Friday, January 26, 2007

Another expat author launch

Also in today's blog
Death of Patrick O'Brian's publisher

On Saturday, 9 December, I wrote about the launch party, at a restaurant further along the valley in Spain where we live in winter, of Mark Harrison's first novel Missing.

Last night another expat-in-Spain author made her fictional debut with a party at a new beauty salon in the valley's main town. She is Jill Lanchbery and her novel is called A Bucket of Ashes published by Libros International.

Jill Lanchbery's plot is summarised thus –

"As Joanna and Sally, once friends but now separated by time, distance and culture meet again, the two women's lives, past and present intertwine. They are each forced to confront their problems compelling them to make choices they had never wanted or expected to make. Set against the colourful tropical backdrop of Nigeria, it is a novel of passion, intrigue and tragedy, of teenage angst and cultural identity, but above all it is a story of human frailty. Of what happens when people live in such close proximity that adultery becomes almost obligatory and of the goldfish environment in which it flourishes and where emotions are allowed to overrule common

The novel has already had an enthusiastic review, by a man, at Amazon US.

"Reviewer James Parker-Rothchilds (New york USA)
I'd never heard of Jill Lanchbery, but someone passed the book on to me whilst I was climbing the mountains of Southern Spain. The young lady was very attractive and so enthusiastic about the book and I kinda wanted to keep in her good books so decided to flick through the pages that night, purely to have something to talk to her about the next day. (You know how it is guys?) Well, Jill Lanchbery, thank you very much! I eventually fell asleep around 4 the next morning (I think.) and consequently slept through the alarm to wake me for breakfast. I missed my food and a potentially fulfilling day walking with the lovely dark haired beauty Emily. Thanks a lot Jill. Never mind. I sat overlooking the Med and finished the book by the time Emily arrived back that afternoon. What a gal! Sensational! She pulled at my heartstrings like no other girl I've ever known! Emily was quite nice too!"

For a European to marry a Nigerian, however nice, handsome and well-connected, seems to me an act of folly on both sides. [Yesterday, reading that a Nigerian chief's son had just become the first black Grenadier Guards officer, I tried to find an online photograph of Second Lieutenant Folarin Adeyemi Olatokunbo Olugbemiga Kuku but was unsuccessful.] The fact is that love can surmount a lot of obstacles, but not differences in a couple's most fundamental beliefs. Jill Lanchbery's heroine, unable to provide her Nigerian with a son, has to put up with him taking another wife who can.

Perhaps the most famous love story between an African man and an English woman is that of Sir Seretse Khama KBE [1921-1980] who became the first President of Botswana and is remembered for bringing peace and prosperity to the formative years of his nation.

Wikipedia tells us - "In June of 1947, Khama met Ruth Williams, an English clerk at Lloyd's of London, and after a year of courtship, married her. The interracial marriage sparked a furore among both the apartheid government of South Africa and the tribal elders of the Bamangwato. On being informed of the marriage, Khama's uncle Tshekedi Khama demanded his return to Bechuanaland and the annulment of the marriage. Khama did return to Serowe but after a series of kgotlas (public meetings), was re-affirmed by the elders in his role as the kgosi. Ruth Williams Khama, travelling with her new husband, proved similarly popular. Admitting defeat, Tshekedi Khama left Bechuanaland, while Khama returned to London to complete his studies."

If you're not already thoroughly disillusioned about politicians and their base motives, read what Wikipedia has to say about the shameful behaviour of both British political parties towards the young Seretse Khama.

"However, the international ramifications of his marriage would not be so easily resolved. Having banned interracial marriage under the apartheid system, South Africa could not afford to have an interracial couple ruling just across their northern border. As Bechuanaland was then a British protectorate, the South African government immediately exerted pressure to have Khama removed from his chieftainship. Britain's Labour government, then heavily in debt from World War II, could not afford to lose cheap South African gold and uranium supplies. There was also a fear that South Africa might take more direct action against Bechuanaland, through economic sanctions or a military incursion. The British government therefore launched a parliamentary enquiry into Khama's fitness for the chieftainship. Though the investigation reported that he was in fact eminently fit for the rule of Bechuanaland, "but for his unfortunate marriage", the government ordered the report suppressed (it would remain so for thirty years), and exiled Khama and his wife from Bechuanaland in 1951. In 1952, a new Conservative government declared the exile permanent."

Patrick O'Brian's publisher dies

Obit in today's The Times.
"November 9, 1923 - January 21, 2007
Editor and author who published the novels of Patrick O'Brien [sic] and wrote books on the Civil War, Pepys and naval history
Richard Ollard was one of the most civilised men of letters in postwar Britain. From 1948 to 1959 he was a lecturer in history at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. Thereafter he was senior editor at Collins, a key figure in probably the strongest editorial team in British publishing. When he retired in 1983, already a leading authority on the English 17th century and the Royal Navy, he devoted himself largely to authorship."

