One of the best things about literary dinners (and last night’s at Quo Vadis – we suffer for our art - definitely was literary because it was in honour of Roddy Doyle) is not necessarily meeting the author – though in this case he was as lovely as his book A Greyhound of a Girl. No, it’s the chance to have no-holds barred conversations about books with other critics and booksellers and to discover that what you thought were your own uneducated prejudices are shared by others. We were talking about defections by authors who have been nurtured by their publishers through the lean years and are then poached – not cool. Shall we mention names? Oh, why not? David Almond – from Hodder to Puffin. Kevin Brooks from Chickenhouse to Puffin. Ok, yes they’ve as much right as any footballer to follow the money and maybe it’s not just about megabucks, maybe it’s in pursuit of artistic freedom or a particular editor but, I don’t know , we just expect more from them. We are – to use that terrifying parental expression – disappointed. You can’t fault Almond’s latest, Billy Dean, but could it have happened without the brave and beautiful publication of My Name is Mina? And as for Brooks, let’s just hope that Naked is a temporary slip from form. Maybe his first few books, written under the wing of Chicken House, just set the bar too high.
(I’m sorry I’m not techno-savvy enough to work out how to put a response section on this blog but I am happy to publish a post from any publishers or authors who want to put forward an opposing view. )
Unlike her brilliant debut Pretty Bad Things, Rockoholic by C J Skuse (Chicken House) is more X-rated Jacqueline Wilson than Quentin Tarantino. Jody is obsessed with a rock star, to the extent that she “accidentally” kidnaps him after a concert. Jody’s best friend Mac is the voice of reason – “you can’t keep him in the garage like Skellig” – but by the time Jody comes to her senses, the rock star doesn’t want to leave. The shattering of Jody’s illusions (drug-induced incontinence is not a good look) and the inevitable realisation that Mac is the one for her are the stuff of standard teen fiction, but Skuse’s skewed and witty style sets it apart. 12+