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April 21st, 2016

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels

Remembering Mark Twain, and his Bucolic Grave Site in Elmira, NY

Paying affectionate homage to Mark Twain, who died on this date in 1910, in Redding, CT, one day after Halley’s Comet’s close approach to Earth, a celestial visitor that also neared Earth around his birth in 1835. Here’s a photo I took of his grave a few summers ago at the lovely cemetery where he’s buried in Elmira, NY.

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April 20th, 2016

By Philip Turner in: Book Biz; Books & Writing; Philip Turner Book Productions

Canadian Author Carrie Borrie, Taking “The Long Hello” From Self-Published Title to a Book Brought Out by Commercial Publishers

I’ve edited manuscripts for a number of author clients who at some point in the process have considered self-publishing as an option for placing their work in front of the public, though they sometimes hesitate over the uncertainty of whether a self-published book stands a chance to be discovered by readers and covered by members of the media. While not downplaying the challenges, I have been able to point out successes in fiction (not one of my authors, but Hugh Howey’s WOOL series is a notable one), but I’ve not been able to do the same for nonfiction. Now I’m glad to say that thanks to an introduction from bestselling author, music journalist, and CBC radio host Grant Lawrence alerting me to the publication story of Vancouver, BC author Cathie Borrie, I now have a nonfiction success to point to. The book is The Long Hello: Memory, My Mother, and Me, which Borrie (shown here) self-published in 2010 when a curator with the Museum of Modern Art in NYC asked her to participate in the museum’s lecture series on Alzheimer’s Disease. She’s since taken her book from a self-published title to commercial publication with Simon & Schuster Canada in 2015 (acquired by Toronto friend, editor and bookseller Martha Sharpe), and now with Arcade Books in the US (acquired by editor friend Cal Barksdale). As shown in the screenshot here of a Facebook event page, a theatrical-style reading will take place beginning at 6pm tonight at the Emily Harvey Gallery in NYC to launch the US edition.

With Borrie in town this week, I met her for the first time, and heard about the background of her evocative and poetic book, which I’m currently reading and enjoying very much. As Borrie’s mom became more and more in thrall to dementia, Cathie realized that what she said, despite coming from a place of confusion, nonetheless had a definite kind of lucidity to it. She began taping their conversations, and then used them when assembling her manuscript, contributing to a kind of verbal collage of their final years together. The process also prompted her to revisit her childhood years, and the recesses of their family life. Instructive for any self-published nonfiction author, it’s also evident that over the years Borrie worked hard at getting her book into the hands of key influencers in the medical, home-care, and nursing worlds (it’s also notable that Borrie trained as a nurse and has a Master’s in Public Health). She also secured a one-word blurb from Maya Angelou, “Joy,” that any author would love to have on the cover of their book.

Now, David Henry Sterry of The Book Doctors, like me, a book editor and blogger, has conducted an excellent interview with Borrie, examining the journey she’s taken with her book. I suggest you read it, for the valuable insights that Borrie’s gained from the whole experience. A screenshot of it is below, and you may click on this link to read the whole Q&A. If you’re considering self-publishing as an option for your own work, I urge you to read The Long Hello and learn from Borrie’s experience in the evolving book market.

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March 24th, 2016

By Philip Turner in: Art, Film, TV, Photography, Fine Printing & Design; Books & Writing; Philip Turner's Books & Writing

Appreciative for a Shoutout to My Editing of “The Revenant” from Canadian Pal Grant Lawrence

I'm tickled that Canadian music journalist, CBC broadcaster, author, friend—and devoted reader of adventure tales—Grant…

Posted by Philip Turner on Wednesday, 23 March 2016

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March 17th, 2016

By Philip Turner in: Book Biz; Books & Writing; Urban Life & New York City

National Book Critics Circle Annual Finalist Readings, March 16 2016

Margo JeffersonThe National Book Critics Circle’s annual literary extravaganza began last night, a two-night affair I’ve attended every year since the early 2000s (and written about on this blog before). Last night 25 of the authors whose books are finalists for the awards in the six categories which will be given tonight read from their books. No admission charge for the readings or the awards tomorrow, NY’s best free literary program every year. There’s a post-awards benefit tomorrow night, the only part of the wordfest that carries a charge. I’ll be there again tonight. Glad I got good pictures in the darkened auditorium at The New School on West 12th St.

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February 6th, 2016

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing

PIG IRON, a Lacerating Beauty of a Book

Rounding the halfway bend last weekend in Pig Iron, Benjamin Myers’ 2012 novel, I found myself more and more gripped by the fate of its narrator, John-John Wisdom, a young man whose hardscrabble history is steadily revealed to the reader through the course of a twined narrative that braids together parallel first person accounts by he and his mother. The investment I expressed in my tweet last weekend paid double as I finished the book, at last learning the whole truth of the Wisdom’s family story. In the parlance of England, they are “Travellers,” perhaps not exactly ethnic Roma but wandering tribes nonetheless, similar to Europe’s long-shunned gypsies. The inventiveness with language and vocabulary was reminiscent to me of what Russell Hoban did in Ridley Walker and Anthony Burgess in Clockwork Orange, albeit without quite the same futuristic-apocalyptic intimations. Young Wisdom’s late father was a bare-knuckle boxer, while his son’s a fighter of a different kind. John-John, only recently released from a five-year sentence in prison, is determined to put his life back together following a deed that he only hints at when a new girlfriend asks him about his time away from the rural climes he cherishes, his “green cathedral.” The references to a rural idyll reminded me of when a terminally ill Dennis Potter, creator of “The Singing Detective” TV series, expressed a deep connection for the Forest of Dean in his courageous 1994 interview with Melvyn Bragg. I also see Myers’ work in a line of connection with English writer about landscape and wild places, Robert Macfarlane, whose The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot I loved so much. 

