Borders Chain Still Losing Money

It’s not nearly as easy as it seems for the large bookstore chains to make money. Barnes & Noble has been producing a smaller profit than its shareholders would like to see and Borders continues to disappoint its own by reporting another loss in its latest quarterly results.

Harry Potter helped, but even without the boy wizard, sales grew at Borders Group Inc. bookstores worldwide in the second quarter, reversing a year-long trend of declines at the company’s U.S. stores.

It still wasn’t enough to swing the Ann Arbor-based bookseller to a profit.

Hampered by a charge relating to settlement of a California lawsuit and costs from its new strategic plan, Borders lost $25.1 million, or 43 cents a share, in the quarter ended Aug. 4. Analysts expected a 34-cent loss.

Without the one-time expenses, Borders would have lost $15.3 million. Its 2006 second quarter loss was $18.4 million.

“We fully realize we have a lot of hard work yet to do,” Borders chief executive George Jones said Wednesday during a conference call with investors and analysts.

Borders now has 20 million people signed up for its Borders Rewards customer loyalty program and continues to sign new subscribers up at a rate of 150,000 per week since April, when major changes to the program were announced.

“Results were far from impressive, but for the first time in several quarters, (Borders) is not redefining the low end of its earnings potential with a quarterly report,” Goldman Sachs analysts advised investors in a note Wednesday. “Sales results are encouraging, and losses are roughly in line with expectations.”

News like this helps me to understand why Barnes & Noble has decided to stock the O.J. Simpson garbage on its shelves despite announcing earlier that it would not do so. Times are not all that great for the two big chains.

Barnes & Noble Decides to Carry Simpson Book in Stores

News comes today that the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain has decided to go ahead and add the O.J. Simpson trash-book to the shelves of its stores across the country. After all, you can’t argue with a public that has sunk to the level of wanting to read this kind of garbage when there’s money to be made, can you?

Barnes & Noble, the world’s largest book retailer, has decided to sell O.J. Simpson’s book “If I Did It” in its stores, reversing an earlier decision to offer the controversial title only on the Web.

“Our customers are asking for it. We have been monitoring pre-orders and decided we had enough” to put the book on retail shelves, company spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said on Thursday.

The book is set for a September 14 release, and 150,000 copies will be printed, up from a previously planned 125,000 copies, according to a Beaufort spokeswoman.

Keating said Barnes & Noble originally believed demand would not be high enough to put the book in stores. But online pre-orders have risen more than expected and the book has been on the top 100 list at

I really wish I didn’t feel that this was the Barnes & Noble plan all along. Take the highroad and then succumb to customer demand. That’s a nice bit of public relations strategy if I’ve ever seen one.

Previous posts on this topic:

Have We Lost Our Minds

No O.J. Simpson Book in Barnes & Noble Stores

Don’t Look Back

Don’t Look Back, the first of Norwegian author Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer novels to appear in the U.S., is a realistic police procedural that reminds the reader that identifying a murderer as often as not comes down to luck and sheer chance as it does to good detective work. Fossum sets her story in the kind of small town neighborhood where everyone believes that he knows everything about all of his neighbors. But, of course, that is never the case, and this psychological suspense novel is filled with well-developed characters who are living whole lives that are unsuspected by those living just a few feet from them.

When Sejer and his partner were called to the village to investigate the disappearance of a little girl, he was realistic enough to expect the worst. What he did not expect, however, was that the mystery of what happened to this child would lead him to the body of one of the little girl’s teenage neighbors, Annie Holland, a beautiful and well-liked 15-year old athlete admired by everyone who knew her.

The delicate, almost protective, way that Annie’s nude body was left at the scene of her murder convinced Sejer that sex had nothing to do with the reason that she was killed. He sensed that her killer was someone who knew her well and, through repeated conversations with the townspeople, he pushed and poked at them in a patient effort to piece together the last few months of Annie’s life in a way that would make it easier to identify the person who had wanted her dead. In the process, Sejer hoped that he would either piece together enough of Annie’s story to allow him to make an arrest or that the killer would do something foolish because of all the pressure that he was applying to the townspeople. It was only a question of which would happen first.

Don’t Look Back offers numerous insights into contemporary Norwegian society and proves again what an excellent writer of psychological suspense Karin Fossum is. Fans of writers like Ruth Rendell and John Harvey would do themselves a favor by adding her Inspector Sejer series to their list of “must reads.”

