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October 10th, 2014

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

First Reviews of THE BIG BOOK OF SWASHBUCKLING ADVENTURE: “An Excellent Read” & “A Brilliant Selection of Dash, Pluck, Skill, Yearning, and Fortune.”

And now the second pre-publication review is in for The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure, selected and introduced by my author client Lawrence Ellsworth, another very positive notice. It comes from Publishers Weekly, who commissioned author William Dietrich to review the anthology. Dietrich’s piece closes with this encomium: “Ellsworth offers the reader an excellent and entertaining survey of the genre’s roots, a brilliant selection of dash, pluck, skill, yearning, and fortune.” See below for more details on the book, and the first review, which came in last week. Thanks to Pegasus Books for preparing the handsome edition and congrats to editor Lawrence Ellsworth. There will be finished copies of the book in November. It’s setting up very nicely!

I first posted about this book project when I began presenting it to publishers in March 2013, and am delighted that Pegasus Books acquired it. They’re an independent press whose titles are sold to bookstores by W.W. Norton. Pegasus has done a great job getting the anthology ready for publication. You can see their catalog listing for the book via this link (or in the screenshot below). Yesterday, I was delighted to see the first review of it, by Cindy A. Matthews at Authorlink, which I quickly shared in its entirety on Facebook (embedded below). In the catalog copy, you’ll note an interesting sidelight about my author client Lawrence Ellsworth, who conceived of the anthology, selected all the pieces, wrote the introductions, and translated the Alexander Dumas selection that’s in the book: he was an original team member of the group that created the legendary role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. The oversized quality paperback, illustrated with art from the heady period when these stories were originally published, between the 1870s-1920s, will make a great holiday gift. Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure Pegasus catalog

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October 9th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels; Philip Turner Book Productions

What’s Keeping Me Busy These Days

For any readers who’ve been wondering about the relative (in)frequency of my recent posts here and on Honourary Canadian, I want to explain that since Labor Day my business, Philip Turner Book Productions, has gone full bore and I am busy with such paying assignments as reading and reporting on a suspense novel for an author who hired me to assess his manuscript; editing the professional memoir of a retired corporate executive; editing website copy for a financial and retirement planner; meeting with the operations director of a website to discuss me providing book-related content for them; as an agent, I’m working on the contract for a Spanish novelist whose book I recently licensed to a US publisher; and pitching a terrific pirate-themed trilogy that’s already a self-publishing success, to major US publishers. I love writing and curating the two blogs, but they sometimes take a back seat to other work, especially work that is directly remunerative.

And in honor of Autumn, and the Winter that is surely coming, I’ve grown back my goatee, a facial accoutrement I’ve maintained periodically over the years.

PT photo w/goatee

Thanks, as always, for checking back here to see what is new, or for that matter, what’s old—in the three years I’ve been writing these blogs, I’ve published almost 900 posts, so there’s bound to be material you haven’t noticed before, on books, publishing, media, music, culture, and current affairs. Also, remember to look for me on Twitter where my handle is @philipsturner, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, and the other social networks shown at the top right corner of this site.

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October 3rd, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling

Working with Authors, in to Their 100s

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September 15th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling

Amazon’s Douglas Preston Problem Isn’t Going Away

It’ll be interesting to see how Amazon’s board members respond to Authors United’s outreach to them—if at all—particularly the suggestion that while these people may think they joined the board of a progressive company, that’s actually not what Amazon is any more, if they ever were.

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September 4th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels; Publishing & Bookselling

Flashing Back to the Past–Me at Undercover Books in 1983

Undercover Books, the bookstore operated by my two siblings, Joel and Pamela, and our parents, Earl and Sylvia, opened for business on May 4, 1978. Five years later, we were enough of a fixture in the community that a local newspaper was arranging interviews with us, to talk about books, and the business. They did one on me, and one on Pam. When I visited her in Cleveland last month, I was surprised to see them preserved in a scrapbook she had. Here’s the one they did on me. To read the entire column, click on the image and pause the slideshow as it comes on-screen.

