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From Uber driving to huge book deal: Adrian McKinty’s life-changing phone call

Despite awards and acclaim for his crime fiction, the impoverished novelist lost his home and was set to quit – then the phone rang. Alison Flood from The Guardian has the story. Support our news coverage by subscribing to our Kindle Nation Daily Digest. Joining is free right now!

It was 1.30 in the morning in Melbourne and Adrian McKinty had just got home after dropping off his last Uber customer of the night at the airport. His phone rang. It was Shane Salerno, agent to authors including Don Winslow, and it was a call that would pull McKinty into “some major league craziness”, ending in a six-figure English-language book deal and, last week, a seven-figure film deal from Paramount for his forthcoming novel The Chain.

“Don told me you’ve given up writing,” said Salerno. McKinty, an award-winning crime novelist, had recently blogged about his decision to quit being an author. Beginning with his debut, Dead I May Well Be, written while he taught high school English in Colorado, and continuing with his award-winning series about Northern Irish detective Sean Duffy, McKinty’s books might have won him prizes and great reviews, but they weren’t making him any money. The family moved from the US to Australia in 2008 because McKinty’s wife, author and academic Leah Garrett, was offered a job there. Now the family had been evicted from the home they’d had lived in for eight years, and he was working as an Uber a cab driver (“the world’s worst,” he says now) and bartending in an attempt to actually bring in some cash.

Now Salerno – a man he’d never spoken to before – was quizzing him in the early hours about his decision and his books. McKinty told him about his series of Belfast-set crime novels, and Salerno asked if he had ever thought about writing one in America.

As it turned out, McKinty had. In Mexico City five years earlier, while trying to write a novel about Trotsky (“it was a big fiasco, it was going nowhere”), McKinty learned about exchange killings: where a person offers to swap themselves for a kidnapped family member while a ransom is raised. He’d combined this with the idea of chain letters – he’d grown up in the 70s and 80s in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, “where we used to get these bloody horrible chain letters; we all believed it”. These were the seeds for The Chain, in which a mother is told her daughter has been kidnapped, and that the only way to get her back is to kidnap another child. And so on, down the chain.

Write it, said Salerno. “Maybe in a couple of years, when I’ve got my finances sorted out,” agreed McKinty. “What if I wired you $10,000 into your bank account tonight?” Salerno offered. McKinty said he’d think about it; Salerno said no, go and write it now.

At around three in the morning, McKinty gave it a go, writing the first 30 pages of what would become The Chain, sent it off and went to bed. His phone rang again at 4.15.

“Forget bartending. Forget driving a bloody Uber,” Salerno said. “You’re writing this book.”

Two years on, The Chain is about to be published. Starting with Rachel’s discovery that her daughter Kylie has been kidnapped, then following her attempts to drum up the ransom and find someone else to kidnap, it is a brutal, breathless race to the finish which forces the reader to ask, again and again: what would I do, in that situation?

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Author and former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton has died

Both the world of baseball and the world of literature has lost a titanic figure. Craig Calcaterra from NBC news reports on Jim Bouton‘s fight with brain disease. Support our news coverage by subscribing to our Kindle Nation Daily Digest. Joining is free right now!

Jim Bouton, an ace for the late dynasty, pennant-winning Yankees, an outcast on the hapless 1969 Seattle Pilots, and the author of “Ball Four,” arguably the greatest baseball book of all time, has died at the age of 80. Bouton had been suffering from cerebral amyloid angiopathy, which is linked to dementia, for the past several years.

Bouton was born in New Jersey in 1939 and was raised in Chicago before going on to pitch at Western Michigan University. The Yankees liked what they saw and gave Bouton a $30,000 bonus to sign in 1958. A combination of good pitching and some untimely injuries to established Yankees pitchers allowed Bouton to make the defending World Series champs out of spring training in 1962.

Bouton pitched in 36 games that season, serving as a swingman, to modest results, but he did not pitch in the Yankees’ World Series victory over the Giants that October. He truly broke out in 1963, starting 30 of the 40 games in which he appeared, compiling a record of 21-7 and posting a fantastic 2.53 ERA. He’d earn All-Star honors that year and started Game 3 of the World Series. Bouton had a strong outing in that game, allowing only one run in seven innings, but was beaten by an even better Don Drysdale who tossed a three-hit shutout as the Dodgers swept the Yankees.

Bouton was a workhorse in 1964, leading the American League with 37 games started and finishing 18-13 with a 3.02 ERA while tossing 271.1 innings. That October Bouton started two World Series games, winning both of them, pushing his postseason record to 2-1 with a 1.48 ERA. Despite his heroics, however, the Yankees lost to the St. Louis Cardinals four games to three. The loss in Game 7 ended a Yankees dynasty which had lasted over 40 years. It also spelled the end of Jim Bouton’s time as one of the game’s top starting pitchers.