Rated at: 4.0

With a Little Help from His Friends

David Halberstam was putting the finishing touches on his final book, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, when he died in a San Francisco car accident last April. That book is going to be in bookstores on September 25 and, with a little help from Halberstam’s friends, his last book is going on a national book tour. Yesterday’s New York Times offers the details.

The command post is a set of Manhattan publishing offices, and the foot soldiers include Joan Didion, Seymour Hersh, Bob Woodward, Anna Quindlen, Alex Kotlowitz, Paul Hendrickson, Samantha Power and Bill Walton. They are going on David Halberstam’s book tour for him.

The unusual promotional push will stretch from New York to La Jolla, Calif., Washington to Chicago, Milwaukee to Nashville.

At each engagement Mr. Halberstam’s “surrogates,” as Mr. Woodward calls them, will pay tribute to him, a best-selling author of books like “The Best and the Brightest” and “Summer of ’49,” by offering personal reminiscences and readings. It took Mr. Halberstam 10 years to do the reporting and to write the book, which he called, in a term familiar to librarians and football fans, a “bookend” to his Pulitzer Prize-winning work on Vietnam.

The idea for the tour was Hyperion’s, said Mr. Halberstam’s widow, Jean. “Then someone reminded me that when Tony Lukas died just after ‘Big Trouble’ came out, David organized a number of writers to represent it in bookstores in the Boston area,” she said. “David’s friends, who are writers, are well aware that getting attention for a book is hard, no matter how well your last one did. They said, ‘Whatever I can do — I’ll fly to wherever.’ He would have felt amazed and humbled, and that’s not necessarily a word used to describe him.”

David Halberstam was a fine writer. I particularly enjoyed his books on baseball history but I found all of his non-fiction and history books to be some of the most accessible that I’ve ever read. This book tour is a wonderful tribute to a man who seems to have been loved and respected by his fellow writers.

Have We Lost Our Minds?

I just checked the Barnes & Noble Hourly Top 100 list and I see that OJ Simpson’s how-to-butcher-your-wife-and-any-others-in-the-area manual has moved up to number three on the list of best sellers despite not even having been released yet. That says a lot about the world we live in today, and none of what it says is good.

I think that the book might have been destined to be largely ignored by the reading public at one point. But all of that changed as soon as Oprah Winfrey decided that it would be good for her own ratings to do a show about the book. Nothing is more guaranteed to sell a few million books like a mention on that show, even one as trash filled as this one. And nothing is more likely to gain Oprah a few more ratings points (as if she really needs them) than a show highlighted by the Browns and Goldmans fighting about the man who murdered their daughter and son. Throw in all the cable “news” channels that are ready to jump on the bandwagon and it will soon be “All OJ, All the Time” when you turn on a television set. I just can’t wait.

Pre-orders for the O.J. Simpson book “If I Did It” on the Barnes & Noble Web site are higher than the chain expected, but its decision not to carry the book in its stores still stands.

Due in the fall via Beaufort Books, the tome features Simpson’’s hypothetical account of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Interest in the book has been fueled by last week’s announcement that Oprah Winfrey would feature Denise Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson’s sister; and Goldman’s parents, Fred and Kim Goldman on a show scheduled to air Sept. 13.

What is wrong with us?

Heaven’s Prisoners

James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series now numbers 16 novels and is my all-time favorite detective series. I love the way that Robicheaux has changed over the years and how the 16 books can be so effectively read as one long story.

This YouTube clip is the trailer for the 1996 movie made from the second book in the series, Heaven’s Prisoners (published in 1988).

Pat Shroeder Is an Idiot

There’s been quite a bit of talk on book blogs in the last few days about the Associated Press-Ipsos poll that showed that at least one in four Americans did not read even one book last year. Tragic as that is, the way that Pat Shroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, decided to spin one other item in the poll is even more embarrassing. Shroeder works for a publishing group and one would assume that a big part of her job is to promote books and reading. But Shroeder, an ex-congresswoman from Colorado decided that getting a dig in at her former political opponents was more important than doing the job for which she is paid.

Because one part of the poll seemed to indicate that liberals read more books than conservatives, Shroeder reverted to the type of petty political attack she was well known for before her congressional exit. Debra J. Saunders makes clear in her San Francisco Chronicle column today that Pat Shroeder is either a fool or a liar. You decide which it is.

(Shroeder) proclaimed, “The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple of slogans: ‘No, don’t raise my taxes, no new taxes.’ It’s pretty hard to write a book saying, ‘No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes,’ on every page.”

She also told AP that liberals “can’t say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion.”

