Monthly Archives: May 2019

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Merger moves closer
Nanjing Night Net

THERE’S a long way to go but the proposed merger between Random House and Penguin is closer to becoming a reality after the US Justice Department completed an investigation of the deal and said it would have no objections. It’s safe to assume that other regulatory authorities might well follow the example set by the Americans and approve the union that will give the new entity more than 25 per cent of the global consumer anglophone publishing market. When Penguin’s global boss, John Makinson, was in Melbourne last October, shortly after the announcement of the merger, this column asked him about the possibility of the deal coming unstuck. ”The regulatory process is a pretty complicated one; it involves a lot of different jurisdictions so it would be a very brave chief executive who said there is no possibility of this thing going wrong here but you would expect that we would have taken fairly comprehensive legal advice before making an announcement of this kind, which indeed we did. So we feel we have the ability to meet the regulatory tests in the major jurisdictions, but I don’t want to pretend this is going to be a completely straightforward process. Obviously we’re going to have very detailed discussions with the Department of Justice in the States, with the European Commission and, indeed, here in Australia and Canada and other jurisdictions.” The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is undertaking an ”informal review” and considering the proposed transaction under section 50 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which ”prohibits acquisitions that substantially lessen competition in a market, or are likely to do so”. The ACCC expects to reveal its outcome in early March.

Amazon under attack

WHEN the Random and Penguin deal was announced, much was made of it as creating a bulwark against the increasing power of Amazon. Makinson told Bookmarks that ”the strength of Amazon featured in our thinking just as the pressure on physical booksellers featured in our thinking”. So Makinson might have given three cheers to the comments of James Daunt, managing director of British bookshop chain Waterstones. Certainly owners of bricks-and-mortar bookshops would. In an interview with the Financial Times, Daunt got stuck into the online retailer for destroying jobs and for the loose tax regime it enjoys. ”What proportion of jobs do they create in a warehouse relative to the number they destroy on the immediate high streets around them, and why is the taxpayer funding this destruction?” He said the online retailer’s business model was a ”job destroyer” and castigated politicians for not creating tougher tax rules for multinational companies. But to be fair to Daunt, who last year made a deal with Amazon to sell its Kindle e-book readers, he did acknowledge in the interview that, like supermarkets, Amazon offered ”tremendously good value”.

Shop sales steady

FIGURES from the US should give enthusiasts for the traditional bookshop some cheer. In 2012, sales dipped by only half a percentage point to $15.3 billion, a result that was described by Publishers Weekly as the smallest drop in years. The monthly results fluctuated throughout the year – in May, for example, they jumped 5.7 per cent compared with the same month in the previous year, while in September they dropped 8.3 per cent. December bookshop sales climbed 2.9 per cent to $1.7 billion.

A Tartt return

SHE can hardly be called prolific – two novels in 21 years – but at long last another is on its way. Donna Tartt’s third novel, The Goldfinch, will be published in the US, Britain and Australia in October by Little, Brown. Her most recent novel, The Little Friend, came out 10 years ago to little enthusiasm from readers and critics, unlike her first, The Secret History, which sold millions on publication in 1992. Apparently, the new novel has been with the publisher since 2008. According to its description, young Theo Decker survives an explosion in New York that kills his mother. To avoid being taken into care, he scrambles between nights in friends’ apartments and on the city streets. He then becomes obsessed with a small, mysteriously captivating painting that reminds him of his mother and soon draws Theo into the art underworld. The novel ”is a haunted odyssey through present-day America. It is a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art.”

Tolstoy with sex appeal

ANDREW Davies has a pretty good track record adapting for the small screen classic novels from the 19th century. Think Pride and Prejudice – yes, he was responsible for Colin Firth as Mr Darcy emerging wet and tantalising from that lake – Bleak House and Little Dorrit. In Sense and Sensibility he had a fireside sex scene at the start of the first episode, a seduction scene not mentioned and certainly not dwelt on in Jane Austen’s novel until page 218. When Davies spoke at the Melbourne Writers Festival in 2008, he told the audience at one session that Pride and Prejudice was all about ”sex and money and young people with raging hormones”. So what are we to make of the news that Davies’ next project is a six-part adaptation for the BBC of Tolstoy’s whopper, War and Peace? He says Natasha Rostova beats Elizabeth Bennet as the most loveable heroine in literature. And Davies wants to get women ”excited about one or two of the male stars”, apparently.

