Showing posts with label EL James. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EL James. Show all posts

Friday, 11 January 2013

Friday Book Review - Crusher by Niall Leonard

Like most novelists, Niall Leonard pays tribute to a whole host of people in his acknowledgements.

But there’s one name that stands out from the crowd. “And above all to my beloved wife Erika,” writes Leonard, “for her boundless love, loyalty, humour, encouragement and inspiration.”

Yes, the Erika in question is EL James, whose Fifty Shades of Grey has sold well over 6 million copies in the UK and has become the country’s bestselling book ever.

Leonard is unlikely to match his wife’s sales any time soon but Crusher, his debut novel, is a gritty, fast-paced thriller for teenagers that gripped me from start to finish.

Funnily enough, it was James herself who encouraged her TV screenwriter husband (his credits include Wire in the Blood and Silent Witness) to write the book in the first place. He decided to take part in the 2011 NaNoWriMo (the annual novel writing challenge) and Crusher was the result.

The novel tells the story of teenager Finn Maguire, who returns home from his dead-end café job one day to find that his stepdad has been bludgeoned to death.

Finn has no idea who might have had a grudge against the impoverished, out-of-work actor. He is even more stunned when it turns out that the police see him as the prime suspect for the murder. As one cop tells him: "Ninety per cent of the time the person who reports finding a dead body is the murderer... You might as well have written a confession in your stepfather's blood."

Determined to prove his innocence and find out who hated his stepdad enough to murder him, Finn resolves to track the killer down. But his quest takes him into the scary heart of the London underworld and exposes dark family secrets from the past.

I’m clearly not the target audience for Crusher but Leonard, unlike many YA writers, is a brilliant at getting inside the head of a troubled teenager. Boys of 14 and up will enjoy it, but I reckon girls and adult readers will too.

Crusher by Niall Leonard (Doubleday, £12.99)

Friday, 24 August 2012

Friday book review - Monday to Friday Man by Alice Peterson

Alice Peterson must have been stunned when her sweet romantic novel about a group of dog walkers soared to the top of the Kindle charts in the UK this week. And she was probably even more flabbergasted to learn that her book, Monday to Friday Man, had knocked the third instalment of Fifty Shades of Grey into second place.

I was so intrigued by her feat (echoes of David and Goliath) that I immediately downloaded Monday to Friday Man to my Kindle. It’s available in book form, but the e-book is currently selling on Amazon for 20p.

Monday to Friday Man is Peterson’s third novel and tells the story of 30-something Gilly Brown, whose fiancé jilts her two weeks before their wedding. Devastated by his rejection and struggling to make ends meet, Gilly fleetingly considers moving to the wilds of Dorset, then hits on the idea of renting out her spare room during the week. It works a treat when the glamorous Jack Baker turns up on her doorstep.

Jack is a hotshot TV producer working on an X Factor-type show called Stargazer and most of Gilly’s friends think he’s a real catch. Except, that is, her dog Ruskin, who is deeply suspicious, and the enigmatic Guy, the newest member of Gilly’s dog-walking group.

Peterson, whose promising career as a tennis player was ended by rheumatoid arthritis at 18, was inspired to write her book by Darcy, her beloved terrier. She walks him in London’s leafy Ravenscourt Park with friends – many of whom are name-checked in her acknowledgements.

If you’re after a literary tome, then Monday to Friday Man isn’t the book for you. But as an antidote to the torrent of erotic novels being published in the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s an easy and at times touching read. Even though the romantic storyline is predictable, Gilly’s fractured family background and childhood loss are moving and convincingly told.

Monday to Friday Man has sold more than 500,000 copies since the novel was published on July 21 and looks set to sell many more. Peterson will be hard pressed to match EL James’s 40 million global sales, but all the same, she’s doing pretty well…

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Jilly Cooper's verdict on Fifty Shades of Grey

My children still haven’t got over the embarrassment of walking into my office last week and seeing my desk covered with erotic novels. From Jane Eyre Laid Bare to Eighty Days Yellow, they were piled up all over the place.

I was reading them for a newspaper review (really) but even so, my son and daughter shut the door hurriedly and scuttled off to laugh about it with their friends.

Scores of erotic novels have been published following the massive success of Fifty Shades of Grey (now the bestselling book of all time in the UK) and judging by the ones I’ve read they vary hugely in quality. Some are sassy and entertaining, while others are absurd and downright degrading to women.

But as I read through the torrent of erotica I kept thinking one thing - “actually, I’d far rather be reading a Jilly Cooper novel.”

I’ve been a fan of Jilly’s books since Emily was published in 1975 and have read every single one since. Her novels are full of sex too (though thankfully not so graphic as the ones I’ve been reading) but what sets them apart is that they’re also witty, funny, poignant and above all, well written.

I’d been wondering what Jilly Cooper would make of Fifty Shades of Grey and the rest – and now I know. Not a lot. In an interview with Stefanie Marsh in The Times today she describes Christian Grey (EL James’s lead character) as a “terrible, terribly silly man” and reckons “you would hate him in real life.”

She also stresses the importance of plot and characterisation in novels – whatever their genre. “…If you have a terrific plot and terrific characters,” she says, “it doesn’t really matter what they do, because you want to know what happens to them. You’re biting your nails to discover whether they do get into bed or they have a fight or they fall in love. I haven’t read any of the new genre of books but they don’t seem to have any proper characterisation, and what they do have is from books or screenplays written by other people. So it’s not writing in that sense, or even a reimagination of a text.”

Jilly adds that she’s a huge fan of writers like Shirley Conran, Jackie Collins, Penny Vincenzi and Barbara Taylor Bradford – because, like her, their key aim is to tell a good story.

She loves writing about horses, dogs, the countryside, laughter” and reckons that “for sex to really work in a book it has to be funny and it has to be loving.”

“There is always a massive amount of research that goes into writing a bonkbuster, “ she says, “and there’s less sex in it than you would imagine. My books are usually about one-50th actual sex scenes, if that. But Christian Grey is at it most of the time, isn’t he?”

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Fifty Shades trilogy sells more than a million on Kindle in the UK

My first romantic novella, Olympic Flames, has just been published as an ebook and like every writer I know, I check every other hour to see how many copies it has sold.

But my jaw dropped this morning when a press release from Amazon dropped into my in-box. EL James, the London-based mother-of-two who created the hit Fifty Shades trilogy, has just become the first author to sell more than one million books at the Kindle store.

Gulp. The trilogy only came out in March and the first of the three, Fifty Shades of Grey, is now the best-selling Kindle book of all time on The movie rights have been sold and the Kindle edition is outselling the print book at a rate of more than two to one (call me a cynic but it could be because when you’re sitting on a jam-packed train into work, your fellow passengers can’t spot you’re reading a steamy bestseller on a Kindle).

“EL James’s books have become the fastest-selling and the best-selling series ever on Kindle,” says Gordon Willoughby, director of EU Kindle. “That’s an exceptional achievement for a debut novelist and we’re excited to see her pass the one million sales milestone.”

In gloomy times, when the publishing business is tougher than ever, EL James’s story is certainly an inspiring one. For debut novelists and old-timers alike…

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