Posts Tagged ‘Random interesting stuff from the internet’

Gary Bell QC – author of Animal QC – is speaking live in Nottingham next Thursday (November 12). If you live anywhere near it will be well-worth attending – Gary’s an exceptionally funny and interesting speaker. All profits from the event will go to ‘Help a Nottinghamshire Child’ which aims to keep Nottinghamshire youngsters away from crime – ironic, given his own brushes with the law in his youth.

After highly successful appearances at the Ilkley and Wigtown book festivals, Gary will also be appearing at various other festivals next year. He’s also talking in Clitheroe and Cheltenham in the New Year – more details as and when.

In other news, good point – what is so bad about trying to make money out of ‘middlebrow’ books (which is very much not easy anyway)?

I mean, come on – we all know that ninety per cent of the books which win the Booker Prize and probably half of those which get reviewed in The Guardian or the London Review of Books are read by virtually no-one in the actual world, and are much more about intellect-signalling by the editors, reviewers and purchasers who just want to put them on their shelves. This is certainly what I do – here’s a random shot of one of our bookcases:

intellect-signalling bookshelves

This counts as intellect-signalling by my standards

I know I’ve read the PJ O’Rourke and Belloc, but of the others… if I’ve read half of these I don’t remember it (which is possible, I suppose) (and many of them are pretty middlebrow anyway). If literary types are coming round, I just bone up on a few wiki synopses so that I can talk knowledgeably, or skilfully divert the subject to what was on telly yesterday or the weather if I haven’t had time.

(On that latter point, I’ve often thought it would be a good idea to produce jackets for Gogol or Proust which could be slipped over one’s Lee Child or Dean Koontz for train-reading purposes. It would only work with people opposite, of course.)

Where was I? Books bound with human skin (don’t be eating your lunch while reading this).

Amazon is opening its first actual book shop, in Seattle. (The story was originally broke by Shelf Awareness.) It will stock 6,000-ish titles (which isn’t very many for the size of the place), all face-out, and will order them in based on some sort of algorithm which uses local peoples’ preferences. Prices will be in line with online, apparently.

Some people seriously want to nationalise Twitter. It lost $132 million in the last quarter and is struggling, apparently.

Five books about Guy Fawkes.



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…to one person who visits and ‘likes’ our Facebook page and leaves a comment explaining that they’re doing so out of purely mercenary motives, viz that they’d like a copy of the book.

Animal QC full jacket

Winner selected at random tomorrow (Friday). Free sample here: ANIMAL QC – FREE CHAPTER.

In other news:

Stuff found in old books.

28 literary accessories all book-loves must have (must?).

The 15 best book blogs of 2015 (somehow they missed ours).

Why libraries are not over.

Theodore Dalrymple on a 2009 economics book he picked up on the cheap (it was Alistair Milne’s The Fall of the House of Credit):

Of course, doctors make mistakes; the most eminent oncologists, for example, sometimes are erroneous in the prognosis. But the admission of personal error in the book contains a pretty damning indictment of the economics profession as a whole: like most others, he says. They were mistaken, and not just in matter of detail. They were like airline pilots who set out for New York and landed at Tashkent.

He remains one of the best living writers of English, whether or not you agree with his views.
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Little Girl In The Radiator-AI cover v2For bookshops awaiting delivery, we’re just reprinting The Little Girl in the Radiator. There’s some exciting news about this title in the pipeline, but we’re currently sworn to secrecy.

The previous print run sold out just as the government announced its surprising new plan to pay GPs £55 for every person they diagnose with dementia.

I’m not sure what Dr Tony Copperfield would have to say about that, but I can hazard a pretty good guess… probably along the lines that he’s already diagnosing people with dementia if they have it, and that it might be better to give this money to scientists and researchers who are currently trying to find a cure?

At The Going Down Of The Sun is at the printers and will be available very soon indeed. We will be donating a percentage of profits to a suitable charity or charities. More details on this book over the next few days.


The world’s fastest manned flight: Today’s flight profile has one objective: speed. It is an attempt to set a maximum manned-flight speed record. The X-15 will be a piloted projectile blasting through a violent acceleration from 500 MPH to nearly 5,000 MPH in only 75 seconds. Six times the speed of sound. On the downside of this flight profile the X-15A-2 will decelerate so violently that a rearward-facing crash pad is installed in the canopy, in front of the pilot, so Pete Knight’s helmet can slam into something soft as the friction of the atmosphere slows the plane after its explosive fuel burns out.

The world’s loudest recorded sound: Think, for a moment, just how crazy this is. If you’re in Boston and someone tells you that they heard a sound coming from New York City, you’re probably going to give them a funny look. But Boston is a mere 200 miles from New York. What we’re talking about here is like being in Boston and clearly hearing a noise coming from Dublin, Ireland. Travelling at the speed of sound (766 miles or 1,233 kilometers per hour), it takes a noise about 4 hours to cover that distance.

The world’s best lightbulb: Still burning after 112 years.

The world’s most hardcore sniper: Hathcock only removed the white feather from his hat once during his entire tour, and it was to carry out the most dangerous assignment of his military career. When asked if he would be willing to volunteer for a solo mission targeting a high-ranking NVA general, he accepted before hearing any of the details. Those details, as it would turn out, involved crawling more than 1,500 yards inch-by-inch through heavily guarded enemy jungle, painstakingly timing his incremental movements with wind rustling the grass around his hidden position.

It took Hathcock four days and three nights without sleep or food to reach a suitable shooting position. As it neared sunset, he lay completely motionless and camouflaged as a patrolling foot soldier nearly stepped on top of him as he passed by. At one point a venomous Bamboo Viper slid inches from his face, and he had to struggle to retain the presence of mind not to move and reveal his position. When the target finally exited his tent that night, Hathcock took aim, held his breath, and squeezed the trigger.