POETRYA Useful Fan

Queen Victoria woke up near the embersof a burnt-out gum, where Tony Abbottdozed lightly in his capacity as VolunteerFirefighter. Her copy of his publication,The Minimal Monarchy proved a useful fanfor her. Active charity work always seemed to her odd, like Mr Gladstonecombing the streets for ladies to reform,but she supposed being Leader of her Oppositionwas still the cause of great frustration. Abbottseeing her at last felt huge reliefthat she wasn’t Santamaria, Mannixor Loyola, with all of whom he’d growndeeply tired of conversation. “Mam,”he implored, “I do not despise women,” sinceshe looked motherly not minimal and seemedto understand him with her owlet gaze. She sawthe genuine stillness of hurt, did notpoint out that electorally it would not matter, said:”Some woman has flirted with you, thenattacked you and you expected goodness, justas my dear Mr Disraeli required Mr Gladstoneto provide him a radical context. But onecannot always rely on the enemy’s rightness, a flirtnot to attack one after flirting. That is whatthe flirtatious always do. Concern yourself,as Mr Gladstone would, with the singlemothers she impoverished on that very day.”  “As Mr Disraeli also would,” he added, forthe mercy from her fierce woman’s eyes.

Jennifer Maiden

Events

WEDNESDAY

NIGERIAN novelist Chika Unigwe discusses her writing. 6.15pm. The Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street, city.

LES Murray on the sacred in life. 6.30pm. Carmelite Centre, 214 Richardson Street, Middle Park. $25. Bookings: thecarmelitecentremelbourne.org; 9690 5430.

THURSDAY

CLIVE Hamilton considers the threats posed by ”geoengineering” the planet. 12.45pm. The Wheeler Centre.

MICK Dodson discusses indigenous politics with Robert Manne. 1.30pm. John Scott Meeting House, La Trobe University, Bundoora.

JAMES Button discusses his memoir Speechless with Bruno Lettieri. 6.30pm. VU Bar, Building M, Level O, Footscray Park campus, Victoria University, Ballarat Road, Footscray. $13/$6. Bookings: [email protected]; 0422 298 643.

LAUNCH of Belinda Hawkins’ Every Parent’s Nightmare. 6.30pm. Readings Hawthorn, 701 Glenferrie Road.

NOEL Tovey discusses Little Black Bastard and And Then I Found Me. 7.45pm. Hares & Hyenas, 63 Johnston Street, Fitzroy. $15/$10. Bookings: trybooking南京夜网 (keyword: hares).

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Setting a killer pace

A PARAMEDIC knows better than anyone that catastrophe, even death, lies in wait for ordinary people, striking at the most unlikely of times. Meeting people on the worst day of their life was one reason Katherine Howell decided to step back from the brightly lit, high-stakes world of emergency medicine to write.
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”I was losing it, psychologically,” Howell recalls of the decision seven years ago. ”I came to think everyone was destined for some kind of grim end. I really believed it was only a matter of time before I or someone in my family would get cancer.”

Chronic fatigue, stress and a patient who once threatened, ”I know where you live and I have a shotgun,” unravelled a composure built over 15 years. Years of scribbling away at drafts of unpublished novels during rare moments of downtime crushed what remained of her professional distance.

”I’d been writing for years and the better I got at it, the better I was able to put myself into characters’ shoes,” she recalls. ”I couldn’t turn that back off at work.

”I remember one accident where this young girl was dying in this car wreck. I was thinking, ‘Isn’t it terrible? All her family are there watching us, trying to get their loved one out of the car.’ I just couldn’t turn that off. I couldn’t stop thinking of jobs after I’d done them. Whereas others I worked with would say we’d done the best we could, I would agonise over them. I had high blood pressure, skin problems and was seeing a psychologist.”

