Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Amazon To Publish Short Writing

Word comes from Amazon that it's looking once again at publishing writing that is shorter than conventional books. Here's the corporate press release:

Less than 10,000 words or more than 50,000: that is the choice writers have generally faced for more than a century--works either had to be short enough for a magazine article or long enough to deliver the "heft" required for book marketing and distribution. But in many cases, 10,000 to 30,000 words (roughly 30 to 90 pages) might be the perfect, natural length to lay out a single killer idea, well researched, well argued and well illustrated--whether it's a business lesson, a political point of view, a scientific argument, or a beautifully crafted essay on a current event.

Today, Amazon is announcing that it will launch "Kindle Singles"--Kindle books that are twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book. Kindle Singles will have their own section in the Kindle Store and be priced much less than a typical book. Today's announcement is a call to serious writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians and publishers to join Amazon in making such works available to readers around the world.

"Ideas and the words to deliver them should be crafted to their natural length, not to an artificial marketing length that justifies a particular price or a certain format," said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Kindle Content. "With Kindle Singles, we're reaching out to publishers and accomplished writers and we're excited to see what they create."

Like all Kindle content, Kindle Singles will be "Buy Once, Read Everywhere"--customers will be able to read them on Kindle, Kindle 3G, Kindle DX, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, Mac, PC, BlackBerry, and Android-based devices. Amazon's Whispersync technology syncs your place across devices, so you can pick up where you left off. In addition, with the Kindle Worry-Free Archive, Kindle Singles will be automatically backed up online in your Kindle library on Amazon where they can be re-downloaded wirelessly for free, anytime.

To be considered for Kindle Singles, interested parties should contact digital-publications@amazon.com.


Copyright 2010 AmSAW

Monday, October 11, 2010

New Larsson Book Confirmed

Remember that mysterious, unpublished, unconfirmed manuscript of the fourth book in Stieg Larsson’s best-selling “Millennium” series? It’s actually the fifth book, according to an article in the New York Times. So said Larsson’s brother, Joakim, in an interview on CBS that was broadcast on Sunday, Oct. 10.

The author, Stieg Larsson, died in 2004 before his books were published.

“I got an e-mail from Stieg 10 days before he died, where he said that book four is nearly finished,” Joakim Larsson said in the interview, which also included his father, Erland.

“To make it more complicated, this book No. 4 — that’s book No. 5,” he added. “Because he thought that was more fun to write.”

The disclosure — should it be true — adds another turn to an already twisty personal story that is nearly as complicated as the plots of the Swedish crime mysteries that Larsson wrote.

The first three books of the “Millennium” series, beginning with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and ending with “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” have become a publishing phenomenon, with tens of millions of copies in print. Larsson did not live to see the books published; he died of a heart attack in 2004, at the age of 50.

The author had said he intended the series to consist of 10 books, and he was working on a manuscript when he died.

Under Swedish law, control of his estate went to his family, rather than to Eva Gabrielsson, his longtime companion. Gabrielsson, who is reportedly in possession of a laptop containing the manuscript, declined to comment to CBS.

Paul Bogaards, a spokesman for Knopf, the American publisher of the “Millennium” books, said he believed the unpublished manuscript existed but did not know whether it was intended to be the fourth book or the fifth.

Whether it will ever be published is another question. Depending on the plot and substance of the story, it is possible that it could work as the fourth book in the series, even if it had been intended to be the fifth.

According to CBS, the Larssons said they would not allow the book to be published.


Copyright 2010 AmSAW

Saturday, October 02, 2010

It Happened in History: Graham Greene

Henry Graham Greene, English novelist, journalist, and playwright, was born on October 2, 1901, in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.  The fourth of six children, he was an awkward and painfully shy youth.  He had no inclination toward sports, and he often cut school so that he could read adventure stories such as those by authors Rider Haggard and R. M. Ballantyne.  Such stories influenced him greatly and helped to shape his literary style.

Although many of his works combine elements of the detective story, the spy thriller, and the psychological drama, Greene's weightier novels are mostly stories of the damned.  His heroes eventually are forced to face their shortcomings and arrive at salvation only after a long period of suffering and soul-searching agony.