The world’s best sausage news: Belarus’s sausages are guaranteed free of loo paper (says the President).

And still no news on how Edgar Allan Poe died.




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The average author earns less than £600 per year, according to The Guardian.

This has long been a topic of interest for writers, perhaps unsurprisingly.

Dorothy Parker (asked which kind of writing pays best): ‘Ransom notes.’

Johnson: ‘No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.’

Mark Twain: ‘Write without pay until someone offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this as a sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.’

Meanwhile, Sylvia Day (whose work I’ve not read – perhaps I should) is being paid at least ten million dollars as an advance for some romance books. I would put a fiver on the publisher not making that back. Mind you, it’s not an overnight success story. ‘Ms. Day, 40, has been a professional novelist for the last decade, writing more than 20 books that were released by a handful of publishers,’ says the NYT.

In other news, Batman’s greatest boner, the 15 most depressing books ever written, and economics professor Don Boudreaux on growth (he’s making an interesting case that we’re all much better off than we were, using an old Sears catalogue and 2014 smartphones vs ‘a telephone, a calculator, an alarm clock, a Walk-Man or boom box, a compass, a set of road maps, and a Rolodex’).

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I had lunch here with Inspector Gadget a week ago, with a couple of TV people. One of them is a very well-known writer. Appropriately, Gadget had Cochon de lait, chou, purée d’oignons et pruneau. I didn’t pay the bill. I can’t say any more about it at this stage than that.

Interestingly, during the lunch it came up that someone called Jed Mercurio, who wrote a BBC show called Line of Duty, had based a lot of it on Gadget and PC Copperfield. This was news to us. World Productions, who made the show, bought the rights to Generation F from us… but not Wasting Police Time or Perverting the Course of Justice. Strange.

Apparently, Victorian people were more intelligent than us. We know this because reaction times – a reliable marker of general intelligence – have declined steadily since the Victorian era from about 183 milliseconds to 250ms in men, and from 187ms to 277ms in women. Obviously, this is all rubbish – but then the median Monday Books score was better than 250 (and worse than 183) so there must be something in it. You can test yourself here.

An amusing review-ish of the new Dan Brown novel, by Steven Poole.

Mark Steyn on Mayor Bloomberg.

And another book due out from us later this year. Pete Ashton was an undercover cop who spent ten years busting major heroin and crack gangs. Along the way, he may have dabbled in drugs himself and certainly changed his views on the rights and wrongs of legalisation. In the wake of the still-rumbling Mark Kennedy scandal, it’s an interesting look at what it’s like to live several lives at once.

Undercover - AI Cover jpeg



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Somewhere out in space, there really is an asteroid with our name on it. The chances are, Monday Books will be long gone before it hits, but you never know. That’s why they’re thinking of firing lasers at it if they spot it in time. In the film Armageddon, some bloke from NASA says he thinks this is pretty pointless: it would be like ‘shooting a b.b. gun at a freight train’. But what would actually happen if you shot b.b. guns at a freight train? Presumably, enough of them could actually stop the thing? Randall Munroe’s brilliant what if? answers this, with proper physics etc.

This is a really, really good site (and no, we’re not publishing their book, we’ve been beaten to it).

In The Guardian, High Street books stores attack Amazon for ‘tax avoidance’.

I have mixed emotions about this: I love bookshops, particularly indies, and I do support them by buying stuff from them. I’d also like to sell more books in at lower discounts (Amazon’s discounts are punishing). But, as a reader, I love getting a £9.99 paperback for a couple of quid, plus postage. I also just love Amazon, generally. Life would be so much more irksome without it. In the last week, I have used it to buy several books, two torches, four packs of playing cards, some lightbulbs, some white t-shirts and marker pens (for a children’s party) and some vacuum cleaner bags – all without leaving my desk. When you add that saving – the cost of my own time – to the obvious, bottom line saving…

Janet Stewart, manager of the Gerrards Cross Bookshop in Buckinghamshire, was quick to sign up to the new promotion. ‘I think people are becoming more aware of the fact that Amazon and other places aren’t paying their taxes, so we decided to get involved,’ she said. ‘We’re trying to promote ourselves: we’re honest, hardworking people who do pay our taxes – support your local bookshop is the message.’

‘We pay tax on everything, rates, rents, staffing as well as corporation tax. Rates on out-of-town and industrial parks are lower than high-street rates,’ Frances Smith of Kenilworth Books told the Bookseller. ‘Perhaps with the decline of the high street, local authorities should look at their ratings structures and reduce the amount small businesses pay and government should seriously look at ways of rejuvenating the high street.

Lower taxes, lower rates – good luck with that!

(No comments: is someone at The Guardian worried that that newspaper’s own tax avoidance schemes might be mentioned? Or are they more concerned than Janet Stewart about libel? Because, as Tim Worstall explains, in The Times [but here reproduced on his own blog], maybe isn’t tax avoidance at all.)

Finally, Theodore Dalrymple on ‘Choice without Consequences’.

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I hope we will remember people like Ronald Brown.

[He] said the accident (an odd way for a journalist to describe a man’s stepping on a landmine during a war) had left him with a ‘bad knee’… and asked his grandchildren not to sit on his knee because of the pain it caused.

Of the 900 original members of his regiment, only 29 came home.

Here’s the shrapnel (photo from the Daily Telegraph via SWNS.com):

I have been known to moan about having a bad back. People like me should be shown that picture and asked to imagine having all those screws, wires and bits of steel buried in your flesh for 65 years.

That is Badass stuff, Mr Brown. RIP.

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