It's a crime! (Or a mystery…)

In the news last week…

  • The Joan Brady case and another swipe at the crime and thriller genre.
  • Paxman and pants, with a nod to Crime Scraps.
  • Murder Most Famous: reality celeb TV and crime fiction meet for an arranged marriage.
  • The independents prove their value in a Which? survey.

I spent some of the last week sorting through books at the house of my late parents and dropping off the ones I don’t want at the local charity book shop.  I came across an unread novel by one Joan Brady and my first thought was "Who?"  Well I know now.

Mark Lawson in The Guardian writes of the impact of Brady’s recent legal action success – winning £115k in an out of court settlement – where fumes from a cobbler near her home caused her so much physical distress and mental distraction she was reduced from writing a literary tome to penning a thriller.  Oh dear, where the poor cobbler’s lawyers here?  Literary novels can have such meandering plots but thrillers require much attention to detail.  I am pleased to report that the Brady novel went to the charity shop.

All this took place in Totnes in Devon and Uriah was on the spot like a roving reporter, providing this wonderful post (with photo of the local indie bookshop) on Crime Scraps.  Now then, you’d have to have been unconscious or somewhere deep in the jungle or desert to have missed the news of Jeremy Paxman’s leaked email to Sir Stuart Rose, the Chief Exec of M&S, last week.  Paxman asserts that M&S undies for men are no longer of sufficient quality, or indeed support.  This has led to some element of national debate and Paxman has said that he’s had more correspondence on this than any other matter in his career, including his interview with Michael Howard.  Men now want to talk about their undergarments and it seems to be catching.  Even Uriah manages to divulge in that post the brand of his own underpants…

By the way, at last year’s inaugural Henley Literary Festival, Paxman took to the stage to talk about royalty, managing to mention his M&S underpants in passing.  I can imagine that someone so loyal would feel so aggrieved when facing reduced quality.

Last week we learned that BBC2 will entertain us in March with a reality TV show that has six "celebs" writing crime fiction, competing to win the coveted prize of producing a novella for the Quick Read series on World Book Day in 2009.  The proceeds will go to Children in Need and the format of the programme is the brainchild of "Strictly Come Dancing" and "Dragons’ Den" mastermind Richard Hopkins, MD of Fever Media.  The esteemed Minette Walters is to be mentor, judge and jury to the six novice writing celebs: dancer Brendan Cole, actresses Sherrie Hewson and Angela Griffin, former tabloid editor Kelvin MacKenzie, presenter Matt Allwright and gardener Diarmuid Gavin.

This has caused some understandable consternation in some camps:

  • Already, there are far too many talented real authors fighting to get a book deal, so why make it a celeb version?
  • It devalues crime fiction.
  • What on earth has possessed Minette Walters to take part in this sham?

But it’s not all negative:

  • Celebs will sell both the programme and the resulting winning novella better than Jo Average.
  • Delightfully, the programme focuses on the genre of crime fiction and not any old fiction, giving it a spotlight.
  • Minette Walters is an altruistic woman, so her support for World Book Day through this vehicle, reading and writing should be lauded and not denigrated.

Walters will set tasks for the celebs including attendance at a post mortem.  Reaction to that one is enhanced by the fact it will be reaction from a bunch of celebs.  How will they react?  Will they manage to hold onto their own stomach contents?  We will know in March.

Ironically, the BBC aired a reality TV programme in 2003 called "The Murder Game", which featured a set of unknowns trying to solve a fictional crime.  It flopped and was not repeated.  (No surprises there, as it was based on a US programme – "Murder in Small Town X" – which was also a flop.)  I watched some of it and thought it would have been better if they’d challenged crime fiction writers.

Lastly, we are told that our independent bookshops are a dying breed, although some manage to buck the trend.  Last week, Which? magazine published the results of its High Street Shops Survey, which focused on customer retail satisfaction. After Waitrose and John Lewis, independent book/CD/DVD stores came in at 3rd place, beating Waterstone’s at 5th place and Borders at joint 9th place, with Books etc. at joint 42nd place.  Congratulations to all booksellers for the satisfaction they deliver!

5 comments on “In the news last week…

  1. Clare D
    January 27, 2008

    Yes, congratulations to all independent booksellers. I think it takes a special dedication to keep going successfully in any sort of retail these days.

  2. Peter
    January 28, 2008

    Does the UK have a statute of limitations for lawsuits? I was in Totnes more than a year ago; is it too late for me to sue somebody?
    If so, I may have to see myself as brazenly as Minette Walters has in order to make money.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

  3. Maxine Clarke
    January 28, 2008

    Great post, Crimefic. That Joan Brady book — don’t read it. Well, do if you want, but it has been on my shelf for about 6 months. I picked it up to read relatively recently but it was so bad that I abandoned it, unusual for me.
    This Paxman thing is very funny isn’t it? I don’t watch TV but he has certainly hit a male nerve, or at least, “topic as interesting to men as soccer”. Or something!

  4. Pauline Rowson
    January 29, 2008

    Now I know why I write marine mystery crime and thriller novels – it’s because I live sandwiched between the harbours of Langstone and Chichester and the smell of mud at low tide has obviously affected my brain. Any ideas on who I could sue?

  5. Peter
    January 31, 2008

    Oops! Make that:
    “I may have to SELL myself as brazenly as Minette Walters has in order to make money.”
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on January 26, 2008 by in News.