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Archive for October 2008

Spider-Man 4 to be penned by Pulitzer Prize winner

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Spider Man as we know him from the current series of films

Spider Man as we know him from the current series of films

Reports are flying around Hollywood this morning that Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire has been snared by our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

Lindsay-Abaire, who won a Pulitzer in 2007 for his drama Rabbit Hole is believed to be in final talks with Columbia to write Spider-Man 4.

Sam Raimi is set to return to the franchise as director with Tobey Maguire pulling on the red and blue lycra again as Spidey. Kirsten Dunst is also expected to re-enact her role as the long suffering love interest after playing her part in the movie adaptation of Toby Young’s How To Lose Friends & Alienate People.

As much as The Scribbler would like to reveal more about the fourth instalment of Marvel’s web slinging success story in Hollywood plot details are being kept under lock and key.

Writers of the previous Spider-Man movies have all come from very unexpected but illustrious areas. Veteran wordsmith Alvin Sargent, famed for 1973’s Paper Moon and 1980’s Ordinary People, wrote storylines for the second and third films while Michael Chabon, another Pulitzer prized writer, also worked on Spider-Man 2.

Previous to this news breaking James Vanderbilt had submitted a draft of Spider-Man 4. Vanderbilt previously wrote the screenplay for 2007’s Zodiac; originally a book by crime writer Robert Graysmith, documenting the Zodiac killings which occurred around San Francisco in the 70s.

Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole won four Tonys (American theatre’s highest honours), including best play, after it opened on Broadway in 2006 starring Cynthia Nixon and Tyne Daly. The writer is also known for the play Fuddy Meers.

Speaking in interviews Lindsay-Abaire has his plays tend to be ‘peopled with outsiders in search of clarity,’ which, as most of us know is the underlying struggle fought by Peter Parker in all three of the previous Spider-Man films.

If Columbia run with Lindsay-Abaire it would show strong intention to focus on character, an area critics have long claimed was lost in Spidey’s third outing.

At the moment Lindsay-Abaire is writing the book and lyrics for the Broadway musical adaptation of Shrek but Spider-Man 4 won’t be his first dabble in the murky world of Tinseltown. His adaptation of Inkheart is due out January and he is also reworking Rabbit for the big screen, 20th Century Fox and Nicole Kidman.

At the time of going to press Columbia had no comment although when they do believe us when we say The Scribbler will be the first on it.

Watch Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, talk about his hopes for the fourth film below:

Words: Dean Samways

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Guardian First Book Award shortlist announced

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The Guardian First Book Award

The Guardian First Book Award

The shortlist for the Guardian’s First Book Award has been published with an extremely varied bunch of first time authors making the short list.

The award which has a £10 000 cash prize is seen in many literary circles as being unique, not only because it recognises first time writers but also the lengths it goes to to involve reading groups all over the country.

Taking in fiction, non-fiction and poetryu the books range from a 20th century history of music, a memoir of a soviet era romance and a dark story of obsession and violence based in Yorkshire. Others making up the shortlist include a political novel set in Pakistan and a carnivalesque Australian saga.

The shortlist was determined by Waterstones reading groups up-and-down the country who helped narrow down the selection from ten books to just five.

Chairwoman of the award and Guardian Literary Editor Claire Armitstead commended the shortlist saying “these are sophisticated books that require a big investment from the reader – an investment for which they are richly rewarded,” she also commended the books for there “generic inventiveness” and “defiance of easy marketing packagability.”

Previous winners of the award have included Zadie Smith for her novel White Teeth (2003) and Dinaw Mengestu for the Children of The Revolution (2007).

Here’s the five books in contention for this year’s prize:

  • The Rest Is Noise – Alex Ross
  • Stalin’s Children – Owen Matthews
  • God’s Own Country – Ross Raisin
  • A Fraction Of The Whole – Steve Toltz
  • A Case Of Exploding Mangoes – Mohammed Hanif

The Scribbler will announce the winner of The Guardian Book Award before anyone else right here…although probably not before The Guardian.