Greene began his life in England, the son of Charles Greene and Marion Raymond Greene, who was a first cousin to author Robert Louis Stevenson. Greene's father, a brilliant intellect, became headmaster at Berkhamsted School.  Originally, he had intended to become a barrister, but he discovered that he enjoyed teaching more, although his history lessons were often less lessons than diatribes on why Liberalism had failed society.

Young Greene was educated at Berkhamstead and Balliol College, Oxford.  Plagued by debilitating insecurity, he tried running away from home several times.  In his teens, he attempted suicide.  His parents took him to a therapist who encouraged him to start writing as a means of developing a stronger self-image and a more positive outlook on life.  He introduced Greene to several of his literary friends.

Greene quickly learned that he had a natural talent for writing, and during his three years at Balliol, he published more than sixty poems, stories, articles, and reviews, most of which appeared in the student magazine, Oxford Outlook, as well as in the Weekly Westminster Gazette.  In 1926, he converted to Roman Catholicism, saying afterwards, "I had to find a religion... to measure my evil against."  When critics began exhuming the religious undertones in his works, Greene complained that he hated the term being hung on him: "Catholic novelist."

In 1926, Greene moved to London, where he went to work as a reporter for the Times (1926-30) and for the Spectator, where he was a film critic and a literary editor until 1940.  There, he met Vivien Dayrell-Browning.

She had been a secretary at Blackwell's publishers and wrote to Greene at Oxford, chastising him for his article linking cinema, sex, and religion.  The two met for tea and fell in love, although Vivien was slower to yield to Cupid's arrow than was Greene.  He began courting her with a letter of apology. 

"You carry magic with you always," he wrote her at the beginning of their courtship, "it is in your eyes, & your voice, & your long dark hair, & your whiteness."  Vivien, though younger and sexually inexperienced (quite the opposite of Greene), was cooler and more sophisticated when it came to love and kept him at a distance.

The two finally married in 1927.  Their relationship spanned two decades, ending with a separation only when a bomb during the Blitz destroyed their lovely and thankfully empty home at 14 Clapham Common, Vivien having already been evacuated with the children.  She was terrified at the thought that Greene might have been in the house, but he was secretly living with his paramour, Dorothy Glover, and escaped harm.  In an interview, Vivien said later, "Graham's life was saved by his infidelity."

After their relationship ended, he had a string of mistresses, including in the 1950s Swedish actress Anita Björk, whose husband, writer Stig Dagerman, had committed suicide a year earlier.  In 1938, Greene began an affair with Dorothy Glover, a theatre costume designer; with whom he would remain close until the late 1940s.  She started a career as a book illustrator under the name of Dorothy Craigie, writing children's books of her own, including Nicky and Nigger and the Pirate (1960).

During World War II, Greene worked "in a silly useless job," as he said afterwards.  He was in intelligence for the Foreign Office in London, under Kim Philby, who would later gain notoriety for his defection to the Soviet Union.  On one mission to Africa, the writer found little to write home about.  "This is not a government house, and there is no larder: there is also a plague of house-flies which come from the African bush lavatories round the house."

Greene returned to England in 1942 and, following the war, traveled the world as a freelance journalist, living for extended periods in Nice on the French Riviera.  With his anti-American comments, he gained access to some of the world's major Communist leaders, including Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Manuel Noriega, and Panamanian dictator Omar Torrijos.  But English novelist Evelyn Waugh, who knew Greene better than anyone else, assured in a letter to a friend that the author "is a secret agent on our side and all his buttering up of the Russians is cover.'"

Without bothering to end his affair with Glover, Greene began a simultaneous affair with a stunningly beautiful Catholic convert, Catherine Walston (right), in 1946.  Walston was also Greene's goddaughter.  Greene met her when, after her conversion to Roman Catholicism, she asked him out of the blue to be her godfather, a ceremony witnessed by Greene's wife, Vivien.  He was 42 and internationally celebrated for novels such as The Power and the Glory.  She was 30 and the mother of six children.

Greene met Walston, fell in love, and then sustained a long and passionate affair which was conducted with the full knowledge of all members of both families.  Harry Walston himself came to be utterly and helplessly complicit in the relationship.  Greene dedicated The End of the Affair to his paramour.  In the book, a writer is having an affair with a neighbor’s wife.  He and the neighbor have a strange friendship, as did Greene and Catherine’s husband.  When a German bomb hits the building where the lovers are meeting, the woman spontaneously prays to God that she will change her life if only her lover is not dead.  Amazingly, he is not.  But this sets off a titanic tug-of-war in several characters’ souls about the relative claims of human and divine love.

