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Lost beat novel ‘not worth the wait’

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And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tankes by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tankes by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs

The US press has been hard at work this weekend dosing the flames of hype that have been rising around one of the literary world’s most anticipated releases ever.

As previously reported on The Scribbler a long delayed novel co-written by beatnik founding-fathers Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs is finally available to buy.

The writing of and originally planned release of And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks was surrounded by scandalous mystery. Over 60 years ago, when Kerouac was 23 and Burroughs 30, the scholars were arrested by the New York Police Department for helping a friend cover up a murder.

After they were released and cleared of the charges the pair decided to collaborate on a novel based upon the case. While Kerouac was pleased with the work American publishers unanimously disagreed.

While some sources cite this as being the reason why the book was so delayed, others state a pact was made between the writers and the real killer, one Lucien Carr that the novel would not be published until Carr passed away in an attempt to protect his name.

Thus the manuscripts were locked away and remained unpublished until this month when Grove Press did the right thing and treated it to some long deserved daylight.

Associated Press writer Bruce DeSilva this weekend damningly wrote: “The characters are aimless, intellectual wannabes who spend most of the book engaging in vacuous conversations while wandering from one seedy apartment and bar to another in pursuit of sex, drugs and whiskey.

“It is impossible to work up much concern for what will happen to any of them.”

DeSilva also added: “The crime, with its bohemian characters and hints of paedophilia, was a lot more interesting in the newspapers of the day than it is in the novel.”

The said crime was one of passion. Carr, the son in a well-to-do family, had become the object of obsession for the victim David Kammerer who met Carr years earlier in St. Louis while working as his Boy Scout leader. Kammerer reportedly followed Carr to New York where the older man met his demise at the end of Carr’s scout knife. The murderer then filled his pockets with stones and sent him to the bottom of the Hudson River.

Carr quickly confessed to Burroughs and Kerouac who in turn did not call the authorities, in fact it is claimed Kerouac helped get rid of the murder weapon. Eventually Carr was brought to justice and was found guilty of second-degree murder but was only given a two-year sentence after his lawyer argued that the crime was committed in self-defence from homosexual, paedophilic predator. Carr served his term and later led a successful career as an editor. He died in 2005.

William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac relaxing

William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac relaxing

DeSilva believes while the crime caused a sensation in 1944 New York and gave the writers a lot to write about ‘they failed to do much with it.’

Describing the book, DeSilva said: “The story is plodding, the characters uninteresting and the writing listless, with few hints at the innovative styles that would later make these writers icons of the beat generation. Perhaps the book will be of interest to literary scholars, but Grove could have posted it on an obscure internet site and spared the rest of us.”

DeSilva goes onto to protest: “Kerouac and Burroughs changed the names of all the characters, including themselves. Inexplicably, they also changed the murder weapon, turning the delicious detail of the scout knife into a hatchet. As ‘Mike Ryko’ and ‘Will Dennison’, the authors take turns narrating the story in a hard-boiled style, trying to write like Mickey Spillane and making a mess of it.”

Kerouac and Burroughs may have made a mess of the book in one reporters eyes but fans of beat writing and contemporary literature should remain enthusiastic about a release by two of the world’s most renowned authors that has been a closely kept secret for some 60 years. Posthumous releases are always something to look forward to.

Keep it The Scribbler Blog for a review of the novel in the coming weeks.

To buy your own copy of And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks click here.

There’s a 71 minute documentary on Jack Kerouac below if you have the time and the patience to watch it, we did:

For a William S. Burroughs video cast your eyes below:

Discussion:
Has anyone read the book? What is your opinion of it? Is it on a par with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, regarded as one of the best pieces of crime writing ever produced?

Words: Dean Samways

Guardian and Observer clean up at music journalism awards

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Radioheads Thom Yorke on the cover of OMM which won best editor last night

Radiohead's Thom Yorke on the cover of OMM which won best editor last night

Newspapers The Guardian and The Observer stole the show at last night’s 2008 Record Of The Day Awards for Music Journalism and PR (phew) when they walked away with five gongs. The Word was named magazine of the year.

Caspar Llewellyn-Smith, editor of Observer Music Monthly bagged the editor of the year award for the second consecutive year. The Guardian was celebrated for it’s music content winning best music coverage in a national newspaper and best podcast. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis was named record reviews writer of the year and The Observer’s Kitty Empire won the 2008 live reviews writer award.