Have a look at Ross Raisin’s interview with Olive TV below where he talks about his book Out Backward and answers questions from fans:

If you have the patience to watch Alex Ross talks about his shortlisted book The Rest Is Noise the amazing Google video feature is below:

Doubleday presents a reading of Steve Toltz’s A Fraction Of The Whole set to moving pictures:

Discussion:
Has anyone read any of the shortlisted books? If so, what’s your opinion of them? Does it deserve this accolade?

Words: Seamus Swords

Up close & personal with Irvine Welsh

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Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh

He is one of the most celebrated and infamous writers of our time. He epitomises everything that is very right and very wrong with the literary world. Whatever he may be, and represent, Irvine Welsh is one of the most successful British writers in decades. With a wealth of novels, short stories, screenplays and even pieces of journalism to his name the Scot is the manifestation of everything that The Scribbler is about.

From his near arrogant burst onto the writing scene with Trainspotting right up until this point; when millions of readers are sat waiting to click ‘order’ at online bookstores to purchase his latest offering, Crime, Welsh’s ever expanding fanbase could be put down to a number of things. Firstly, inarguably, there’s the cult following, nay, extreme popularity of his first novel’s film adaptation but there’s much more to him than a motion picture.

Societal Narrator

The land of the brave has produced a social commentator who not only connects to the thinking of critics but also rallies the backing of the masses. Thatcherism may have a lot to answer for but the creation of this cultural icon under the Iron Lady is something we should cherish. Although Welsh is not just a product of his environment, his products reflect current fears and moral panics running through the anxious veins of every Labour voting parent.

The cover of Crime by Irvine Welsh

The cover of Crime by Irvine Welsh

“It’s about a distressed Scottish policeman who is on holiday with his fiancée, who works for Scottish Power,” bellows Irvine, proud of his new literary offering. “They’ve gone to Miami Beach to catch some winter sun and plan their wedding. His head is very messed up by the case of child killer he put behind bars in Edinburgh and he sees paedophiles everywhere. He freaks out, argues with his fiancée, meets this young girl who he believes is in danger and takes off with her in a rented Volkswagen, heading for the Gulf of Mexico.” This is classic Welsh, themes and ideas that breathe oxygen into British literature. His willingness to approach, dabble and frequently play devil’s advocate with often outlawed themes makes for compulsive reading, but isn’t paedophilia a step too far?

“It’s too horrible an issue not to write about. I think being a novelist is about tackling things that challenge you. Too much of literary fiction these days is just about somebody writing in the voice of novelists past; it’s a stagnant pond and it’s so up itself. I like books that try to get to grips with the more problematic aspects of human life.”

This is why Welsh has stumbled across such great success. Like Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton-Ellis, he harnesses near primeval characteristics of the human psyche and exposes them for all to see.  Many find these subjects disturbing but coming through the other side of these novels the soul feels surprisingly cleansed, as if the difficult images have taught you something and made you stronger. Welsh uses alarming imagery to bring out the positive side human nature. Yes a police officer maybe affected in very dark ways through investigating cases of child abuse, but this has only made him more considerate and protective of the young and innocent. Does Welsh ever have second thoughts about what he’s about to put to paper? “Always. That’s what writing is about for me; confronting both the taboos and your own reservations and trying to get past them.”

Beyond the page

Clearly the Edinburgh born former electrician believes writing is much more than just ink on paper. It’s not an exaggeration that fiction can be a window to the soul, much more than a face or eyes, so maybe it’s only right that Welsh exposes human imperfections. But shock alone isn’t enough. Of others from the same school; William S Burroughs, Charles Bukowski and Will Self, Welsh has strong beliefs about what makes them thrilling reads: “I think they point out things that are instantly recognisable to us but shock us with that recognition. That’s when we know we’ve met the writer as an artist rather than an entertainer.” The difference between the flowery writers whose books line your Gran’s bookcases and those grittier paperbacks that are jammed between copies of The Word and Dazed and Confused in your magazine rack is blatant. The art of writing the novel can be abused by those lazy enough to appeal to our base emotions of love, lust, hate and the like but it’s the clever ones that attempt to tackle issues that draw moisture from our palms yet intrigue, school and lift us.

