked about the 1960s Cold War theme which is also explored in THE KILL CALL, one of those ideas which linked in a strange kind of way with the subject of fox hunting. I was very interested in the legacy of the Cold War. The 1960s were a period when we lived with the day to day knowledge that a Third World War could start at any moment, giving us four minutes warning of a nuclear attack. That kind of knowledge can influence the way you live your life...

And then there was the place. The 'plague village' of Eyam (pronounced 'Eem') is one of the most moving and atmospheric places in the Peak District (which is not short of atmospheric locations!). This village isolated itself from the rest of the country when it was struck by bubonic plague, known as the Black Death. Most of the population died, and were buried by their own families. The village's history has made it a rather macabre tourist attraction.

A short version of the story of the Eyam Plague can be found here

Here's a picture of the main street in Eyam. On the left are the Plague Cottages. Each one has a plaque outside listing the names of the victims who died in that particular house. The disease, by the way, was brought to Derbyshire from London. It's always the fault of those city folk...



CRIMINAL TENDENCIES

In addition to THE KILL CALL, I'm happy to say that the beginning of April sees the publication of an anthology of short stories by a whole host of talented British crime writers who have donated their work for charity.

CRIMINAL TENDENCIES has been produced by independent publishers Creme de la Crime.  For every copy sold, £1 will go to the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline, which is supported by the Genesis Appeal, the only charity in the UK entirely dedicated to the prevention of breast cancer. 

With a foreword by Mark Billingham, the anthology includes contributions from Reginald Hill, Val McDermid, Andrew Taylor, Peter Lovesey, Peter James, Simon Brett, Ann Cleeves, Zoe Sharp, Sophie Hannah, Martin Edwards, and many others... Oh, and there's one from me too!

Congratulations are due to first-time authors Chris Nickson and Caroline Shiach, winners of Criminal Tendencies 2009, whose stories will be featured in the anthology.

For more information the charities concerned, visit:

Or you can order a copy of CRIMINAL TENDENCIES direct from Creme de la Crime.

As it happens, my UK editor Julia Wisdom, Publishing Director at HarperCollins, is also doing her bit for breast cancer research in the next few weeks. And this actually sounds a bit harder than writing a short story...

On May 16th, Julia will be taking part in the Playtex Moonwalk - nothing to do with Michael Jackson, but an overnight marathon walk through the streets of London. The money raised goes to Walk the Walk, a grant making charity committed to raising funds for breast cancer causes. If you fancy sponsoring Julia (and I am, of course!), you can do it very easily through her page on Just Giving:


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

THE KILL CALL COUNTDOWN - DAY 8

The story of THE KILL CALL brings together several ideas I was interested in. In fact, that's the way it often works with a book. Ideas, places, and themes will float around in your head for years before a link between them emerges and a story comes together.

In this case, one of the subjects was fox hunting - a real hot potato in the UK, with extreme views on both sides. Some see it as a class issue, others as a conflict between town and country. Or maybe it's just a question of cruelty to animals? 

Anti-hunting legislation was introduced four years ago - but has it stopped fox hunting? Not at all. Active support for hunting has increased dramatically since the new law came in, and exemptions to the act have made policing it impossible. Hunt saboteurs who have spent decades trying to disrupt hunts now call themselves monitors, and carry video cameras. But violent confrontations still take place. The 'antis' will always be able to point to two young people who died for the cause.

To see a particularly shocking photo from the height of the protests against the Hunting Act, click here.

Given the area that I write about, the Derbyshire Peak District, it was inevitable that I'd tackle fox hunting some day. It makes great hunting country. But of course the Eden Valley Hunt, its master, the huntsman, and menacing hunt stewards are all fictional.

Oh, and some horse lovers might find parts of THE KILL CALL a bit disturbing. In some countries, you know, they eat horses...

* THE KILL CALL is currently the number 1 crime pre-order on The Book Depository, so I guess some readers have found the site. :)


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

THE KILL CALL COUNTDOWN - DAY 9

Okay, you're right. The countdown was supposed to start on Day 10. It would have looked so much more professional and well-planned. But somehow Real Life got in the way, and before we knew it...