Sun Press profile

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July 29th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling; Technology, Science & Computers

Amazon Plays a New Card in its Face-off with Hachette

A day after Amazon released its anonymous statement below, helpful analyses of it are appearing, including this one on PublishersMarketplace.com (subscription req.) and these annotations by Mike Shatzkin.
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A new gambit from Amazon announced on their Kindle forum at about 1:30 PM (PDT) today strikes at the weakest part of the Big 5’s stance, with those companies still stuck on their overly parsimonious 25% royalty on ebooks, five + years into the digital transition. It’s a longtime bone of contention with authors and agents, and organizations like the Authors Guild, a position with which I agree. In their post Amazon says what they think the digital ecosystem ought to look like, and what most ebooks ought to cost: They say divide digital revenue 35% authors/35% Hachette/30% Amazon; and price most ebooks at $9.95. Gotta figure out now how that compares with the status quo. I’m sure it’s safe to assume that Amazon—though it wants to sound like it cares most about authors—wouldn’t propose anything that doesn’t give them much more than what they get currently. You may read it all at their link, or click on the full screenshot below.Amazon proposal to Hachette, July 29

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July 15th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling; Urban Life & New York City

Previewing Fall 2014 Books with NY State and NJ Booksellers


Audience at July 15 NAIBA eventHad a great time last night at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Soho, where a preview of two important Fall titles was put on by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA). As soon as I arrived I saw Eileen Dengler, Executive Director of NAIBA, whom I’ve known since my days with Undercover Books in Cleveland. Among many booksellers on hand, I met Heidi Shira Tannenbaum, manager of the Housing Works store; Margot Sage-El, Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, NJ*; two female staff members from Word Bookstore‘s Jersey City location; Todd Dickinson, of Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA; Ezra Goldstein of Community Bookstore in Brooklyn; Roy Solomon of Village Bookstore in Pleasantville, NY; and Bill Reilly of River’s End Bookstore in Oswego, NY, site of the US Army camp where during WWII nearly 1,000 refugees were brought for sanctuary by Ruth Gruber, then a member of the FDR administration. She chronicled this in her book HAVEN: The Dramatic Story of 1,000 WWII Refugees and How They Came to America (out first in 1985), which I republished in trade paper in 1999, when I was with Crown Publishing. Bill told me that HAVENwhich along with four other books by Gruber is now available from Open Road Media—is his store’s top-selling book of local history; indeed I found the Open Road edition featured on the left-hand rail of the store’s website. Though Bill’s store is in upstate NY, near Lake Ontario, he hadn’t even traveled the farthest to be at this gathering: that recognition went to a bookseller from Buffalo. I was also delighted to see longtime Random House sales rep Ruth Liebmann in the audience. A nicely stocked bar with appetizers was generously provided by book distributor Baker & Taylor.

The first writer to speak was Robert W. Snyder, Director of the American Studies Program at Rutgers. His forthcoming book is CROSSING BROADWAY: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City, to be published in December by Cornell University Press. My first five years in NYC I lived in Washington Heights, on Bennett Avenue at 186th Street, on the west side of Broadway—still the defining artery of the neighborhood—so I very much enjoyed meeting Snyder, then hearing his presentation on the book. It chronicles the evolution of this northern Manhattan neighborhood over the past century, and how it stands todayas quite a stellar example of diverse urban populations living successfully side-by-side, even while it more and more faces the price of its own success, with gentrification, rising home prices, and distortions to the social weave that may already be diminishing its richness. I recall that when I lived up there my NY State Assemblyman was J. Brian Murtagh, a voluble Irish pol who was proud of saying that his constituents spoke some astonishing number of languages among themselves—more than fifty, I recall. The dominant groups had long been Irish, German-Jewish, and Dominican, but with many other nationalities, too. Separately, we spoke about upper Manhattan, which has been important in NY history since the Revolutionary War. I told him I cover it often here writing about the Little Red Lighthouse, underneath the eastern arch of the George Washington Bridge, aka the Great Gray Bridge, and High Bridge, where an original foot-bridge between Manhattan and the Bronx is being restored.

