Publishing news

The Year of the Warrior
The beloved old cover.

Had a very nice moment on Facebook today. One of my readers posted a list of novels that affected his life, and The Year of the Warrior was at the top of the list. He said, “Each of these moved me spiritually and intellectually. I connected with the characters and the story surrounding them, and finished the book feeling emotionally deeper in my understanding of the world and others.”

Mark Twain said something along the lines of “I can live a whole month off a good compliment.” I think my food budget should be covered for most of June.

In a related matter, I guess I’ll mention that I’ve decided to bring out paperback versions of some of my novels through Create Space. (Actually Ori Pomerantz is doing the real work.) I’m starting with The Year of the Warrior, because then I’ll be able to sell it along with West Oversea at Viking events and have them in sequence. Hailstone Mountain should come later.

The e-book of TYOTW is published by Baen, but it turns out I have full rights to publish a palpable version. Can’t use Baen’s cover though, so our friend Jeremiah Humphries is working on a new one.

Oh yes, don’t forget that Viking Legacy, the book I translated, is now available!

A Few Words on the End of Time, Inc.

Meredith, the publisher behind Southern Living, Better Homes & Gardens, People, SI, Real Simple, and a host of other lifestyle magazines, has purchased Time, Inc. for a few Manhattan dinners shy of $3 billion. The NY Times has an oral history, and I think we might have had an awful time working there, not that I would have ever been hired to begin with. (via Prufrock News)

Albert Kim: “It was very clear that the internet was going to be a huge part of the future of media. But for most of the time I was there, people treated it as a nuisance. It was a problem to be solved, not an opportunity.”

Bethany McLean: “I remember sitting next to Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of Time Warner, at an internal Time Inc. event that was celebrating journalists. And he asked what I had done before Fortune, and I said, ‘Oh, I worked at Goldman.’ And he looked at me like, why would I leave that to do this? And I thought, Uh-oh, it’s over.”

Are There No Real Quests Anymore?

In those days, I was restless without a book in my hands, without the hope of some new story around every turn to enliven my deadening senses. Unlike most of my friends, I didn’t want a truck or a job or a scholarship; I wanted a horse and a quest and a buried treasure. But there were no real quests anymore. Not in my town.

Andrew Peterson describes his love of fantasy and science fiction as a kid, how that called him out of himself, and what the Lord did with it in his life.

I looked out her window and saw crabgrass, old trucks, clouds of mosquitoes, and gravel roads, a rural slowth that drawled, “Here’s your life, son. Make do.” But my books said, “Here’s a sword, lad. Get busy.” A persistent fear sizzled in my heart, a fear that there existed no real adventure other than the one on the page, and that I was doomed never to know it.

Peterson’s website, The Rabbit Room, is a wealth of imaginative writing, talking, and singing.

‘Baby Lies,’ by Chris Collett

Baby Lies

Another novel in the Inspector Tom Mariner series, by Chris Collett.

Baby Lies begins with the heartbreaking abduction of a baby from a “creche” (that’s what the English call a day care center for very young children, as I understand it). This was the first time the mother in question had ever left her baby in anyone else’s care, and she’s understandably distraught.

The Birmingham police pull out all the stops in investigating, and everyone is thankful when the baby gets returned unharmed a few days later. But there’s more going on than that, as Inspector Mariner begins to realize when elements of a previous unidentified body case start intersecting with the baby snatching. What they begin to uncover is bigger and darker than they could imagine.

Meanwhile Mariner and his girlfriend Anna are planning to move to a smaller, quieter town. It’s what Anna wants, and Mariner is willing to go along to please her. But can it work for them?

I found Baby Lies suspenseful and compelling. The ending was a little disappointing, but only from an emotional perspective, not a storytelling or plot perspective.

Cautions for mild adult stuff.

Secularists Stuffing Their Ears in Fear

David French says he has never seen unhinged reactions like the kind Jordan Peterson is getting these days. His detractors would rather stuff their ears to keep out his voice than make a case for his errors. French says, “He’s disrupting an emerging secular cultural monopoly with arguments about history, tradition, and the deep truths about human nature that the cultural radicals had long thought they’d banished to the fringe. . . . Some things (in some places) are just not said.

It’s not that he’s a prophet or that everything he says is right. It’s more that the Left in our country can’t hear any voice but their own. Their ears are so tickled they reverberate with a single, soothing tone that drowns all other sound. Even the most basic truth creates intolerable dissonance.

‘The Fixer,’ by Joseph Finder

The Fixer

Holly’s tiny apartment was lovely, elegant, and jewel-like, like the woman herself; though also a bit cramped and impractical, like the woman herself.

