Archive for the ‘Writers – Dead’ category

Reading Is An Investment In Thinking

December 31, 2008

The Long Decline of Reading

It takes hours to finish a book, even for the fastest readers. This wasn’t a problem when books had less competition, but with the three massive timesinks of cable TV, videogames, and the internet, people look at that massive time investment, and they get apprehensive. Sure, they know that books can be just as enjoyable as movies or games, if not more. They may even feel guilty about not reading. But what if this book is no good? What if I end up hating it? What if I can’t understand it? Imagine all the time wasted! And so they stop before they even start.

A long, detailed, and excellent article.

Strangely, public libraries aren’t mentioned at all.

Free Classic eBooks At Planet eBook

December 24, 2008

These are all PDF files but they are very well done. Some real work went into these.

Planet eBook website


And for today, I point out: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

God Bless Writer Derek Raymond

December 22, 2008

Death at One’s Elbow: Derek Raymond’s Factory Novels

Their stories are baroque, bizarre, even repellent. The characters inhabit the outer limits of the fringe of those who can be thought of as society’s victims, and yet the extremity of their tales marks them as doomed messiahs, their suffering meant to stand for, if not absolve, the suffering of all victims. And while the books end with the cases solved, the evildoers either dead or destroyed, there is no sense of triumph, no illusion that justice has been restored.

Apple is not worthy of having Derek Raymond grace its App Store in eBook form:

Writing about I Was Dora Suarez presents the temptation to play at the critical form of hard-boiled braggadocio, saying in effect to the reader, “I was tough enough to take it. Are you?”

I’m not sure I am.

Reading the book made me nauseous. Rereading it for this piece, I found it necessary to restrict my time with it to daylight hours. Reading it after dark gave me nightmares. Nor do I want to play at listing the specifics of the book, thereby feeding the kind of interest that will send people to it for a kick, the way they go see the latest piece of horror-movie torture porn. I don’t know if I Was Dora Suarez can be called literature at all. If it’s possible for a book to be utterly repugnant and deeply compassionate at the same time, then I Was Dora Suarez is.

Emphasis added by me.


I Was Dora Suarez is one of the grimmest, unrelentingly bleak books you will ever read — and possibly that has ever been written.

And where the writer of the article isn’t sure, I am: It is Art.

But if it were all to do over again, I would do it all over again; I know my hands are clean.

I felt like going outside for a minute, so walked down to the bottom of Palmyra Square, where long ago I had been sent down to see into the deaths of a young couple who had lived in the top flat at number eight. There had been no point in my going, really, because they were both dead, and there was nothing I could find out or add to what the Brighton police already knew, that they had been credit-card ripping and it was catching up with them –had caught up. They had a great lunch at Wheelers, where they had invited people over to their table for brandies, after which they walked hand in hand down the pebble beach where I had just been standing and then on out to sea. The sea did for them what they had asked it to do and then afterwards brought them back to the beach in its own time, wet as fish and green with weed, their faces greyish white and their arms still half trailing round each other, and I don’t know why, but when I saw them like that in Brighton morgue, I was convulsed with what I felt in myself to be a rightful fury.

I looked out to sea again. It was the end of February, the twenty-sixth, and all at once the short afternoon had had enough; it scattered its way off towards the night chased by short, dirty clouds. I remember I got home to my wife Edie in the end at about two in the morning and she said: ‘You look dreadful, what was it?’

‘A double suicide at Brighton, boy and girl. Banks, credit cards. They asked the Factory to send someone down.’

‘Why get in a state?’ said Edie. ‘It happens all the time, you’ve only to open a paper.’

‘I know it does,’ I said, ‘and I always want to know why.’

‘Well, that’s what they pay you for, to find out, if you call that pay, what you draw.’

‘That’s what I’ve just been doing,’ I said, ‘and it isn’t that, it’s a question of two deaths down to a square of fucking plastic.’

‘The pubic has to be protected,’ she said.

