The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz

Book and Skull

Anthony Horowitz

I found this book on offer at my local supermarket. Having never read an Alex Rider novel, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the idea of Horowitz moving from Young Adult stories into Adult stories intrigued me.

When I picked up the book, I was unaware of Horowitz’s other career achievements in TV and film.

To me he had always been a YA author.

Story device

This book struck me as a bit strange and unusual within ten pages. Anthony Horowitz has broken the fourth wall of writing. This in itself is not unusual. It has been done in many novels over the years. What is unusual is that he had made himself a character. And the information he provides about himself is pretty accurate. It makes me wonder how much of the rest of the story is based on real people and real events. 

Lemony Snicket, of course, used this method in his ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’, so it is not a new device, I think I was just a little surprised to see it used in such a way. This is, after all, a murder mystery. It is not as if he is using his voice as a character, he himself is the character, with a real life and a real family and his achievements are real and accurate, his career is real, even his script for Tintin being scrapped is real (although, who knows if it went down the way the describes in the book).

As I read through the book, I realised that there is a lot of factual information about who Horowitz has worked with and what he has worked on. So much so that at times I feel his main characters in the murder mystery are in fact real people. Although, after a few more paragraphs, you realise that he has likely taken the trajectory of one actor’s career, an actor he has worked quite closely with over the years, and lent it to his character. Changing perhaps only the spelling of his name and his, of course, his surname. In a way, this use of real people reminds me of ‘Being John Malkovich’ or James Van Der Beak’s character in ‘The B**** in apartment 23’.

Thoughts and opinions

Having now finished the book, I am more and more inclined to believe that this murder actually happened. Both Hawthorne and Anthony are of course real people, the places they visit are most certainly real, and it leads me to believe that many of the events are also. I am still unsure if Horowitz would have been allowed to play as big a part as he leads us to believe, but when you break the fourth wall, you’ve got to be at the heart of the action. 

The title of the novel appears on page 25, during a conversation between Horowitz and Hawthorne, he then also makes reference to this at the end of the book. I found this running commentary to the story to be very useful but at times a little off-putting. It is a good story, told well, but I think I found it hard to get over the main device.

Horowitz’s career

The other main character, Hawthorne, reminded me, in a lot of ways, of Sherlock Holmes. Which makes total sense as in 2011, Horowitz released ‘The House of Silk’ the first Sherlock Holmes novel written as a new story with the estates blessing. However, I believe that he is also a real person, but whether he’s as insightful or reserved as his character in the book, is anyone’s guess.

The more I read about Horowitz and his career both on and off the screen, the more I realise that he was an ideal choice for such an endeavour.

He has since written a second Sherlock Holmes novel, Moriarty and in 2014, the Ian Flemming estate commisioned him to write ‘Trigger Mortis’, a new James Bond novel. His Alex Rider novels, of course, made him an obvious choice for this franchise as they are often referred to as ‘Teenage James Bond’.

His second James Bond novel “Forever and a Day” has just been released in hardback.

“007 is back. After authentically recreating the golden age of James Bond in his high-speed thriller, Trigger Mortis, Anthony Horowitz is back in Ian Fleming‘s shoes once more.  In Forever and a Day he brings readers an official prequel to Casino Royale, telling the story of the origins of the world’s most famous secret agent.” – Waterstones

The Word is Murder

The story itself is a pretty good one, a murder mystery at heart and one which compels you to read on and learn more. Not just about the murder but about  Horowitz, (or Anthony, as he likes to be called) and Hawthorne themselves. 

“A wealthy woman strangled six hours after she’s arranged her own funeral.  A very private detective uncovering secrets but hiding his own. A reluctant author drawn into a story he can’t control. What do they have in common?

Unexpected death, an unsolved mystery and a trail of bloody clues lie at the heart of Anthony Horowitz’s page-turning new thriller.