Silly me, I looked into the poll – which liberals have hailed as proof of their intellectual superiority – and there’s not a lot there in “the whole picture.” The poll found that among people polled who read at least one book in the last year, liberals read nine books and conservatives read eight.

When I called Michael Gross, associate vice president of Ipsos public affairs, to find out more about the Ipsos poll, he told me the one-book difference “is within the margin of error, it’s not a statistically significant difference.”

The poll also found that moderates who said they read at least one book a year, on average, read five books a year. By Schroeder’s lights, moderates must be really simple-minded sloganeers.

As a conservative, I am not proud to read that 34 percent of conservatives – as opposed to 22 percent of liberals and moderates – said they had read a book within the last year.

Then again, because the poll did not ask people if they read newspapers or magazines, Gross noted, “I don’t think it says anything about people’s general level of information.”


Which makes one wonder: Why did Schroeder, who is supposed to champion books, choose to alienate one-third of the American public, those who self-identify as conservatives? She adds new meaning to the phrase “peeling the onion.”

In her rush to brand the right as bunch of illiterates, Schroeder had the poor sense to go after an avid reader, Karl Rove, who has been winning a heated competition with President Bush as to which of the two can read the most books. Rove recently told Rush Limbaugh that he beat Bush last year. The Score: Rove, 110 books; Bush, 94.

As the poll really shows, a person’s political beliefs have very little impact on the number of books he reads per given year. People either read or they don’t read. Karl Rove has not personally killed off a whole generation of conservative readers. In my estimation, Pat Shroeder is just another in a long line of fools who has decided to let personal vindictiveness get in the way of doing the job for which she is paid. I hope that that the American Association of Publishers cares enough about their group to muzzle the woman before she does them any more damage.

Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking

It is not unusual for first novels to be of the “coming of age” variety. But seldom has anyone come of age the way that Miranda Donnal, the main character in Aoibheann Sweeney’s first novel, manages to do it. Miranda, an only child, was taken to live on an isolated island about a mile off the coast of Maine when she was only two years old, and because her mother died not long after the family’s arrival, she spent her formative years on the island with only her father and Mr. Blackwell, the family caretaker, as company.

Miranda’s father isolated himself with his books and his lifetime project of producing a new translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and was not much of a father to Miranda, preferring to leave her to her own devices as long as she was always home for dinner and available to type up his latest pages of translation. Luckily for Miranda, Mr. Blackwell did have some paternal instincts and he came to love the child in a protective way that her father could never equal. It was Mr. Blackwell who made sure that Miranda was enrolled in school and who was there to take her by boat to the mainland every morning until she was old enough to handle the trip alone. And it was Mr. Blackwell who educated Miranda in the ways of life on the island during all the years when her father seldom seemed to think about her.

Despite this unusual upbringing, Miranda felt protective of her father and seemed to understand why he was incapable of expressing or showing his love for her. So when he surprised her after her high school graduation by arranging a job for her in New York City with his friends at the cultural institute he helped to found there before leaving for his new life in Maine, she exchanged her tiny island for a much larger one. And she found more there than she expected to find.

She found her father.

Clue by clue, she pieced together the life her father lived in New York and came to realize that he was nothing like the man she had imagined him to be all of her life. And, at the same time, she learned as much about herself. She found friends and she found lovers in New York City. Her problem was to decide which were which, and when she finally did that, she was ready to begin the rest of her life.

Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking, is a frank presentation of how life sometimes surprises us just when we think we have it all figured out. Sweeney places the reader in this unusual world in a way that makes it understandable and to seem almost normal, a remarkable achievement.

Rated at: 3.5

Specific Gravity

I picked up a copy of the 2007 Atlantic Monthly “Special Fiction Issue” last night because it contains new short stories from John Updike and Tobias Wolff and a feature written by Ann Patchett on the controversy about her work at Clemson University. But the issue also contains short stories from four other authors with whom I’m not particularly familiar and I started my magazine reading with the one by Marjorie Kemper called “Specific Gravity.”

“Specific Gravity,” although it is only seven magazine pages long, managed to immerse me completely into the lives and personalities of three priests who finished the seminary together “about 200 years ago.” Father Grady, Father Tim’s confessor, who has struggled to keep his vows of celibacy over the years, now finds both his patience and his faith tested by his assignment to minister to gang members in the projects. Father Barry, a passionate pro-life advocate, has become well known enough to have his own television show and only seems happy when he is front of an audience as passionate about the subject as he is.