The End of the Affair was a scandalous success, so much so that some Catholic wags complained that it gave the impression that Christ had said: "If you love me, break my commandments."  Greene and Walston were certainly active in doing that.  He began rationalizing the affair, going so far as to get confirmation from some priests that it was all right to go to confession again, even knowing that he would immediately return to the illicit liaison.  Greene’s earlier sense of the acute tension between earthly and heavenly impulses gradually slid into a more lax form of Catholicism better suited to his own personal lifestyle.

Greene termed his more popular contemporary thrillers--works such as Orient Express (1932) and The Ministry of Fear (1943)--mere “entertainments” in an attempt to set them apart from his more serious fiction.  His light-hearted romps through populist literature were mostly inspired by his own experiences in the British foreign office in the 1940s and his lifelong ties with SIS.

As both agent and writer, Greene is a crossover between authors such as Christopher Marlowe, Ben Johnson, and Daniel Defoe and more modern day writers such as John Le Carré, John Dickson Carr, Somerset Maugham, and Alec Waugh.  The author came by his intrigue with spies and clandestine affairs quite easily.  His uncle, Sir William Graham Greene, helped to establish the Naval Intelligence Department, and his oldest brother, Herbert, served as a spy for the Imperial Japanese Navy in the 1930s.  Graham's younger sister, Elisabeth, joined MI6 and recruited Graham into the regular ranks of the service.

Greene's most important and enduring works include Brighton Rock (1938), which was also made into a film (right), The Power and the Glory (1940), The Heart of the Matter (1948), and The End of the Affair (1951), all of which set a tone of high literary, as well as moral, distinction.  While Greene may have dabbled from time to time in "entertainments," the majority of his work marks him as a literary novelist of great stature.

He was also a first-rate journalist, something that some critics attribute to his excelling as a novelist.  Many of his novels are set in sites of topical journalistic interest: The Quiet American (1955) is the account of early American involvement in Vietnam.  Our Man in Havana (1958), set in Cuba, foretells the coming of the Marxist revolution there.  A Burnt-Out Case (1961), in the Belgian Congo, takes place just before that nation's struggle for independence.  The Comedians (1966), in François Duvalier's Haiti, unfolds before the dictator's overthrow.  The Captain and the Enemy (1980), set in Panama, details the rise and fall of the pre-Noriega nation.

In addition to such timely ventures, the author also displays a marked sense of finely honed comedic value in his short-story collection, May We Borrow Your Husband? (1967), as well as in the novel, Travels with My Aunt (1969).  He also wrote several plays, including The Living Room (1953) and The Potting Shed (1957), both thinly disguised religious dramas, as well as The Complaisant Lover (1959), a witty and intelligent play about marriage and infidelity.  He is also noted for his short stories, essays, film critiques, and scripts, including the mystery melodrama, The Third Man (1950, above).

Not surprisingly, Greene has been the subject of numerous biographies.  When professor Norman Sherry started writing his version, Greene gave him a map of the world, marking all of the places he had visited.  Sherry decided to go to all of the spots that Greene had marked.  He took twenty years to complete the book.  Greene limited himself to writing only five hundred words a day and would stop writing even in the middle of a sentence.  Nonetheless, he published nearly one hundred books, plays, and scripts in his lifetime.

Graham Greene died in 1991.


Copyright 2010 AmSAW

Friday, October 01, 2010

Book Dump Snarls Traffic

From Our "Isn't There a Better Way?" Department:

Andrew Marr's latest book is, literally, stopping traffic. Boxes containing 15 British tons (16.8 U.S. tons) worth of the journalist's history volume, The Making of Modern Britain, have been strewn across a busy English road following a recent accident. Thames Valley Police said on Sept. 29 that a truck carrying books overturned approximately 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of London shortly before midnight the night before. The driver suffered cuts to his arms, and the road was closed throughout the night as the books were cleared away.

Video footage on the BBC website showed smashed-open boxes of the book piled by the roadside.  The Making of Modern Britain is described by its publisher as "a fascinating portrait of life in Britain during the first half of the 20th century."  Marr, a BBC reporter and presenter, apologized to anyone who had been inconvenienced, and said he hoped the book was not "being taken off to be pulped."


Copyright 2010 AmSAW