I praised Joseph Finder’s Suspicion a few reviews back, but said I wouldn’t read more from the author. That was just because I identified strongly with the hero, and the high-tension story kind of raised my blood pressure. But our commenter Paul persuaded me to try Finder’s The Fixer, and I succumbed. This one wasn’t as nerve-wracking for me, mainly because I didn’t quite believe in the protagonist. The hero of The Fixer, Rick Hoffman, was – in my opinion – kind of a moron. I mean, if I discovered a couple million in cash hidden in my father’s house, I’m pretty sure I would not try to keep it secret and hope nobody would notice. I’d go straight to the police and hope to collect some kind of finder’s fee. Because if there’s one thing I know from novels and movies, it’s that money like that has to be dirty, and dirty people will be looking for it.

Rick is a former investigative journalist who traded in his principles for a high-paying job writing puff pieces for a Boston magazine. Now the magazine is going all-online, and he’s been reduced to “contributor” status. This loses him his apartment and his fiancée. Now he’s living in his father’s unheated house, left derelict since the old man had a stroke about 20 years ago. That’s how he discovers a hidden room with a big pile of money in it. Rick has suspicions about its source, as his father used to be a “fixer,” a bag man for corrupt city politicians.

And sure enough, men start following Rick around, and he gets abducted and threatened with maiming. But that only makes him more determined to learn his father’s secrets and hold on to the money (I thought the plot lost some plausibility at that point).

The Fixer was an exciting book, but I had trouble believing it. Rick is portrayed as a very bright guy, but it seemed to me he made a lot of really stupid decisions. He also got beat up and injured a lot, without being deterred in the least.

But it was gripping, and the prose was superior. The politics leaned left, but weren’t preachy. So, recommended, with the usual grownup cautions.

Trevin Wax Salutes Andrew Peterson

Trevin Wax offers this album-by-album guide to the work of Andrew Peterson.

Andrew’s work resonates with me for several reasons.

  • First, Andrew expresses a childlike wonder toward this world and our place in it, waking us up and seizing our imaginations until we see—truly see—the wonders of existence. I gravitate toward music and books that lead me in the way of wonder.

  • Second, Andrew’s albums are steeped in biblical allusions and Scriptural imagery—all of which grow more powerful the more you study Scripture and the more you put his songs on “repeat.” There’s a richness to his lyrics that rewards the contemplative listener.

  • Third, Andrew’s songs bear the mark of authenticity, giving voice to a faith that is firm in its grasp of the truth and yet honest in its experience of doubt or suffering. The result is a compelling portrait of Christianity in all of its messy glory.

I enjoy this music too and have long wished Peterson great success. His music is marvelous. I’ve tried to burrow this song in my head since buying the album a couple years ago.

Lost Quotations and Proverbs

I’m looking over some lost quotations and proverbs tonight, lost because they are collected in W. Gurney Benham’s A Book of Quotations: Proverbs and Household Words, published in 1907, an ugly volume I plan to throw out because I’ve wasted twenty years of my life with it sitting on my shelf.

Great Scot! The Interwebs have revealed their Mastery of All The Things by producing a copy of Benham’s book in its archives, so I guess it isn’t lost after all — if buried under 305 billion pages of Interweb means it is not lost.

But what was I saying? I’ve kept this book because of its curious collection. After the typical Bartlett’s stuff, it has a section of “waifs and strays,” “naturalised phrases,” and toasts, followed by Greek and Latin quotations, French and Spanish quotations, and then a long list of English proverbs. It’s the non-English language quotations that seemed most valuable to me. Where else would I find a curated list of pearls and miscellany from the past?

Quid enim salvis infamia nummis?
What indeed is infamy as long as our money is safe?

Going to ruin is silent work.

Omnis homo mendax.
Every man is a liar.

C’est l’imagination qui gouverne le genre humain.
It is imagination which rules the human race.

Quid Romae faciam? mentiri nescio.
What can I do at Rome? I do not know how to lie.

Vulnus alit venis et caeco carpitur igni.
She cherishes the wound in her veins and is consumed by an unseen fire.

But whether we have less or more,
Alway thank we God therefor.

‘Innocent Lies,’ by Chris Collett

Innocent Lies

I’m working my way through Chris Collett’s Detective Tom Mariner series of police procedurals. Our commenter Paul revealed to me after my last review that Collett is not, as I had assumed, a man, but is in fact a woman. Kudos to her for doing an excellent job creating plausible male characters, something that – in my experience and prejudice at least – most female authors have a hard time doing.

When Innocent Lies begins, DI Mariner is working on the disappearance of a lower-class teenaged boy. He has history with the family, and so is upset when his temporary boss pulls him off that case to work on another disappearance. This one is the daughter of a well-to-do Muslim family. Mariner feels, with some justification, that there’s discrimination in the allocation of resources.