Spread the word, The Word is Murder!” (sic) – Waterstones

I have to admit, even if this novel weren’t written by a world-famous author like Horowitz, I’d have picked it up, the blurb alone is intriguing. Although, it now gives me pause on the idea of pre-arranged funerals. The story actually turns out to be quite emotional with plot twists galore, most of which I, the reader, did not see coming.

I also found the writing to be easy to follow and fast paced, perhaps this is down to his career in young adult fiction. I did actually find myself steaming through the pages of this book. A great read to take away on holiday or on a long train/plane journey. Reading this book was actually quite pleasurable if at times a little off-putting when Horowitz himself interjects his thoughts and feelings. Definitely worth a read though.

Bookshots – by James Patterson

“Bookshots – the revolution in reading”

With over 100 fiction novels under his belt, James Patterson is nothing if not prolific, how then can he be more so? By writing shorter books of course.

Bookshots are the new ‘revolution’ or “gimmick” to come from the marketing team that James Patterson clearly works with. It’s almost as though someone from the publishers went to Patterson and suggested he could make more money by releasing more books. Even with the numerous collaborations, he partakes in, I doubt he’d be able to squeeze out any more novels in the space of a year. This is where Bookshots are born.

Bookshots are the new brainchild of Hachette publishing group. There is a website and an app you can download and each of the books cost less than £3 and features less than 150 pages.  Most titles cost between £0.49 and £1.99 in the UK for the paperback versions. They are available in paperback, ebook, and even audio versions, although it is worth noting that the audiobook versions are usually around £4.99, so you certainly pay a premium for not having to do the work on reading.

I have to admit, Patterson’s style does, in fact, lend itself to this format very well. With his short sentences, minute chapters and fast paced stories, I can think of no better author to write in this format.

For those of you who know Patterson for his crime and thriller novels, Bookshots offer the ideal way to explore his other genres. His crime and thriller novels are well represented with titles including characters such as Alex Cross and Michael Bennett, but he has also produced some romance shorts and a non-fiction about the recent presidential election race between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.

Many of you will be familiar with his many many collaborations but don’t dismay, there is a Bookshot featuring almost every author he has ever co-written with. I have also noticed that some of these bookshops seem to be either prequels, sequels or off shoots of some of his already existing novels eg. Black and Blue (which incidentally is how I found out about Bookshots in the first place).

This format also allows Patterson and his team to mess around with the format of the novel and give away whole sections for free. See Kidnapped  – A Jon Roscoe thriller in five parts, the first of which is free to read (not surprising really as it spans a whopping 8 pages, that’s right one page per chapter) the other four cost a mere £0.49 so you can purchase all five for less than £2.00, bargain right? Well not really if you consider that if you purchase paperbacks when they are on sale in Waterstones or Amazon then you can get a whole novel 1,000 page novel for £3.99 (inc p&p).

You may have already guessed from my tone, I am very cynical of James Patterson and his work. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy his work and I have in fact read a lot of his novels. His books are regularly on my Christmas list but I really do struggle buying into the ‘brand’ of James Patterson. I have read how he coordinates his writing and how he collaborates with other authors. His collaborations can often be one of the main factors in an unknown or little-known author becoming more well known and allowing them to launch or progress their own career. But it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, it feels as if some of these authors are rather taken advantage of to progress Patterson’s own career and to add to his already immense catalogue. Don’t get me wrong, none of these authors seem to mind having their name attached to his work and perhaps it is naive of me to think that these authors could make it without him, but I find it hard to view this as a purely benevolent act on his part and the part of his empire.

Don’t get me wrong, none of these authors seem to mind having their name attached to his work and perhaps it is naive of me to think that these authors could make it without him, but I find it hard to view this as a purely benevolent act on his part and the part of his empire. These authors will surely benefit from the expertise and advice that Patterson has to offer

Check out James Patterson’s vast catalogue of work.

