Friday, August 25, 2006


Fans of Gwendoline Riley can see a write-up of her next novel, Joshua Spassky, which sounds like a Wim Wenders movie in the making, due next May. Not for the first time, one gasps at the lead time for novels these days. It's not the writing or the printing, its the marketing schedule that dominates, so you can get a ghostwritten Frank Lampard biography weeks after the World Cup, with a last chapter hastily added, but a new novel, by a promising young author? They only ever release them in the spring. There's still time to apply for the New Writing Partnership's writing bursary. I was interested to see the 9 shortlisted writers for its mentoring scheme, at least partly because, rarely, it gives you a chance to read their work. I liked Linda Black's prose poem "My mother is trapped in a jar of ginger." I came across a good list of poetry magazines at the Scottish Poetry Library, whilst looking out the address of the Shop, for a friend who lives in Ireland, where its based, as is impressively comprehensive "blog"/lit zine Dogmatika. Still waiting for Manchester Literature festival's website to go live, but see there's a blog for one small strand of it The Burgess Project. Burgess never wrote that much about Manchester in his fiction, so much of it that was international, but his autobiography is a virtual A-Z of the pre-war city. I'm umming and ahhing about whether I can send anything to Succour magazine for its next issue, temptingly "The Obscene". Not for the first time, a theme has given me a writer's block. Unfortunately like too many magazines, its word limit - 2500 words - is too low for the best of my work. Good to read one of Togara Muzanenhemo's poems, at Todd Swift's blog, from his new Carcanet collection. We published Togara's poems in Lamport Court, and a long poetic story appeared in the last issue. Meant to mention a couple of things: Manchester independent book market on 1st September, and the polka-dot attired new anthology of women's writing from Crocus called "Bitch Lit." I finished reading my second long-ish novel in a week (after "Brick Lane") with Sara Paretsky's "Guardian Angel", she's the one crime writer I really like. As she's gone on, you get more of V.I. Warshawski's life - and this is her strength. When people question why "genre" novels don't get more literary kudos, I guess, even with a writer this good, it's because they are formulaic. Warshawski - a female Chicago Private Investigator - starts investigating a couple of minor issues for friends or neighbours, in this case an old lady going into hospital, and a friend of a neighbour disappearing, and from this stumbles on something that comes close to getting her killed - leading, inevitably, to a web of corruption that goes to the very top of Chicago's white collar establishment. It's great stuff, but it is formulaic - and though I think this was one of the best in terms of the writing, and the "human" stuff, the plot was a little slapdash. I guess making white collar crime (Enron etc) interesting is probably the toughest job for a contemporary crime writer.

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