Finally, a thank you to Australian reader Treva for her comment on yesterday's blog. I expect to be back on Monday. AW

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Meet the Author...good or bad promo?

The 1131 video clips on Meet the Author are a good promotional tool for some authors, but not for all.

For example, I enjoyed listening to Mitch Albom talking about his first book Tuesdays With Morrie.

Here's a description of the book - "Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, and gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly 20 years ago. Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded. Wouldn't you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you? Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man's life. Knowing he was dying of ALS - or motor neurone disease - Morrie visited Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final "class": lessons in how to live. This is a chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie's lasting gift with the world."

I shall look out for that title and all Albom's subsequent books. The MtA clip sent me straight to his website. He also has a couple of blogs.

I also enjoyed listening to Alexander McCall Smith's puff for his new book The Right Attitude to Rain. His voice immediately reminded me of John and Alan Boon and all the other British publishers I met in the Sixties and Seventies before mellifluous voices went out of fashion and we had to adjust to Sky-speak and other ugly accents.

On the other hand…

But it has to be said that the Meet the Author video of Katie Fforde talking about Restoring Grace and the video of Joanna Trollope explaining the background of Second Honeymoon doesn't do either of these authors justice.

I have met both writers and they are far more attractive than the MtA clips suggest. If you haven't already been there, take a look at KF's website. JT's site is here.

Katie explained that having run out of real life experiences to base her novels on, she has to fall back on research. For Restoring Grace, she studied picture restoration.

According to Ms Trollope, life is much harder for today's young than it was in the past. Among the "terrible modern misfortunes" confronting them are loss of job, becoming pregnant, getting dumped and getting into debt. Her book Second Honeymoon is about the empty nest syndrome and the problems of parents rebuilding marriages after not having had each other to themselves for maybe 25 years.

After muttering "What a load of codswallop!" to myself, I went off to Amazon US to see how American reviewers reacted to Ms Trollope's themes.

They are lapping them up. One wrote "Anyone who has had to suffer an "empty nest" can empathize completely with Edie Boyd, whom we meet on the first page grieving for her youngest son in his impossibly messy room that, obviously, the author got from my OWN son's room. For several pages, I thought the son was dead, and was in tears...until I realized that he had merely moved out. And then I wept for the absolute recognition of that terrible feeling: "I Have Nobody to Mother"!"

Another wrote – "Edie is distraught...her youngest child, Ben, 22 years old, has moved out of home to live with his girlfriend. Edie and her husband, theatrical agent, Russell have two older children who have both moved into their own flats and the shock of being without any children at home has just hit Edie like a blow. Unless you've had this happen, it probably seems to be an exaggerated state of mind, but if your last child or your only child has gone, it is truly like a gaping hole that you can never imagine being filled, and is a genuinely terrible sense of loss...If you've been there, you'll know what I mean!"

It's good [for her sales] that Ms Trollope is in tune with the mindsets of certain types of readers. But is it a good thing for women in general when influential authors encourage outlooks and promote ideas that are antipathetic to happiness?

There's something seriously wrong with a marriage in which the husband and wife can't find time for each other for as long as a quarter of a century. Sensible parents encourage their children to leave the nest at the earliest opportunity. A 22-year-old is a man, not a boy.

No doubt my views are coloured by the fact that, being more than a decade older than Joanna Trollope, who was born in 1943, I remember WW2 vividly, including nights spent in an Anderson air raid shelter during the blitz on Norwich. Being without a shelter of our own, my mother and I were "guests" in the shelter. The owners' eldest grandson, although only 15, was a Civil Defence messenger who spent those nights riding about on his bike, in the blackout, carrying messages between air raid wardens' posts. When you've known someone like that, it's impossible to sympathise with relatively trivial problems and namby-pamby attitudes.

Meet the Author's new partner

I was interested to read that "An agreement between Publishing News Ltd and Meet the Author Ltd will give PNL access to a range of high-quality, multimedia content for its websites while providing Meet the Author with general book news for its own service. Meet the Author, launched by former BBC Radio Oxford broadcaster David Freeman in 2004 and for which he won the Nielsen BookData Award for Innovation at the British Book Trade Awards in 2005, contains some 1,200 video clips of author interviews, which will provide an enriching addition to PNL's own websites,, a promotional tool for publishers launched late last year, and

Selected Meet the Author content is already available via the Amazon, Blackwells, Waterstone's and lovereading websites and its addition to PNL's own websites enables the company to offer a more attractive package to publishers, with the interactive dimension likely to boost site traffic among consumers as well as the trade.