Anyway, the long awaited publication in the UK of the 9th Cooper & Fry novel THE KILL CALL is exactly nine days away, on 2nd April. Lucky that we managed to avoid the 1st and all those old jokes about April Fools Day.

Long awaited? Well, it's now 18 months since the publication of book 8, DYING TO SIN, which came out in September 2007. Up to then, I'd been dutifully producing a book a year regular as clockwork, just the way publishers like it. But 2008 was the first year without a new Cooper & Fry novel. You've no idea how many quizzical messages I got from readers wondering whether they'd missed a book, because they usually had one to take their on their summer holidays, and or to give to their Mum on her birthday. I started to feel really guilty.

So here it is, then. THE KILL CALL arrives in plenty of time for your summer hols. It's also in time for Father's Day. It's even in time to catch Easter, for goodness sake - and it's much better for you than all those chocolate eggs!

So what about the rest of the world, I here you cry. Well, according to HarperCollins Australia, THE KILL CALL is released Down Under on 1st April (I guess you don't have April Fools Day down there?). If I'm not wrong that means Australia actually gets this book first. So it seems we've come a long way since way since those wooden sailing ships took six months to get round the Cape of Good Hope. You'll be getting the internet next. *

HarperCollins Canada are a bit more cautious. They have THE KILL CALL scheduled for 15th May. You can't hurry a Canuck, eh? Got to wait until all the snow has gone, I suppose. **

With one exception, other parts of the English speaking world who get the HarperCollins titles will find THE KILL CALL drifting into their bookshops some time over the next couple of months, many of you apparently preferring the 'export' trade paperback editions to the lovely hardbacks that we get here in the UK.

The exception is, of course, the USA... Well, what can I say? There is no prospect of THE KILL CALL being published in the US. You Cooper & Fry fans across the pond might want to review your options. If you ask me, your best bet could be to move to the UK. Or to Canada, of course, if you have a good pair of snow boots. ***

Failing that, there are some good independent mystery bookstores in the States who will import a few copies, such as The Poisoned Pen in Arizona. And the internet is a great thing for book buyers. Many readers in the USA tell me they buy UK editions online from The Book Depository, which has the advantage of free worldwide shipping. As it happens, I'm currently a featured author on The Book Depository's website. and THE KILL CALL is one of their most popular pre-orders:


Translations? Well, as usual, the reliable Swedes are quick off the mark, with the Swedish translation of THE KILL CALL due for publication this autumn from Minotaur. Most other countries are still catching up on the series.

And that's it for now. More news as the countdown continues!


Stephen


* a joke
** another joke
*** the same as the last joke

SEEN READING (2)

Now, I didn't actually see this one for myself, but here's a great example of a Cooper & Fry reader "seen reading". This photo was sent to me by Chuck, of New Jersey. Great choice of beach reading, by the way...


Thursday, March 19, 2009

SEEN READING

It's one of those activities peculiar to authors, like googling your own name, or obsessively checking your Amazon sales ranking. I'm talking about spending your time riding the train or tube, while desperately hoping to see someone to reading your book. The same urge overtakes an author who finds himself in an airport lounge or on a long-haul flight, surrounded by people holding up copies of the latest John Grisham or 'The Da Vinci Code'. Surely someone, somewhere, must be reading one of my books?

Personally, I have never yet had the satisfaction of seeing one of my readers in action. But then, I shy away from travelling on the Tube like a man invited to enjoy the delights of Hell.

Now along comes Canadian blogger Julie Wilson with a fascinating project called 'Seen Reading'. This apparently involves Julie herself travelling on the public transport system of Toronto, and randomly seizing on a reading passenger to feature on her blog. She describes it as a "literary voyeurism blog".

I assume this is all done anonymously, or some of the readers might object to their description. I stumbled across Julie's blog purely because today's victim, er... chosen reader is "Caucasian woman, late 50s, with short blonde hair, wearing tan overcoat, large glasses, and purple hat with wide brim", who was seen reading SCARED TO LIVE on the westbound train between Bloor and Castle Frank.