Other winners included Dog Day Press (best independent PR company) and Polydor (best in-house PR department).

The highlight of the eveing came when legendary British music journalism Jon Savage was honoured when he received the outstanding contribution to music journalism award.

Representing the artdesks up and down the country was Pennie Smith who picked up the outstanding contribution to music photography award.

MBC PR co-founder Barbara Charone won the outstanding contribution to music PR awards and

The awards took place at Conway Hall, London.

The full list of the 2008 Record of the Day Award winners is as follows:

  • Live Reviews Writer of the Year: Kitty Empire – The Observer
  • Best PR campaign for a breakthrough UK Act: Tony Linkin at Coalition PR for Glasvegas
  • Best PR campaign for an established UK Act: Lewis Jamieson at Hall Or Nothing PR for Elbow
  • Record Reviews Writer of the Year: Alexis Petridis – The Guardian
  • Best Music Coverage in a Newspaper: The Guardian
  • Business and Technology Writer of the Year: Ben Cardew – Music Week
  • Best PR campaign for an established non-UK Act: James Hopkins at Columbia Records for Kings of Leon
  • Best PR Campaign for a Breakthrough Non-UK Act: Ash Collins at Toast PR for MGMT
  • Best Podcast: Guardian Music Weekly
  • Best Editor: Caspar Llewellyn Smith – Observer Music Monthly
  • Best Independent PR Company: Dog Day Press
  • Best Independent PR individual: Nathan Beazer at Dog Day Press
  • Best Digital Publication: NME.COM
  • Best in-house PR person: Andy Prevezer at Warner Bros Records
  • Best In-House PR department: Polydor Records
  • Artist and Music Features – Writer of The Year: Simon Cosyns and Jacqui Swift – The Sun, Something for the Weekend
  • Breaking Music Writer: Paul Lester
  • Magazine of the Year: The Word
  • Best Blog: 20 Jazz Funk Greats
  • Best Online PR: Scruffy Bird
  • Outstanding contribution to music journalism: Jon Savage
  • Outstanding contribution to PR: Barbara Charone – MBC PR
  • Outstanding contribution to music photography: Pennie Smith

That classic image of The Clash's Paul Simonon captured by Pennie Smith

If you’re into your music journalism you’ll know who this guy is below (he’s the legendary Beatnik muso Lester Bangs for any of you who don’t):

Discussion:
Are you thinking of a career in music journalism? Are you already writing music pieces? Want you share them? Leave a comment with your experience in the music journalism world here (the editor is a freelancer for Drowned in Sound when it suits him so he’ll be keen to chat on the subject)

Words: Dean Samways

Mafia boss grandfather inspiration for first novel

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The Grandfather Clause by Phil Genovese

The Grandfather Clause by Phil Genovese

Speaking to Reuters, author Phil Genovese revealed he took little pride in his family’s criminal connections.

Despite his resentment the grandson of mob boss Vito ‘Don Vito’ Genovese has managed to turn his childhood memories and experiences into fiction in his first outing into the publishing world.

His debut, the self-published novel The Grandfather Clause was 10 years in the making, mostly down to the fact that he only wrote the book’s material on Sunday afternoons when he was able to sneak away from family.

The book focuses on a New Jersey boy who eagerly looks forward to his grandfather’s visits but later learns that his elderly relative is the leader of a New York crime family. Further into the book the now adult protagonist finds he had to penetrate his grandfather’s world.

Genovese was actually brought by an accountant mother and father in Jersey and has only sparse memories of his grandfather, the Genovese crime family boss, who passed away in prison at the age of 71 in 1969.

The full interview is included below:

Q: When did you start to write?

A: “I am in my mid-50s and started out thinking some day I may like to write a book but I came out of school not really knowing what I wanted to do and ended up being an executive in a mobile transportation company. In 1996 I bought the first family computer and thought maybe this could enable me to write.”

Q: Is it autobiographical?

A: “Not really. I had built a story in my head over the years commuting in the car about someone like me with an infamous grandfather who led his father’s life rather than his grandfather’s but had an occurrence that caused him for a brief period to go back to his grandfather’s world.”

Q: It took 10 years to finish. Did you enjoy it?

A: “I can’t make a living from it but it brings me some peace and enjoyment. I published the book with an online publisher so I still own the rights to this book. I went the traditional route and secured two agents along the way and got the usual slew of rejection letters and an offer from a big publisher but the advance was very light and not a lot of promotion. They tend to focus on the big-selling authors. It’s a very crowded market with about 200,000 books published a year.”

