Recognise the names? These two were the creators of the Fighting Fantasy series of books, books that you’ll have come across, even if you’ve never read them.

Similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure books that were being published at the same time (‘to open the box turn to page 45, to go through the door on the left turn to page 102, to go down the staircase turn to page 13’), the first Fighting Fantasy title ‘The Magic Quest’ was published in 1982 and distinguished itself by making use of dice in the game play. This tapped more directly into the Dungeon & Dragons role playing games that were hugely popular at the time, and the FF series went on to become a publishing phenomenon for Penguin, with 59 books published in the first series alone.

VICE have just published an interview with Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone online, find it here…


More than a month’s break from a blog is pretty poor going not matter how few readers are actually reading your blog. Christmas, a change of address, the dentist (twice), general sloth… the reasons are unreasonable, the excuses inexcusable.

But hey, it’s all over, I’m back.

The tweeters at Random House (RandomPR) run a quick competition every Friday on Twitter. Generally the prize is a free proof copy of an upcoming title Random House title, and last week I won a copy of The Snowman by Jo Nesbø.

Nesbø is better known for his six (now seven with The Snowman) book strong Detective Harry Hole series. I’m hoping that not having read any of the previous six books won’t disadvantage me in any way.

A quick pre read review: Looking at the literary agency blurb about the novel, the plot ‘The Snowman murders only when the first snow falls, choosing unfaithful wives as his victims and literally turning them into snowmen.’ Sounds entertaining, sadistic, and it made me think of an R L Stein, Point Horror book I read when I was very very young.

Also called The Snowman, Stein’s tells a story about a girl called Heather…

“Heather is unhappy. Her evil guardian hates her and treats her like dirt. She has few friends. Then one evening, a gorgeous blond guy walks into the café where she works. He calls himself the Snowman and he understands Heather in a war that no one else does. She feels safe, loved, warm. But is the Snowman what he seems?”

The only thing I seem to remember about the story is one scene where Heather’s been knocked out and The Snowman is packing snow around her, suffocating her, as he turns her into a snowman. It scared me then and the fact that Nesbø’s The Snowman has won a couple of good awards (2007 The Booksellers’ Prize (Bokhandlerprisen) for “Best Novel of the Year”, 2007 The Norwegian Book Club Prize (Den norske leserprisen) for “Best Novel of the Year”) makes me think it’s going to be really good, and very scary.

By way of a post script, and because with a name like Nesbø you can’t help but be Scandinavian (actually Norwegian) here is a short but interesting article on the recent proliferation of Scandinavian crime writers that Slate published last year.

Star Endorsement Sells Book

December 10, 2009

Not the most spectacular title in the world, but with sponsors apparently deserting Tiger Woods by the dozen, or at least pausing to think about the implications of this whole sex/car crash debacle before they comment, it’s nice to see that Tiger’s star power is still shining brightly in some areas. And even nicer to see that it is a single book is benefiting rather than a multinational company.

Sales of John Gribbin’s out of print Get a Grip on Physics was snapped by paps in Woods’ car after he crashed. Since then easy to read guide to physics has raced up the bestsellers list from 396,224th place to 2,268th, according to the Times. It’s currently sitting pretty at 121,146. This sales boost doesn’t seem to have affected Gribbin as much over here in the UK. On an update of the book (I think – it’s called Get a Grip on New Physics) is still floundering at number 448,319 on the bestsellers list.

Customize Coupland Cover

December 10, 2009

Windmill Books (an imprint of Random House) are offering readers the chance to customize the cover of Douglas Coupland’s recently released Generation A. Design your cover, send it in and they’ll print and send it over with your copy of the book. It is a FANTASTIC idea and one that’s even better if you’re good at designing. I hope they’ll have a page celebrating the top submitted designs.

Carol Ann Duffy in the RT

December 10, 2009

Carol Ann Duffy, commissioned by the Radio Times, has composed a seasonal poem that reflects upon the year.

Beginning in Afganistan and working its way through endangered birds, bankers, Nick Griffin, MP expenses and more. 

Entertaining, surprising and thoughtful. Perfect for Christmas then.


December 9, 2009

After posting earlier about the likelihood of a plethora of  ‘the decade’s best…’ lists the Guardian almost killed the whole thing off for me by holding a year-by-year best of for the last ten years. Seriously. It’s great that people are keen but the end of a decade doesn’t mean you get to fill column inches (or column pixels, I think the lists are online only) with a yearly breakdown. Best of the decade? Great. Best of last year? Fantastic. Best of 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009? No one’s got the time or the inclination to read them.

The Guardian have slightly salvaged things by  begining a worst books of the decade. The page has 509 user comments already…

Christmas Best Sellers

December 1, 2009

Now that December has arrived I think it’s about the right time to start talking about Christmas and the books of Christmas. Robert McCrum has already picked out a potential best seller in Dear Granny Smith: A Letter from Your Postman. Written by Roy Mayall (the name still makes me smile) the book is short and cheap and, at least according to McCrum, a nostalgic look back at times past that is lovingly written and as such “looks uncommonly like the British Christmas book of 2009.

As a people we love to look back on the recent past with rose-tinted spectacles while bemoaning the horror of British life today. Soooo it looks as though a short, easily readable look at the Royal Mail, a GBI* that’s approaching total collapse, would be just the ticket.

The book (or at least McCrum’s review of the book) has already been mentioned in the Huffinton Post so it looks as though the snowball of sales may begin to pick up pace. Personally I think I’ll only read it if someone can lend me a copy, however if I do end up buying a copy of Dear Granny Smith I think I’ll nip down the local bookshop to get it. Order it over the internet and it might never arrive.

* Genuine British Institution

We have a winner

November 23, 2009

So the Bible ended up going for $15,407.53 in the end. Not quite $35,000 but still…


November 19, 2009

Moving on up to $6,600 with three days one hour left. 64 bids on the table to date, the reserve met. Will there be a rush of ferocious bidding right at the last moment? Will the bible break $10,000 (easily I reckon), $20,000 (hmmmm maaaybe), $30,000?!?!

Stay tuned.


Original post:

Learn from the Best

November 18, 2009

The  Wall Street Journal seems like a strange place to have an article on novel-writing, but regardless of where it’s published it’s definitely interesting read. The bulk of the article is examples of the writing methods of renowned authors, with greats such as Anne Rice, Junot Diaz, Amitav Gosh, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Hilary Mantel and Kazo Ishiguro (among others) recounting how they manage to squeeze their novels out of their brains and onto the page.

Beware: The WSJ page kept on freezing up on me and almost crashing my computer… not sure if that’s the website’s fault though, or due to having a crappy computer… maybe a combination of the two…??