“I love writing the novel because you are creating the artefact. There is nobody else to blame if it goes wrong.” Works of fiction aren’t Welsh’s only vessels of telling his twisted tales fantastic fables. “With screenplays, you can blame the commissioning editors or the director or whoever, if the final product – the film – doesn’t work out.”

Having finished Crime he’s now adapting fellow Scot Alan Warner’s The Man Who Walks with his screenwriting partner Dean Cavanagh. Unlike Welsh perhaps, Warner has a taste for the extraordinary. His fourth novel follows the journey of an anonymous undesirable with hidden qualities. Drunk on whisky and half full on pony nuts he’s pursued for committing a crime towards a landscape created in the author’s first book. Parallels between Welsh and Warner can be drawn here. The mini-universes created through their work; Welsh’s Porno was a near sequel to Trainspotting.

Alan Warner author of The Man Who Walks

Alan Warner author of The Man Who Walks

“It’s very hard as I want to do justice to Alan’s book. I love it and that was why we wanted to adapt it in the first place. But we also need to realise it cinematically, and that often means taking liberties with the text. John Hodge told me when he adapted Trainspotting that he loved the book and found it hard to let go of some his favourite parts. I feel the same way. I have to keep remembering that Alan wrote it as a book not for the screen. Thankfully, he’s a very good friend and has been greatly supportive of the project.

“Novel writing is lonely and I’m a social animal by nature. You get a chance to collaborate with others when you work on a screenplay. Film-making is a collaborative art and that’s why I love it. I couldn’t NOT write books, but I couldn’t JUST write them.” But behind all this writing there lies the business push to get the work into the public consciousness. “Promotion is part of the writers work that is both very grim and absolutely essential. Writers love to create but hate to sell, although it’s such an important part of the job. I’ve a new and very dynamic publisher in France, which is publishing Porno and Bedroom Secrets at the same time, so I had to talk about both those books. It’s strange to discuss work, which is very old to you, and you must try to be graceful when you hear the same questions asked over and over, all week.

The business of promotion

“Basically I spent five days in a Paris hotel bar talking to a different print journalist every hour, broken up by the odd visit to a TV or Radio studio. To be fair, there was the big, long lunches that the French love, but when in Paris you really want to hit the museums, bars, cafes and shops. However, it’s hard being so constrained when you’re in such a vibrant metropolis.” It’s difficult to see then how a novel can take shape if a writer is forever promoting past work, penning another and then starting the cycle over. When is there time for new ideas to fester, be born and grow from the embryonic stages? Perhaps these ideas are always with writers, stewing and developing as they go about their own lives. Except what is special about Welsh is that his extraordinary ideas seem to come from ordinary behaviours around penning the novel. “I tend to rise early, work a hard morning, then take most afternoons off, alternating between going to the gym or for a swim and relaxing in the cinema. At night I just hang out or do a lot of reading. I love to read; a good book is the best way to relax. I travel a great deal; the beauty of writing is that you can do it anywhere with a laptop. In the last three months of 2007 I was in Bogotá, Cartagena, Chicago, Miami, Dublin, Paris and Edinburgh and I’ve mixed work and relaxation.”

With the picture painted of a writer’s life being busy and relaxing all at the same time, as schizophrenic as this writer’s literature itself is, horrific and enlightening, what’s the best piece of advice Welsh can give budding writers? “Finish the piece of work. Don’t just send in the odd chapter. Finish it! And, most of all, stick it away for six months before you send it off to a publisher or agent. I wrote one novel I thought was great then my publisher told me that it was a pile of shite. When I looked at it six months later, it wasn’t even as good as that. But you tend to get blinded; the emotional investment you make in your writing is crazy and can kill the critic in you. Write as an artist, with freedom and unselfconscious inhibition, then stick it away for a bit, then go back to it as a cynical, anal, repressed critic.”