Q: Does your name help with publicity?

A: “My last name does get me engagements. People think I will tell them some dark secrets about the mafia. But I was just nine years old when my grandfather went to jail.”

Q: Did your father mind you writing the book?

A: “My parents were supportive. I respect the work my father has done in his life and the sacrifices he has made to redistinguish our family name. From a young age he separated himself from his father and opened an accountancy practice and went on to become a member of the town council. All his good and hard work was built on his reputation and not on his father’s.”

Q: How did you view your heritage?

A mugshot of Don Vito Genovese

A mugshot of Don Vito Genovese

A: “Growing up we were always cognitive of it and tried to tread a certain line. We never denied our heritage but it is not something we are proud of. Am I taking advantage of it with the book? Perhaps, but only to sell my book and get people to read it. If we count up all the ugly and painful moments in my family’s life they are all related to my grandfather. Schoolyard fights, prejudice in the job market were all directly attributed to his legacy and the stain he left on the Genovese name.”

Q: What do you remember about your grandfather?

A: “We’d go to his house at noon and he was just getting up. They had a night life. I remember him being well dressed, in a tie a lot. You always knew there was something going on with him in the special way people referred to him and the whispering.”

Q: Have you had much reaction to the book?

A: “There has been strange emails from people saying we are related and saying Vito was my father. When I mention this to my father he says: “Who knows?.” In the start I would always give them a response saying I was not aware of anything but not now.”

Q: And you are working on your second book?

A: “It is called The Termination Clause. Some of the characters continue into the second book but I have created a new protagonist. It is like this book in that it has a core plot involving the mafia but there are other things too.”

Q: What is your advise to other aspiring writers?

A: “I would suggest carving out hours of the day to write and recommend you do the same thing for trying to get published or promoting a book. I decided to do online publishing as I wanted to get the book out and move on. Maybe the second book will be picked up and become a bestseller. Dozens of authors self-published their first book.”

If The Grandfather Clause reads anything like The Godfather film begins we’re in for a treat:

Discussion:
What’s your favourite crime novel? Does the literary world need another mobster book? What makes a great crime thriller?

Words: Dean Samways.

Writer pens the death of The Dark Knight

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An image from the Batman RIP series by Grant Morrison. Image by Tony Daniel courtesy of DC Comics

Image by Tony Daniel courtesy of DC Comics

It’s almost unthinkable; the death of a superhero, but Scottish graphic novelist Grant Morrison has inked the plot to end all the plots: the demise of the Dark Knight.

In the latest issue of the long running Batman comic series, Batman RIP, Morrison depicts Gotham’s decline into chaos as Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader disappear into the ether. It transpires that our hero is caught in a helicopter crash as he attempts to catch Simon Hurt, the volume’s villain.

The infamous cape and cowl belonging to Batman are discovered by his former sidekick Nightwing, prompting rumours that Gotham’s savoir is no more.

Six months down the line a Gotham City police officer is mercilessly tortured by a member of the Black Glove gang before conceding defeat in pain and describing how Batman and Robin met their end.

In an interview Morrison said this would definitely be the end of Bruce Wayne’s Batman, adding: “People have killed characters in the past but to me, that kind of ends the story.

“I like to keep the story twisting and turning. So what I am doing is a fate worse than death. Things that no one would expect to happen to these guys at all.”

Morrison was also given the unbelievable task of killing off Superman in DC’s All Star comic series.

Batman RIP is released as a hardcover volume on 4 February 2009.

Have a look below for an exclusive interview with Grant Morrison for dccomics.com:

…and for the author’s viewing pleasure, some action from The Dark Knight (Whoop!):

Discussion:
How would you kill off Batman? It’s not as easier as writing Peggie Mitchell out of the Eastenders script that’s for sure. Anyone currently penning a story for a graphic novel?

Words: Dean Samways

Costa Book Awards shortlist announced

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Some of the nominees in the running for the Costa Book Award 2008 (picture by The Guardian)

Some of the nominees in the running for the Costa Book Awards 2008 (picture by The Guardian)

The shortlist for the 2008 Costa Book Awards has been announced. The prestigious award attracted 616 entries this year, which have been narrowed down to four books in five categories.