 

Products from Amazon.co.uk

A steamroller vs a hard-drive

It was August 25th in a sunny field in Dorset, people were leisurely going about their day visiting a local steam fair, unaware that the death of a universe was taking place just yards away.

This was a relatively young universe, as far as one can really measure these things, a mere 34 years old, give or take a few months. It was the home to such characters as Mort, Granny Weatherwax, Rincewind, Sergeant Vimes and Nanny Ogg to name just a few. This universe was, of course, The Discworld.

Discworld
Great A’Tuin and Discworld

Terry Pratchett first introduced us to The Discworld in 1983 in his novel ‘The Colour of Magic’ and since then there have been a further 46 novels set in the Discworld.

Two years ago in March 2015, Terry lost his battle with early onset Alzheimer’s  and the literary world lost a genius in storytelling. One of his last wishes was to have his unfinished works destroyed and on the 25th August his former assistant and friend Rob carried out his last wishes, by having the hard drive (containing an approximated ten unfinished novels) run over by a steam roller.

The destroyed hard drive will be available to view at and exhibition to be held in Salisbury Museum named His World.

http://www.pratchetthisworld.com

[photo of page]

Why destroy your work?

Terry is not alone in his desire to have his unfinished work destroyed, in fact a lot of writers and artists have requested that their unfinished work be destroyed upon their death to ensure that their legacy is kept intact and that no one can finish telling their stories in words that are not their own.

Franz Kafka famously requested that his works be destroyed upon his death. However, his friend Max Brod ignored his request and published his works posthumously. It was in fact this great act of betrayal which allowed the world to experience the great works of Kafka.

Rob Wilkins did in fact fulfil Terry’s last wish and when the steamroller, Lord Jericho, failed to do a satisfactory job, he used a rock crusher to ensure that there was no rescuing the data. For better or worse, there will be no more Discworld novels and as sad as that makes me, I think it was necessary.

Anyone who read Terry’s last novel will be able to understand why this novel was his last. It was clearly written by a man saying goodbye to the world.

Reading this novel was an emotional roller coaster for me, I spent almost the entire thing in tears. Sometimes these were tears of laughter and sometimes tears of joy and when I got to the last pages, I really didn’t want to finish. There is no denying that this book was his last, he said all he needed to say, he said goodbye.

Female authors are taking over… or are they?

Sexism in the publishing industry – Is the shoe on the other foot in today’s market?

 

It has long been believed that people prefer to read books by authors of the same sex as them – I call bullshit! I for one am not drawn to female authors. In fact in most cases, unless the author is known to me, or it is a true life work in which it is relevant, their gender doesn’t really come into it. Perhaps I am unusual in this, but honestly, the blurb is more likely to get my mouth watering for a book than the name or gender of the author.

Recently, it has been revealed that publishers are changing or disguising the names of their male authors to increase sales. It is believed that women will only read novels by other women, and as women apparently read more than men, we are therefore the new demographic for publishing houses. I am not debating that women read more than men, perhaps we write more too? But I think that these studies are not really giving the reader enough credit.

According to one source:

“…80% of a new female author’s audience is likely to be female.”

Now, the inner feminist in me is giving a little cheer at this news,  it was said on the radio that the likes of Charlotte Bronte and Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot as she is more commonly known) would be looking down and be rejoicing, I don’t disagree. Long gone are the days where these women and the likes of JK Rowling and EL James have to change their names to be taken seriously as an author (although taking E L James seriously would be hard no matter what gender she were).

Ignoring my inner feminist for a few minutes (she can be pretty loud and opinionated, so this can be rather difficult) I actually disagree with this trend completely. I do not pick books based on author gender, race, sexual orientation, upbringing, day job etc. I’ve read a Jeffrey Archer book for goodness sake, he couldn’t be further from what I consider to be my author demographic, or in fact ethical beliefs. I often read books without knowing or being affected by authors gender and in fact a lot of the time I won’t even know if they are male or female whilst reading their work. True, sometimes it is obvious from writing style or how the author relates their male or female protagonist, but often times it is impossible to tell.