Myers’ latest novel, Beastings, was awarded the Manchester, England public library’s Portico Prize, after Pig Iron had earlier won the Gordon Burn award, named in honor of a Newcastle, England novelist. I learned about Myers through this profile in the Guardian’s book pages by Alison Flood, then bought Pig Iron online from a UK bookseller. His publisher is Bluemoose Books of West Yorkshire, England. This is Myers’ website. He hasn’t had much exposure yet in the US, and I hope this post of mine draws some attention to his work. He deserves to be read by fans of the writers mentioned above, as well as readers who enjoy Cormac McCarthy and Kent Haruf. I look forward to next reading Beastings.

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January 11th, 2016

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; News, Politics, History & Media; Philip Turner's Books & Writing

Did the Koch Brothers’ Help Dad Build an Oil Refinery for Adolf Hitler?

Wow, this is going to be a blockbuster book. Jane Mayer’s latest, due out Jan 19th, is Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. It’s the subject of a NY Times news article tonight by Nicholas Confessore who must’ve gotten an early copy.  He reports on the collective portrait of rightwing billionaire families, including Richard Mellon Scaife, who before his death in 2014 spent more than a billion dollars of his Mellon family fortune pushing conservative causes; most notably, in the 1990s he harassed Bill Clinton through the infamous American Spectator magazine (see “Troopergate” if you need a reminder). I recall of this with firsthand memory because in the early 2000s I edited and published Susan MacDougal’s memoir of the years she was pursued by Whitewater Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, The Woman Who Wouldn’t Talk: Why I Wouldn’t Testify the Clintons and What I Learned in Jail., whose probe was an outgrowth of Scaife’s bankrolling Whitewater into a faux scandal. After discussing Scaife, the book examines an earlier brother pair, Lynde and Harry Bradley; and the DeVos family of Michigan. Apparently, Mayer then moves on to the bulk of her book, the Koch family. Confessore releases this explosive finding from Mayer’s investigation:

“The book is largely focused on the Koch family, stretching back to its involvement in the far-right John Birch Society and the political and business activities of their father, Fred C. Koch, who found some of his earliest business success overseas in the years leading up to World War II. One venture was a partnership with the American Nazi sympathizer William Rhodes Davis, who, according to Ms. Mayer, hired Mr. Koch to help build the third-largest oil refinery in the Third Reich, a critical industrial cog in Hitler’s war machine.”

As editor, I also acquired IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation (2001, Crown Publishingby Edwin Black, and on this website blogged several times about The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler by Ben Urwand. I have an eye for these sort of titles, and I’m sure this one by Mayer will be fascinating, and important.

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December 26th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Philip Turner's Books & Writing

Holiday Reflections

Later today my wife and I will be going to visit Ruth Gruber, the pioneering female photojournalist and longtime author…

Posted by Philip Turner on Friday, 25 December 2015

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December 7th, 2015

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing

Farewell to Timothy Seldes, Bookish Buccaneer, RIP

Sad to read that venerable literary agent Tim Seldes, 88, died over the weekend at his home in D.C. Tim was a friendly and approachable bookman, and a helluva lot of fun to have lunch with, as I had the chance to do several times over the years I knew him. He also had a great look about him, like a bookish buccaneer, reminding me of Lionel Barrymore in his portrayal of the pirate Billy Bones in the 1934 film version of “Treasure Island.” I was very fond of Tim. He came from a distinguished literary family, as the obit puts it: “Seldes grew up around words, ideas and the performing arts. He was the brother of Tony-winning actress Marian Seldes, son of the drama critic and author Gilbert Seldes and nephew of the pioneering press critic George Seldes.” He married three times, the second time to Lee Seldes, author of the superb book “The Legacy of Mark Rothko.” Among his many distinguished author clients was novelist Anne Tyler, who told the AP, “The space Tim Seldes will leave behind is enormous. He was so vibrant and engaged and such a celebrator, and a wonderful friend to writers.” His wife of many years, novelist Susan Shreve, whose books like Children of Power and Miracle Play I’ve long enjoyed, was reportedly with him at the end, as were other family members. My sincere condolences to them all. In 2012, Tim sold Russell & Volkening, his agency, to Lippincott Massie McQuilkin, so his good taste in authors carries on with Will Lippincott​ and Rob McQuilkin​. Here’s a link to the AP obit. RIP, Tim, it was a pleasure to know you.
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Just found a picture of Tim (l.), with George Plimpton.

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