Thanks to Julie's sighting, I now know that Cooper & Fry readers actually do exist, somewhere out there in the wild, and are not some mythical species like the yeti.

http://www.seenreading.com/scared-to-live-stephen-booth-harpercollins/

Sunday, March 8, 2009

TAKING THE SALUTE

Crime writers often find themselves in unusual situations. But my favourite story this week comes from Peter James, creator of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace,whose resourcefulness was tested during a recent visit to a book festival in the Gulf:

http://www.peterjames.com/2009/03/dubai-police-academy.html

Monday, February 23, 2009

LURKING IN LEEDS

Next week, I'll be back on my old stamping grounds of West Yorkshire for an event organised by the good folk of Leeds Library Services.

Wednesday 4th March is the date for your diary, and the time is 7pm. I'll be talking to readers in the lecture theatre of the wonderful Leeds Art Gallery, off The Headrow. If you're in the Leeds area, make sure you're there! I'm told that tickets are a mere £3, available from the City Centre Box Office in the Carriageworks Theatre, 3 Millennium Square, Leeds (phone 0113 224 3801) or from Borders Books, 94-96 Briggate, Leeds (phone 0113 242 4400).

The Leeds event is the day before World Book Day here in the UK. For some reason, we have our World Book Day on a different day to the rest of the world, which rather spoils the global nature of the event, I always think. It's a bit like the USA's 'World Series', which always happens to feature two American teams in the final, as if the rest of the world has somehow been knocked out in the earlier rounds.

Well, on Thursday 5th itself, I'll be in Leicester for an event at the new Oadby Library (re-arranged from February 5th, when it was cancelled because of snow). I'll be 'in conversation' with John Martin at the library on The Parade, Oadby. This event also starts at 7pm. For details, phone 0116 305 8763.

By the way, if you're an event organiser, and you'd like me to appear at your library, festival, bookshop, hair salon, or public convenience, why not send an email with a few details to: events@stephen-booth.com

You never know where I might be lurking next!

PIGSADOG

No, I'm not sure what it means either... But one of the highlights of the literary supper for Epworth Mechanics Institute Library the other night was the presentation by the organisers of a wonderful hand-crafted copy of DYING TO SIN, bound in red goatskin leather by committee member Mandy Keating, who runs Pigsadogbooks. The cover even has an illustration of a Screaming Skull, as featured in the book.

Another hand-bound copy, but this time in black leather, was auctioned as a fund-raiser for the library. These are two totally unique items. Definitely for the 'keeper' shelf. Many thanks to Mandy and her Mechanics Institute colleagues for the great idea.

Monday, February 16, 2009

DOWN AT THE INSTITUTE

Before public libraries as we know them were ever invented, they had predecessors in the form of the Mechanics' Institute libraries - places for the working man to get himself an education.

Of course, most Mechanics' Institutes have gone the way of all things, though their buildings often remain as Victorian brick edifices converted into banks or community centres. But there are still a few fully functioning Mechanics' Institute libraries still surviving in the UK, and one of these is in Epworth, South Yorkshire - a small town best known as the birthplace of John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism.

The Epworth Mechanics' Institute Library was formed in 1837. It is located in a Grade II listed building, the Manor Court House, and still operates as a subscription library, open to the public, with a fiction library and local history resource.

This is an expensive facility for volunteers to keep running, so each year there is a fund-raising supper. And this week I will be one of the guest speakers. You can read an article about the event in the local newspaper, the Epworth Bells (yes, that really is its name).

I'll be appearing at St Andrew's Church (where the Wesleys were baptised) on Saturday, February 21st, at a buffet and wine event that gets under way at 7.30pm. The evening will include the auction of a specially hand bound copy of the 8th Cooper & Fry novel, DYING TO SIN.

If you're in the area, there might still be time to get a ticket. Phone either (01427) 873483, (01427) 872238 or (01427) 874670, or e-mail epworthmechanicslibrary@googlemail.com

** John Wesley travelled all over the country to preach, often arriving on horseback in some out of the way place. But he wasn't always in the best of moods. When he arrived in our neighbouring town of Worksop he didn't like the spot he'd been given to preach from, and said the locals were "as stupid people as I ever saw". But then, the comedian Les Dawson also allegedly said that the worst crowd he ever performed to was in Worksop.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

IS PUBLISHING ALL DOOM & GLOOM?