I once read an article in a newspaper by a black female author, I was really enjoying the article until she started moaning about the fact that being a woman and a woman of colour at that, really put people off of reading her work. Until that point I was unaware of her gender or race and was merely enjoying her writing style, as soon as she stated who she was, my whole view of her writing changed and suddenly what began as a general comment on society became a much more direct point about racism and sexism. It did change the tone of what she was saying, but merely added the ‘woe is me’ tone, which then did, in fact, put me off, not because she was a woman or black, merely because, until that point it had been irrelevant to the piece and actually to the point she was trying to make. Although I understand where this woman was coming from, there are a lot of people out there who still harbour sexist or racist tendencies, I feel that if your writing is good enough, it will speak for itself, no one will look into your gender, race, upbringing or sexual orientation, it is irrelevant.

A prime example of this is Zadie Smith, at one point she was the youngest author to ever get a best seller. Being female, and a woman of colour did not stop her because her writing spoke for itself; her style was good, her story telling brilliant and therefore she was successful.

It took me years to find out JK Rowling’s first name (it’s Joanne by the way) and once I knew it, it had no bearing what-so-ever on what I thought of her work, before or after I knew she was a woman. I still think the first book is rubbish, all be it a necessary starting point with a good story, but shabby writing (perhaps a little unfair, it was for kids after all and her first book none the less) and I still think that the last three are excellent and helped to cement her place, not only as a great children’s author but as a great literary author full stop. For all I care she could have been a bright green alien with twenty tentacles from the planet Zog, it would still not affect how I felt about the writing.

The new research shows that women prefer overall to read books written by other women, with the exception of course of some of the more popular and famous male authors. Now I’m sure this could be considered the case with romance novels such as the Mills and Boon series, but as for general literature, I’m not convinced. Apparently, it is so much the case that publishers are having to use their male author’s initials rather than their full names to keep sales up. Seems like the shoe is on the other foot now boys.

Don’t judge a book by the cover? We all do. My advice, however, would be this:

Don’t judge a book by the author’s name!

As I was doing my research for this blog post, making sure my information was accurate and I wasn’t misquoting someone or some piece of information, it became apparent how, although we will feel sympathy and as a woman empathy for these male authors struggling to find their way in this apparent ‘women over-run’ world publishing, it really is hard to take it that seriously. Upon googling ‘sexism in the publishing industry’ it was apparent that still, one in six (approx.) articles are about discrimination against female authors.

I also came across an entire organisation set up to help women in the publishing industry:

http://www.vidaweb.org

That being said, a lot of the men who are apparently experiencing issues in the area of sales, say that they are doing so because their work is not taken seriously if their protagonist is female but their book is published under a male name. Would that this was the case back in the days of Jane Austin and Charlotte Bronte when strong female characters would have been ignored if written by a woman. Now although I still feel that this is not giving enough credit to the reader, I can see how this makes more sense than merely the fact that the author being male begin a complete turn-off.

A prime example of this is the Mills and Boon author section of their website. Of the 114 authors in the A section of their site (this is a company for whom the term ‘pulp fiction’ was penned), I found 5 authors with a male only names. Now there are also a further 12 who have ambiguous or initials only, so perhaps these are also male authors. That still leaves 97 with female names, and really who knows if these are male or female truly. So in genre’s such as this, the theory is alive and well. Women prefer female authors. Or perhaps, more women want to write Mills and Boon style books. Who’s to say?

I conclude this post with a  final thought on the matter… If the market is so biased and we, the reader, are given so little credit as to look past the gender of the author, then perhaps the answer is to use the initials of all authors rather than gender specific names eg.

S King, C Cowell, J Patterson, P Cornwell, M Connolly, J Picoult, R Dahl, D Walliams, J Archer, T Gerritsen, S Lewis, S O’Flanagan etc.

Take away all gender discrimination entirely.