Crime is out now through Vintage

If you can spare three quarters of an hour to watch the below video, your patience will be rewarded as before your eyes Welsh goes into even more detail about his new book during an interview for Google Books:

Words: Dean Samways

Reading group faces censorship

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The Royal Standard Pub in Ely, Cambridge, where The Turning Point Group holds its readings

The Royal Standard Pub in Ely, Cambridge, where The Turning Point Group holds its readings

There is no doubt writers find it hard to get there work read at the best of times but now a group of writers in Ely, Cambridgeshire, are facing a potential £5 000 fine for reciting their work in a local pub.

The Turning Point Group, created by local playwright Paola Trimarco, has received financial support from the National Lottery Grant and offers a chance for young writers in the area to showcase their work at the Royal Standard public house on Fore Hill.

Unfortunately for the group it was publicity for the show which attracted the attention of the local councils licensing officer who alerted Turning Point to the fact that they didn’t have the correct license and that they may be liable for the sizable fine.

Although the pub has a license for live music the council insists that the Royal Standard will need another license for spoken word performances.

East Cambridgeshire District Council’s principal environmental health officer Liz Bailey is in charge of licensing. She said: “We have licenses for all sorts of reasons – fire and police need to check it is safe. It is not just us being petty. There needs to be certain checks in place.”

Ms Trimarco said: “Richard (manager of the Royal Standard) has been very supportive of our event. We brought in audiences of 20-25 on Tuesdays – normally a quiet night for pubs – and we got our grant partly because we were using alternative spaces for performance. With the Maltings and the Babylon Gallery closed, we were able to use a back room in the pub that has no bar, so people under 18 could come in through the separate entrance and enjoy performances too.

“There isn’t a lot going on in Ely on week nights,” she added. “Most of us go to Cambridge or even London for cultural events. We’ve had some success over the past eight months, with regular audiences and the grant coming in – but we are a little out of the ordinary. Do you want Ely to be another boring little market town? It seems the council say they want to support new events and aim not to create a dormitory town, and then contradict themselves.”

The Scribbler is in full support of the Turning Point Group and hope they will be able to continue their spoken word night at the Royal Standard in the future.

Words: Seamus Swords

Graphic novelist not phased by Hollywood calls

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Mark Millar with some of his comicbook creations

Mark Millar with some of his comic book creations

Celebrated Scottish graphic novelist Mark Millar has revealed he’s just as at home on the set on a Hollywood flick as he would be filming a Scottish soap.

Speaking exclusively to The Daily Record today the creator of Wanted the writer said he’d be just as happy working with esteemed Scottish actor Johnny Beattie on the soap opera River City as he would be adapting his novels for big-budget movie deals.

Following the success of Wanted, starring James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie, production companies in LA are poised to invest $1billion for the screenplays of six Millar stories.

Like the novels currently in the centre of a Hollywood bidding war, Wanted is an action packed rope that took more than £200million at the box office and looks set to pull in even more from the DVD release, which is out this week.

Modest man Millar

Amidst all the hype and promise Millar remains ever modest with his feet positioned firmly on the ground, declaring he real ambition is to hang out with Scottish TV veterans.

“Every now and again, I pinch myself that Wanted, my first film out the gate, has done so well,” said the 38 year-old, from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire.

“Instead of doing two years on River City and working through television into films, I’ve done an apprenticeship writing comics.

“At the same time as being involved in Hollywood, I am really sentimental towards Scottish actors. I would love to work on River City. I would be as thrilled meeting Johnny Beattie as I was meeting Nicolas Cage on my new film, because to me guys like Johnny are the real deal.”

Staying close to home

Scottish actor Glen Michael has been given a walk-on role in Millar’s next film, Kick Ass, starring Cage, but Mark still wishes TV duo Jack Milroy and Rikki Fulton were still doing their Francie and Josie show.

“Jack and Rikki were stars throughout my whole life, whereas Nicolas only became a star when I was in my twenties.

