Monday, 25 November 2013

The New Italian Idol

 Italy has aired a new program called Masterpiece, which is billed as "the first talent show for aspiring writers". The writers are competing for a chance to publish their novel with Bompiani, one of Italy's major publishers. The producers are being careful to avoid the term "reality show", although it closely follows the "Idol" and "X Factor" models.

Contestants are chosen on the basis of excerpts from their writing and then thrown into simulated situations. In the first episode, two contestants were sent to a refugee home run by a Rambo type and the other two went to a disco for senior citizens. (I am not making this up, I swear!) The contestants are then given 30 minutes to write about their experience. At the end of the show, the two remaining contestants have 59 seconds to make an "elevator pitch" for their book.

I guess it could be worse. It could have Simon Cowell as a judge.

If you'd like to read about this "masterpiece" of a show, please see

Monday, 18 November 2013

Judging Books Written under Pseudonyms

A rose by any other name...
There is an interesting article in the Sunday Book Review of The New York Times about why authors choose to write under pseudonyms and how we should judge such books.

One of the writers of the article makes the point that if she discovers an author she likes, she will read everything by that author, regardless of his/her name. This is a refreshing attitude at a time when big-name recognition frequently determines who gets publicized and promoted.

For the full text of the article, please click here.

One of the main examples in the article is J.K. Rowling's use of a pseudonym to publish her first crime fiction novel. If you'd like to read my "Open Investigations" blog on this subject, please click here.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Maigret Revisited

Crimetime reports that Penguin will re-issue the seventy-five Maigret novels of Belgian author Georges Simenon with new translations and cover art. This will be the first time that the Maigret novels are published in the UK under a single publisher. The prolific Simenon wrote a novel a month, and Penguin will be releasing a new Maigret novel each month, beginning with Pietr the Latvian. For the full text of the article, please  visit

If you are interested in reading my Open Investigations blog on Georges Simenon and the Maigret novels, please click here.

Monday, 4 November 2013

John Grisham's Sycamore Row

John Grisham's latest novel, Sycamore Row, has now been released. In it, Grisham reprises the character of Jake Brigance, the young lawyer featured in his first book, A Time to Kill. The inspiration for the original story came when Grisham, as a young lawyer, overheard the testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim. Grisham readily admits that Jake Brigance is his most autobiographical character.

A Time to Kill was rejected by various publishers before finally being published in 1988 with only 5000 copies being printed. The novel was subsequently reprinted once Grisham became a bestselling novelist with the publication of The Firm. It is now one of his most popular novels.

Although Grisham has obviously refined his style and story-telling techniques since his debut novel, his themes have remained consistent throughout his work as his often idealistic young lawyers encounter the realities of the legal system and attempt to find justice for those they defend.

Grisham is said to have enjoyed writing the book so much that he was reluctant to finish it and give the manuscript to his publishers. If you're interested in reading more about the background to Grisham's latest novel, please visit NPR Books.