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December 2003



Neil Postman, academic and media critic, born March 8 1931; died October 5 2003

Neil Postman was professor of media ecolology at New York University and a radical media commentator. As such it is ironic that none of his 20 books and 200 plus articles were written in anything but longhand: the pen was indeed mightier than the computer or typewriter. He railed against the notion that advancement of technology was in itself a "good thing” and was outraged that billions of dollars were spent connecting every American classroom up to the internet, when there was no clear evidence to suggest that it help childrens’ learning.

In “Amusing Ourselves to Death” published in 1985, Postman rejected educational television as an oxymoron, suggested that so-called educational programs encouraged children more to love television than to love learning.

However it was his first book, co-written with Charles Weingarten, Teaching As A Subversive Activity, which lay the foundations for his radical credentials, in that it was one of the major deschooling texts which were gaining rapid currency during that period.

Postman was a disciple of Marshall McLuhan and like his mentor posited new and fresh ideas into what is often the stagnant intellectual discourse of the academy.


Author refuses Mail on Sunday book prize because of its xenophobia towards refugees

The John Llewellyn Rhys prize has previously been won by Jonathan Coe and Angela Carter. So it was indeed a great honour for Hari Kunzru to be shortlisted for this venerable prize, which is sponsored by the Mail on Sunday. However, being the child of an emigrant, he felt that the sponsors had done more than their share of stirring up hatred against refugees. And on the night, when he was announced as the winner, in his absense, his agent made the very public gesture of refusing the “honour” and requesting the Mail on Sunday to donate the £5000 prize to the Refugee Council, which they agreed to do.

For a statement by Hari Kunzru - follow this link

Amazon’s new text-search facility / browser

Amazon.com recently launched a new program which enables anyone to peruse parts of books, before buying, or even not buying as the case may be. Called “Search Inside” it enables customers or researchers to search the text of the 120,000 books they currently have on the online inventory. Such a facility will be a boon to researchers / writers, who have a vague memory of reading somewhere about something but need to find the data for bibliographical and /or clarification purposes: by inputting a phrase or couple of words into the Amazon search engine, there is a very good chance of locating exactly what it is they require.

And that is a lot easier than browsing through lots of books in the hope of finding what is required.

Ed McBain's 87th Precinct
from Macbuiks

Ed McBain was born Salvatore A. Lombino in New York in 1926 and started writing novels after a period as an enlisted seaman in the navy during the Second World War.

Ed McBain is one of the most illustrious names in crime fiction. In 1998 he was a first non-British author to be awarded the Crime Writers' Association Diamond Dagger Award. He is also a holder of the Mystery Writers of America's coveted Grand Master Award.

Prolific both as Ed McBain and Evan Hunter he is probably best known for his novels written about the 87th Precinct, although he is responsible for another series of crime stories about private eye/attorney 'Matthew Hope', as well as eleven collections of short stories. In addition to these two pseudonyms, Lombino has also written as John Abbott, Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Ezra Hanson and Richard Marston. A successful writer for television and cinema whose credits include the screen play for Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds', he also wrote a memoir of the time he spent working with Alfred Hitchcock called 'Me and Hitch'.

The first 87th Precinct novel 'Cop Hater' was written in 1956 and since then McBain has written fifty more, all set in the fictional city of Isola . It is in 'Cop Hater' that the reader is first introduced to Steve Carella and his first meeting with his future wife Teddy. While there were 16 detectives assigned to the 87th precinct, the reader only gets to know of a chosen few, amongst them Meyer Meyer, Bert Kling and Andy Parker.

Ed Mcbain is able to put flesh on the bones of his characters by detailing their personal problems and their joys, to make them come alive, to make you care what happens to them. Lying in bed reading, you can feel the biting cold of the Isola streets when the detectives are called to the scene of a murder, late at night. At the same time, he keeps up the tension of a criminal investigation with all its inherent dangers.

The full list of all 87th Precinct titles is as follows:

  1. Cop Hater (1956)
  2. The Mugger (1956)
  3. The Pusher (1956)
  4. The Con Man (1957)
  5. Killer's Choice (1957)
  6. Killer's Payoff (1958)
  7. Killer's Wedge (1958)
  8. Lady Killer (1958)
  9. 'Till Death (1959)
  10. King's Ransom (1959)
  11. Give the Boys a Great Big Hand (1960)
  12. The Heckler (1960)
  13. See Them Die (1960)
  14. Lady, Lady, I Did It! (1961)
  15. Like Love (1962)
  16. The Empty Hours (1962)
  17. Ten Plus One (1963)
  18. Ax (1964)
  19. He Who Hesitates (1965)
  20. Doll (1965)
  21. Eighty Million Eyes (1966)
  22. Fuzz (1968)
  23. Shotgun (1969)
  24. Jigsaw (1970)
  25. Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here (1971)
  26. Sadie When She Died (1972)
  1. Let's Hear It for the Deaf Man (1973)
  2. Hail to the Chief (1973)
  3. Bread (1974)
  4. Blood Relatives (1975)
  5. So Long as You Both Shall Live (1976)
  6. Long Time No See (1977)
  7. Calypso (1979)
  8. Ghosts (1980)
  9. Heat (1981)
  10. Ice (1983)
  11. Lightning (1984)
  12. Eight Black Horses (1985)
  13. Poison (1987)
  14. Tricks (1987)
  15. Lullaby (1989)
  16. Vespers (1990)
  17. Widows (1991)
  18. Kiss (1992)
  19. Mischief (1993)
  20. Romance (1995)
  21. Nocturne (1997)
  22. The Big Bad City (1999)
  23. The Last Dance (1999)
  24. Money, Money, Money (2001)
  25. Fat Ollie's Book (2003)
  26. The Frumious Bandersnatch (2004)

Full details about Ed McBain, his pseudonyms and books can be found at the official Ed McBain website

Enid Blyton's Noddy as a teaching aid in South East Asia

Chorion, the company that owns the rights to Enid Blyton’s Noddy, has developed two education packages - Learn English with Noddy and Noddy Early Learning - to help children learn English. Noddy is a universally recognised character and Enid Blyton’s original Noddy books were translated into 40 languages

Next Month: The feature for January will be by Magpie Books

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