Saturday Book News

The Man Booker Prize was announced the other week.

Mann Booker WinnerAnd here’s the result!

Someone called Elanor Catton won. That’s her on the left holding – in two hands, as it’s a 900-page monster I’ve heard – her winning tome.

I think I did read one winner’s book once. JM Coetze‘s book called The Life & Times of Michael KThe Life and Times of Michael K, I think that was one of his that won. Can’t remember much about it now, above the title (the version pictured is the cover of the version I had, it’s different now).  And I’m hardly likely to read, or even see for sale, any of the books by the people on the shortlist. Living in Denmark, and all.

Anyway, what interested me was, the Daily Telegraph reporting on how much betting there was on the prize. As if any of the people putting money on the thing had any evidence or knowledge to base their selections on. Unless the people doing the betting, were also the judges. But then, that surely would be against the rules? I would have thought that the odds were set by the betting company. But what do they go on? The only thing I can think of that they could possibly go on, is genre. Which genre they think is likely to win, based on previous results. Given that the people most likely to be putting money on, couldn’t possibly have read all the books and then taken a critical judgement, based on which one they thought was best.

The bookies must just love this one. Oh and the guy top right in the pictures in the Telegraph article, sheesh! Way to make me want to buy your book!

The Gold of TolosaAnthony Riches recommended a book.

Called The Gold of Tolosa, by Philip Matyszak. Not surprisingly, it’s set in Roman times. And apart from the dreadful cover design, looks very good. Here’s the SP:

Meet Lucius Panderius, war hero, connoisseur of fine wines and Germanic prostitutes – and the perpetrator of the biggest gold theft in history. This first novel by well-known writer and historian Philip Matyszak takes us from the mean streets of Rome to the even meaner streets of Gallic Tolosa in a journey filled with ambush, intrigue, battle and double-cross. In 105 BC Rome is faced with extinction, both from a huge army of invading barbarians and by a dark curse that has been festering for generations. It falls to Lucius Panderius to avert both threats, and incidentally to make himself richer than Croesus. Though fiction, the Gold of Tolosa is historically accurate and explains how enough loot to recapitalize a third-world economy was taken in a theft that really did happen. Whether Lucius is crossing swords with barbarian warriors or Roman magistrates, the pace is never less than frantic, and ancient Rome has never been more fun …

It looks a little home-baked to me that cover there, Going against one of the pieces of advice given by a leading publisher recently. I am firmly of the opinion that you can judge a book by its cover. So I would probably wait to see if this gets picked up by a major publisher before parting with my hard-earned for it.

Anthony himself has this to say about it:

Just read ‘The Gold of Tolosa’ by the estimable Philip Matyszak. It’s different to the usual Roman fiction by some distance, and I’d place it closest to Lindsay Davis if I were seeking a comparison. I’m sure Maty will have his own view as to what it’s most like, although to be fair the style is very much his own, as anyone that’s read his excellently informative non-fiction output (I devour them whole) can attest.

While it’s not the usual blood and gutsathon, the book does have it’s swordy stabby moments, and the story itself is both solidly entertaining and highly entertaining. It will certainly keep you reading, and I don’t think I’ve read anything better from an authenticity perspective. Very highly recommended, if you like your Romans.

So, as it’s unfair to say ‘dreadful cover’, without saying what I would do to make it better – I’d change the typeface of the title – certainly not have it as a cut-out face, but not too bold, move the title down and the two lines closer together. Then, never, never range the author’s name right. It should be the same as the title, centred. As it is now, it looks like someone, at the stage before, said “it’s great, but where’s the author’s name?!” “Shit! Better put that on as well.” ie, it looks like an after-thought where it is now. But really, never do it yourself. Or let a family member do it. No matter how good they were at collages back in Primary School.

Ben Kane-athon

Ben has been running a raffle to win the manuscript for his next book in the Hannibal series, Clouds of War. £5 donation got you a ‘ticket’. The draw has been made, a winner has been found. Here’s what Ben has written:

Altogether, 132 x £5 ‘tickets’ were sold for the Clouds of War raffle. Most importantly, that means that £660 has been raised for Combat Stress (£690, if you count the £30 that a friend donated, while asking not to be entered into the raffle). THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of you who donated. That’s an amazing amount to raise in such a short time.

As I ran a post showing that the cover had been designed already, this shows a couple of things about the workings of the book-writing industry.

It would seem, that as Amazon had a page with the new cover for an, at the time, unfinished novel, the people designing the book cover – what do they go from? Must be a synopsis. Douglas Jackson posted a very interesting Blog post the other day, where in amongst all the good advice to prospective authors, he showed his synopsis’ for a series, presumably abandoned for now at least, on the English Civil War. So, the designer would be given some idea of what the book is about. General information as in Doug’s post. As the author is working on the manuscript after the synopsis is written, when he/she sees the ideas for the cover, they can decide which – if any – fit with where they are with the story at that particular moment. As the synopsis is the idea the author sells and the publisher buys, I’m guessing he is in some way contract-bound not to stray too far from that. So a cover designed from a brief synopsis, would still be a pretty accurate visual idea of how the final book will be. I’m guessing, obviously.

Ben says it is the final manuscript, though that may be final from his side. I can well imagine that the publishers may well either suggest a change – if that whole process hasn’t been gone though already – or that the version they typeset, for printing, will have to be checked again for errors. As we always managed to be making changes right up until the night before printing anything – work expands to fill the time available, as the old maxim goes – I can well imagine that there will still be room for changes for a while yet. A pretty decent prize, whichever you look at it.

If you would like to donate to Combat Stress, you can do so here.

Max Hastings

Max Hastings CatastropheContinuing our recent 1066 theme…erm, anyway, Max Hastings’ latest got a pretty damn fine write-up in the Telegraph the other day.

I have, as you know, read, reviewed and raved about Max Hastings’ previous WWII book, All Hell Let Loose. As the writer of the Telegraph article seems to have got, though of course, better articulated the feelings I got from AHLL, I think Catastrophe will have to go on the old Christmas list.

Something somewhere is telling me The Guardian weren’t as keen, but no matter.

Angus Donald

It really wouldn’t be right to go a whole post without mentioning young Angus. So I will rectify that immediately.

Grail KnightWarlord with writingEven though his latest in the Outlaw series Grail Knight has only just been released, it would seem that the previous, Warlord, is still going strong. Here’s what he posted the other day:

My publisher is doing yet another reprint of Warlord. Wise choice, in my humble op. Seems people like the book

Probably just as well, as Amazon are listing the hardback – a new version, by the looks – at an eye-watering £59.99! You can, of course, find it cheaper elsewhere. Though you are of course subject to their evaluation of what constitutes ‘as new’ and ‘very good’. Though having said that, I’ve had very good results from Abe Books.

King's Man 3And, he announced that King’s Man is now available as a paperback in the USA. The cover (left) looks a bit different to the UK one, but seems in keeping with the other US versions of his Outlaw series. Click on the cover to buy your copy.

With it all going so well for Angus – he should be good for a fiver until pay-day…

Incase you were wondering, that is if you haven’t got on to reading Angus’ Outlaw series yet, what order to read them in, here’s my handy, cut-out and keep guide.

1. Outlaw (out now as paperback)

2. Holy Warrior (out now as paperback)

3. King’s Man (out now as paperback)

4. Warlord (out now as paperback)

5. Grail Knight (out now as hardback)

The next one, nearly finished draft-wise, will be called The Iron Castle. Be out in the new year. They’re all equally excellent, but – if you haven’t done so yet – I really would recommend that you read them in order. You’ll feel better about it.

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