Bouton showed up to spring training in 1965 with a sore arm. It never got better and he, and the Yankees, had a poor year. Bouton bounced back in 1966 — he pitched in fewer than half of the innings he had lodged at his peak but they were effective innings — but the Yankees didn’t. Bouton began the 1967 season with New York but was demoted to the minors. While there he wrote his first published article, for “Sport” magazine, chronicling the life of minor leaguers. Bouton made it back to the Yankees at the end of that season and the beginning of 1968 but had his contract sold to the expansion Seattle Pilots in the middle of the year. As the Pilots would not begin play until 1969, it meant more time in the minors for Bouton. Late in the 1968 season Bouton, still suffering from arm problems and a loss of velocity, began to rely almost exclusively on a knuckleball which he had previously only featured as a “show-me” pitch in his prime.

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Visit Jim Bouton’s BookGorilla author page

Brian De Palma, director of Scarface and Mission: Impossible (among others) will publish his debut novel next spring

Brian De Palma is making the leap from screen to page according to David Canfield from Entertainment Weekly.

EW can exclusively announce that the iconic Hollywood director will publish his debut novel, co-written by Susan Lehman, next spring with Hard Case Crime. Titled Are Snakes Necessary?, the book is described as “a blistering political satire” that doubles as a female revenge thriller. It follows a philandering senator who’s cheating on his Parkinson’s-afflicted wife with his campaign’s beautiful young videographer. When things go wrong, the senator calls in his fixer to set them right, with deadly consequences stretching from Washington to Paris.

The novel’s title references Preston Sturges’ classic The Lady Eve (in which Henry Fonda is seen reading a book called Are Snakes Necessary?), and the book will feature nods to some of De Palma’s best-known work in cinema, including encounters with a film crew in France that is engaged in remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

De Palma is best known as the director of Scarface, Carrie, and the original Mission: Impossible. Lehman is a former New York Times editor whose writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and more. Their collaboration already has one big fan in Martin Scorsese, who says the novel contains “the same individual voice, the same dark humor and bitter satire, the same overwhelming emotional force” as De Palma’s film work. He adds: “It’s like having a new Brian De Palma picture.”

“It is a great privilege to work with Brian and Susan on this book,” Hard Case Crime founder and editor Charles Ardai said in a statement, “and to welcome a filmmaker of Brian De Palma’s caliber into the Hard Case Crime fold. This is not just a great crime story, it’s a sharp, ruthless look at the state of affairs — both political and extramarital — in our turbulent modern era.”

Check out the exclusive cover for Are Snakes Necessary? below. The novel publishes March 17, 2020.

Read full post on EW.com

Looking for some great reads set in Canada, eh? These five fiction titles go great with poutine and are among Canada’s literary treasures

These books are all bestsellers set in Canada, our lovely neighbors to the north. And what’s not to love! The landscape, Justin Trudeau, the history and the rich literary tradition make us shout O Canada!

A Great Reckoning: A Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel Book 12) by [Penny, Louise]A Great Reckoning: A Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel Book 12)

by Louise Penny

Kindle price: $9.99

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.

Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must…

Medicine Walk by [Wagamese, Richard]Medicine Walk

by Richard Wagamese

Kindle price: $12.59

When Franklin Starlight is called to visit his father, he has mixed emotions. Raised by the old man he was entrusted to soon after his birth, Frank is haunted by the brief and troubling moments he has shared with his father, Eldon. When he finally travels by horseback to town, he finds Eldon on the edge of death, decimated from years of drinking…

Crow Lake: A Novel by [Lawson, Mary]Crow Lake: A Novel

by Mary Lawson

Kindle price: $13.99

Here is a gorgeous, slow-burning story set in the rural “badlands” of northern Ontario, where heartbreak and hardship are mirrored in the landscape. For the farming Pye family, life is a Greek tragedy where the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons, and terrible events occur–offstage…


River Thieves: A Novel by [Crummey, Michael]River Thieves: A Novel

by Michael Crummey

Kindle price: $14.39

In 1810, David Buchan, a naval officer, arrives in the Bay of Exploits with orders to establish contact with the Beothuk, or “Red Indians,” the aboriginal inhabitants of Newfoundland, who are facing extinction. When Buchan approaches the area’s most influential white settlers, the Peytons, for advice and assistance, he enters a shadowy world of allegiances and old grudges that he can only dimly apprehend…

Indian Horse: A Novel by [Wagamese, Richard]Indian Horse: A Novel

by Richard Wagamese

Kindle price: $11.49

Saul Indian Horse is a child when his family retreats into the woods. Among the lakes and the cedars, they attempt to reconnect with half-forgotten traditions and hide from the authorities who have been kidnapping Ojibway youth. But when winter approaches, Saul loses everything: his brother, his parents, his beloved grandmother—and then his home itself…

How the message of a book can change radically over time, and why we all really need to reread George Orwell’s 1984

Dorian Lynskey from LitFub on how the message of a book can change Radically Over Time: “Everybody wanted Orwell’s ghost on their side.”

