Tag Archives: Dan Brown

What (not) to buy in 2018?

It was the Resident IT Consultant who mentioned it first. He noted that that David Walliams seemed to be everywhere in the top 100 books sold in 2017. I wasn’t surprised, but wish I had been. I’ve not counted the DW books on the list. Daughter did, but reckoned I probably didn’t want to hear how many.

I am pleased that a children’s book came second on that list. (Also pleased that it was – considerably – outsold by Jamie Oliver.) But I really would have wanted it to be a different book. I know; it’s good that children read. Or at least that someone is buying the books, whether or not they get read.

If it was any other book, I’d also be happy for the author who was financially rewarded, along with his or her publisher.

To return to my previously mentioned lesson learned from Random House, we should be grateful these books make money, because they help publish other books that simply don’t sell in great numbers. Well, all I can say is that on the strength of the DW sales, HarperCollins should be able to support an awful lot of ‘smaller’ books. Children’s books at that.

I don’t know this, but how much of such revenue goes to happy shareholders? Instead of being re-invested in more book products. I’m aware that DW has a past of doing charitable things, even if that was a stunt requiring other people to cough up the cash. Does he support any worthy causes with the income from his books?

In the same Guardian there was an article about a businessman who has received rather a large bonus, an amount of money that it was suggested could do a lot of good if used to solve the sad state of the homeless. My guess is he won’t do this. (Although, think of how he’d be remembered for all time – in a positive way – if he did!)

So, DW and publisher: Is there any likelihood of you doing this kind of good deed? We only require so much money for our own needs.

But back to the list. I’ve not read much on it. This is usually the case, as most of the big sellers are generally adult novels I don’t have time for, or recipe books and biographies of or by people I’ve barely heard of.

This year Philip Pullman is in tenth place and I’ve read his book. Of older books there’s obviously Harry Potter, and I have at some point looked at a Where’s Wally and the Wimpy Kids books.

The usual suspects such as Lee Child, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Dan Brown, are there; but interspersed with countless DW titles. Jacqueline Wilson and Julia Donaldson, often the biggest contributors to children’s books on the list of bestsellers, are at the bottom end. There is Wonder, which presumably has reappeared because of the recent film.

While horrified in general, I am hoping that this willingness to buy lots of children’s books will continue. And I’m hoping for more diverse purchases, which will be made possible only when publishers don’t only push celebrity titles. I’d like for there to be more excellent children’s titles, but the truth is that there are countless terrific books already in existence. They ‘merely’ need to be sold to the buyers of books. Use some of that money on telling the world about your other writers.

I’d like to mention a few recent HarperCollins books here as examples, but I’ve not been told about many. The new Oliver Jeffers book was ‘sold’ to me. I asked about the Skulduggery Pleasant book myself when I discovered its existence. I was offered an adult crime novel on the suggestion by the author. And someone emailed me to say she was leaving the company. This is not to say there weren’t heaps and heaps of great books. Just that there was no publicity coming my way, and possibly not going to others either.

Happy New Reading in 2018!!!


I never did read The Da Vinci Code, and I’m not likely to do so now, either. Dan Brown – or his publisher? – is planning to dumb it down to YA level. What a relief! Because young readers are so stupid, they couldn’t possibly read as complicated a book as TDVC, copies of which I understand litter second hand bookshops to the extent they can’t sell them.

If Dan Brown wants to do something for the young, but I’d rather he didn’t, to be honest, couldn’t he simply write a YA novel from scratch, like all these other people who feel they should give this ‘easy’ genre a go?

Then, who to dislike the most; J K Rowling or presidential hopeful Donald Trump? I’m with the many people who fervently hope this man will not succeed. But he does have the right to speak, even when what he says is so offensive that we’d prefer for him not to.

I think J K is correct in saying that we must be bigger and fairer and allow those who say bad things to keep saying them. Banning them will not help. Trying to re-educate them would, but might prove hard. It is very tempting to be as bad as, or worse, than those we fear and dislike. Lots of people find it pretty easy to disagree with a wealthy and famous author. The Guardian photos of the two make them look like pals, almost. But that is the newspaper’s fault, not J K’s.

