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November 2003



Alastair Borthwick, writer and broadcaster, born 1913; died September 25 2003. Always A Little Further (1939), captured his passion for the hills & mountains of Scotland, and . Sans Peur (1946) which was a first-hand account of the war, written up in lulls on the front, was his own experiences and perceptions - it captured the grimness of war in graphic terms Both books were reissued in the 1990s, the latter as Battalion.

John Colvin, diplomat, intelligence officer and writer whose genre was military history, born 1922; died October 4 2003.

William Steig, author and illustrator of Shrek, has died at his Boston home at the age of 95. He wrote over 30 children's’ books, not bad for someone who started writing in their 60s and amongst his illustrations were 117 covers for the New Yorker magazine.

The Booker Prize 2003

Australian born first-time novelist DBC Pierre was announced the winner of the 2003 ManBooker Prize on 14th October for his novel Vernon God Little, a satirical tale of contemporary America. The prize is worth £50,000 to the winner and each of those on the shortlist receive £2,500 as well as a custom designed special edition of their entry. The other shortlisted books were:

    Monica Ali, Brick Lane
    Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake
    Damon Galgut, The Good Doctor
    Zoe Heller, Notes on a Scandal
    Clare Morrall, Astonishing Splashes Of Colour

Customer Service Award to ibooknet member

We are delighted to announce that one of our members, Stella & Rose’s Books, was awarded the Viking Direct Award for Outstanding Customer Service at Parcelforce Worldwide’s Small Business ‘Oscars’ in London on 22 October. The ceremony was hosted by broadcaster Michael Buerk and speakers included Richard Branson and Nigel Griffiths MP, minister for Small Business and Enterprise.

The family-run business has two shops - Stella Books in Tintern, Monmouthshire and Rose’s Books in the international book town of Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire. Established by Chris and Cliff Tomaszewski in 1991 the bookshops specialise in children’s and illustrated books and also UK topography, railways and natural history. They have around 50,000 rare and out-of-print books in stock, all of which are available online.

To what do Chris and Cliff attribute their success? Chris says: "When we opened Stella & Rose’s we recognized that we are selling an undifferentiated product and that we would never be the biggest, but we could aim to be the best. It is our staff and the excellent service they provide that differentiates us in the eyes of our customers and we are thrilled and proud to be selected from over 4,500 entries to be the winner of this prestigious award."

Michael Moorcock
from Bagot Books

Michael John Moorcock was born in London in 1939, and began his career in the literary world by publishing various fanzines produced by 'MJM Publications'. His first job at 15 was as editor of Tarzan Adventures from which he was purportedly sacked for publishing too much prose and too few strips. He next did a spell at Fleetway's Sexton Blake Library. In 1962, his first professionally published work 'Caribbean Crisis' (Sexton Blake Library #501) by Desmond Reid (a house name) was issued, although it was, by all accounts, heavily edited & rewritten.

His breakthrough came with selling Elric of Melnibonë sword and sorcery stories to John Carnell's Science Fantasy magazine, and shortly afterwards he took over as editor of the sister magazine”New Worlds”. From a 'space opera' vehicle Moorcock steered the magazine into the 'New Wave' experimental/alternative field, with authors such as J G Ballard, Brian Aldiss, and Norman Spinrad, at the same time changing the format from digest to A4. Despite an Arts Council grant, the magazine struggled financially, especially following Smith's decision to ban it, and folded in the early 70’s leaving Moorcock to pay off the debts himself. He produced a number of series of hastily-written swords & sorcery novels, reputedly producing each story by sitting in front of a typewriter for 48 hours at a stretch, to be sent off to the publisher unread. “New Worlds” went on through various irregularly published incarnations being edited, amongst others, by Hilary Bailey (Moorcock’s ex-wife), Charles Platt, and lately David Garnett.

Following this period Moorcock produced novels which were better written and properly crafted, some in the fantasy genre, some experimental (e.g. the Jerry Cornelius sequence), but others more mainstream. An example of the latter is the Pyat sequence which deals with an unpleasant Russian emigré, and which will climax with the Holocaust. Moorcock has won several literary awards although not all are in the SF/Fantasy field. More recently he has returned to the fantasy genre but the latest Elric novels are of a very different nature from the earlier ones.

Moorcock’s other interests have included politics - he had an involvement with the Liberal Party in the 1950s; rock music - he has released an album, Michael Moorcock and Deep Fix: 'New Worlds Fair', and single 'The Brothel in Rosenstrasse, and has worked extensively with Hawkwind, both as lyricist and on stage. He enjoys authors as diverse as George Meredith, Jack Trevor Story, Andrea Dworkin, Peter Ackroyd, Iain Sinclair, and Richmal Crompton, but dislikes the works of Tolkien. He has also published two anthologies of Victorian and Edwardian invasion stories, 'Before Armageddon' (1975) and 'England Invaded' (1977).

Collecting Moorcock first editions is still affordable, even firsts from 20 years ago or so can still be found for under £20, but moving back to the 70’s the prices start to increase. However, prices rarely go above £75, and to get above £100 it has to be a very early book, probably signed, or an association copy. The Mayflower paperbacks are often true firsts and are common, but it can be difficult to find one that is in very good condition or better, as they were mass produced on poor quality paper and with cheap glues.

For the completist, collecting Moorcock is a nightmare. There are a multitude of reissues and re-jacketings, short story collections with slight rewrites, reissuing of collections with one or two new stories added, US paperback editions often being the true first edition, omnibus editions of series with slight variations; and he has written many forewords to other authors' books. There are also various pieces published in periodicals and anthologies, and a number of small-press publications. A number of his early books, especially the Compact paperbacks published by Roberts and Vintner, don't appear in the British Library catalogue or Whitaker's Books in Print volumes.