I said: ‘They were the public, you stupid woman.’

‘They tried to get their hands into the till and it didn’t work,’ said Edie severely. That was always one of the troubles with my wife Edie. For her and for her father the low-grade police was beneath her socially; she wasn’t the daughter of a big wheel in the fruiterer’s trade for nothing, apples by the ton up from Kent. ‘Scratch my back for me, will you?’ I remember she said then. ‘I’ve got an itch between my shoulder blades where I can’t reach it.’

We went to bed and I said: ‘I’ve seen them.’

‘Seen what? Look, just settle, will you? Why won’t you settle?’

‘Seen their bodies,’ I said.


‘The sea had turned them surprisingly fucking little,’ I said.

‘Oh?’ she said. She added: ‘I do wish you wouldn’t swear.’

‘You just can’t help it in my job, Edie. Don’t you see, the words sometimes take the place of tears.’

‘I wish you’d just go to sleep,’ she said, ‘it’s nearly four.’

‘I can’t, Edie,’ I said. ‘Oh, why can’t you just be a wife to me for once, just hold me quietly for a while and don’t say anything more just now.’

But she said: ‘I think you really ought to know it, and Dad agrees with me, you’re a dreadful load on me at times — all this perturbed thinking of yours and you nothing but a detective sergeant who’ll never go up in rank because you insist it isn’t rank that matters.’ She sat bolt upright in the bed, pointed to her stomach and screamed: ‘Well, all right, then, if that’s the way you want it, look at the load I’m carrying thanks to you, Mr Police Officer with the Lofty Ideas — I think you’re altogether too sensitive for the police sometimes, I really do, and now there’s the child due in May with all the expenses it’ll bring, and a fat lot you care! She’s due on the twentieth, the doc says, and I tell you I am near the point when I don’t want to know.’

But presently she lay down again and her voice faded; I was glad of that. That night I realised that I had married Edie for her fatal, extraordinary body, not her opinions. I understood that no body could ever be enough if it held opinions in dead opposition to my own. I already knew that I wanted the coming child, who was, for nine short years, to be my daughter Dahlia, far more than Edie did; I loved Dahlia even before she was born, which may have been why Edie always hated her, who knows, and my love for the child meant that I would always find a means of tolerating Edie on account of Dahlia; I would find some means of growing deaf. All I had wanted that night was to hold Edie against me in my vulnerable hour after that day in Brighton. It was her primitive security that I needed; just a fraction of what Edie’s body was giving to the child she bore. That was all I needed to recover and so, through being reassured, feel enabled to get into perspective that greenish couple still in their trailing decomposed embrace, their swollen, expressionless faces nibbled by fish — what I needed from Edie then was her kisses, her comfort, just for a few minutes, and so prove to me that love can banish the frozen, lazy rottenness of eyes that have been eight days underwater.

We all have our weak moments.

— I Was Dora Suarez by Derek Raymond; pgs. 34-36

But those eejits at the Apple App Store would deny you this.

I’d like the bluenoses at the Apple App Store to read I Was Dora Suarez. Maybe it would encourage them to suicide and thus improve the human species. At any rate, it’d get rid of them.

Hey, Apple App Store eejits, this applies to you lot:

[. . . ] Disinformation is invariably one of the most powerful weapons available to any regime whose members know perfectly well that they should never have been allowed to occupy the positions they do.

— The Hidden Files by Derek Raymond; pg. 143

Emphasis added by me.

In other words, Apple, get some real fucking book editors in there to do eBooks.


Derek Raymond tribute site

Previously here:

Writer Derek Raymond Tribute
Writer Derek Raymond

At the old blog:

Derek Raymond: He Makes All Others Look Like Shit

eBook Author Gaps Closing!

December 22, 2008

When I began The eBook Test blog back in July, one of the writers I searched for was Frank Herbert.

The result was pathetic.

Tonight, via a tweet I saw, I was prompted to go look at The Sony eBook Store for Frank Herbert.

