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The Editor's View April 2004


John Jenkins

John Jenkins' monthly column from Writers' Forum magazine

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Last Tango in Dublin . . . Becks puts his best foot forward . . . Monica Ali scores in W H Smith awards

EVERY SO often we open a letter that gladdens the heart, quickens the pulse and gets clichés tumbling off the keyboard faster than a politician’s speech writer.

Such a good letter arrived on a March snow-strewn morning bringing sunshine from Ireland.

A Dublin-based writing circle, Ardlea Writers’ Group, led by William Rocke, has published a novel, Last Tango in Ibiza and sold 4,000 copies in Ireland.

It’s now in its third printing and will be available in Waterstones and others throughout the UK.

Mr Rocke wrote to me: Last Tango was rejected by every well-known publisher in Ireland and several in the UK. Undeterred, myself and six mature ladies of my group (one of whom was a nun) decided at great expense to publish it ourselves.

When published the book sold out so fast to booksellers in Dublin (who didn’t release royalties until after three months) that we had to get a bank loan to fund the third print.

Incidentally, our story was so inspiring, plus the fact that a group, including three grandmothers and a nun, were writing a novel on sex-crazy Ibiza, the media were intrigued and we had numerous pictures and stories in the Irish press.

We featured on RTE TV’s Late Show and had the novel launched by Dublin Lord Mayor at the Mansion House.

Myself and my members have paid off our bank loan, recouped 750 euros and received another 700 euros each. We also have enough in the bank for another reprint.

William goes on to say he has just completed his own second novel which is a romantic thriller set against the background of big-time golf. With the next Ryder Cup on the horizon I would suggest that publishers in the UK or United States might like to get in touch with Mr Rocke.

Sounds like a winner to me.

* * *

AS A RULE we welcome any award connected with promoting books. Any publicity is good publicity. But have we gone celebrity mad? The British Book Awards have been a benchmark for years but when the nominees for their Book of the Year honour were announced it was said that two of the contenders were Mr David Beckham, the footballer, and Mr Paul Burrell, the butler.

Now David is nice lad with a devastating right foot but I doubt if composition was his best subject at school. Burrell would no doubt rival Jeeves in his butlering but probably not P G Wodehouse for his prose.

As David might observe: It’s the year of the box, innit?

Burrell, who is perhaps not quite the soul of discretion a butler should be, could find himself on the Richard and Judy show. I don’t know much about R & J but they seem harmless enough, providing fodder for impressionists and comedians. But the publicists for the awards know that Richard and Judy can move books off shelves.

My misgivings were shared by Patricia Carlton from Haslemere who read that Maxine Carr was writing a book. You can read Patricia’s letter on page 6 (of the magazine). She sums up the feelings of many readers very well.

* * *

ON AN upbeat note it was good to see Monica Ali and Mark Haddon recognised. Monica took the W H Smith award for the best debut novel, a prize richly deserved. These awards go from strength to strength and can rightly be called the people’s choice with 148,000 customers voting for what they liked.

How are you on lavender language?

IF YOU’RE a journalist, are you an embed, a writer of marmalade droppers, or the phat answer to a bibliophobe’s prayers? And is lavender language more than purple prose?

If you’re a stress puppy, do you eat your lunch al desko, suffer from matutolypea, and have a problem with textual harassment or bustitution?

If you’re a middle youth, are you torn between me time and baby hunger, and dreading your first senior moment and hand-me-up?

You might have avoided SARS, but what if you have a sesquipedalian condition such as coulrophobia or nosocomephrenia? Could xenotransplantation or a saviour sibling cure you?

Would a trolleyologist be able to figure out if you’re a slow food lover or a bogof addict?

If you’re one of the sheeple, did you join a flash mob and succumb to Henmania?

If you’re plagued by an earworm, was it sexed up with plagiarhythm, or is it a weapon of mass distraction? The answers to all these questions lie in the attached Macmillan English Dictionary Top 40 Words of 2003, a chart that provides a linguistic snapshot of the topical and social issues of the year.

This chart is based on readership figures for weekly articles that are published on


John Jenkins, Publisher, Writers' Forum


Read the article about setting up WritersServices which was originally published in Writers' Forum magazine.

© Writers International Ltd 2004. Reproduced from the December-January edition of Writers' Forum magazine by kind permission of the editor.