Today my UK publishers, HarperCollins, announced that they will be making redundancies. I suppose this is no great surprise, since they've already had a freeze on hiring new staff, restricted pay increases, and halved their travel and entertainment expenses (which, in publishing, can be considerable!).

HC are one of the biggest publishers in the UK. But the economic crisis is global, and some of the big New York publishing houses seem to be in even bigger trouble. Here, independent bookshops like Murder One are closing, and some of the problems for publishers have been caused by the collapse of distributors like EUK, owned by the doomed Woolworth's.

But I like to bring a bit of good news in this blog, to lighten the doom and gloom. So what are we to make of the latest figures, which show that the number of new books published in the UK actually increased during 2008 by 4 per cent?

The rise in output has surprised some industry observers. But that might be because they've only be looking at the major trade publishers like HarperCollins, Penguin, Hodder Headline etc, who have been trimming their lists. Because quietly going on at the same time has been a big surge in self-publishing, and in the activities of what I see are now being called 'cottage publishers'. I suppose these latter might include two small, but perfectly formed, publishers in my neck of the woods - Five Leaves Publications, who publish the Crime Express series, and Creme de la Crime. It's great to see them doing well.

Incidentally, those figures for 2008 also include ebooks, which have been about to take over the publishing world for almost 10 years now (my first ebook was published back in 2000).

The other interesting aspect is the difference between book production in the UK and in the USA. The most recent figures show 276,649 new books published annually in the USA, compared to 120,947 in the UK. Since the population of the States is around five times our size, my dubious maths give me:
2 books per 1,000 people in the UK
1 book per 1,000 people in the USA

Of course, American readers might well be reading better books. The celebrity biographies show no sign of diminishing here at the moment...

Friday, February 6, 2009

ARE YOU OFFENDED YET?

Heard anything that offended you recently? Or read a sentence in a book that caused you personal outrage? And what did being offended give you the right do? Call for someone to be sacked? Make death threats? Write an abusive email?

It's a subject that has been much discussed here in the UK over the past few months. First there was the notorious Sachsgate, involving 'lewd' phone messages left by broadcasters Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. Very few listeners who heard it at the time complained to the BBC. But many thousands who hadn't heard it decided to be offended when they read about it in the papers, resulting in resignations, suspensions and grovelling apologies all round.

This week, there have been two more cases. Carol Thatcher, daughter of the former British Prime Minister, was at the centre of a row after comparing a black tennis player to a "golliwog" in an (unbroadcasted) conversation in the green room at the BBC. If you don't know what a golliwog is, go here (and be sure to scroll down to see the original cover of that Agatha Christie novel now known as AND THEN THERE WERE NONE!).

Well, Miss Thatcher is refusing to apologise, saying it was private conversation and the comment was made in jest. But people who heard the jest claim to have been offended, so she has gone.

Then today we hear that TV motormouth Jeremy Clarkson is also in trouble for referring to our current Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, as a "one-eyed Scottish idiot" during an interview in Australia. This afternoon, Clarkson has been apologising too - but apparently only for "insulting someone's personal appearance", i.e. for pointing out that Mr Brown has only one eye, which is a verifiable fact and a matter of public knowledge. No need to apologise for calling him an idiot, then. Or for mentioning his Scottishness. But Clarkson is no stranger to this kind of thing.

It's a politically correct minefield for anyone out there in the public, er... eye. Especially when some folk seem to think they can be offended on behalf of others. Is this an issue all about context and tone?

As I was reading these news stories today, reality snuck in from the cyberworld and gave me a vicious little poke, as it so often does. I checked my inbox and found one of those wonderfully abusive emails that all writers receive occasionally from their readers. At least, I assume all writers get them. Or is it just me?

I'll let you read an extract of this email for yourselves. It opens without any preamble - no fuss about saying 'hello' or 'hi', but getting straight to the point, thus:

"On page139 in the hard copy of "Scared To Live," you write, "Nothing special-but women don't care much about the technical details, do they?" How, in this day and age, can you write this, and actually get away with writing this statement? How DARE you, you sexist pig! Who do you think you really are, God's gift to all mankind? Well, think again! Not only is fifty percent of mankind women, but many of this planet's brightest people today are women. Many women occupy the world's top jobs, careers, and research fields today. I think you grew up in the cave man era, am I right? You should absolutely be damn ashamed of yourself; writing someyhing like that in this day and age!...."