I got this very, very exciting and pleasing result:

Click = big

Prices ranged from You’re Kidding Me! to reasonable (e.g., mass-market paperback).

All of you lucky, lucky people getting a Sony Reader for Christmas are going to have a larger selection of books than was previously available!

Hmmm … maybe after this blog dies on December 31, I should take another pass at The eBook Test blog to update listings.

Lost Movie: Quest For Love

December 17, 2008

I was in YouTube, digging around for something totally unrelated, when I got it into my head to put “Quest for Love” into the Search box.

I had to pick my jaw off the floor and superglue in back in place when the first ten minutes of this lost movie came up as a result!

Watch this.

It was never widely sold on VHS. It’s never been put on DVD (where are you, Criterion?!). It’s very hard to get now as a used VHS tape.

This movie was based on a story called Random Quest by John Wyndham. The original short story is a tale told in conversational flashback fashion and really lacks the charm and faster pace of the movie adaptation (which is by Terrence Feely!).

The script moves along at a very fast pace in the beginning, as you’ll see. The bulk of the film is a wonderful little character study of alternate existence, missed chances, redemption, and lost opportunities. It’s the direct precursor, in film form, of Somewhere in Time.

I’m lucky to have a used VHS of it from eBay many years back (which I still haven’t watched — my Backlog Pile is big!!).

It’s absolutely criminal that so few people know of this movie and that it’s not easily available in pristine condition on DVD.

Enjoy. But I warn you, you’ll want to see the rest of it after this.


At the old blog:

Movies You Must See And I Guarantee You Haven’t!

W. Wyeth Willard

December 13, 2008

Sometimes … the Internet manages to knock the wind out of me.

W. Wyeth Willard, Chaplain 8th Marines


Willard was credited with serving more consecutive days under constant enemy fire than any chaplain in the history of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

Willard landed with the Marines during the World War II battle at Guadalcanal, and of the eight chaplains who served the Marines there, he was the only survivor. In 1944, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Navy’s highest honor, for his service with the 2nd Marine division during the 1943 battle at Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands.

After seeking special permission to go ashore with his men, Willard, despite heavy enemy fire, evacuated the wounded and gave spiritual comfort to the dying. He paced the beach in full view, chanting “I’m Chaplain Willard and you can’t shoot me!” reported Leatherneck, the magazine of the U.S. Marines, in November 1980.

Emphasis added by me.

I never knew this about him.

For several consecutive years when I was kid, I attended a summer camp he founded.

None of us kids saw him as special or courageous or brave.

He was generally a distant fellow, who now and then would address all of us kids.

One of his specialties was doing an imitation of a rooster welcoming dawn. That sounds like a minor thing. But let me tell you, when he did it, it was God’s Own Rooster thundering from Heaven! He was prohibited from doing it by his doctor, that’s how powerful it was. But one summer, one of the counselors had an eye injury and Willard said he’d do the rooster if we all chipped in to help pay for the surgery. He was putting his life on the line for that.

I didn’t know until moments ago that putting his life on the line was something he’d done many times before. And at Guadalcanal, one of the bloodbaths of the Second World War. He not only survived it, he walked it defiantly!

One time, on a trip, we went to some sort of museum and part of the presentation was an old silent movie with, I think, Charlie Chase, in a DIY auto that he powered with a giant magnet, towing himself behind car after car. Willard laughed at that movie with a gusto that bordered on shameful for a grown man! Tears were coming from his eyes! I thought it was funny — but his reaction was … we’d call it Over the Top today. But it was genuine.

It was a Christian camp, devoted to instilling Biblical values in children. Today, that sounds like a horrible thing. That’s how degraded the term “Christian” has become over the decades, due to cartoon “Christians” strutting TV stages, sticking their noses into politics, and overall acting very unlike Jesus.

