Saturday, September 24, 2011


HarperCollins to offer Backlist On Demand

HarperCollins has become the first publisher to cross the digital frontier and offer books to readers as print on demand products, reports .
From the time digital publishing became possible, we all knew the on-demand book was coming the only real question being how.
At launch, HarperCollins will work with On Demand Books, LLC, the maker of the Espresso Book Machine, to enable instant distribution of books that are not currently stocked in stores. With the push of a button, books can be printed, bound, and trimmed to a bookstore-quality, perfect-bound paperback book, with a full-color cover, in minutes.

Oooooh, baby!  Welcome to the 22nd century.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


 Lost Cain Novel to be Published by Hard Case Crime

Up to no good: Barbara Stanwyck as the Dame and
Fred MacMurray as the Detective in  Double Indemnity.
Hard-boiled crime fans everywhere are salivating over news that Hard Case Crime, the publisher devoted to publishing vintage and new pulp crime novels in the style 30's 40's and 50's was in possession of a previously lost James M. Cain novel.
Cain, of course was the god of the noir novel,  whose work was immortalized in the classic films Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce, among others. He died in 1977 in Maryland, but had lived in Hollywood throughout the 1930s and 40s when was hired away from the New York papers to write for films.
Literati reached out to Charles Ardai, the editor of Hard Case Crime, to get the scoop. Here it is.

Where was the manuscript discovered?

I hunted for it for years and finally found it, with the help of my film and TV agent, in the files of an old-time Hollywood agent, H.N. Swanson, who had represented authors like Faulkner and Fitzgerald and Chandler and Cain when they worked in the film business.

How was it authenticated?
Swanson handled Cain’s work, so he had extensive files on Cain, and there’s enough of a trail to make me confident that the manuscript is the real thing.  It’s also got edits all over it in Cain’s handwriting, and the plot matches the brief description of it Cain gives in his biography. 

When did Cain write it?  Before or after titles that are in print?
After.  It was the last crime novel he ever wrote.

Why I Just Want to Smack the "Woman in White"

For years I've had this on my classics tbr pile but for some reason my attention always veered away. This summer the Wilkie Collins mystery moved to the top, and I dove in, eager for a good old-fashioned 19th-century yarn, my favorite kind.
I haven't been this disappointed since Anna Karenina, another doorstop of a novel which fails in every way except one, Anna, for whom Tolstoy has utter contempt and who only comprises about one-third of the aforementioned girth of the book (yeah go ahead, make my day. You know I'm right).
As I was saying, while  The Woman in White works as a thriller (or "sensation novel" as it was called at the time of publication) I found some of it, particularly parts of the ending to be dreadful.
If you're going to take readers on  a six-hundred page ride, you better give a good bang at the end, but here, you're left asking questions. Who is Percival and how did he meet the evil Count? I have no idea, and Collins apparently didn't think this was important. The bare bones of the central crime are explained, it's not the thousand percent solution that a book with this kind of longevity should have. Percival and the Count's true identities are never revealed and this is a major flaw.
Surprisingly, I thought there was an excellent balance of female characters -- the half-sisters Miss Fairlie fair and simple, Ms. Halcombe, plain and smart are cliches but balanced,  and all the other women, especially the redoubtable Mrs. Catherick, the stone-hearted mother of the woman in white in the title, are portrayed with exceptional skill and clarity. The Woman in White herself, not so much. Of course her place in the story is to set up the mystery, but for some reason I find her annoying and whiny beyond measure. Every time she appears in the story instead of sympathy I just want her to get to the friggin' point before the bad guys show up. Of course she's doomed, but even that can't endear her to me. Oh well. And by all means if you think I'm wrong, feel free to comment. The Moonstone anyone?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

To Browse and to Borrow

photo by Caitlin Donohue for
I LOVE this story! Just when everyone is predicting the death of the book, one brave soul opens a lending library. You know, for a small fee you get to borrow books. How positively 19th Century! The San Francisco Bay Guardian reports on the miraculous existence of Ourshelves, which was born from one woman's love for international literature.
Our heroine is a fan of hard-to-find European authors. She points me towards a slim volume by Hungarian author László Krasnahorkai entitled Animalinside and speaks reverently of Scottish poet W.S. Graham. “He’s not even in print here,” she tells me disbelievingly.
Tucked in the back of art and antiques shop Viracocha, Ourselves started as a personal quest and quickly became a beloved project, evidenced by donations from the SF Public Library and the famously reclusive writer Michael Chabon, who let founder Kristina Kearns pick what she wanted from his personal collection. Vivre le livre!
With two films based on Bronte novels set to premier soon, the talented sisters stand poised to dominate the cultural conversation this fall, a mere 150 since they died.
Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte have never really been "over" or out of style. Their spectacular talent left a legacy to be rediscovered generation after generation, and everything about their lives has fascinated readers from their first publication, notes Blake Morrison  at the Guardian:
The public were enthralled from the start. Curious visitors began turning up in Haworth once the truth about Jane Eyre's authorship got out [Charlotte had used a pseudonym, Currer Bell], and the numbers grew with the publication of Gaskell's biography two years after Charlotte's death in 1855. Some came from as far as America. Local shops cashed in, selling photos of the family. Patrick took to cutting up Charlotte's letters into snippets, to meet the many requests for samples of her handwriting. Charlotte was the sister everyone wanted a piece of; the reputations of Anne and Emily took longer to develop. But the books kept selling and groupies kept coming to gawp. By 1893 aBrontë Society had been formed, and a small museum opened two years later.
Morrison examines the truth behind the "tortured souls" image the sisters were cast in and examines the history and trajectory of their fame, which was immediate and wide spread.
After Charlotte's Jane Eyre appeared, the publication of Emily's Wuthering Heights and Anne's Agnes Grey, the Brontes became an industry through their talent and 150 years on, business is booming.