But at the heart of the story is Father Tim, a good man with few financial skills who has managed to accumulate so much personal debt in his attempts to help his elderly parishioners and their families that he has bill collectors hounding and threatening him at all hours of the day and night. Facing personal bankruptcy and humiliation for himself and his beloved Church, Father Tim has to decide just exactly what he is willing to do to earn the money that he needs to save himself.

Marjorie Kemper has given me as much to think about in seven pages as some writers are able to leave me with in a 300-page novel. This is a remarkable story and it reminds me again just how good short fiction can be and how much emotion a skillful writer can pack into just a few pages.

Kemper has already won an O. Henry Prize for one of her stories (2003) and her second novel, Between the Devil and the Mississippi, has just been completed.

Barnes & Noble Apologizes

The Dallas television station that broke the story about a Barnes & Noble bookstore there that deliberately destroyed approximately 800 perfectly good books rather than donating them to local charities reports today that Barnes & Noble management has apologized for the action.

“They were clearly wrong,” said Barnes & Noble Regional Director Stephanie Horblit. “I am here to apologize and to assure the community it will not happen again in Dallas.”

The apology came less than a day after the investigative story ran on CBS 11.

She called the dumping of books inexcusable.

“Our policy on clearance books, that have been marked down continuously, is to try to donate as many we possibly can,” Horblit said. “This store clearly was in error, and I would like to apologize to the community.”

“That is not our policy,” said Horblit. “That again is a store error that we are dealing with, and it will not happen again.”

These books could have easily been donated to local schools, churches and hospitals. In fact, Barnes & Noble has a donation program with a long list of such organizations.

The company originally said the books were “not donateable.” But now Barnes & Noble admits the nearly 800 books could have been donated.

The company says for now on, it will make every effort to assure that all “donateable” books reach the people who need it most.

This kind of damage control would not have been necessary if publishers and bookstores did not have the wasteful policy of destroying books this way when they prove to be unsellable even on bargain tables. Rather than filling already stressed landfills around the country with more paper, these books should be returned to the publishers for recycling or given to local recyclers for processing. Yes, I know that it is expensive to return that much paper to each publisher. But that is still preferable to publishers agreeing to let bookstores bury their mistakes in landfills that are already so full that they are stressing the environment.

The choice made by this particular Dallas bookstore manager makes me wonder just how serious Barnes & Noble is about making sure that discarded books really make their way to local charities. This manager was either too lazy to follow company policy or he knew that his management was not all that concerned that he do so. The stated policy is a good one and I hope that this is just a case of one lazy store manager taking the easy way out rather than following the company plan.

Barnes & Noble Uses Liquid Soap to Destroy Books

Here’s something else to break the hearts of book lovers everywhere. I do understand that Barnes & Noble is in the book business to make money, but reading how one store manager tried to destroy some 800 books while placing them in a store dumpster just rubs me the wrong way. This sorry tale comes to you from Dallas.

Jan Lawrence was just walking by as employees of a Barnes and Noble at the Preston-Royal shopping center tossed box after box of new books into the dumpster behind the store.

Sandy Torrance was on her way to visit her mother when she stopped to see what was going on.

“I made my first dumpster dive into the bottom of the dumpster and found that they had poured gallons of concentrated soap detergent all over the books so that they couldn’t be resold,” said Torrance. “It’s just really kind of mind boggling when you start thinking about it. I think it’s deplorable.”

Torrance and Lawrence pulled out as many books as they could out of the dumpster, cleaned them and donated them to three local agencies.

Activity Director Pearlie Rideaux started a book club for her residents at Tremont Rehab Center in Dallas. “I’m very blessed to have these books at my facility,” she said.

Resident David Habash says he visits the new library all the time.

“There are things about history, World War II, the former President Bush, things about the FBI and CIA,” said Habash about the books. “I just found these things very interesting.”

There were also plenty of children’s books found in the dumpster. They now have a home at Buckner International.

I’ve often wondered about the legality of removing something from a store dumpster that way. Does discarded store property still belong to the store at that point, or not? When does the store cease to hold title to something tossed out its back door this way? Anyway, I’m happy to see that these ladies “rescued” some of the books and found new homes for them. Shame on Barnes & Noble.

The link to this story also includes a video presentation of the television news report about this incident. After watching it, I am even more ticked off that a company which is struggling to make a profit and seems to be cutting the store hours of its employees could be this wasteful. Barnes & Noble stockholders might find this interesting.

The Indian Bride

The way that the best authors of series detective fiction can build such completely fleshed out characters over the course of their books is often the main attraction to readers. After a book or two, readers feel as if they know the recurring characters well enough to understand and predict their motivations, personalities, likes and dislikes, and the way that they all relate to each other. Finishing the latest book in the series means looking forward to the next one. That’s why it’s seldom wise for someone to begin a detective series with its most recent entry.

