Thursday, March 06, 2008

Book Reviews, Falling Literacy, and Odds and Ends

I'll do the Odds and Ends first:

1. My editor shared the news yesterday that Kirkus has given Tell No Lies a starred review. The news made my day. (I'll post the link when it's up).

2. I'm drinking my coffee this morning from one of my favorite mugs (second only to my Pac Man one from college), the one with the quote from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: "Well-behaved women seldom make history." Apparently this quote has been taken (and exploited) out of context, see Slate article about Ulrich and her book of the same name, but I still love it. I've never been one for behaving too well, at least not in the way others always want/expect you to. It's made life difficult at times, but interesting.

3. From the annals of "Stating the Obvious": I turned on my radio in the shower this morning and caught the very tail end of a DJ giving a news report, and she was quoting someone as saying "We wouldn't have so much violence if people behaved better." Now there's some amazing, thoughtful insight about solving society's problems! Someone please tell me the person making this statement wasn't someone high up in our government . . .

4. Re: listening to the radio in the shower. Somewhere along the way, I must have told my publisher that the initial seed for the idea for Tell No Lies came to me in the shower (which is true), though I didn't mention the radio part. This factual tidbit has been passed along to interviewers, I guess, because I've had a few ask me about it during interviews. I realize now that it would have made more sense to them if they knew I had a radio in the shower . . . (I'd heard a news story that sparked a trail of ideas and, combined with another story I'd read in the newspaper, led to the idea for the novel).

And, with the mention of newspapers, I'll move on to the main point of this post:

I attended Sleuthfest this past weekend in south Florida and had a wonderful time. I hadn't really been too familiar with the mystery genre (and all its sub-genres), but since my novel seems to have been tagged as a legal thriller, I figured I should become a bit more educated on that front. What I found was a great group of people who were very wiling to welcome a new kid on the block and share their expertise.

I attended a talk given by Oline Cogdill, a reviewer for the Sun-Sentinel (if you like books, check out her and Chauncey Mabe's blog), and Cheryl Solomini, a reviewer for Mystery Scene Magazine, and one of the topics that arose was how difficult it is to get review space for books in newspapers. Oline talked about how her pages have been cut drastically in recent years, and of course we're all aware of how some of the biggies -- LA Times Book Review, for example -- are doing away with their stand-alone book review sections.

But Oline made a point that I thought should be repeated in every newspaper editorial board meeting across the country: In this era of falling subscriptions and newspaper sales, why are newspapers cutting out one of the key methods of promoting literacy? If you want to sell more papers, wouldn't it behoove you to cater to the people who like to read? Why, if they want to generate sales, are they catering to the demographic that doesn't even read or subscribe to the paper?

I know, I know, there's probably a valid business reason that the accountants and analysts have come up with to prove the book reviews don't generate ad dollars, but come on. Newspapers are for readers. Books are for readers. Seems it's the same audience. And if you want to increase that audience, don't you have to encourage the activity? Shouldn't you be the first one in line to promote literacy?