weekend two book-related stories caught my eye in The Sunday Times. First, Jamie Oliver’s book sales broke the £100
million mark, making him second only to JK Rowling (albeit by a still hefty
struck me as something of a dog-bites-man story. Since The Naked Chef first graced our screens back in 1999 Mr Oliver has
demonstrated superb nous for choosing his campaigns on food issues. Once allied
to the considerable air time his programmes command, he has won a firm place in
the hearts and minds of Joe and - more likely - Josephine Public.
does something unutterably stupid, his national treasure status will grow
further and one can only wonder when those sales will break the billion pound
barrier – at which point we’ll have a bigger-dog-bites-man story.
My air of
cynicism derives from the likelihood that the whole episode has been cleverly
engineered by one of Penguin’s talented publicists offering journalists a
seasonal reason to further publicise their author.
downside I can see to this is a feeling of ennui among other published chefs –
a substantial genre nowadays.
Of all the
authors I have had the privilege to meet I can’t think of any I would cross the
road to avoid but undoubtedly there’s a rivalry bubbling under the surface. When
one is thrust into a spotlight the other/s feel/s should have been theirs it is
only human nature to feel deprived. But just how far would they go to redress
brings me to a somewhat darker piece about the ‘Cut-throat tricks of Amazon
warriors’. To summarise, 16 out of 119 reviews of Rosie Alison’s The Very Thought of You gave it only 1
star. Ms Alison feels there is skulduggery afoot and is apparently now in
dispute with Amazon about said reviews, although presumably she doesn’t object
to the complimentary ones.
really like getting involved in these kind of things,’ she’s quoted as saying
but that hasn’t stopped her asking a company that specialises in protecting
online reputations to do some checking.
quantum leap to Polly Sampson – whose Perfect
Lives is a featured book in nb61. Ms Sampson is guilty of being married to
one David Gilmour, guitarist of Pink Floyd, occasioning some snide Amazon comments. Ms Sampson has had the good sense not to get involved – although her
book is getting noticed elsewhere and was listed as one of the newspaper’s fiction books of
the year in its Culture supplement.
the story meanders somewhat until lo and behold, reviewer of this parish (and
also for Amazon’s Vine network), Sally Zigmond, pops up. Being a reviewer of
both Alison and Sampson’s books it is refreshing to hear a voice of common
sense, ‘I didn’t like the Alison book very much, I’m afraid, but it was a
personal opinion. I try to be honest but I probably give friends higher reviews
than I normally would have done.’
exactly has come out of this piece well is debatable and while Amazon has long
had a reputation for hosting – probably unwittingly – reviews ‘planted’ by
friends, associates or, dare one say, editors of certain books, I don’t envy
them the job of policing their site. The internet is gathering a reputation for what others may want to 'contribute' under the cloak of
anonymity that they probably wouldn't have said face to face.
Of course, you could do worse than visit our review listing comprising only reviews by reviewers known to us. There may be individual tastes and concerns at play in
what they write but they do so in the conviction that it will help other
readers decide whether they want to read the book as well.
yet, we have only had one author complain about a review that we posted in good
faith. Our response then – as now – was to send us another copy which we would
review and if the second review was markedly different from the tone of the
first then we would remove it or run the second review alongside, depending on the degree of
difference. Suffice to say that the second review mirrored the first and we
agreed to disagree with the author.