But that’s not a problem for readers of Karin Fossum’s The Indian Bride, the fourth book in her Inspector Sejer series, because it functions well as a standalone novel with an intriguing story to tell. Fossum, who lives and works in Norway, is the author of several novels and numerous short stories but it is the translation of her Sejer series into English that is most likely to earn a name for her in this country.

Gunder Jomann, a farm implements salesman in an insulated community of just over 2,000 people, has always seemed a little slow to the people who know him. But his patience and determination have allowed him to carve out a nice life for himself in Elvestad where he lives near his married sister, the only family that he still has. At age 51, he feels that there is really only one thing missing in his life now, a wife, and he realizes that he will have to look outside Elvestad if he is ever to find one. Having become fascinated by the picture of a beautiful Indian woman in a book that his sister gave him, Gunder decides that India is the place for him to find a wife. And against all odds, he succeeds in doing exactly that.

Just as Gunder is leaving for the ninety-minute drive to the airport to pick up his new bride who has been left behind in India to prepare for her new life with him, he receives a phone call from the local hospital saying that his sister, never known for her driving skills, has been involved in a collision and is in a coma. He makes the fateful decision to go to his sister and to send a taxi to the airport to bring his wife to him rather than greeting her himself. As a result, he is never to see her again.

When Poona Bai’s badly battered body is discovered the next day in a grassy meadow on the outskirts of Elvestad, Inspector Konrad Sejer and his assistant, Jacob Skarre, are called in to head the investigation into the brutal murder. The sheer brutality of the crime and the condition of the body make Sejer determined to bring the killer to justice but he soon realizes that the citizens of Elvestad live in a community in which it is simply not acceptable to help outsiders cause problems for any of its people. Sejer finds that even a murder investigation in Elvestad is going to be frustrated by the reluctance of its residents to tell what they know or suspect.

The Indian Bride offers both a fascinating mystery and a look at what life might be like in a small Norwegian village where everyone knows everyone else. Its rather unusual ending is not what most readers will expect, and I suspect that it will disappoint as many readers as it pleases, but Karin Fossum has created a new fan who now plans to read the first three books in the Sejer series and will look forward to the fifth one.

Rated at: 4.0

No O.J. Simpson Book in Barnes & Noble Stores

According to USA Today, Barnes & Noble management has listened to its store buyers and has decided that demand for Simpson’s trash-book will be so light that there is no point in stocking it in its stores across the country. The book will be available for purchase at Barnes & Noble online, however.

“Our buyers don’t feel there will be enough of a demand to carry it in our stores,” Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

A rival chain, Borders Group Inc., said Tuesday that it would stock If I Did It, a fictionalized account of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. But spokeswoman Ann Binkley said Borders “will not promote or market the book in any way.”

Denise Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson’s sister, has accused Goldman’s father, Fred Goldman, and other family members of hypocrisy for publishing a book that he had called “disgusting and despicable” when Simpson first planned to publish it.

I suspect that Barnes & Noble management has also figured out that there is some possibility of a consumer backlash as regards this particularly disgusting book and wants no part of that.

Dozens of British Schools Send Back Free Boring Classics

From London comes word that “dozens of schools” in the U.K. have refused to accept 300-book sets of the classics that the Millennium Library Trust has provided them free of charge. Why? Because the books are too boring and unattractive to “tempt” their students.

Dozens of schools have rejected gifts of free classic books because today’s pupils find them too ‘difficult’ to read, it has emerged.

Around 50 schools have refused to stock literary works by the likes of Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens after admitting that youngsters also find them boring.

…pupils are more interested in Japanese comics rather than literary greats. “Kids love action and adventure,” Miss Read said. “They want books that excite them and are current. They love fantasy.

“The books for nowadays are Manga, the Japanese comic books that you read from back to front.”

The librarian went on to say that the classics were “unattractive”. She said: “I think they are unappealing to youngsters and you’ve got to fit them into your school bag.”

Another school, which rejected the free ‘Everyman’s Library’ books, wrote: “The paper jackets are ugly and unattractive and the binding is dull and boring.

“What is needed is the familiar paperback format with attractive jacket and abridged versions.”

Another school complained: “The books are so unattractive they are unlikely to tempt any pupil.”

Mr Campbell, who has raised £9million to pay for the books, told the Guardian yesterday: “It never occurred to me that anyone would turn this offer down.