The cover of Kick Ass

The cover of Kick Ass

“Scottish actors are more exciting to me.  With Glen Michael being in Kick Ass, I was thinking, wouldn’t it be brilliant to grab these guys I grew up with. I wish Rikki and Jack were around so I could get them in the next movie, a £150million war film.

“We start shooting next Easter. My plan is to get work in Hollywood for all the veteran Scottish actors we know and love.

“I was talking to the comedian Frankie Boyle about this. He said everyone around the world would just see them as actors and everyone in Scotland would be thinking, ‘What the hell?’ because the last person you expect to see in a Hollywood film is someone you saw on the Hogmanay show 25 years ago.

“Sadly, a lot of the greats are dead. I loved that whole Seventies generation. Fran and Anna used to be my next-door neighbours in Coatbridge. Sadly, one of them passed away a few years back. I don’t know if she would be fit for it, but I would love to have Anna in there as well. Wouldn’t it be great to have her in a Hollywood movie next to Robert De Niro.

“Kick Ass is costing a couple of million a day to shoot and Glen has a day filming. He plays a New York hot-dog vendor. Even if it just lasts 20 seconds on screen, it will still be great. It feels good because I had never heard of superheroes until I saw Spider-Man on Cartoon Cavalcade. If Glen had decided not to do Cartoon Cavalcade, I would be doing a different job now. So I told him it’s my thank-you for him getting me into this.”

Glen, 82, made his last film appearance as PC Dixon of Dock Green the 1950 classic The Blue Lamp, starring Jack Warner.

“Glen is a member of the public who goes ‘Oh my God’ when Jack gets shot,” said Mark.

Young British actor Aaron Johnson plays Dave Lizewski in new film Kick Ass. His character, a shy, retiring student and comic-book fan who decides to become a super-hero, despite his lack of powers.

The success of Kick Ass is so foreseen that a sequel has already been penned.

The next chapter

Wanted 2 begins production next year, along with War Heroes, about a US military experiment to produce super powered soldiers. The plot is a more pessimistic take on the War on Terror with further terrorist attacks on the US mainland leading to the invasion of Iran and the imposition of martial law in the States.

An image from War Heroes depicting the flying soldiers

An image from War Heroes depicting the flying soldiers

“The idea is that the conflict in the Gulf is going on for another generation but nobody wants to sign up any more. America has gone bankrupt and the only way they can get kids to sign up is to give them super powers. It’s Full Metal Jacket meets X-Men,” said Millar.

“These 19 year-old soldiers can fly or move at super speed. It’s a very commercial movie.  Super-soldiers versus super-terrorists.”

Mark admits the novel has unleashed an unhealthy interest in the current US election. He said: “It sounds awful but, as much as it would be nice for the world if Obama got in, part of me is rooting for John McCain because I wouldn’t mind seeing them in Iraq for another four years just so we can establish this franchise.

“War Heroes comes out in 2010. Kick Ass is going to be two movies. I have written a sequel to the Bible called American Jesus, which Matthew Vaughn and I are going to make.

“Wanted became a trilogy as soon as the first one made $340million. But I’m going to relax until spring, then create three movies.”

Said with such ease.

Mark is the envy of most Hollywood writers. Unusually he has complete control of his stories thanks to his own venture into the realms of film production, Millarworld.

“It helps being a producer. I can control who gets the property. A lot of writers are hired hands. What I am doing is retaining creative control, which is what JK Rowling did.

“I’m the person who makes the call to people like Angelina Jolie, Nicolas Cage and Brad Pitt. All my friends are egging me on to find out who is a bitch. But they are all dead nice. I’ve yet to see a tantrum.

“When you are paid $25million a film, it’s because you are good and just come in, do your job and go.”

Early developer

Mark talent with a pen was apparent at the early age of five. “I knew I wanted to do something to do with superheroes. When I was young, all my pals were into it. By my teens, they all grew out of it but I didn’t. I learned to keep it quiet. They’d talk football and I would want to ask if they’d seen the new Spider-Man.