Frantic, the draft manuscript Howell turned into her debut novel, the first in the police-procedural crime series featuring investigator Ella Marconi, was eventually picked up by Pan Macmillan. Selling into 11 countries, it won the Australian Sisters of Crime Davitt Award for adult fiction.

Her next, The Darkest Hour, won the Davitt readers’ choice award in 2009. Cold Justice was named best novel in 2011, with the Davitt judges remarking on Howell’s ”superb characterisations” and the warmth and empathy of her writing, concluding the author was ”fast showing herself to be one of Australia’s leading authors”.

Web of Deceit is her latest, a tautly plotted crime thriller that unfolds with Howell’s signature shot of adrenalin, an ambulance call-out.

Sirens yelp through familiar Sydney streets as the reader is immersed in the paramedics’ vertiginous world of chaos and carnage. The emergency dash serves the novel’s demands for heart-hammering suspense and unpredictability and pitches Marconi and the paramedic team of Jane and Alex on a twin trajectory that unites them at Town Hall Station in response to a ”code 4 under a train”.

To their surprise, the paramedics discover the victim is Marko Meixner, a road-accident patient they had treated earlier that day. Meixner had driven his silver sedan into a power pole, the paramedics arriving at the accident scene to find him weeping, hunkered down into his seat peering over the dash, claiming someone is hunting him down.

Unlike her boss, Marconi is unwilling to write off Marko’s death as suicide or accident.

In Frantic, Marconi is introduced to readers as the restless detective eager for attachment to the homicide squad to which men of duller intellect have been promoted ahead of her.

By Web of Deceit, Marconi is a permanent member of the homicide team and having trouble bowing to the male-dominated brass.

Marconi is in the tradition of Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski: not only a smart detective but also a warm and compassionate woman who is more than a little unlucky in love, the type to blink away tears as she shoots to kill.

Seething when her homicide investigation is obstructed by overtime bans and petty bean counting, Marconi resorts to unorthodox policing methods to outwit her jailbird key suspect with a watertight alibi. When her boss demands she drop the stroppy attitude, Marconi can barely restrain a derisory snort.

Marconi is an idealist who always falls on the right side of justice, yet is wise enough to understand that ”even though we win, we lose”. It’s a life lesson Howell carried from paramedic to author: you can cradle the injured and sick, patch their wounds, but you can’t make the dead walk again.

Howell’s experience in the NSW Ambulance Service gives her Marconi series authenticity, though she dislikes the vogue for graphic crime scenes and gory forensic examinations. Sitting harbourside, eyeing a grey choppy swell, she finds writing can ”do her head in” some days.

On a good day, characters feel alive on the page. On a bad day, she starts imagining what a lovely fire the pages would make. ”Other times you’ll think what you’ve written is magnificent, but after you go off and work on other stories, you’ll come back and wonder what drugs you were on.”

The perfect book in her head is rarely the perfect book on paper, she says. To her brother, Phillip Guy, a writer of literary short stories, she comes with perplexing syntax problems. ”He’s good with the nitty-gritty; I’m about the whole rush of the novel.”

Howell’s first, naive attempts at writing were racy ripoffs of the Trixie Belden series, mysteries she had enjoyed as a teenager featuring a heroine who manages to solve mysteries that baffle dimwitted authorities.

”Nancy [Drew] was too prissy,” Howell says, laughing at the young detective who went on to trump Trixie’s popularity. ”Trixie is down to earth and a tomboy.”

During a year at university studying agricultural science, then 15 years working as a paramedic, Howell never stopped writing. Practice made close to perfect.

”In all that time I never knew if I was going to get there but I wanted to write stories that made other people feel the way I feel about other people’s books,” she says. ”I’ve met a lot of aspiring authors who have wonderful talent but they don’t have that willingness to sit down and keep working, and put aside that manuscript and write something else, and put aside that manuscript and write something else.