Whenever I think “Christian,” I see the true Christians I witnessed at that camp. All saints? No, of course not. Regular flawed human beings who did their best without being inconsiderate of others, who didn’t strut around in expensive suits, who didn’t make embarrassing displays of themselves. And some, of course, were there just for a paycheck for the summer, but they never claimed to be holier than anybody — and who knows?, maybe the environment influenced them and they became better people.

We kids never knew what the first “W.” stood for. I still don’t. And, of course, give a kid a strange name and we’ll mangle it into shape for easy ridicule. So “Wyeth” (pronounced WHY-eth) became “Weeth” to us. “Weeth Willard” was what we called him. Behind his back, of course.

To go through the hell of war like that — and then to come home to want to work with noisy, trouble-making kids? It’s inconceivable to me. But I saw him lead us in prayer. I heard his words to God.

His was a true faith. And he was a true man.

God bless and rest his soul. May he have his reward.

Novels In Three Lines

December 11, 2008


I really love getting this every day.


The Worst Four-Letter Word

December 11, 2008



I am weak.

I Am An eBook Militant

December 10, 2008


Over at the new independent publishing blog, Publishing Renaissance, masterminded by writer Zoe Winters, I was reading writer Cliff Burns‘ post: The Ever-evolving World of Indie and came across a passage that got my back up:

The indie world still attracts the eccentrics, iconoclasts in search of a soapbox, real or virtual…but more and more talented, motivated individuals are using those aforementioned new technologies to create a forum for work that has been rejected by the “trads” for a variety of reasons. For some, it turns out to be a canny move: David Wellington and Scott Sigler secured book deals and Terry Fallis won a Leacock Award for a novel he published through iUniverse.

Emphasis added by me.

I’m not interested in any “book deals.”

I’ve been there. I’ve done that.

I’ve been in the stomach of that monster and will never be eaten by it again.

I posted a Comment, that referred to another portion of his essay, but it summed up my overarching sentiment concisely:

I’m telling you right now, Cliff: I will NEVER permit a treeware edition of my work. NOT EVER. There’s my line in the sand, baby.

Those who refuse to cross that line can go suck on Penguin Classics. They won’t have me on filthy paper.

For those late to this party, let me again sum up my own objections to printed books:

1) They have weight

2) They have bulk

3) If you move house move than twice in a lifetime (and I have) you resent those two physical attributes

4) You can lose them all in a disaster (fire, flood, F-18 fighter falling from the sky)

5) Being printed is zero guarantee of readers or sales

6) They’re easy to suppress

7) They’re objects of a decrepit and suicidal industry that’s slowly murdering writers

Aren’t those seven points enough?

Here’s one more: No publishing company will ever care about your work as much as you do.

I want you to think about that last bit for a moment.

Every publisher does multiple titles each year. The publishing industry is a giant machine spewing out thousands and thousands of books. Everything is put on a schedule, just like any industry, just like any assembly line. This is the reality of things.

You might have a hot book that is catching an advancing wave — but go to one of the dying dinosaurs of print and you can wait up to twelve to twenty-four months for them to deliver your baby. Timeliness is not part of their apparatus until sheer naked — and too often, idiotic — greed kicks in. And, trust me on this, unless your face has been all over TV (for good or bad, they don’t judge the color of possible incoming money), you’re just one more pain in the ass writer who thinks he has something important, who thinks he is somehow special.

You damn well might have something important and really be special — but don’t expect them to recognize that.

Remember those thousands and thousands of books they shove out every year? They can afford to fuck up yours. Think of them as great big dicks spewing out sperm. How many sperm does it take to make a baby? They can afford to have your important and special sperm drop dead on its journey to the egg of bookstore shelves. There’s more where that came from! Every day someone knocks on their door with a book proposal.

They don’t need you.

And things are reaching the point where you don’t need them, either.

I am an eBook militant because we are reaching a point in history that could have only been dreamt about in the financially-restrained lives of Poe, Balzac, Baudelaire, Dickens, and every fellow writer who came before us and who had to rely on the whim of print publishers — and who suffered greatly because of it.

