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Neil Gaiman’s American Gods being developed for TV

American Gods, one of the most fervently beloved titles in the bibliography of the fervently beloved Neil Gaiman, has been mooted as a prospective show for American gods (of TV) HBO for the past three years but has struggled through the development stages, the network asking Gaiman to rewrite his pilot script to bring it closer to the book amidst rumours either pegging it as picked up for a six season run or with its chances damaged by the massive success of fellow cult-book-to-small-screen-hit Game of Thrones. Gaiman eventually confirmed last November that the network was no longer involved.

Finally, however, fans can expect some progress on this front: HBO may no longer be interested in taking the project further, but it has instead been picked up by fellow premium cable network Starz, with Hannibal‘s Bryan Fuller appointed to write the pilot and Kings creator Michael Green showrunner. Gaiman will executive produce.

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James Patterson donating £250,000 to British and Irish bookshops

Following a similar act of philanthropy in the US last year, hyperbestseller James Patterson is set to donate £250,000 to independent booksellers across Britain and Ireland in a bid to ensure no children have to live lives without books. Patterson’s pledge coincides with the beginning of Independent Booksellers Week, which starts this coming Saturday. The awards scheme is open to any independent bookshop featuring a dedicated children’s section whose annual turnover is under £1 million. Grants will be awarded ranging from £250 to £5,000 (which, for the maths-impaired, means somewhere between 50 and 1,000 bookshops stand to benefit).

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Flagstone unveiled commemorating Scotland’s first published woman

As part of history festival Previously… this past weekend, Professor Germaine Greer unveiled a flagstone in Edinburgh commemorating the life and work of Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross, the first woman to be published in Scotland. The memorial is inscribed with suitably recalcitrant lines from Melville’s Ane Godlie Dream, her groundbreaking debut work, a narrative poem first printed in 1603: ‘Though tyrants threat, though Lyons rage and rore / Defy them all, and feare not to win out.’ The flagstone lies, appropriately, in the city’s Makars’ Court in the Lawnmarket (‘makar’ being a Scots word meaning poet). Greer previously included Melville in her Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of 17th-Century Women’s Verse.

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Quentin Tarantino co-authoring Django/Zorro crossover comic

Comic book publishers Dynamite Entertainment teaming with industry titans DC to publish the work of a writer new to the world of comics might not qualify as particularly huge news under regular circumstances, but most newcomers aren’t Quentin Tarantino and their debut series usually isn’t a sequel to their most recent, massively successful, Oscar-winning film, so in this case, it is in fact particularly huge news. Tarantino is co-plotting a series due to debut later this year that is not only a direct sequel to his 2012 slavery revenge western Django Unchained but also a crossover with another pulpy hero usually found in the more southerly regions of the United States: Zorro.

Django/Zorro will be written by Matt Wagner, famed creator of the series Mage and Grendel, with a plot devised by Wagner and Tarantino, and editorial input from Reginald Hudlin, a producer on Django Unchained whose comic book adaptation of that film earned an Eisner nomination. It is the first time Tarantino has authorised a direct sequel, in any medium, to any of his films (bearing in mind Kill Bill was originally intended as one long film). The Hollywood Reporter has described the series as ‘the least likely way imaginable’ for Tarantino to return to the world of the film, which suggests that The Hollywood Reporter has a severely limited imagination (just sitting here waiting for the licensing deal to come through on my commemorative postage stamp continuation of Jackie Brown).

Tarantino, with characteristic humility, says of the series: ‘I’m very very excited about both this story and the opportunity to work with Matt.  It was reading his Zorro stories that convinced me what a good idea it was to join these two icons together.  And the story idea we came up with is thrilling, and I think will be an exciting new chapter for both characters.

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Sleek lines and celestial voices at Foyles

The long-awaited new flagship Foyles store at 107 Charing Cross Road opened to much fanfare last week. Emma Smith went to the launch party to check it out.

White walls, bright lights, airy spaces, sleek lines and celestial voices (in the form of Foyles Festival Chorus choir) greeted the eager throngs of publishing industry guests at the Foyles launch last Monday. This is the bookshop upon whose brand new shoulders lies the hefty weight of bookselling hope.