Judges on this year’s panels (three judges per category) include author Lisa Jewell, actress and writer Pauline McLynn, journalist, writer and broadcaster Michael Burke, poet and broadcaster Roger McGough CBE; and writer Victoria Hislop. The final judging panel will be announced in mid-December.

The winner of each category will be announced on the 6 January 2009 with the overall winner of the 2008 Costa Book Award announced on 27 January at a lavish awards ceremony in London.

The shortlisted books are:

Costa First Novel Award:

Costa Children’s Book Award:

Costa Biography Award:

Costa Novel Award:

Costa Poetry Award:

Have a look at the award video for the winner of last year’s accolade, A.L. Kennedy, by clicking below:

Discussion:
So what do you think of the shortlists?  Are there any omissions you’re particularly surprised about? Has anyone read any of the listed books? What did you think?

Words: Seamus Swords

Highest earning novelists revealed

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J.K. Rowling (PA)

J.K. Rowling (PA)

American high society rag Forbes has released what it deems to be the top 10 highest paid authors today.

Released last month there are few surprises as to who tops the list. J.K. Rowling took the number one slot earning an estimated $300 million with her closest rival, detective novelist, James Patterson (Along came a Spider) earning only $50 million.

Writing mainstays Stephen King, Tom Clancy and Danielle Steel make up the rest of the top five, proving their books are as popular than ever (and as predictable and dusty to – Ed). Could this be down to the fact they are half price every Christmas in the WH Smiths sale?

Will Rowling rake in the same amount next year now her Harry Potter series has come to a close? One thing is certain, she has set a president for high earnings in the literary world.

Here is the top 10:

  1. JK Rowling, $300m
  2. James Patterson – $50m
  3. Stephen King – $45m
  4. Tom Clancy – $35m
  5. Danielle Steel – $30m
  6. John Grisham – $25m (tie)
  7. Dean Koontz – $25m (tie)
  8. Ken Follett – $20m
  9. Janet Evanovich – $17m
  10. Nicholas Sparks – $16m

For all you Harry Potter fans out there, and we know there must be some, we have pinched and pasted all five parts from the amazing documentary about the author by James Runcie below. The filmmaker spent a year following the author as she penned the final installment in the Potter series. Enjoy:

Discussion:
So does JK Rowling justify earning so much from her work? Is Harry Potter really all that good or is it simply media generated hype assisted by the Hollywood machine?

Words: Seamus Swords

National Novel Writing Month – Are you up for the challenge?

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National Novel Writing Month - Turn that ambition into a reality

National Novel Writing Month - Turn that ambition into a reality

Throughout the year there are numerous literary workshops, festivals, and awards peppered all over the globe. The month of November though represents possibly the greatest single initiatory commitment for any writer, novice or pro.

Saturday marked the opening day of National Novel Writing Month. The event, organised The Office of Letters and Light based in Oakland, California, is intended to inspire, and almost squeeze results out of participants, who take up the challenge of penning an entire novel (175 pages or 50 000 words) in 30 days.

Though labelled as a ‘national’ event there are in fact different regions wherefrom the sponsored participants keep the official website up-to-date with where there are in their projects.

Nanowrimo.org also delivers regular advice from professional authors (including Philip Pullman) and feature articles on the budding novelists taking part.

When The Scribbler discovered this writing programme we naturally started to question just how successful this kind of strict work schedule could be. However, we were immediately put into our place when we saw the list of past writers who have been published as a direct result of National Novel Writing Month.

To celebrate the writing month of November The Scribbler will graciously jump on the bandwagon.

In an effort to get you, the reader, thinking like an author and writing what might be your first piece of non-fiction, The Scribbler is going to provide you with the first of many writing schools.

Keep coming back and checking out the ‘Fiction / Writing School’ pages for the most contemporary writing to tool you up so only the best, most thrilling, edgy work coming popping off the pencil. Efforts are also being made to get some tips from some top writers in the industry.

Thinking caps on. Next time we want you to come back with at least three ideas for a story, maybe even a novel. The challenge starts here.

To get this party started we have embedded some advice for aspiring authors from the writer of Child 44, Tom Rob Smith. The book, Smith’s first, was published this year and earned immediate recognition by winning the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award for best thriller of the year from the Crime Writer’s Association. Click below to find out what he’s got to say for himself:

Discussion:
How many of you would consider taking part in National Novel Writing Month? What kind of advice would you be looking for from The Scribbler? Use the comments box below to reply…

Words: Dean Samways