To finish with something much nicer and easier, here is the link to the interview with Meg Rosoff on Swedish television, first broadcast on Sunday night. It’s on several times this week, but for those of us outside Sweden, it is available to watch online. Meg is on first, for 15-20 minutes, and she is on good form as ever. I think we should have programmes like this in Britain. You know, a bit about books and not just baking and dancing.

Meg Rosoff on Babel

Personally I’d like to know how to tie a scarf like Meg’s. Once you do, you will still look good, no matter what you wear with it. (Or maybe I wouldn’t, under any circumstances.) Meg’s new glasses are divine. Quite Harry Potterish, in a good way.

If she sees one coming

Grandmothers! We were enjoying tea and Christmas cake (except for me. I had Stollen, on account of sensitivity to all that brandy I had been pouring over the cake since October), and as so often happens, the conversation strayed to Maths and other intellectual topics.

When that last happened a few days earlier, Son moved closer to his mother in order to escape the numbers and funny words discussion, in exchange for something suitably light for the two of us.

But at this point the Resident IT Consultant entertained his mother – the Grandmother – by showing her the new Brewer’s. She browsed for some minutes before pointing out they’d got Fermat’s Last Theorem wrong. She read it out, with the Resident IT Consultant and Dodo all nice and alert, and Son and me turning our eyes heavenwards.

As it happens, she was right. It is wrong.

We moved on to secondhand bibles, as you do. The Grandmother works in an Oxfam bookshop, and they get lots of Bibles in, and they sell like hotcakes. She displays all the various kinds of Bibles, and when she returns they have all sold and she has to start over again.

What a ‘shame.’

Something they also have lots of but which doesn’t sell the way of the Bible, is The Da Vinci Code. It might once have been an Oxfam bestseller, but if she sees one coming, she throws it out.

That’s the spirit!

After Fermat, they moved on to Faraday’s complete letters. Someone found a letter where it was mentioned that Mrs Giles would have been very happy to see him. Faraday, that is. The Grandmother was surprised to find the volume she was holding only covered a few years of Faraday’s life (there are six in total), and marvelled at quite how many letters got written back in the olden days.

I’m thinking the stamps didn’t cost 50 pence in the 19th century.

Where are the wild dogs when you need them?

I don’t suppose Adèle Geras expected her email alert to have quite this effect on me. But that’s the blogging world for you. I was out all Sunday so did not, in fact, see the Observer article where Ed Docx – ‘literary author’ – tears Stieg Larsson and Dan Brown to pieces. And the crime fiction genre and genres in general. Thank god for real literature. What would we do without it?

Ed Docx 2

A brief meeting with the good Ed means I seem to know that he has a literature background, which will be why he knows so much. He lectures quite strongly, and wrongly, in this Observer piece. Just as he did at the bookshop event I went to, where he thought nothing of telling the assembled readers, most of whom were at least twice his age, how to read a book. He wasn’t trying to be funny, either.

On Normblog Mr Geras had this to say about the article. Such a relief to find some well put-together sentences such as ‘Oh dear, Yeats! If only he’d roamed free of those poetic forms’, even if Norm doesn’t share my fondness for crime.

Stieg Larsson would surely turn in his grave if he knew he was being bracketed with Mr Brown of Da Vinci fame. There is a lot of difference between the two, and I think Ed would have been better to concentrate on complaining about only one of them.

Over on Crime Always Pays there is also a debate going on, with John Connolly sticking up for Ed. Which I will forgive him for. This time. And I agree with the comment about Lee Child, but then I would.

I was going to find a way to link to what I wrote about Ed a couple of years ago, but technical difficulties are getting in my way. Besides, when there are quotes like this one from the Observer comments section to enjoy, who needs old witch material? ‘The important thing is that anyone who claims to be a writer and writes copy like Docx’s should have their bowels torn out by wild dogs.’

(And you can never have two many drinks. As long as they balance.)

John Connolly on how to lose a Ferrari

John Connolly finds when meeting fans at events, there are some he likes a lot. On Monday night in Preston he looked around the room at County Hall and came to the conclusion that that wasn’t going to happen with us. Yes, we loved you too, John. (That’s enough of the insults. Can we please get on with all the love?)

