I’m only just coming to the end of the books I received for Christmas – a interesting mix of murder mysteries supplemented by Adam Sisman’s new biography of John le Carré.
There’s no doubt about it: le Carré has led an interesting and, at times, exciting life visiting remote and dangerous places to do background research for his novels, but he’s now in his eighties, and, understandably, the pace of his life has slowed down.
I’ve no complaints at all about that: it comes to us all and my life is already considerably less energetic than it was even though I’m only in my fifties.
No, the main problem is that the last quarter or so of the book seems to me to be absolutely obsessed with statistics to the detriment of everything else: book sales, New York Times Best Sellers, film rights… and so it goes on. And again, don’t get me wrong: le Carré is a supreme artist, he deserves all the credit he gets, and I for one am enjoying the new BBC adaptation of The Night Manager immensely. It’s just that it’s BORING, unless you happen to be John le Carré or his accountant.
Nevertheless, it made me look up the criteria for the NYT Best Sellers list, and I discovered that these are by no means clear, not to say shrouded in mystery. For one thing, the list appears to have more to do with the number of copies ordered by bookshops, as opposed to actual copies sold, and for another no one seems to know just which bookshops these are.
How unlike Amazon where every single moment (well, almost) can bring a change in a writer’s standing, and said writer often needs to be pretty quick off the mark to see his/her book at the zenith of its career. So it was just by chance that I managed to get a snapshot of Looking for Death sitting alongside Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, and, more recently Julie’s World of Flowers next to a book by Jane Packer.
Agatha Christie, of course, doesn’t need an introduction, but Jane Packer probably does. Quite simply in flower arranging circles she is acknowledged as one of the best and most influential florists, I have a shelf full of her books, and it is an absolute honour to see my book on the same page as hers.