Sunday, 6 July 2008

Number 4 With A Bullet!

I'll let you in to a sad little secret. For years I have gone into my local Tesco store and I have always, always had a quick glance at the children's book section, hoping to see one of my titles in their children's chart. And it has never happened... until three days ago, when sure enough, there was Alec Devlin: The Eye Of The Serpent in at number 4 on it's first day of release.

To say I was pleased would be something of an understatement. I was delighted and also a tad mystified. The book doesn't receive its official release until August 7th, but Tesco have chosen it as their Book Club Choice for July, so for one month only, readers can grab the opportunity to enjoy its visceral delights via the world's most successful supermarket chain. It comes complete with a ball point pen which has a little compass set into it. An adult friend of mine purchased a copy and reported that the compass was 'unreliable'. I'm not sure what he intended to do with it, but it hasn't detracted from my joy one iota. 

Of course, some will argue that an author rejoicing about being in  a chart compiled by a supermarket is a touch sad. Maybe, but Tesco is a part of most people's everyday lives and I've always wanted my books to reach as wide an audience as possible, so let them scoff. Even if the book drops to number 93 next week, I will have had my moment of glory and they can't take that away from me now.

The other recent book-related issue that I've been involved with is age-banding. Like most authors, I received a letter from my publisher telling me that from now on, the back covers of my books would carry an age-banding symbol. (Alec Devlin, for instance, will be banded 9+). I'll confess that I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it.

Then I received an email from Philip Pullman. In my business, this is tantamount to receiving a message from God.

It seems Mr Pullman and many of his colleagues are bitterly opposed to age-banding and he was urging me to sign a petition to say that I too was against the idea. Having considered his arguments carefully, I decided that he had a point and duly did as he requested. In the following weeks, the debate hotted up considerably and it looks as though there's going to be a real fight over this subject. More recently, I have received other emails from  highly regarded children's authors, telling me that they intend to fight this insidious evil to their last drop of blood.

I can't say that I'm all that worked up about it. Alec Devlin is already printed with its 9+ logo on the back cover and I'm certainly not going to insist that it be changed. But it will be interesting to see how all the hoo-hah pans out.

Meanwhile, those who wish to read an adventure story that features ancient Egyptian curses, ravenous beasts, mouldering mummies and a man whose skin is made from millions of scarab beetles should take themselves off to Tesco with undue haste and snap up a copy at the ridiculously low price of £4. Just don't use the compass pen on a trekking holiday in Nepal, there's no telling where you may end up!