I appreciated that in introducing Snyder my longtime book biz friend, Christopher Kerr, who reps Cornell University Press, voiced a brief shout-out to me, evoking the years I lived in Washington Heights, when amid the ravages of the crack epidemic, the nabe was too often known most for its high crime rate. Actually, my part of the Heights had little crime, and I was able to pay less than $600 per month rent, in 1985, for a comfortable 2nd floor apartment in a 6-story building. I also had the good fortune to buy furniture and bookcases from the daughter of the German-Jewish woman who’d brought them from Germany decades earlier. I still have the bookcases today, though I moved to the upper west side of Manhattan in 1990.

The second author last night was Emily St. John Mandel, a novelist with Canadian roots, having grown up in western BC, who then lived in Montreal. I met her briefly during BEA in 2013, at a Greenwich Village reception sponsored by the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC). I recalled last night that she said then she was finishing a manuscript, now completed, titled Station Eleven. Each of her three previous novels has received great reviews, like this comment about her debut book, from an erudite bookseller/reader at Rainy Day Books, a top indie bookstore in Kansas City, KS.

Last Night in Montreal took me by surprise in the most wonderful ways….From the very first chapter, I was drawn in to her provocative, delicately grim world full of wanderlust, betrayal, and the quest for answers. Each of [Mandel’s] deliciously real characters are searching for answers to the questions of their lives, compelled to hunt them out no matter how shocking or painful those answers may be. Mandel’s novel, though relatively short, amazed me with its intricacies and complexities. As days go by, I find myself thinking of more and more reasons I so loved [it].”—Elizabeth Lewis, Rainy Day Books

St. John Mandel’s new novel will be published September 9 by Knopf in the US, then separately in North America by Harper Canada, and Picador in the UK.  I’d expect there will also be foreign language editions. It’s a very impressive book, and she spoke about it beautifully. St. John Mandel began by explaining that she’s always loved reading post-apocalyptic fiction, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and she wrote her new novel as a kind of love letter to the present, a meditation on what we would miss most if all that we’re used to went away, and what we would long for most keenly. In literature, she imagined that the sudden subtraction from our midst of the works of Shakespeare would be one of our greatest losses, so she conceived a traveling theater troupe who continue performing Shakespeare’s plays, even while the world around them is withering away. She had me at theatre troupe, as I quickly remembered novels I’ve enjoyed, like Robertson Davies’ early book Tempest-Tost, about a community group putting on “The Tempest,” and the funny, ribald, and wrenching Canadian TV series Slings & Arrows, which features recurring characters in a theater company staging “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” and “King Lear” over three seasons. For the apocalyptic part, on the subway downtown, I’d been reading a battered copy of Nevil Shute’s post-nuclear classic, On the Beach, so you can imagine I was immediately eager to begin Emily’s book, leaving Shute’s book in my knapsack on the ride home. Station Eleven was a Buzz Book at BEA in May but I had missed the presentation given about it then by her Knopf editor, Jennifer Jackson, who introduced her author last night and has written an eloquent ode to the book for booksellers that’s printed in the ARC. On the subway I found myself immediately captured by the wistful voice and St. John Mandel’s exquisite sentence-making, where prop snowflakes stand in for the creeping coldness falling all around us.

Here are pictures from last night’s enjoyable reception, with thanks to all the booksellers, publishers, reps, sponsors, hosts, and authors.

* I was excited to discover on the Wachtung Booksellers’ website that NY Times reporter Harvey Araton—whose novel Cold Type I picked up at BEA, and which I loved reading, making it my #FridayReads on June 14—will be at the store in Montclair for a signing on July 23. I hear Montclair is a great town for books and reading.

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July 8th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels; Publishing & Bookselling

Remembering Earl I. Turner, February 7, 1918-July 8, 1992

Earl I. Turner, Moraigne Lake, Canadian Rockies, July 1982My father Earl I. Turner, about whom I’ve previously written on this blog, died twenty-two years ago today. Recently, my sister Pamela Turner found a letter Earl gave to his three children when we as a family (Pamela; our brother Joel; Earl, mom, Sylvia; and myself) began operating Undercover Books, on May 4, 1978. His letter is kind of an ethical will, full of wisdom, and I invite you to read it for yourself.

Earl Turner letter, May 8, 1978

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