Simon Blake, Commercial Director of Meet the Author, welcomed the development: “We are constantly striving to expand the distribution platform of our author video clips and we are delighted that Publishing News is making them available via its websites. The addition of news from the book industry, provided by Publishing News, is an important development in our quest to ensure that our website remains fresh and up-to-date.”

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A marvellous online experience you can share

Also in today's blog
The puzzling word in Cronin's The Citadel
"She woke at noon..."

This morning I had an online experience which may be equalled during 2007 but is unlikely to be surpassed.

I first heard of Maggs, the rare book dealers, in my early teens [the 1940s] in a second hand bookshop, Thomas Crowe's in St Giles Street, Norwich. I was eavesdropping on a conversation between the shop's owner and an elderly gentleman who, when he entered the shop, had looked at me with the sort of shocked distaste a hospital ward sister of that era would have looked at a cockroach.

Mr Crowe was also bit intimidating, so later I asked another scruffier sort of book dealer, with a shop in the narrow cobbled street called Elm Hill, if he knew about Maggs. He did, but gave the impression they were the royalty of the book trade, far above his touch or mine.

Years later, in the Eighties, after I had been interviewing Mark Birley, owner of Annabel's at 44 Berkeley Square, for my first mainstream novel, I passed Maggs at No 50 but was too preoccupied to consider knocking on the door.

It was not until this morning that, at last, I was able to explore their elegant rooms filled with handsome mahogany bookcases and other delights such as the gilded overmantel in the Travel Room.

The way this happened may be of interest. Bored with the news pages of the UK broadsheets, I turned to the obituaries and came upon this – "Bookbinder who undertook royal commissions and helped restore priceless volumes after the floods in Florence."

Which led to – "Elizabeth Greenhill, who has died aged 99, was a leading designer bookbinder; during a career which began in the 1920s she worked with Walter de la Mare and Hilaire Belloc and was one of a team of experts sent to help with the restoration of priceless collections of books after the Arno flooded Florence in 1966."

Where better to look for Ms Greenhill's bindings than at Maggs. To my surprise and delight, I found that their website, far from being rather dull and old-fashioned, has a virtual tour of their premises with panoramic views of all the rooms and their façade on the west side of Berkeley Square.

They also have an excellent explanation of RSS feeds for anyone who isn't clear how they work.

Plus a fascinating history – "The firm of Maggs was founded in the 1850's, probably in 1853, by Uriah Maggs, who at the age of 25 had left his home town of Midsomer Norton in Somerset to set up in business in London. Like many migrants of all times, he never got far from his port of entry, and set up shop firstly in Westbourne Terrace and later in Paddington Church Street, both shops still close to the Great Western Railway terminus of Paddington."

"…This was a period of rapid expansion for the rare book trade as the gradual relative decline in prosperity of the European aristocracy brought increasing quantities of rare books on to the market. At the same time the great tycoons of the United States were beginning to form their incomparable collections and the collecting of rare books was becoming an important part of a fashionable life on both sides of the Atlantic."

When you next have a break, do read the whole thing. I shall be returning to this site often. Here's a recent addition to their stock. Pallas, (P.S.) Zoographia Rosso-Asiatica. Eleven original watercolour drawings for this major work on the Russian fauna. [1800-1810] £ 17,500 22 January 2007

The puzzling word...

Here is an email from James, husband of Nora, previously referred to by her initial. But now I have permission to mention them both by name.

"Dear Anne [James writes] The mystery over "camsiled" has already been solved, since I discovered its meaning late Friday night. Along the way, it is interesting to note that the mighty Internet search engines have picked up the interest in this word. When I first tried Google there were zero results returned; Google reported,"Your search -- camsiled -- did not match any documents." (The sort of response you receive when entering nonsense words). Now, Sunday lunchtime, there are TWO results. No surprises that the top match is currently a certain Bookworm on the Net! Meanwhile, in Scotland, they are probably starting to wonder why a property in Kilmacolm is generating some interest over the Internet...

The answer is to be found in the 10-volume Scottish National Dictionary. Together with the 12-volume Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, this is available to search online at as the Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL). Even then, to actually find the word, one has to change the search type from "Headword Form" to "Full Entry" in the drop-down list at the top right-hand corner, before typing in "camsiled" above it and clicking the "Search" button squashed into the corner.

It seems "camsile" is an alternative to "camceil" (also *NOT* in Chambers) with a cross-reference to "coom". Finally, "coomceiled" actually *IS* in Chambers, under the headword coom(2), as follows:

"_adj_ *coom'ceiled* said of an attic room with the inside ceiling sloping from the wall. [Origin obscure]"

The Shorter OED (strictly speaking this is the "New SOED" as it is the 1993 edition: the Shorter OED, third edition, was published in 1944) contains none of this at all. One is left wondering just how many past readers of The Citadel have passed this word by without understanding, especially as it is not to be found in the above two big dictionaries (Chambers and SOED) let alone the smaller dictionaries to be found (if at all, today) in the average home.