Awash with those staples of any book event worth its salt – champagne and canapés – there was a great hum of conversation and curiosity at the former Central St. Martin’s site.  Even Nick from The Apprentice was there. People were hungry to see what this bookshop was capable of delivering. Way back in February 2013, I went along to a Foyles workshop to help re-imagine the store – talk of gin palaces and ‘retail theatre’ buzzed around the room. And now it’s come to life.  But without so much gin.

Light from the central atrium filtered down onto company chairman, Christopher Foyle, as he welcomed the crowd.  Brothers William and Gilbert Foyle opened the Charing Cross branch in the 1920s and it has stood as a pillar of London literary life ever since. Christopher likened the developments in independent bookselling to that of the relationship between electric lighting and candles. Despite new technology, the earlier method sells on. Foyles hopes to be that eternal flame; a source of illumination rekindled to serve book buyers and to continue being ‘the greatest bookshop in the world’.

In reality, everyone knows what Foyles is up against  – referred to graciously as something to do with ‘great rivers’ or ‘female warriors in Greek mythology’ – yet you can’t help but admire what they’ve done and what they might become. Staff working overtime to move half a million books just shows the collective goodwill towards this new venture. And with an ambitious star-studded launch festival (guests include Grayson Perry, Hilary Mantel, Jarvis Cocker and Michael Palin to name a few) there are no signs of momentum wavering. It’s a very human kind of warmth which ultimately pervades this shop; the personal knowledge, the heritage and the sheer drive, culture and spirit of Foyles leaves you with a feeling of optimism, albeit a cautious one for now.

Paring back the whizz-bang ideas of the workshop last year, they’ve created a streamlined and realistic cultural hub – keeping books at its heart, of course. Four miles of shelving is definitely enough to get lost in. Branching out from the standard bookseller remit, Foyles have introduced literary tours, built café space, created an exhibition area and have produced a healthy roster of events and talks to reach out to customers. They are really trying to make books come alive and speak to people.

At the launch, Caitlin Moran declared bookshops ‘the sexiest places’ to hang out in. While I’m not sure I totally agree with her hypothesis, I do think that there is something visceral about being in a bookstore; a physical feeling that isn’t experienced in the same way online. They should be places of excitement, exploration, intimacy and inspiration all at once (and maybe also a place to buy that last minute birthday card). Familiarity and nostalgia is one thing to encompass, but shining a light on a new bookselling path is quite another. Foyles have certainly gone at it all cylinders firing, and I, for one, hope that they will remain as a beacon burning bright.

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Shortlist announced for Frank O’Connor short story prize

The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award – reputedly the world’s richest short story prize, awarding €25,000 annually to the author of the year’s best short story collection – has revealed its six-strong 2014 shortlist. The field is led by A. L. Kennedy and Lorrie Moore, both writers who have found great success with short stories in the past. Their respective titles All the Rage and Bark are joined on the shortlist by Laura van den Berg’s The Isle of Youth, Ben Marcus’ Leaving the Sea and the work of two debuting authors, Phil Klay’s Redeployment and Colin Barrett’s Young Skins. Four of the six authors are American, with Kennedy and Barrett the only representatives of, respectively, Scotland and Ireland.

The prize’s winner will be announced in July after deliberations by a judging panel consisting of novelists and short story writers Manuel Gonzales and Alison MacLeod and poet Matthew Sweeney. MacLeod told The Guardian ‘The stories in these collections moved me, provoked me, and knocked the breath out of me. They take the reader down deep; they bring him or her up short. With every great short story – and they are numerous across these six collections – the world expands. So does life itself. With a powerful collection, one grows bigger by at least several lives.’

The award was established in 2005 by the Munster Literature Centre in Cork as an offshoot of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Festival, itself named in honour of the famed Irish writer, with its first prize given to Yiyun Li for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. Since then, it has been awarded to authors including Haruki Murakami, Miranda July, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edna O’Brien and Nathan Englander, with other notable nominees including Joyce Carol Oates, Colm Tóibín and T. C. Boyle. Last year’s winner was David Constantine, for his Tea at the Midland and Other Stories.