I’ve just named four immortal writers. Quick: name their publishers!

That you can’t name them should help you to understand that people read writers — they don’t read publishers (although in my own life I have found one extremely rare exception).

We now live in a world where it is possible to create a blog that has a larger readership than most published printed books. That makes it possible for any writer to create his own destiny unlike any other time in history. The tools to capture and build an audience are free. The tools to spread the word are free. A writer will put more passion and devote more time to promoting his work than any print publisher ever would (even today, they still don’t understand how to use the Internet).

Why settle for the kind of marketing treatment a print publisher would deign to give you? It wouldn’t be second-rate work. It’d be third- or even fourth-rate. Your little squiggly book would never make it to the egg and create sales. It’ll be douched out to the backlist before the end of one year. A backlist that print publishers just sit on — never, ever releasing as last-ditch eBook editions — and then have the temerity to gripe how nothing in the backlist ever sells.


(Notice that this lack of sales didn’t deter Google from stealing most of the backlist!)

Given the historical record of print publishing — and given its current gross incompetency when faced with the Internet and eBooks — I don’t understand why anyone would want to be involved with that dying system. Going to them and expecting legitimacy or sales is delusional. All a writer is basically doing is giving up contractual rights that will never be used and sabotaging a career at its start.

I believe in the primacy of writers. I believe writing sells, not publishing brand labels.

I am an eBook militant.

You should be too.


eBooks: Penguin Does 2.0

December 8, 2008

Penguin Launches Penguin 2.0, iPhone App; Stanza Deal with Random House

The bigger news comes from Penguin Group USA, which today announced a new program it is calling Penguin 2.0, Called by CEO David Shanks, “the next evolution of the Penguin brand,” the Penguin 2.0 initiative at this point includes two programs, both centered around a new section of the Penguin Web site:, which will feature a new blog and access to exclusive Penguin content, including enhanced e-books, videos and special print products.

So I went there:


Of interest to me was choice 3, Enriched eBooks.

And of the eight(!) titles, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle caught my eye:


At US$9.95, what does it offer?

Penguin Enriched eBook Classics Features:

* How to Navigate Guide
* Upton Sinclair Chronology
* Filmography and 1914 The Jungle Film Poster
* Early Twentieth-Century Reviews of The Jungle
* Upton Sinclair’s Letter to the Editor of The New York Times
* Suggested Further Reading
* The Jungle and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906
* The Jungle Book Cover Designs
* Federal Food and Drugs Act of 1906
* Immigrants and the Meatpacking Industry, Then and Now
* Images of the Chicago Stockyards
* Images of Cuts of Beef and Pork
* Enriched eBook Notes

Ummmm … “Images of Cuts of Beef and Pork”???? What?

As for “Upton Sinclair’s Letter to the Editor of The New York Times.” it’s right here, for free, in this PDF link.

What about the book itself?

It’s been scanned by Google and the OCRed text is at the Internet Archive and in HTML at Project Gutenberg.

But would I want either of those?

I’ve pointed out the silliness of at least two of the “extras,” but I will admit that I would pay for a professionally-formatted eBook of The Jungle.

Would I pay Penguin’s ten bucks?

I don’t know.

On the one hand, that would encourage them to add material I don’t want or need to boost the sales price. That would also enable them to claim a floor on eBook pricing and then slap higher prices on newly-published eBooks, saying those prices are no worse than paying $10.00 for something “free.”


On the other hand, I do want professionally-formatted eBooks. And since The Jungle is in the public domain — and I’ve already read it and have no pressing need for it as an eBook right now — I could wait to see if someone else comes along with a less-expensive eBook edition.

Given that the extras aren’t so compelling to me, I’d be inclined to pass up Penguin’s edition and wait.

Here’s a hint, Penguin: Lower prices!


The eBook Tax: Some Publishers Want Hardcover Prices to Be Ebook Pricing Standard

Previously here:

Penguin Books Does iPhone App