“I didn’t expect most school pupils to want to read Homer or Virgil, but I thought that there was more than a reasonable chance that quite a few could be coaxed to read (Gabriel Garcia) Marquez, Primo Levi, (Ernest) Hemingway, (Evelyn) Waugh or even Chinua Achebe.”

He added: “Where I have less sympathy is where librarians or teachers have clearly thrown in the towel and don’t believe anyone in the school can be inspired to read beyond the bare syllabus minimum.

“I can’t believe that one would have had a refusal of such a gift in any other country in Europe, certainly not in Eastern Europe. These books are the DNA of our civilisation. They should be available to everyone as they grow up.”

However, not all the responses were negative. One school librarian wrote: “We are a low-achieving high school, but we’re improving. I would never have been able to find the money in my meagre budget to buy copies of these classics.”

The students in schools where the books have been rejected are very obviously being ill served by their school librarians and I have to wonder why those librarians are not sacked for displaying such a high level of stupidity and shaming their schools this way. It appears that “dumbing down” is becoming as much a problem in the U.K. as it has become in America. If students are not challenged they will do as little as it takes to get by, and that’s the fault of poor teachers and school administrators like these who themselves seem to have become cultural illiterates. Shame on the lot of them.

O.J. Simpson’s Blood Money

Everything about O.J. Simpson repulses and disgusts me. I can’t stand to even glance at a picture of him and the sound of his voice has me running to turn off the television or radio as quickly as I can get to them. So I was both gratified and relieved when it turned out that his attempt to turn the blood of his victims into cold cash by “writing” a book called If I Did It had been crushed by a backlash of public outrage. But now the family of one of Simpson’s victims is determined to see the book published and, despite my complete sympathy for what the family has suffered at the hands of Simpson, I believe that they are making a terrible mistake.

The saga of “If I Did It” has been nothing but bizarre. For one, it was ghostwritten by Pablo F. Fenjves, a neighbor of Nicole Brown Simpson who testified for the prosecution in Mr. Simpson’s 1995 trial about hearing the “plaintive wail” of Mrs. Simpson’s dog on the night of the killings.

And while the book was initially a money-making vehicle for Mr. Simpson, the driving force behind its revival is Mr. Goldman’s father, Fred, who vehemently opposed its publication when Mr. Simpson stood to profit. Last month, Mr. Goldman won the rights to the book in bankruptcy court, giving him the opportunity to take an asset from Mr. Simpson to help satisfy the $38 million (with accrued interest) wrongful-death civil judgment he won against Mr. Simpson but has failed to collect for the last 11 years, despite his relentless efforts.

The Goldman family is declining interview requests until publication of the book, expected by late September. But Peter T. Haven, a lawyer for Fred Goldman, said that his client was trying to both meet a need for some justice by collecting profits from Mr. Simpson’s work and to use Mr. Simpson’s own words as undisputed evidence of his culpability.

Mr. Kampmann (publisher) said the Goldmans’ involvement with the book “changed the moral landscape” for him and, coupled with the already high public awareness, could make it a best seller. He said the new book would include an extra 14,000 words in a foreword by the Goldman family and commentary by other contributors, in addition to Mr. Simpson’s 60,000-word manuscript.

Despite the proclamation of such high-minded goals, the book, a hardcover that will retail for $24.95, remains an object of revulsion, one that mainstream publishers spurned. One of Nicole Brown’s sisters, Denise, took Mr. Kampmann to task on the “Today” show on Wednesday, and has started a petition on her Web site soliciting public opposition to this second publishing attempt.

In an interview, Ms. Brown said she was all for the Goldman family taking Mr. Simpson “for every penny he’s worth,” but said this was not the way to do it.

I can understand why Fred Goldman wants to hit O.J. Simpson in the wallet. After all, money, sex and golf are the only things that Simpson seems to care about, and without money he might have a problem with the other two loves of his life. But since Goldman had already successfully blocked the publication of this book, Simpson’s finances will not be impacted by publishing it now and taking the proceeds away from him. The damage to Simpson had already been done.

As much as I have tried to put myself in Fred Goldman’s shoes, I simply cannot understand how he can stand to put blood money earned on the horrible death suffered by his son into his own pockets. Revenge is one thing, and if I were him I would do everything in my legal power to hurt O.J. Simpson, but this is not really accomplishing that. This is one book that I will stay as far from as I possibly can. I refuse to play this game.