The story turns out to be baffling and complex – the missing girl had secrets from her parents, and racial tensions make themselves visible.

I didn’t enjoy Innocent Lies as much as the previous two I’ve read in the series, but it’s a compelling story. I think what I mainly missed was more of Mariner’s girlfriend Anna, who appears to be the most understanding girlfriend in history. I’m not sure I believe in her, but I like her.

One thing that troubled me was what looked like factual a reference to a hate crime in America. To the best of my knowledge, it never happened.

Oh yes, I figured out whodunnit.

Still, recommended. Cautions for the usual.

Proof of life

Today I got my complimentary copies of Viking Legacy, the book I translated.
Translator pic

It’s always a strange and wondrous thing to finally handle a book you’ve only known in the abstract up till now. I’m not the author this time (in fact there are bits I don’t entirely agree with). But I worked long and hard on it, and did a lot of polishing. The translation still looks a little rough to me, especially at the very beginning, the worst place for it. The body of the text looks much better though. I like to think the “flaws” are the fault of the editors, but I’m not entirely sure of that.

Anyway, it’s grown up and left the nest now, and I look at it, not as a father but as a sort of uncle, I suppose. I hope it does well in the wide world.

In point of fact, this is an important, groundbreaking book. If it finds its audience it will be controversial.

Buy it now and see why!

62 Novels Judged Not Funny Enough for Wodehouse Prize

The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize is the United Kingdom’s only literary award for comic writing. Last year, it went to Bridget Jones’s Baby by Helen Fielding.  Two works tied for the prize in 2016, The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray and The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild. I believe we mentioned these works and the Alexander McCall Smith’s 2015 win earlier in this space.

But the 62 novels submitted for consideration this year were only funny enough to produce “many a wry smile,” not the “unanimous, abundant laughter” the judges were hoping to have.

Judge and publisher David Campbell said, “We look forward to awarding a larger rollover prize next year to a hilariously funny book.”

“There were a lot of witty submissions, bloody good novels, but they weren’t comic novels. The alchemy was not there.” (via Prufrock News)

via GIPHY

Percy’s Love in the Ruins Like a Coal Mine Canary

Ralph C. Wood writes that Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins is darn prescient, if that’s something one can say.

“A serious novel about the destruction of the United States and the end of the world,” Percy declared, “should perform the function of prophecy in reverse. The novelist writes about the coming end in order to warn against present ills and so avert the end.” He isn’t writing as a biblical prophet, but neither can he deny that his allegiances are fundamentally Christian. His own vision of reality is confessedly “incarnational, historical, predicamental.” In an increasingly pagan and hostile age, Percy doubted the efficacy of a serene Christian humanism. Better to serve as the canary in the coal mine, so as to detect the asphyxiating gas that sickens unto death.

Wood offers no quick blog post on Percy’s novel. He gets into some of its heavy criticism, which, if you not read the book yet, may run it into the ground. (via Prufrock News)

‘Deadly Lies,’ by Chris Collett

Deadly Lies

I read and reviewed one novel in the DI Mariner police procedural series, and was so impressed that I decided to go back to the beginning and read them all. Deadly Lies is the book that introduces Inspector Thomas Mariner of Birmingham, England.

When a young journalist named Eddie Barham is found dead in his home of a drug overdose, the initial assumption is suicide. But Tom Mariner is not convinced, especially since he happened to see Eddie, alive and well, in a pub talking to a woman shortly before the time of death. He wants to locate that woman and find out what she knows.

Meanwhile Eddie’s sister Anna, a career woman, is left responsible for their brother Jamie, who is severely autistic. At first she’s overwhelmed – Jamie needs constant supervision, and the demands are killing both her career and her social life. One man she is seeing a lot of, though, is Inspector Mariner, whom she finds very attractive. He reciprocates her interest.

Meanwhile, crime scene evidence shows that this was definitely a murder, and somebody is trying to find and destroy Eddie’s records. What was he investigating, that would be worth killing to keep secret?

The answer, I’m afraid, was a bit of a cliché. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey through the story for its own sake. I like author Chris Collett’s writing; I like his characters. I suspect his politics and mine wouldn’t coexist well, but some very good values shine through the books I’ve read so far – especially the value of all human lives, and the importance of people having children.

Recommended, with cautions for language and sexual situations.

‘Viking Legacy’ is here!

Viking Legacy

I’ve been telling you about this book for — it seems — about half my life. (Actually it’s two or three years. Maybe four). But it’s here at last — Viking Legacy, by Torgrim Titlestad. Translated by your humble servant.

The book has two main themes — one, that Viking democratic traditions of governance were influential in European history. And two, that the Icelandic sagas, while not inerrant, do provide useful information which, coordinated with other historical research, can shed light on the political history of Scandinavia.

Book Reviews, Creative Culture