His pseudonyms include James Colvin, Edward Powys Bradbury, Bill (or William) Barclay, Michael Barrington, and Philip James (with James Cawthorn). The novel “Time of the Hawklords” was incorrectly credited as a collaboration of Moorcock and Michael Butterworth. In New Worlds 197 there is an obituary for "James Colvin", who died when a filing cabinet fell and crushed him, puncturing a lung: it was written by "William Barclay".

Moorcock co-wrote, with James Cawthorn, the script for the movie based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel "The Land That Time Forgot" (1975), but despised the resulting film which starred Doug McClure. "The Final Programme", the first Jerry Cornelius novel, was filmed in 1973, but had more in common with Austin Powers than Moorcock's disturbing world, and he hates this film also. His "Letters from Hollywood" (1986), a series of letters to J G Ballard whilst he was in the employ of a film company, record his feelings about Tinsel Town. The Elric of Melnibonë series of eleven books has, however, recently been optioned by Chris and Paul Weitz, and will probably end up as a movie trilogy. Therefore more tie-in editions to follow to annoy the completist collectors.

Further information is most easily found by starting at www.multiverse.org, to which Moorcock posts regularly, and there are various bibliographies, printed and online.  

Fulfillment of the dream of the Internet

Virtually every important journal in science, technology and medicine is now available for free on the internet. The effect of this is to better-enable the worlds science and technology communities to benefit from easily accessible research papers on subjects they are interested on and for free. The only complaints so far are from the publishers who previously produced these specialist magazines, at substantial profit

Publicity works both ways

First print-run of the Penguin Paul Burrell book on Princess Di is 125,000 copies in the UK and 800000 in the USA. Most of this stuff belongs in some kind of OK -Science Fiction Weekly amalgamation. It is therefore welcoming that publicity for literature by the BBC’s Big Read program has greatly increased sales of more ennobling texts, with titles such as Catcher in the Rye, Nineteen eighty four and To Kill a mockingbird increasing their sales by over 50% within a six month period over the previous 12 months sales

And here is a link to the BBC’s Big Read - titles are nominated by its viewers & listeners - the full list

Their shortlisted 21 titles are:

  • Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
  • Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres.
  • Catch 22, Joseph Heller.
  • The Catcher in the rye, JD Salinger.
  • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens.
  • Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling.
  • His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman.
  • Hitchikers guide to the galaxy, Douglas Adams
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte.
  • The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis.
  • Little Women, Louisa may Alcott
  • The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkein.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
  • Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier.
  • War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  • The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame.
  • Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne.
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

Meanwhile, the Observer has created its own top 100 booklist of all time list, which is topped by Don Quixote

The Great future for E-books has passed

In the not too distant past, it was widely thought that e-books - that is books on the internet - would speedily surpass the hardcopy book. But publishers at this years Frankfurt book fair were of the opinion that this was unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. Barnes and Noble have discontinued e-book sales due to lack of demand and many publishers have lowered their sights and are aiming at a much smaller market, which they hope will grow as technology improves to create better reading devices.

So it appears that the book will live on for another generation at least.

13-digit ISBNs on way

The Book Industry Study Group recently endorsed the expansion of ISBNs from 10 digits to 13, effective January 1, 2007.

Conan Doyle Manuscripts for auction

Six manuscripts by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are to be auctioned by Christie's in London on 19 November in aid of RAF groups and other forces charities. They include science fiction and war reporting, but no Sherlock Holmes.

Book in a month competition

Writers from across the world are gearing up to take part in the fifth annual National Novel Writing Month, which begins on 1 November and in which participants face the challenge of having to complete a 50,000 word novel by midnight on November 30. The contest, known as NaNoWriMo for short, was started in the USA in 1999 by Chris Baty.

Only 20 people took part in the first contest, but by last year the number of participants had risen to over 20,000. The 2002 contest had 2,100 winners - a winner being anybody who manages to reach the 50,000 word count - compared to six in 1999. There are no real prizes, although every winner receives a special certificate. One of 2001's winners, Jon F Merz, went on to secure a publishing deal following the contest. His book, The Destructor, was published in March 2003.

Writers Awards

Chilean novelist Antonio Skarmeta is this year's winner of the Planeta prize, one of the most coveted literary prizes in the Spanish-language world. Skarmeta won the award, which carries a $699,000 cash prize, for his latest novel, ``El Baile de la Victoria (Victory Dance),'' which tells a love story during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in his native Chile. Spanish writer Susana Fortes was chosen as runner-up for her upcoming novel ``El Amante Albanes (The Albanian Lover).''

South African writer John Maxwell Coetzee has been awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The £20,000 Saga Award for Wit - open for all British writers aged over 50 - has been won by Mystery writer Alexander McCall Smith for his book The Full Cupboard of Life, which apparently provided more laughs for the judges than the other nominees.

Manuscript Book Of Psalms Returned to Ethiopia

A handwritten copy of the Biblical book of Psalms has been returned to Ethiopia, 135 years after it was seized by British soldiers.

The 300-year-old book was stolen by British troops who stormed the mountain fortress of Emperor Theodore at Magdala after he detained several Western diplomats and missionaries.

The Psalms are written in Geez, an ancient Ethiopian language, and the book remains in good condition. The book ended up in the hands of private collectors. A group dedicated to returning historical artifacts to Ethiopia, AFROMET, bought the book and has arranged for its return. It says the handwritten book is considered a national treasure in Ethiopia.

AFROMET says dozens of looted Ethiopian treasures remain in the hands of private collectors, as well as such institutions as the British Library.

Next Month: The feature for December will be by Macbuiks

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