Today in news so time-contingent you probably can’t even spare the couple of minutes it takes to read this: if you can get to the recently-installed James Bond BookBench in London’s Bloomsbury Square between 12pm and 2pm tomorrow (12/08), you might walk away with a free copy of one of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels courtesy of publisher Vintage. The company, in conjunction with Ian Fleming Publications and BookBench masterminds Books About Town, is marking the 50th anniversary of Fleming’s death with the promotion, with 200 copies of Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and the non-fiction collection Thrilling Cities set to be distributed to passers-by over the course of two hours.
25 November this year marks 40 years since the death of singer-songwriter Nick Drake, aged 26, from an overdose of antidepressants, the intentionality of which has never been ascertained. Of the three albums of alternately lush and brittle songs he left behind – 1969’s Five Leaves Left, 1970’s Bryter Layter and 1972’s Pink Moon – the latter two each sold fewer than 5,000 copies during his lifetime. Drake’s critical and commercial cachet has risen significantly since his death, and in recognition of his 40th anniversary his estate has authorised for the first time a book on Drake’s life.
HarperCollins is extending its Killer Reads web presence – a promotional tool and online community for its crime titles since 2009 – into a digital-first crime and thriller imprint, and the publisher has revealed that it will launch the list with titles discovered via open submission. For one week only between 29 August and 4 September, the label will accept all the manuscripts the crime writers of the world can throw at it regardless of whether or not they have agents. After its launch Killer Reads hopes to put out one or two digital titles a month, so the search for new authors is presumably a method of shoring up its backlog in order to sustain that model. It follows a similar move from HarperCollins’ speculative fiction imprint, Harper Voyager, in 2012.
Crime writing festival Bloody Scotland has revealed the shortlist for its Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year, whose winner will be announced as part of this year’s festival in September. The nominees are an even split between three genre veterans – Chris Brookmyre’s Flesh Wounds (Little, Brown), Louise Welsh’s A Lovely Way to Burn (Hodder & Stoughton), Peter May’s Entry Island (Quercus) – and books by three debuting authors: Nicola White’s In the Rosary Garden (Cargo), Neil Broadfoot’s Falling Fast (Saraband) and Natalie Haynes’ The Amber Fury (Corvus). The winner will take home £1,000 and be promoted in Waterstones branches across the country.
We already know that print sales declined in 2013 (as they have year on year for a while now), dropping in value from £1.514 billion in 2012 to £1.416 billion – a slump of £98 million, 6.5% of total print sales in 2012. We also know that the decline in print books sold year on year was even more precipitous, dropping 9.8% from around 203.9 million units sold in 2012 to 183.9 million. Now Nielsen has released the results of its Book Survey analysing the damage in more detail, showing an overall decline of 4% in UK book sales across print and digital and pointing out one major contributing factor in particular – a fall in the number of books bought as gifts.
When the Man Booker Prize announced last September that, as of the 2014 prize, the field of nominees would be expanded beyond the borders of the Commonwealth to any novelist worldwide writing in English and published in Britain, it promised to ‘celebrate and embrace authors [...] whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai.’ In practice, the unveiling of the 13 titles that comprise the 2014 longlist suggests that what that really meant was ‘we can nominate Americans now too’.
As if a piddling thing like dying last year is any kind of obstacle to a man of his stature – new material is forthcoming from the mighty Elmore Leonard in 2015. Well, ‘new’ – Weidenfeld & Nicolson is set to publish a single volume containing 15 of Leonard’s previously unavailable short stories dating from his tenure as a copywriter at a Detroit ad agency in the 1950s, around the time he first started writing novels and before he was earning enough to support himself from that latter pursuit. HarperCollins holds the US rights to the volume.
Last week finally saw the release of an ebook edition of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, and this week brings with it the publication of Marja Mills’ biography of Lee, The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, charting Mills’ friendship with Lee and her sister Alice having moved next door to and spent time with them over a period of years. Penguin Press says of the book:
This year’s Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award has been presented to Young Skins, the debut collection of Irish writer Colin Barrett. 32 year old Barrett beat out fellow nominees A.L. Kennedy, Lorrie Moore, Laura van den Berg, Ben Marcus and fellow debutant Phil Klay to take the €25,000 award, reputedly the most lucrative short story prize in the world. His book was first published in Ireland in 2013 by Stinging Fly Press, with Jonathan Cape handling it in the UK this year and Grove Atlantic taking it to the United States in 2015. Its win was decided upon by judges Manuel Gonzales, Alison MacLeod and Matthew Sweeney.
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, J.K. Rowling yesterday posted a new, 1,500 word Harry Potter story on Pottermore, the series’ subscription-only web platform. “Dumbledore’s Army Reunites” is written as a newspaper article by the books’ resident tabloid hack Rita Skeeter, and finds Rowling’s teenage heroes now in their mid-30s and attending the Quidditch World Cup. Naturally, Rowling’s avid fans got a wee bit excited and, even though you might expect the site to brace itself for the inevitability that every one of its subscribers would instantly want to read the first new material in the series for seven years, Pottermore crashed soon after the story went live. The site is now fully operational again, however, so fans can read the story over and over as they wait in line at Universal Studios’ new Diagon Alley attraction, which coincidentally (ahem) also opened yesterday.