Okay, so the lady is offended. I think we got that. But not by something I've said to her. No - she's offended by a comment made in a crime novel by one fictional character to another. The sentence she quotes is part of a passage of dialogue between DI Paul Hitchens and his boss, DCI Oliver Kessen. Hitchens has never been presented as a particularly sympathetic character, and I'm sure there's far worse from him and some of the more cynical police officers elsewhere in the Cooper & Fry series. My characters tend to talk pretty much the way they would in real life. In this passage, Hitchens is actually referring to a stereo system, being himself the sort of bloke who cares about the woofers and tweeters. (See footnote *1)

So should I be the one who's offended? You've got to have a thick skin when you get published, of course. In fact, my first reaction when I read this email was to think "poor woman - she's got such a huge chip on her shoulder that it's preventing her from distinguishing fiction from reality". And then I started taking it as a compliment... Why? Because what's happened here is that a reader has been so deeply involved in a story that she's taken personal offence at something said by a character, as if it had actually been said in her presence. But, because this character is fictional, she can't shout back at him, right? So she chooses the next most obvious target - the author. Isn't it great when a book can evoke that kind of passion?

Well, let's face it - if you're going to abuse a writer for the views of a fictional character, you might as well write to Thomas Harris and ask him to justify his cannibalism. It would be ridiculous to believe that every opinion expressed by every minor character in a book is also the opinion of the author. It just isn't physically possible, since characters tend to disagree with each other all the time. It's called conflict.

In fact, there are so many unpleasant individuals with nasty attitudes in my books, I'm starting to wonder what some of my readers think I'm like. :)


SPOILER ALERT - if you haven't read SCARED TO LIVE yet, you might want to read no further! No offence or anything...



Footnote *1 - The fact that the owner of the stereo system had just been shot is completely inoffensive, apparently. As are the deaths of a mother and her two children, who have just died horribly in a house fire. But then, this is a crime novel, so we expect things like that, don't we? We just don't expect characters to express opinions that we disagree with...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

IMMORTAL PHRASES

I remember being extremely chuffed a few years ago when I discovered that I'd been mentioned in the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Phrases and Sayings. The reference was for a modern usage of the expression "Don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs", as used by DCI Stewart Tailby in BLACK DOG (apart from the immortality, it meant that someone at the Oxford University Press had read BLACK DOG really carefully).

Then there was the BBC radio interview following the publication of THE DEAD PLACE, when the interviewer complimented me on some expressions he'd never heard before, which he'd jotted down while he was reading the book. One of them was used by the undertaker, Melvyn Hudson. Referring to a less than bright employee, he says: "The wheel's still turning, but the hamster's dead". I suppose it's a version of the more familiar "the lights are on, but no-one's home". Well, I'm not sure I invented the hamster line, but I couldn't remember where I got it from, so of course I had to take the credit. :)

And then along comes the Progressive Network of Southeast Pennsylvania - a body new to me, but I'm sure they do wonderful work on behalf of the progressive community in that neck of the woods. Their website is full of inspiring and thought-provoking quotations. One page I stumbled across begins with ringing, memorable phrases from the likes of Barack Obama, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King. And then, down at the very bottom:

“Believe those who are seeking the truth, but doubt those who say they have found it.” —Stride, in “Dancing with the Virgins” by Stephen Booth [p. 273]

Now, Stride is a very caring and spiritual character, so I think he would want to own up to the fact that he borrowed this line from the French writer Andre Gide and improved on it slightly. So I'm going to own up on his behalf.

Nice, though, that a fictional character can earn his own little share of imortality.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

ENCOUNTERS IN THE BLOGOSPHERE

Another newcomer to the blogosphere is one of my crime writing heroes, John Harvey, who is blogging over at:

http://mellotone70up.wordpress.com/

Mr Harvey is much more cultured than me, and can be found discussing poetry and jazz as well as crime fiction. He's also a recent recipient of the CWA's Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement, and happens to be a really nice guy too. You've got to hate him, haven't you?