On November 2, 1950, Hugh Gaitskell, Chancellor of the Exchequer for Britain’s Labour government, accused his opponents in the Conservative Party of “what the late George Orwell in his book, which honourable members may or may not have read, entitled ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ called ‘doublespeak.’” Orwell’s final novel had been out for 17 months and Gaitskell was confident that at least some of his fellow MPs had already read it. Many had, including former prime minister Winston Churchill, who told a colleague that it was “a very remarkable book.” Propelled by the unexpected success of Orwell’s anti-Stalinist fable Animal Farm, published four years earlier, 1984 landed in the world with a bang and it has been exploding ever since.

The most notable thing about Gaitskell’s statement, however, is that doublespeak doesn’t appear in the novel: he was misremembering the concept of doublethink. Nonetheless, it entered the political lexicon during the 1950s, alongside Big Brother, Newspeak, the Thought Police, Orwellian, and so on, and those words have never gone away. In fact, the novel is more famous for its language than its characters or plot. By pinning down the political phenomena of the 1930s and 40s with dramatic, futuristic terminology, the ailing author secured cultural immortality.

Journalists are magpies for novelty, especially shiny semantic baubles that they can use to brighten up political prose. References to popular works of fiction tend to tarnish into clichés, like Game of Thrones analogies now, but Orwell’s neologisms have retained their luster for 70 years because they have entered that small, exclusive zone that lies beyond cliché: the place where words become so embedded in the language that they are no longer read as references. Such words as thoughtcrime, unperson, and memory hole require no explanation. Twenty years ago, the creators of the television show Big Brother attempted to deny any relationship to Orwell’s character, as if the concept of an invisible, all-seeing authority figure with that name were as authorless as a folk song. (Lawyers for Orwell’s copyright-holders lucratively disagreed.)

Search Twitter for phrases from 1984, and you’ll find that they are rarely qualified by a mention of “the late George Orwell.” You will also find that some of them appear in contexts that bear little resemblance to the author’s original definitions. Orwell’s Thought Police, for example, were based on the Stalinist practice of persecuting citizens for things they hadn’t yet said or done. It’s unlikely that he would have enjoyed seeing the term applied to a twitter-storm following a contentious remark.

More an essayist than a novelist, much though he wished otherwise, Orwell thought the message of 1984 was obvious: it was a satirical attack on the totalitarianism of Stalin and Hitler, and on the potential for totalitarian thought to take root in democracies. Just weeks after publication, however, he felt compelled to issue two clarifying statements to the press after reading reviews which interpreted the book as a condemnation of all forms of socialism, including the Labour Party, of which he was supporter.

Orwell’s publisher Fredric Warburg concluded that the statements “didn’t do two pennorth of good.” Readers continued to see what they wanted to see.

How many copies did these famous books sell in their first year?

Emily Temple from LitHub hunted around to find out how many copies the below books sold in the twelve months following their publications.

Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell

by Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë

Published in 1846

Copies sold: 2

Buy your copy here

The eldest of the three Bronte sisters, Charlotte is best known for her novel Jane Eyre, which was published under the pseudonym Currer Bell. Bronte’s works were revolutionary for their time, reflecting a truthfulness about love and relationships that was not common in Victorian-era England. While Jane Eyre was, and continues to be, her most popular work, Charlotte Bronte published numerous works during her short life, including juvenilia, poetry, and the novels Shirley and Villette. Charlotte Bronte died in 1855, outliving both of her sisters, Anne and Emily. Collectively, the Bronte sisters novels are considered literary standards that continue to influence modern writers.


by James Joyce

Published in 1914

Copies sold: 379

Buy your copy here

Although James Joyce began these stories of Dublin life in 1904, when he was 22, and had completed them by the end of 1907, they remained unpublished until 1914 — victims of Edwardian squeamishness. Their vivid, tightly focused observations of the life of Dublin’s poorer classes, their unconventional themes, coarse language, and mention of actual people and places made publishers of the day reluctant to undertake sponsorship.

Night (Night Trilogy) by [Wiesel, Elie]Night

by Elie Weisel

Published in 1960

Copies sold: 1,046

Buy your copy here

Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie’s wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author’s original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man’s capacity for inhumanity to man.

Brave New World by [Huxley, Aldous]Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

Published in 1932

Copies sold: 15,000

Buy your copy here

Aldous Huxley’s profoundly important classic of world literature, Brave New World is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically-advanced future where humans are genetically bred, socially indoctrinated, and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively uphold an authoritarian ruling order–all at the cost of our freedom, full humanity, and perhaps also our souls. “A genius [who] who spent his life decrying the onward march of the Machine” (The New Yorker), Huxley was a man of incomparable talents: equally an artist, a spiritual seeker, and one of history’s keenest observers of human nature and civilization.

A Christmas Carol (Puffin Classics) by [Dickens, Charles]A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

Published in 1843

Copies sold: 15,000

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Ebenezer Scrooge is a mean, miserable, bitter old man with no friends. One cold Christmas Eve, three ghosts take him on a scary journey to show him the error of his nasty ways. By visiting his past, present and future, Scrooge learns to love Christmas and the people all around him.


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