Today’s book review of a crime novel is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.
Publish or Die by Alan Durant
Synopsis: After her first week working at Prairie Books, Calico thinks she should be getting paid danger money. Exploding packages, menacing letters, arson. But it’s the black-enveloped letters from Nemesis that really scare her. What if “Publish or Die” is a real threat?
About the author, Alan Durant: My first books were about teenage life and came from my own experiences and concerns – I was fourteen when I discovered the immense and liberating power of writing and it was my main stay during my largely unhappy teenage years. I wasn’t that interested in writing at primary school – I wanted to be a footballer – but I always loved reading. I was a big fan of The Narnia books by C S Lewis, Michael Hardcastle’s football stories and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series My favourite books of all were a Mannchester United Football Year Book from 1969 signed “To Alan from George Best” (my all-time hero) and Meriol Trevor’s The King of the Castle that I came across quite by chance looking along a library shelf one day. These books are still my most treasured possessions and were the biggest inspiration to me to become a writer.
I’ve written nearly eighty books now and most of them started as stories I made up to entertain my three children and their friends. I’ve won a number of prizes, most recently The Royal Mail Award for Scottish Children’s Books for the picture book Billy Monster’s Daymare. I write lots of different styles of books and for a wide age-range – from teenage thrillers to picture books. I also write poetry for children and adults. I’ve written spooky books, science-fiction, school stories, funny stories, horror (but not much because it scares me!), thrillers, football… Writing different styles of story about all sorts of different subjects keeps me on my toes and helps to entertain me. That’s the first rule of being a writer: you have to entertain yourself – otherwise how can you hope to entertain anyone else?
My work was featured in the BBC series English Express, which won a Children’s Bafta Award. I also appeared in two programmes in the award-winning Let’s Write A Story series. I am a National Reading Campaign Reading Champion and a frequent visitor to schools, libraries and festivals around the UK and abroad where I give talks and readings and run writing workshops. I am a member of NAWE and The Society of Authors. I used to do all my writing in a garden shed, but I moved to Brighton in January 2010 and had to leave my shed behind. Maybe I’ll find a beach hut to scribble in…
As most of you will know, I love everything to do with writing so having spent £87 recently on a stack of audiobooks, this was the first one I chose to listen to. It was a great choice.
We start with the mention of Calico’s upbringing (by parents who hadn’t planned or really wanted her) by Aunt Rommie who features on and off during the book. The characters are well portrayed including joyous Joy the receptionist, grumpy Fred who runs the post room, Calico’s boss, Elizabeth McIntyre and a selection of their authors, successful and otherwise. The conflict is given to us at the start; the receipt of a threatening manuscript sent in by ‘Nemesis’ entitled (as this novel is), ‘Publish or Die’ which is to for Elizabeth’s eyes only, or face the consequences. It is subsequently rejected upscaling the threats and one by one, those connected with Elizabeth are targeted and finally Elizabeth herself. It’s a lesson for us all in how not to submit our manuscript and how to handle rejection better than those featured here.
Although I really enjoyed this novel, it loses a point for the choice of protagonist’s name (although I warmed to it by the end of the book) and the proliferation of adverbs and clichés but then the book was published in 1998 so written / edited now would probably be ‘tighter’. Full of twists and pace, and while some listeners / readers would have guessed the identity of the antagonist (I hadn’t but it came as no surprise), it was a great read (listen) and fab final line. Audiobooks can be enhanced or spoiled by the narrator (Lindsay Crouse did the latter with me for Patricia Cornwall’s Postmortem). I’d not listened to anything by Eve Karpf before but certainly will again.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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