Tuesday, August 25, 2009

From Dresden to Glasgow

The second half of last week was spent in Saxony, and in particular in the impressive city of Dresden with its recently rebuit Frauenkirche (see above). My eagerness for investigative endeavour was rather blunted by the temperatures, which peaked at 37C on Thursday. Friday brought huge thunderstorms and blinding downpours (quite alarming on the autobahn), and then everything became quiet and balmy again.

I returned to the UK to find a small fist of positive reviews for The Einstein Girl. John O’Connell in The Guardian said some very nice things both about the book and the way it was written; and there was a short but useful piece in The Herald (Glasgow). In the cyber world there were long and very flattering pieces on the EuroCrime and Fantast Book Critic web sites. The interesting thing there, is that these sites both cater for readers with a taste for different types of genre fiction (crime on the one hand and science fiction on the other). It would be good to discover that Einstein has genuine cross-genre appeal , reaching beyond readers of literary and/or historical fiction – which seemed to be the obvious markets for the book when it was being designed and printed. Time will tell if it has. It is still very early days.

The guardian review can be found here:


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A bookless place (almost)

I had another meeting with a film company yesterday in which various preliminary plans were hatched and options discussed - mostly in connection with my last book, Zoia's Gold and a long short story I wrote a couple of years ago, called The Temporary Witness. They are very nice people with a lot of impressive credits to their name, but their lives are not being made easier by the banks, which now demand their creditor's private homes as collateral as well as up to 18% interest on working capital. All this while the banks themselves pay depositors and the Bank of England (a.k.a. the taxpayer) anywhere between nothing and 3% (at best). No wonder banking is suddenly hugely profitable again. But all those profits are coming straight out of the pockets of the enterprises, large and small, upon which the wider economic recovery depends - making that recovery weaker and slower. No wonder people are angry.
After the meeting I headed over to Oxford Street, with a view to signing some stock in a few book shops. Not so long ago, there were a number of major outlets there: a huge Borders, a very large Waterstones and even (this is going back a few years) a sizeable Dillons. But they have all gone now, driven away, no doubt, by vast rents and a lack of custom. What remains, at the western end, is one small Waterstones - which used to be a Books Etc. There at last I found three copies of The Einstein Girl tucked away on the shelves.
"The problem is: no one reads any more," someone said to me at the week-end. A walk down Oxford Street these days (you can't stroll, for fear of being trampled) is enough to have you believing that's true.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Times they are reviewing

Another short but sweet review appeared yesterday in The Times. It seems now that The Einstein Girl is now officially a thriller, which was not really my intention when I wrote it. But still, if that's how some people see it, then that's fine by me. Labels, shlaybells, I say (that's 'sleigh bells' after too many vodkas).
Anyway, the reviewer is Kate Saunders, and here's what she says:

"A young girl is found, naked and close to death, in the woods outside Berlin. When she wakes up she remembers nothing. But she had a piece of paper advertising a lecture by the great Albert Einstein, and that is the first clue in this stylish thriller. This is Germany in the months before Hitler’s seizure of power. Martin Kirsch is a psychiatrist who is already seeing signs of the way the Third Reich intends to treat its mentally ill, and the unknown "Einstein girl” will turn out to be his last case. I’m giving nothing away; the novel opens with the fact of his disappearance. Strands of history and imagination are beautifully woven together."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Video trailer redux

After ten days of torture at the hands of the world's video editing software designers, I have finally managed to get the edited version of the book trailer for The Einstein Girl up on YouTube.

By ducking and diving through numerous Codecs and compressors, I have succeeded in getting rid of the interlacing lines (don't ask me to explain - just trust me, they are ugly), the pixillation on the archive footage, even the peculiar blips on the sound track. But I have not managed to counter the effects of the YouTube compression, which does horrible things to some of my lovingly taken shots.
For the record, if anyone is thinking of attempting something like this, I would advise them to use Apple/Mac type software and systems wherever possible. They work more smoothly, are more tolerant of file types and generally throw up fewer problems. And for editing, Final Cut is probably to be preferred to Adobe Premiere, at least in my (limited) experience.
In any case please do check out the new version. In a couple of weeks or so, it will have a new, original music track, written by a phenomenally talented Australian composer. So this version will soon be but a memory. I would say 'Catch it while you can!', but I don't want to sound pushy...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Criminal conviction

I've known for some time that the Literary Review was going to run a review of The Einstein Girl, but last week, a little sooner than I'd expected, it turned up. Somewhat to my surprise, I found it in the 'Crime' section. It's written by the crime novelist Jessica Mann.

‘A serious, well-informed and interesting thriller about the private life and family of an undoubted genius. Excellent period setting in Berlin in 1932 and numerous psychological insights – highly recommended’.

Not the longest review I've ever had, but a very nice one and, of course, eminently quotable - which is really the value of reviews at this stage - at least, as far as writers and publishers are concerned.

Fiction is reviewed less than ever in the national press these days; so it remains to be seen what else is in the pipeline. People, it seems, increasingly get their book recommendations from Amazon and other on-line sources. That's a pity, because genuine literary criticism is something of an art form in its own right - one which (like some others) is slowly dying out.