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Kickstart Brian Blessed shouting for the children

Clearly familiar with the internet’s love of all things Brian Blessed, London music teacher Matt Parry has taken to Kickstarter in a bid to source funding for his mixed media project for children, Sheherazade. Parry’s aim is to introduce children to classical music through a series of stories told as both audio plays available on CD, scored by a relevant piece of music, and as accompanying graphic novels. (Readers of a certain age who are also progeny of a certain level of aspirational parent might recall the similarly-pitched 90s magazine series The Magical Music Box, whose fortnightly issues contained a radio play on CD or tape that had some thematic or narrative ties to a particular piece of classical music, as well as the complete piece of classical music excerpted in the play and an illustrated print telling of the play in the magazine, alongside some historical context for the music. So yeah, this is like that, to bring to completion an illustrative reference an exceptionally limited number of people will recognise.)

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R.I.P. horror novelist James Herbert

An author who held a particularly special place in the hearts of those genre connoiseurs who came of age between the 70s and the dawn of the internet age, James Herbert has died aged 69, says his publisher Pan Macmillan. No cause of death was disclosed, but Herbert is reputed to have passed peacefully in bed. A perennial library checkout of fathers and older cousins, at least in this writer’s family, the novelist’s bibliography spans from his 1974 debut, The Rats, to what would prove to be his final work, 2012’s Ash.

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Today in Rowling: PS3 Pottermore, Casual Vacancy paperback

Though the combination of the two hasn’t always been well received in the past, Sony’s video gaming arm has announced its latest attempt at porting the world of Harry Potter to the Playstation: the company will partner with J. K. Rowling’s Pottermore site for a social gaming initiative on Playstation Home, the online gaming hub of the PS3. Initially, the venture will see a selection of environments known to fans of the books opened up for virtual exploration – Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express are two of the first to be named – and used as locations for assorted games and other interactive experiences, including such Potter universe staples as duelling, collecting trading cards, picking out an owl or other appropriately magical animal and shopping for Hogwarts essentials.

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The Folio Prize launches, with first award due in March 2014

Way back in October of 2011, we posted news of The Literature Prize, a potential rival to the Booker whose creation was implicitly a reaction to that year’s infamously ‘readable’ Booker shortlist. Spokesperson Andrew Kidd, the literary agent, suggested at the time that the prize could be up and running as soon as 2012. That estimate proved to be a little overly optimistic, as evidenced by the prize’s still not having happened (just so we’re all on the same page, it’s 2013 now), but just when everyone had forgotten it had ever been mooted, the prize has resurfaced with a new name, a sponsor and a date for its inaugural ceremony: As of March 2014, the Booker will be joined on the literary prize circuit by the Folio Prize, unexepectedly taking its title – and sponsorship – from The Folio Society.

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Fifty Shades to get cash-in notebook accompaniment

It’s been a hot, awkwardly phrased minute since we last had anything worth reporting on the ol’ Fifty Shades of Grey front. Thankfully however, after three months, our long, hard, throbbing national nightmare is over with the news that Vintage is set to publish the excessively punctuated Fifty Shades of Grey: Inner Goddess (A Journal), which is either a canny piece of Fifty Shades merchandising or a spin-off of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

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World Book Day is happening RIGHT NOW

Today, as most people reading this will be aware, is World Book Day, the self-explanatory global celebration of reading with a particular focus on encouraging children and young people to read: vouchers are distributed, books given away for free and, following the success of last year’s efforts, an event organisers are calling The Biggest Book Show On Earth will be streaming live on the World Book Day website for an hour from 11am to classrooms (and more) across the country.

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Questlove publishing memoir this summer


In perhaps the most welcome news of a musician having written a memoir since R. Kelly unleashed Soula Coasta: The Diary of Me upon the world last year, universally beloved Roots drummer, producer, tweeter, house band anchor and all-round muso extraordinaire Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson will publish an autobiography this summer entitled Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove. Presumably seeking to right the wrong of his not being included in Barnes & Noble’s children’s hip-hop biographies section, Questlove has co-authored the book with Ben Greenman, acclaimed author of fiction in his own right and an editor at The New Yorker. The memoir will be released by Hachette imprint Grand Central Publishing on June 18 in America and a week later in the UK and, as you can see by casting an eye above, has the cover art to beat this year.

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Blackfriars First Digital Literary Imprint in the UK

Blackfriars Books from Little, Brown UKI do love a good first. The first t-shirt day of the summer; the first beer on a night out; the first time you wear a new hoodie. Last week saw the announcement of the first digital-only literary list in the UK, Blackfriars from Little, Brown. The list promises to curate 9 to 12 titles a year from new or established authors, and is launching in June. Now there’s a first to get out of bed for.

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Neil Gaiman crowdsources new short story collection

Author and icon of the cool internet nerds movement Neil Gaiman has released a new, part-crowdsourced, online-only short story collection. The thirty-one pages of A Calendar of Tales contain twelve new stories, one for each month of the year, written over the past few weeks after Gaiman tweeted various questions related to the months and took inspiration from the responses garnered.

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