Monthly Archives: January 2008

That’s a coincidence

I know this happens all the time, but I do find weird coincidences rather fun. And intriguing.

Being a great fan of Gillian Cross, I would always be interested in a new book of hers. Some years ago (that fateful autumn of 2001) I really liked the sound of her book Calling a Dead Man.

It’s about a girl whose adult brother goes to Siberia on a job. He promptly disappears, and that would seem to be that. But his fiancée refuses to leave things alone, and taking his sister with her, goes off to Russia.

I don’t want to give anything away, but it does get exciting.

That Christmas I gave the book to a young relative who’s a great reader, and one for whom it’s hard to find new books. Luckily Calling a Dead Man was new to her, and I enjoyed watching her finish it in one sitting.

The coincidence? That was the autumn the Resident IT Consultant was somewhat less resident. He was sent to Russia to work. And that included trips to Siberia.


Not to mention confused

Some days are more confused than others, in the blogging world. Like yesterday, with masses of visitors and comments. If it’s people I know who are commenting, they often send me an email, too. And I comment on the blog. And I answer the email. And occasionally we have had a discussion going on the Guardian’s book blog. Once or twice I’ve started some thread on someone else’s blog, who then comes across here and continues the exchange, with no explanation as to what went before.

At that point, or more often long before, things get confused. Even I get confused. And you tend to answer the wrong thing in the wrong place. But, as I said, obsessions are fun. And most likely good for you.

Obsessed – moi?

Certainly. Very obsessed. And enjoying every minute of it.

Wow! The discussion yesterday got a bit heated. I suspect that some people get obsessed about things, and others don’t. If you’re not the obsessing type, then it’s presumably hard to understand those who are.

In this instance I’m not saying I’m obsessed with Philip Pullman because he is better than everyone else. I’m obsessed because there’s something about him and his writing that to me is very appealing. And as I’m not alone in this obsession, I can only assume I’m not totally insane.

The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Manchester City or Manchester United? Same kind of thing. I think.

As long as I don’t alienate too many people by it, I think a little obsession is good for the soul. I’ve got a few more obsessions other than Philip, but they are best left out of this.


Check out Spinebreakers again. With the paperback of Sara’s Face by Melvin Burgess coming out next week, they have recorded some video logs based on the book’s vlogs. Very tense stuff. And they are supposed to change several times over the next week.

There’s also a competition to make your own vlog. So get going.


I remember my first. It was a few years ago, over Christmas. Son was still at secondary school and an active library helper. So was his best friend. The latest Alex Rider was just out and the library had one copy. They couldn’t agree who should go first, so the librarian decided. The friend got the Horowitz.

To ward off the inevitable explosion she handed Son a proof provided by the local bookshop, who needed a book review. It was Hoot by Carl Hiaasen. Needless to say the whole family read it and couldn’t quite get over the excitement of reading a proof. We had never heard of Hiaasen either, so that was an eye opener. Thoroughly enjoyed Hoot, and these days I like to return to Hiaasen and his mad world from time to time.

Some time later when the Resident IT Consultant was in the bookshop (strange place to find him…) he was sent home with a pile of proofs that they didn’t know what to do with.

And now we see so many of them that we have lost that first feeling of excitement. Or not, in a way. Because it’s still very special to have a new book, and particularly so if we expect it to be good. It’s just not the first time.

What authors say

Just as I expect Francesca Simon’s guests on Thursday evening could manage to be both happy for her success and envious that their own sales aren’t quite as good, it’s interesting to observe authors and see and hear what they say, or don’t say.

Some only talk about their own work, and don’t even seem to be too modest to say how good they believe they are. Thankfully not many are like this. And there’s Henning Mankell, who as I pointed out the other day, doesn’t even recognise his own work when he sees it.

Many authors go out of their way to suggest other writers and books that they think I’d like. Sometimes they are wrong, but often they are quite right and I’m grateful for ideas. Linda Newbery has been known to send emails with suggestions.

Tim Bowler spent ages during a school talk some years ago “selling” Melvin Burgess’ book Doing It. I think Tim almost forgot his own books while explaining quite how hilariously funny and worthwhile this controversial book of Melvin’s is.

Adele Geras is also very helpful and recommends books she likes in her website newsletter. Meg Rosoff is forever pointing me in the direction of her friends’ books. Do you people think I have unlimited time for reading?

Then we have Son’s “party trick” of asking every author he meets what they think of Philip Pullman. He even has me do it for him if he’s not there. Whether the authors he asks are always honest I don’t know, but they tend to have good manners, so will usually say something positive. And I’d say that most of the time it sounds as if they mean it.

When Lionel Shriver got the Pullman question, her answer was of the more unusual variety. She said “Who?”

One million Roman Mysteries

Another Orion author has also done exceedingly well. Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries have now sold one million copies in Britain. I’m not surprised, because they are very addictive. The bookwitch household is counting the days until number fifteen turns up. Please let it be soon!

1,000,000 Roman Mysteries