The Water’s Lovely

Ruth Rendell, perhaps best known for her twenty-one Chief Inspector Wexford novels, is also a master of psychological suspense as she has shown time after time with stand alone novels written in her own name or as Barbara Vine. The Water’s Lovely, another of those suspense filled novels, is a worthy addition to a body of work that now numbers almost seventy volumes of novels, novellas, short stories and non-fiction.

Ismay Sealand has lived with a terrible secret for twelve years and she knows that, if she is to continue to protect her sister, there is no one with whom she can ever share what she knows about the day that Guy, her stepfather, drowned in his bath. Since that day, when she was fifteen years old and Heather was only thirteen, she has believed that Heather killed their step-father in order to protect Ismay from his sexual advances. The sisters have never spoken of that day but, now that their mother has gone mad and must be kept sedated at all times by her own caretaker sister, Ismay finds herself more and more compelled to finally have the conversation with Heather that will confirm, one way or the other, the suspicions that she has carried for so many years.

But as reluctant as Ismay is about forcing the conversation to actually happen, things would have remained unlikely to ever change if not for the men who entered the sisters’ lives, two men who could barely tolerate each other and who would forever change the relationship between the women. The Water’s Lovely is a story of relationships and loyalties, one that compares the strength of blood relations and family ties to that of sexual attraction and the security of marriage. Ismay and Heather have to decide which pull is strongest and just how much compromise they are willing to make in order not to lose the men in their lives.

Rendell has created a world filled with interesting people who directly or indirectly impact the lives of the women living in the Sealand household, vividly flawed characters who are struggling to find their own happiness and who share all of the weaknesses that we recognize so well in ourselves and those around us. This is not a fast paced thriller that leaves the reader exhausted at its end. The Water’s Lovely is much more than that. It is the work of a master suspense writer with the skill to build that suspense slowly, layer by layer, sucking the reader into a situation that he wonders how he would have handled if confronted with similar circumstances. It is the kind of story that stays with its reader long after its covers are closed for the last time.

Rated at: 4.0

You Never Know Whom You Might Meet in a Bookstore

Shopping in a bookstore demands a certain level of concentration and the ability to tune out the distractions created by your fellow shoppers. I like to lose myself in at least a couple of pages of any book that I’m considering for purchase and, if I can’t find a nearby chair, I’ll stand in place for however long it takes me to decide if a book is coming home with me or not. Once while browsing in London’s Foyles Bookshop I even stood shoulder to shoulder with actor Michael Caine for at least five minutes before I glanced over and recognized exactly who was starting to crowd me.

But the experience that this Arizona bookstore customer had is one that really defies the odds. According to, it was a case of victim and thief meeting for the second time at the same bookstore.

A woman whose purse was stolen and the thief who took it inadvertently stood next to each other at a Prescott bookstore – she to complain about the unauthorized use of her credit card, he to get some cash.

The 59-year-old victim went to Hastings Books and Music on Tuesday to tell the store that someone had stolen her purse and used her credit card to buy $200 in DVDs.

Minutes later, while the woman was standing there, a man came up to the counter and tried to return eight DVDs in exchange for cash. The two didn’t recognize each other, and the woman even politely made room for the man when he walked up.

I have a feeling that the thief, who obviously suffers from a stupidity problem, was the more surprised of the two. The good news is that police arrived quickly enough to catch up with the jerk as he tried to make his escape. No, you really never know just whom you might meet in a bookstore.

‘A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow’: An American Hitchhiking Odyssey

Tim Brookes had his life changed forever in 1973 when, as a young Oxford student, he met an American girl from Iowa who personified all of the traits that he saw as the best that America had to offer. So infatuated was he with the girl and what she represented to him, that he came to New York City that summer with $90 worth of traveler’s checks and the determination to hitchhike across the country and back to an Ontario tobacco farm where he had a summer job waiting. Almost as an afterthought, Brookes applied for a position at the University of Vermont and, against all odds, was eventually offered a position at the university that he still held in 1998 when he decided to relive his 1973 hitchhiking adventure.

Twenty-five years after that first trip, Brookes found that he was not exactly living the dream that he saw for himself back in 1973. He looked in the mirror and saw a twice-divorced middle-aged man who had been working hard for more than a decade to be a good husband and father in his third try at marriage. He was “trudging grimly through the valley of the shadow of debt,” had a mortgage and credit card debt, was paying child support, and was working 50-60 hours every week just to stay even. In other words, he was living an existence that typifies the one that most of us know only too well.

