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The Editor's View June 07


John Jenkins

John Jenkins' monthly column from Writers' Forum magazine

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Check out the newly-published collection The Best of Writers' Forum for a collection of useful articles.


Film deals can take an age…

Sports books worth reading…

Farewell and hello!

IMAGINE this. Your novel has been accepted and before publication a draft has reached LA where Stephen Spielberg calls you from his car to say his Dreamworks company would like to take an option on the film rights.

What do you do? Buy yourself a new car? Take your agent to the Ivy for lunch? Buy a couple of diamonds? Or perhaps contribute to the Rumanian sanctuary for orphaned and abandoned children?

I have been waiting for around six years to see the film version of the brilliant Deborah Moggach  book Tulip Fever and was reminded of this as the paperback version has just appeared.

But does it say on the cover those magic words: Now a major motion picture. It does not. For it has had more false starts than any normal person could bear. The first villain was chancellor Gordon Brown who, without warning, withdrew tax break support for the British film industry.

True, the system had sometimes been abused so he decided to end the concession and out went the baby with the bath water. Stars disappeared…budgets were trimmed…a different producer hired and expenditure on initial planning wasted.

Hard luck Tulip Fever and Deborah. The story is set in 17th century Amsterdam which enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and many wealthy patrons for artists. So we still await the film but if you missed the hardback do pick up the paperback.

Meanwhile the disappointed author works on other TV and film adaptations and has another new novel out: In the Dark.

It is a love story set in the first world war but is geared more to the home front rather than the slaughter in the trenches. I haven’t read it yet so I cannot say whether it is as good or better than the excellent Tulip Fever.

When film deals are announced they create a great deal of excitement but it should be remembered that Paramount option around 100 scripts each year and make ten pictures.

A good friend of mine once had a book optioned by Disney who renewed the option three times. Still no film and the conditions which made his book a funny spoof on Russian/American relations no longer exist.

He is now working on another story which should have been filmed to coincide with the last Olympics. Never mind David – perhaps it will be ready for the next one.

SPORTS books do not get much of a look-in at Writers’ Forum. Much as we like biographies, the doings of Wayne Rooney and co offer little to enthuse about. But two books recently are worth a mention. One by former Prime Minister John Major - More than a Game: the story of Cricket’s Early Years; and Provided You don’t Kiss Me: 20 years with Brian Clough by journalist Duncan Hamilton.

Major recounts a match in 1776 between Kent and Essex which ended in a riot, a fight between the two teams and two deaths. This apart, Major’s book will find a place in every cricket lover’s library. It calls to mind that great broadcast interview between Mike Brearley and John Arlott: What do they know of cricket who only cricket know.

Cloughie was one of sport’s great characters. As one of the visiting teams went out to look at the Nottingham Forest pitch before getting changed he hollered: "Hey, no high heels on the pitch."

The astonished visitiors turned to him in amazement. "We’re not wearing high heels."

"Sorry," said Clough " my mistake, but they usually go with ear rings."

LITERARY agent Andrew Lownie, who specialises in biography, had a superb run in April selling four books to British publishers.

Bloomsbury bought world rights in Christopher Lloyd’s A Brief History of Absolutely Everything, the first combined history of the world and its inhabitants.

Duncan McNair’s sequel to The Morello Letters has been commissioned by Harper Collins who will publish this autumn.

Terry Spamer’s memoir of his work as an undercover animal investigator, Animal Eye, has been sold to Vision Publishing who publish this autumn. Weidenfeld have bought UK rights to Professor John Hatcher’s recreation of how the Black Death affected one Suffolk village and publish next year.

Robert Holden’s appearance on Oprah generated huge demand around the world for rights in his books, a demand which will no doubt increase after he returns to the show.

Another of his authors, Robert Hutchinson, writes for us on page 10 of the magazine.

You can check Andrew’s web site for up-to-date information.

RICHARD HAMMOND’S £10,000 prize from the Royal Society Of Literature for his book is well documented in this issue but then we noticed another news item. He has bought a new motor bike - a Ducati 1098 capable of 175mph.

This is to go with his Dodge Charger, Porsche 911, Land Rovers (2), Harley Davidson, Ford Mustang, Morgan V6 and a Suzuki GSXR 1000.

I should think his £10,000 prize will hardly cover his insurance premiums. What does he put down in the accidents box on the proposal form?

AS I am now stepping down as editor of Writers’ Forum it is time to welcome Carl Styants, who will take over the chair. Accordingly I would like to thank everybody who has supported the magazine in so many ways during the past six years and the many friends I have met personally and through its pages.

I’ve told Carl that the readers edit this magazine – we merely respond to what you want.

"Fine," he said and invited me to stay as a contributor and to run a help page answering your queries. I will be delighted and wish him well and every one of you success with your efforts.


John Jenkins, Publisher, Writers' Forum


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

© Writers International Ltd 2007. Reproduced from Writers' Forum magazine by kind permission of the editor.