Snippets from the past week in the literary world
A FINE BORDEAUX
If there were any justice in the publishing world, Death In Bordeaux, by our chief fiction reviewer, Allan Massie, would have been a bestseller when it appeared two years ago. Set in 1940, it introduced us to Jean Lannes, a police superintendent trying to investigate a murder at a time when the Nazis’ push south darkens the entire moral landscape. It is gripping and atmospheric, and I have still to meet anyone who has read it who hasn’t sung its praises (Alexander McCall Smith and Robert Harris among them). Yet the sad fact remains that very few people actually bought it.
Admittedly, Quartet did a poor job in typo-spotting and an even worse one in promoting the book, but even so, it’s just plain annoying when a fine book doesn’t reach the number of readers that it ought to.
“Sometimes it does seem that the only people who have read it are people whom I already know,” Massie told me last week. “But only the other day I was on the No 95 bus from Selkirk to Edinburgh when a complete stranger came up to me, said he really enjoyed it and asked me when I was going to write a follow-up.”
That encouraging stranger on the bus should know that Dark Summer in Bordeaux, the second of four books in an intended series, is due out next month from Quartet Books, and that Massie will be talking about it at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose on 17 June. It will have to be a quick turnaround, though: when we spoke he was still going through the page proofs.
TO COIN A FRASER
Also out next month is Sarah Fraser’s The Last Highlander (Harper Press, £20), her compelling biography of Lovat of the ‘45, the last Scottish nobleman to be executed for treason. Despite her surname, Fraser is actually an Essex girl – albeit a particularly classy one. She has married not just once, but twice, into the Fraser-Lovat clan, first to Kit Fraser, author of The Joy of Talk (Quartet Books, 2010) and owner of Hootenanny’s pub and music venue in Inverness, and then to Kim Fraser, uncle of both the 16th Lord Lovat and the model Honor Fraser.
Still, if you want to write books, why not marry a Fraser? After all, it’s worked for Antonia Fraser, Fitzroy Maclean and even William Dalrymple. Is this the real secret of bestsellerdom? Or is there an even more literate clan out there?
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Friday 24 May 2013
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