I've also added a few more blog links below, including Martin Edwards' "Do you write under your own name?" As well as being a wonderful writer himself, Martin is a reviewer, and you can often find recommendations of new books on his blog before the books have even been published.

CUT WORDS TO CUT COSTS?

A fellow crime writer has reported receiving an email from her US publishers, asking all their authors to keep their books under 100,000 words, in an effort to reduce production costs (i.e. creating fewer pages to print).

I'd be interested to hear what readers think of this one. On the one hand, there are probably many books that would benefit from being pruned! But my agent once said to me that a book should be as long as it needs to be for the story you're telling.

And the author who received this email has just finished a new book that is 120,000 words long, meaning she might be asked to cut one sixth of the book - for the US market, at least. As an author, it's probably better to write shorter books than be dropped by your publisher. But will some readers notice that that they're getting less value for money?

Monday, February 2, 2009

SMATTERINGS

Just a few snippets of news today while I have a quiet snigger at all those people down in London panicking over a couple of centimetres of snow. Come on, folks... when we lived in Yorkshire, we used to wake up with more snow than that inside the bedroom. Or am I just being a wee bit smug about working from home? Write and let me know!

The good news for Derbyshire as a result of this "snow event" (as the BBC have just called it) was that the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, whose name is Mr Ed Balls, had to cancel a visit to open Derby's first 'skills academy'. There must be scope for a really great headline there somewhere...

Of course, the Peak District had twice as much snow as anywhere else in England, and the famous Snake Pass was closed today - but that happens every winter.

Elsewhere, it seems that people are turning to their local libraries in greater numbers - at least in Scotland. Good news for libraries - but maybe not such good news for bookshops? I'm always sorry to see independent bookstores closing, and I was particularly sad to hear news of the recent demise of Murder One, London's (in fact, the UK's) leading mystery bookstore. The full story of what owner Maxim Jakubowski is up to can be read on today's Rapsheet blog.

Finally, we all know that rabbits can be a terrible pest in the countryside. So I loved this story today from the Press Association on one farmer's novel approach to pest control, featuring a gun-totin' cow.

DAGGER IN THE LIBRARY CALL

Here in the UK, the Crime Writers' Association has just opened nominations for this year's Dagger in the Library Award.

Sponsored by Random House, the £1,500 award recognises an author's body of work. Recent winners have included Stuart McBride, Craig Russell and Alexander McCall Smith. (oh, and me!) This year, the panel of judges will be chaired by Mark Benjamin, Team Librarian at Hexham Library.

Libraries have until 11th April to make up to three nominations for each of their reading groups. Libraries that nominate shortlisted authors will be entered into a draw for tickets to the glittering awards dinner in London, and for a £300 prize. Entry forms can be downloaded at the CWA website:

http://www.thecwa.co.uk/

Sunday, February 1, 2009

THE REAPER IS COMING...

Congratulations go to Derbyshire crime writer Steven Dunne, who is one of the latest signings for HarperCollins imprint Avon.

Steven is a fine example for other aspiring authors who dream of getting that big publishing contract. After a number of rejections, he decided to go it alone and self-publish his first novel 'Reaper', a detective thriller set in Derby, featuring Detective Inspector Damen Brook in a hunt for a long-dormant serial killer. The book ended up being stocked and championed at Steven's local Waterstone’s.

He then placed his book on HarperCollins' new writers' networking site authonomy.com in the hope of reaching a wider audience. And 'Reaper' was spotted by a HarperCollins editor, who has signed Steven up for at least one more book. 'Reaper' will be hitting shops across the UK this summer.

I read the book a couple of months ago, and it's great stuff! I even think the cover of the self-published version is pretty cool too (and that's not something you can always say). I'm looking forward to seeing what HarperCollins do with it.

A graduate of Kent University, Steven Dunne works as a supply teacher in Derby. He uses a number of recognisable locations in the city for his book.

I think you'll be hearing more of him after this summer.

You can visit his website here:

http://www.the-reaper.com/