Perhaps this is why some of the older books are much more worth reading. Quite apart from the sheer skill with words shown by earlier practitioners, reading actually *enriched* your vocabulary. A contrast to the "good giddy ..." and other trash you have recently quoted in your blog."

"She woke at noon…under the camceil roof."

I also asked Scottish novelist, Eileen Ramsay, with whom I had a most enjoyable dinner and chat-session at our London club in September 2005, if she knew any Scottish architects.

She does and her friend Steuart Watson has supplied the following info for which I thank him.

CAMCEIL, Camsile, n. A sloping roof (Slg.3, Arg.1 1938). Also used attrib. with roof. [kmsil, kmsil]
*Arg. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days v.:
She woke at noon among the scented curtains, in linen sea-breeze bleached, under the camceil roof.
*Lnk. 1925 G. Blake Wild Men xi.:
A shelf of books . . . under the camceil.
Hence camsiled, having a sloping roof (Abd., Slg. 1916 T.S.D.C. II.). See also coom-ceiled s.v. COOM, n.2
*Lnk. 1862 D. Wingate Poems and Songs 118:
Laigh the roof and sair camsiled.
[See COOM, n.2, and CIEL. The above forms may derive from Gael. cam, bent, crooked.]

Katie Fforde and Joanna Trollope on Meet The Author

"I think of my books like Mars bars," says Katie Fforde, talking about her novel Restoring Grace at Meet the Author. At the same site Joanna Trollope talks about Second Honeymoon.

I'll comment on both these 90-second soundbites tomorrow.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The revival of marriage as one of life's best options

At lunch time yesterday [Mr Bookworm being out "on the hill"] I made a cheese sandwich and went back to my desk to check out the day's offerings at Arts & Letters Daily.

At the top of the Essays and Opinion column, I read, "Sexual self-exposure may seem okay for a media-saturated age and, sure, shock over Britney’s labia majora may be mere prudery. But there is a logic to sexual privacy..."

Ordinarily, the name Britney [or Jade G] would make me hurry away, but A&LD doesn't publish links to rubbish sites.

Clicking on "more" led to an Opinion Journal piece headed "Scenes From the Exhibitionists - The fairer sex shows (and tells) too much" by Kay S Hymowitz. At the end of the piece I copied "Ms. Hymowitz is a contributing editor of City Journal. Her book "Marriage and Caste in America" was published in November", and pasted it into the Library List file kept on my desktop.

Then I went to to check what reviewers there had to say about the book.

One wrote,
"If you don't already read Kay Hymowitz's essays in City Journal, you will after reading this book. She's that rare writer who manages to be bold without being bombastic. Her take on the crumbling institution of marriage is at once sobering and smart. Her thesis: marriage matters. In language that is simple without being simplistic, she reveals how marriage is the ultimate "anti-poverty program," and how so much that ails our nation's youth derives from absentee fathers. She delivers a heavy message with a hopeful conclusion: in the end, many of the challenges our nation's families face aren't all that hard to solve, they just take the moral courage and individual initiative to do so."

Two other comments I copied were –
"The good news from this book is that Gen X young people, having seen and felt the horrific effects of easy divorces by Baby Boomer parents, are becoming more and more committed to staying together in traditional marriages. The bad news, as Hymowitz demonstrates, is that American society is becoming more and more bifurcated. As the time and education required to succeed in a more information-intensive world increases, the gap between success (and yes, personal fulfillment) and failure (and despair) will continue to grow. And such success or failure will be determined more and more by that venerable, but elite-scorned institution--the marriage of one man and one woman. How did we ever come to think otherwise?"
"Her main argument for marriage is that a committed two-person partnership is a minimal requirement for the well-being of children. While other arrangements might work in theory, that's what works in practice."

There's a piece here about Ms Hymowitz [I'm not sure if that is her maiden or married name] with lots of live links to her articles. Also a photo but I notice it's in GIF format with which I've had problems before. So it may have vanished by the time you read this.

Re her articles, don't miss Why Feminism is AWOL on Islam

The piece ends - "As we sink more deeply into what is likely to be a protracted struggle with radical Islam, American feminists have a moral responsibility to give up their resentments and speak up for women who actually need their support. Feminists have the moral authority to say that their call for the rights of women is a universal demand — that the rights of women are the Rights of Man."

The puzzling word in Cronin's The Citadel

Two reliable sources have solved this puzzle. More about that tomorrow.