Brookes, even in the days prior to September 11, 2001, had the feeling that America had changed in ways that directly impacted the nature of its citizens in a negative way. So, with financial backing from National Geographic magazine, he devised a plan to judge for himself how much Americans had changed in the last twenty-five years. (The magazine also provided a photographer who traveled sometimes ahead of Brookes and sometimes behind him, although very few of his photographs are actually used in the book.)

Brookes did make it all the way to the West Coast and back to his Vermont home, just as he had planned to do. And along the way, he was pleasantly surprised to find that the abundance of kindness from strangers that he had encountered on his first trip was not a thing of the past. The book, in fact, is filled with stories of people who go out of their way to help Brookes just when he most needed the kind of help they had to offer.

But A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow is not quite the adventure that I expected to read when I first picked it up because, for his second trip across the U.S. as a hitchhiker, Brookes makes so many concessions to his age and financial backing that the trip more resembles a controlled experiment than it does a trip left to chance. He travels with a cell phone by which he can almost always contact his photographer to meet him when he has the urge to cover ground more quickly for a day or two. And he has enough cash or credit this time to pamper himself with a motel when his body demands a break or to ride the bus when spots the right connections.

Despite that type of thing (and Brookes, to his credit, makes the concessions an integral part of his story), I did enjoy learning about the people and places that Brookes came to know while crossing the country. And, frankly, being of a similar age, I can sympathize with the knee problems that he described and am impressed that he had the courage to tackle the trip at all.

Rated at: 3.0

"Revenge of the Bloodthirsty Lesbians"

I’m sort of impressed with the way that current authors have reached the level of celebrity that gets them mentioned in the “entertainment” sections of newspapers these days. I say “sort of” because I’m not real sure that I want to read about my favorite writers while having to dodge the latest tripe on Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

But from the Times of London comes word of a feud between two of the best crime fiction writers in the business today, one of them a personal favorite of mine, Ian Rankin.

There is no mystery to solve: Ian Rankin did it, in an interview, with the word “lesbian”.

Britain’s bestselling crime writer found himself condemned as “offensive” by a leading female rival yesterday after suggesting that women authors, and gay ones in particular, are more bloodthirsty than men. The acclaimed writer of the Inspector Rebus novels said in an interview last year: “The people writing the most graphic novels today are women. They are mostly lesbians as well, which I find interesting.”

Speaking to an audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Val McDermid quoted the remark almost word for word, attributing it to “a very prominent Scottish male writer”. She then dismissed it as “arrant rubbish”.

“I’ll tell you what pisses me off more than almost anything: when people say, ‘As a woman, how do you feel about writing on violence?’ Have you ever heard a male crime writer being asked, ‘As a man, how do you feel about writing about violence?’

“There’s a profound disassociation, it seems to me; as if somehow it’s wrong for us to be writing about violence against women, as though somehow we need permission to write about violence against women.”

Rankin defended himself at the festival yesterday, saying that his original comments had been intended as part of a broader discussion about the younger generation of crime fiction writers. “It’s not just about lesbians. It seems to me that to get into the Top Ten it helps, if you are a woman, if you write quite violent books. It helps if you are a man if you don’t.”

Some women crime writers have argued that what they produce is less gratuitous than the violence in books by men because it tends to emphasise the consequences of abuse and killing. Others suggest that the visceral style of so many female crime writers stems from their greater awareness of the threat of sexual violence.

The article contains some graphic descriptions of recent novels written by women crime writers. In fact, they are so graphic that I avoided quoting the descriptions, so see the article to judge for yourself the kind of thing that Rankin was describing.

There have been some great literary feuds in the last few decades, of course, and they are always interesting to follow because of the way that they expose the minds of those involved. This particular feud appears to be far from over although Rankin doesn’t really seem to be all that interested in it.

Stephen King Mistaken for Vandal

No one can say that Stephen King has lost his sense of humor or the love of pulling a good prank. A bookstore owner in the Australian Outback got a glimpse of the man and his personality recently.

Stephen King, the bestselling author, was mistaken for a vandal in the Australian Outback while secretly signing copies of his own thrillers in a book shop, according to local media reports.

A customer at the Dymocks store in remote Alice Springs raised the alarm after noticing a man walk in off the street and begin writing in several books, manager Bev Ellis told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“As the owner of a bookshop, when you see someone writing in one of your books you get a bit toey [touchy],” Ms Ellis said.

“So we immediately ran to the books and lo-and-behold here was the signature in several books.

“We sort of spun around on our heels, [saying] ‘where did he go, where did he go’?”

Ms Ellis said she found the American horror writer standing in the fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket across the road in the small desert town and went over to introduce herself.

Gotta love it…