“It was a 15 year overnight success story.  Comics were what I wanted to do and I was the biggest comic writer, so the movie guys asked me to work with them. I consulted on Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr. and it was suggested I set up my own company.”

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in Iron Man

His involvement in Iron Man was no small part either. It was he whom reportedly suggested bringing in Jeff Bridges villain, Iron Monger, into the first film, when originally writers had him drafted in to make an appearance in later installments.

“My brothers are all in their fifties and have kept all my early drawings in school jotters and on A4 paper. They say they are going to shove them on eBay if I ever get really famous.”

Tinseltown socialite

Aside from the glitz and glamour of writing for Hollywood Mark is married to Gill with whom he has a nine year-old daughter, Emily, and remains surprisingly unperturbed about his success.

“I still hang out with my primary school pals and they find all this hilarious. They ask me what I have been up to at the weekend and I tell them I’ve been having a curry with Angelina Jolie and they just laugh. It sounds so made up.

“Brad Pitt comes to Glasgow regularly but he doesn’t let anybody know he is there. After people finish filming, they go back to their hotels, then we text each other to go for pizza. We hang out in pubs.

“Jonathan Ross is a close pal. This week, Emily and I will go to see the Hannah Montana film with Jonathan at his studio, and the other week she met High School Musical star Zac Efron.

“She has an ordinary school life, then every now and then gets to hang out with Zac or someone like that.”

Watch Mark Millar talk about the movie adaptation of his graphic novel Wanted below:

This episode of the cult internet show iFanboy features Millar talking exclusively about his War Heroes novel, soon-to-be-Hollywood blockbuster starring some very big names:

Words: Dean Samways

Google reach settlement for online library

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A screenshot of the Google Books service

A screenshot of the Google Books service

Internet goliath Google has reached a multimillion pound agreement with the Association of American Publishers allowing the search engine to continue indexing millions of books.

The Google Book Scheme started out as a partnership between Google, Harvard University, the New York Public Library and other organisations to scan and digitise books making them accessible online.

Google have described the ruling as “groundbreaking” allowing for books to achieve greater coverage. The deal will also allow Google to expand online access to millions of books stored in public libraries across America. This will undoubtedly make it easier for unknown cult writers to get there work noticed by millions of internet users around the world.

The settlement still needs to be approved by the US District Court before the plan can be fully implemented, however, members of the Authors Guild are encouraged by the proposal.

“It’s hard work writing a book, and even harder work getting paid for it,” said Roy Blount Jr., President of the Guild. “As a reader and researcher, I’ll be delighted to stop by my local library to browse the stacks of some of the world’s great libraries. As an author – well, we appreciate payment when people use our work. This deal makes good sense.”

Watch the below video for tips on applying for a Google Books Partner Program account, which allows you to submit your content for display on Google Book Search. Ideal for writers who want to increase their readership an infinite amount.

Words: Seamus Swords

Written by Dean Samways

October 28, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Cronenberg – Director turned writer

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David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg

Acclaimed director David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises, A History of Violence) has been swamped with offers for his first novel which at the moment is only 60 pages long and lacks any definitive direction.

Although he has been involved writing the screenplays of a number of his films, it will be the director’s first venture into the literary world.

Never one to shy away from subjects of controversy Cronenberg will no doubt have something bloody and gutsy up his sleeve for his first book.

The man himself is revealing little about the book’s subject matter. Commenting on how he was getting on he said: “It’s not like Stephen King (tiresome horror novelist) – but what it is exactly, I don’t know yet.” (What a tease! – Ed)

There is no way of telling just how long it will take before the manuscript is published or even if it will make it to the shops, but rest assured The Scribbler will keep a close eye on developments.

To get a taste for the kind of storyline and action that David Cronenberg has been attracted to in recent times click below to watch a deleted scene from ‘A History Of Violence’ narrated by the director himself:

Words: Seamus Swords

Written by Dean Samways

October 27, 2008 at 9:51 pm