Sunday, 20 March 2011


I have long known that there is a market out there for signed (but not dedicated!) first editions of my novels. Indeed, there are dealers who rush to buy the hardbacks as they come out and for whom I am more than happy to sign and write onto each title page a unique to them special line, such as "Meet Simon Fonthill," or "Charge the Guns."

On those rare occasions when I am suffering from Writer's Block (I am lucky that these really are rare moments - more than compensated, however, by my ever-present bad back and creaky knees), I go on-line and browse through Abebooks, the second hand book site, to see what my first editions are fetching on the market on that day.

At the moment, for instance, I see that PM Books, of St Clair Shores, MI, USA, is offering a signed first edition of my first novel "The Horns of the Buffalo" for £856.87. For an incomplete collection of my works, James N.Beal, of Toronto, Canada, is asking £951.87. This is all as thrilling, of course, as vicarious sex, in that I don't get a penny from these sales.

I am not, however, complaining about the existence of this strange and rather parasitic under-market. It is, after all, grist to the mill and hopefully does extend one's readership. But it has set me thinking about the new wave of electronic books and the lively debate about whether the Kindles will eventually lead to the demise of books as we know them.

I am left with one conclusion. These handy little readers must surely bring about the end of the signed, first edition trade. How can you sign a Kindle?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Just back from a brief holiday in the USA - it's most southern bit, Key West, which sticks out into the Carribean, or Gulf of Mexico, or the Atlantic Ocean, depending on which way you face. I've returned with a jumble of impressions, as I always do when I come home across the Atlantic: the high standard of living (well, I was on holiday....), the warmth and friendliness of most Americans, the banality of the television programmes, the fact that their cars are now just the same size as ours, and so on.

This time, however, the most abiding impression was of size. Everyone seemed so fat! Bottoms overhung bar stools like bags of wheat, middle age paunches seemed to start with college school kids and seven out of ten women seemed to have legs of mutton for upper arms. Hotel beds only came in two sizes: king and queen. It seems you were expected to be fat.

The reason was easy to find. Food served in restaurants comes in gigantic proportions, or so it seemed to these two pick-at-it--and-move-it-around-the-plate Limeys. And, of course, convenience food was the easy option everywhere. Just like...well, just like Britain, really.

Indulgence, however, is a well-engrained American habit. This was brought home to me in the pretentious over-priced hotel we stayed in on Miami Beach (designed by a Brit, I'm afraid). What do you think of this for a room service dish: "Beef with sweet potatoes and cranberries; or wild caught salmon with sweet potatoes and blueberries; or chicken with carrots, peas and apples; to go with beefy brown ale or Green Planet bottled water?"

Unexceptional I hear you cry. But for dogs.....?

Ah well. I guess we should bite our lips and remember The Marshall Plan.