Spending a beautiful May evening in the dark, but impressive, rooms at County Hall may seem a bit daft, but I really did want to meet the man who wrote The Gates, one of the best children’s books last year. (Yes, I know all the other fans were there for the regular crime novels, but I don’t mind being odd.) SilverDell Books of Kirkham organised this event, and I have to admit to having begged for a free ticket, which these amazing ladies who sell ice cream and books were happy to offer a complete stranger. Nice running into Super-Librarian Jake, as well, and Phil of Jodi Picoult jellybabies fame. And then there was a roomful of fans, who egged John on to give in to his urge to bang the chairman’s club really hard. It was loud.

John Connolly

He reckoned we looked quite nice (so did John in a purpley sort of maroon jacket affair and artfully arranged grey scarf), but couldn’t be sure we’re not the sort of fans who prefer the new book to be just the same as the last one, only different. I suspect we were, John. It seems that’s what authors who own yachts (or lose their Ferraris) give in to, but obviously John is above that sort of thing. His characters are all him, more or less, and Charlie Parker is John, except handsomer. (Now how is that possible?)

This ‘wet liberal, mediocre Catholic who still believes in hell’ talked a lot about soldiers returning home, and how very hard it is for them to settle to normal life again. Like most authors he goes round looking for things in life that he can steal and put in books, and I believe the homecoming soldier problem (in the new book The Whisperers) is one of those. John listed a lot of facts on the suicide rate of soldiers and the subsequent cost to society, and said he hoped we can support soldiers to make life better for all of us.

John Connolly

He read us a short piece from his latest book, about a ghost encounter in the woods. That’s another thing John does. You’re not meant to put the supernatural into a crime novel, but he likes doing it. To keep the fans happy, while not acquiescing to writing the same book over and over, John writes a ‘different’ book every other time, and he reckons it shows in sales.

Speaking of yachts, we somehow got onto the subject of Dan Brown. (Hang on, didn’t I say I was never going to mention him on here, ever again?) We had to do a hands up on whether we had read ‘that’ book, which of course I haven’t. John had, but the experience he takes from it is that he will never ‘waste time reading crap again.’ He had some opinions about authors not realising that many readers already know certain facts, mentioning mirror writing as an example. He had also once had an unfortunate trip to the cinema in connection with Angels & Demons.

Thanks to the woman in his life John has also escaped becoming a freemason, which can be hard to do if you live somewhere that boasts five masonic lodges. He has only ever met Stephen King once, but at least he managed to have all his Stephen King first editions topple over the master of horror, and I think the occasion wasn’t as good as he’d wanted it to be. Other than that, and the unfortunate geographical proximity to Dan Brown, John finds that living in Maine has freed him from having to write Irish novels. And he firmly believes that an average crime novel is better than an average literary novel. So true.

But – it has to be said – John is as funny and entertaining as most other Irish writers I’ve come across. One fan laughed so much she was barely able to walk.

And he’s polite. His mother clearly brought him up properly. He shakes my hand and pretends he’s really pleased to meet me at last. At last… Hah. And he promised me there are only two more chapters of the next children’s book left to write.

Elaine, John Connolly and Sue

John likes events. Even when it’s an ice cream free event, a fact he returns to so many times that Sue and Elaine of SilverDell look ready to drive back and get him some. And he tells of the customer at crime bookshop No Alibis in Belfast who asked what happens at an author event, as she’d not been to one before, and was told that the author reads a bit and talks about his/her books. And then there would generally be questions. She shrank from this, saying she didn’t think she’d be up to answering any questions.

From DaVinci to Jordan

I have said some not so nice things about The DaVinci Code, haven’t I? I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned Katie Price and her literary pursuits, but there is a first time for everything. Consider it done.

There was one last lesson learned at Random last month. In my chat with Philippa Dickinson she pointed out that they had made much money on books like the above. And it’s not just that publishing companies like making money. We all do. But with the profits from bestselling –  if light – books Random, and others, can do great things.

Basically it’s the Robin Hood idea. You take money from the big sellers and use it to publish narrower taste books. Not all books make any money for the publisher. And although they are lovely people, they can’t publish and publish and not mind the lack of income.

So with this in mind, from now on I will try to cheer as I see the other kind of books for sale, because they are busy paying for the books I want to read.

I hope I will never say anything bad about Dan and Katie, ever again. I may do, but it will be a slip of the keyboard. Honest.