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You won’t sass George R. R. Martin like that when he can summon wolves

If you’re an eccentric, philanthropic tycoon who is really into grisly fantasy and just wants what’s best for wolves, then 1) congratulations, because you sound like you’re terrific 2) your ship has come in. Game of Thrones overlord George R. R. Martin is spearheading a campaign on Kickstarter-style celebrity charity prize draw site Prizeo on behalf of New Mexico’s Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and the Food Depot of Santa Fe.

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Baileys Women’s Prize goes to Eimear McBride

This year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has gone to Eimear McBride for her debut novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. The book has already won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year award and the Goldsmiths Prize, is nominated for the Desmond Elliott Prize and has been shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize. McBride took the Baileys over presumed favourite Donna Tartt’s third novel, The Goldfinch, as well as similarly big names Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jhumpa Lahiri and fellow first-time novelists Hannah Kent and Audrey Magee (not to mention the longlisted Margaret Atwood, Rachel Kushner and Eleanor Catton). The book’s triumph is a major coup for its original publisher, the small Norwich independent Galley Beggar Press, for which it was a launch title (it was subsequently picked up for paperback by Faber & Faber).

Accepting the award, McBride said: ‘I hope it will serve as an incentive to publishers everywhere to take a look at difficult books and think again. We are all writers but we are all readers first. There is a contract between publishers and readers which must be honoured, readers can not be underestimated.’ It took McBride nine years to find a publisher willing to take on her innovatively-styled manuscript, having written the novel a decade ago, aged 27.

Former MD of Penguin Helen Fraser, head of a judging panel comprised of Mary Beard, Caitlin Moran, Denise Mina and Sophie Raworth, told The Guardian: ‘Very early on Eimear stood out from the crowd. We all put ourselves into purdah to re-read the shortlisted books but it was only when we started cautiously exchanging emails in the past week that we realised what a strong contender it was. It took us one hour to get the shortlist down to two books, and the remaining three hours to decide between them – but this is a truly worthy winner.’

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A Hunger Games theme park may be imminent

If you read Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy and thought to yourself ‘[sigh], I wish that was me being made to fight to the death in a hellish futuristic dystopia with massive inequality between the haves and have nots’, then good news, you weirdo – you may soon be able to live out all your most cherished teenage deathmatch dreams in a Hunger Games theme park. Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lionsgate – the studio behind the film adaptations of Collins’ novels – tells the Hollywood Reporter that his company has joined forces with hellish futuristic dystopianly-named theme park creators Thinkwell Group to begin work on ‘line extensions of The Hunger Games and all of our other brands’ (so fingers crossed, Crank 2: High Voltage cultists).

Feltheimer says ‘As a first step, we’ve already designed a state-of-the-art travelling museum involving costumes, props and other elements of the Hunger Games world that will begin touring the U.S. next summer’ (weapons, what he means by ‘other elements’ is the weapons that its teenage protagonists use to brutally murder each other at their tyrannical government’s behest). The Hollywood Reporter says Lionsgate ‘is also eyeing theme park attractions and other location-based entertainment opportunities’, the latter of which phrased in such a way to serve as a reminder that Lionsgate is also the studio behind Hostel.

Feltheimer first floated the prospect of a Hunger Games theme park last year ahead of the release of the cinema release of Catching Fire, based on the second of Collins’ novels. The idea of some sort of real-world tourist trap based on the blockbuster films based on the YA books is almost certainly inspired by the assorted Harry Potter attractions that have sprung up in the wake of that franchise’s end. The crucial difference, however, is that at least the Harry Potter books have some whimsy and childhood innocence before their descent into death and betrayal, giving theme park designers plenty of delightful material to work with, whereas death and betrayal is more or less Collins’ stock-in-trade from the get-go, making the devising of a fun day out for all the family that bit more challenging. Maybe brush up on your archery skills before booking flights.

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