Sunday, August 30, 2009

Not Quite Lost in Translation

I just learned of the American Translators Association's compiled list of blogs on translation. Since the subject of translation does come up on some of the crime fictions blogs I visit, particularly on Peter Rozovsky's Detectives Beyond Borders (this link taking you to a case in point), I thought it would be good to pass this along.

Thanks to Erika Dreifus's Practicing Writing for the link, and in turn to her source, B.J. Epstein's Brave New Words, both worthy of your attention.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Some Good News About Troy Davis

Occasional readers of this blog may already know the story of Troy Davis, serving time on death row in Georgia, and of my personal interest in his cause. I found the recent directive by the Supreme Court that a Georgia court reconsider his case to be not only hopeful but reaffirming of my own sense of the situation. The justices were not, of course, unanimous in their decision. It may be worth highlighting opposing points of view.

Here's Justice Stevens on the matter:“The substantial risk of putting an innocent man to death clearly provides an adequate justification for holding an evidentiary hearing.”

But then here is Justice Scalia: "This court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.”

I'm sure Justice Scalia and I don't match up very well on our ideas of jurisprudence in general, and I'm also sure he knows a lot more about matters of law than I do. Nevertheless, it was odd reading his statement just as I was in the midst of reading a novel of suspense by Tom Rob Smith called Child 44, which is set in the Stalinist era of Russia. True, it's 'just a novel', but I think Smith probably pretty well understands the mindset of those who are willing to sacrifice the innocent for some greater good. There are a great many people in Russia who "failed thrive" under such a mentality.

If Troy Davis is "actually" innocent, then he is actually innocent. And he should not only be "actually" set free, he should actually be set free.

Good luck to you, Troy, in presenting your case. For anyone who would like to be further involved, please go here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What The Guardian Knows that The New York Times Doesn't.

Sorry, American newspapers. You had your chance, but you got scooped. You could have been the first to give a rave review to Fifty Grand, the wonderful stand alone novel by Adrian McKinty. And it had everything a good American paper might want: celebrities, a thoughtful critique of Cuba, an American setting, even the illegal immigrant issue. Frankly, it was made for you.

So where did I read the first major newspaper review? Here.Some sort of English rag. You might have heard of it. It's called The Guardian.

Yeah, I've got a bit of an ax to grind. I'm a bookseller, and I've been trying to sell this book all summer. And actually, I have sold a few. Not as many as I would have liked, and definitely not as many as I could have or would have if American newspapers, despite their financial woes, had gotten behind this one. I know everyone wants to read Michael Connelly and John Grisham and the tried and true, but isn't anyone looking to the future? Isn't anyone thinking, maybe we ought to be cultivating some other excellent writers?

As our Guardian reviewer mentions, McKinty has already written a major crime series focused on a very complex character, Michael Forsythe. Unbelievably, the first novel in this series, Dead I Well May Be, is out of print in the U.S. (Don't let that stop you, though--once again, the Brits have picked up our slack, and you can get a very nice paperback edition from Serpent's Tail.)

I have to say that when a writer this good doesn't get the attention he merits, it really makes me wonder about the state of American publishing. I know that editors and even editorial assistants still can spot great writing, so where is the bottleneck, exactly? Is everyone in publishing so attuned to what the televised media says that they don't pay any attention anymore to people who actually read?

Well, I'm puzzled, and am likely to remain so. But luckily, our friends across the pond are not likely to remain in the dark about this talent. We can rely on Serpent's Tail to keep some wonderful writing in print.