”They don’t have that stubbornness to keep going or they want to write but they don’t want to edit or they don’t want to listen to what an editor has to say.” Those shelved manuscripts – the Patricia Cornwell pastiche, the ghost detective fiction – are instructional if nothing else. ”I use them for workshops and ask, ‘What’s wrong with this page?’ and we all laugh. But I can see how with each one I got a little bit better and I learnt how to put in information, how to develop characters.”

The last of her four manuscripts became Frantic. Originally, she took it to Selwa Anthony, her agent, a woman with a reputation for spotting an instant bestseller. She sent it back. Where was the suspense, Anthony asked.

Howell decided to make the art of fictional suspense the topic of her master’s degree at the University of Queensland, then forensically applied theory to the new novel, stripping the narrative of extraneous detail, ramping up the tension, cultivating sympathy for the central characters and ending each chapter with a cliffhanger. Before starting a novel, Howell makes a habit of re-reading her thesis.

Frantic dramatises police corruption through the anguish of a good cop caught in its dirty paws, and there is a running thread in the series about gender politics in the force, but Howell is insistent that hard political truths should never subvert the primacy of plot and its urgent pacing.

The series’ setting is identifiably Sydney – Howell grew up in suburban Normanhurst but now lives on the Gold Coast – as Marconi trawls for evidence in Ryde, Granville, a Neutral Bay boat shed and an accounting firm in the city, though not in the crime-postcard way Ian Rankin evokes Edinburgh or James Lee Burke sketches New Orleans.

At 42, Howell finds herself at the vanguard of Australian female crime writers including P. M. Newton, Kathryn Fox, Sulari Gentill and Swaziland-born Australian Malla Nunn, whose book Blessed Are the Dead has been shortlisted for the Edgars.

The indisputable godmother of the genre is Cornwell. Howell believes it was her huge sales and the interest her books generated in forensic science that inspired many women here and overseas to write crime fiction.

”[She] creates an increased appetite in the market for crime fiction generally and so opens the door for more authors to be published here. Another reason might be that many women readers love crime fiction, so when they write, that’s what they produce. That’s why I write it, at least.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Ardossi gets nod for MVP despite ban

Canberra Capitals players dress up for their end of year presentation dinner at Woden Tradies.Brigitte Ardossi was crowned the Canberra Capitals most valuable player on Friday night, the club opting not to rule her ineligible after slapping her with an internal suspension late in the season.
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In a disappointing campaign for the seven-time WNBL champions, the award was deserved recognition for the power forward, who was clearly their best and most consistent player.

Ardossi averaged 12.6 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and stepped up admirably in the absence of injured superstar Lauren Jackson.

Basketball ACT chief executive Tony Jackson and Capitals coach Carrie Graf decided on Friday to award the 25-year-old the club’s highest individual honour.

The Capitals took the extraordinary step of suspending Ardossi for the last three matches of the season after she received an unsportsmanlike foul for deliberately tripping Townsville’s Rachael Flanagan.

The WNBL tribunal handed her a two-match ban, but Canberra refused to let her play in its final game against West Coast.

Ardossi expressed genuine remorse after the Flanagan incident. She emailed the Fire guard an apology, and fronted the media to express her regret.

She received rapturous applause when her award was announced at the Woden Tradies Club, having become a fan favourite in her two seasons at Canberra.

For the third straight year guard Carly Wilson was given the Kellie Abrams award for defensive player of the year, which was named after the former Capitals skipper who won six championships at the club.

AIS recruit Casey Samuels won the player on the rise award, an accolade won by Ardossi last season. Capitals skipper Jess Bibby won the players’ player gong for the second straight time after a strong finish to the season. Friday night’s function ended a momentous week for the Capitals after Graf re-signed for the next three seasons.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Time to tackle the trade problem

Forget shoulder charges, referee blunders and peptides – the biggest blight on rugby league is the farcical situation of players signing with clubs while still with another.
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Without downplaying the significance of allegations of doping in the NRL, initial reports are those incidents are isolated and not a widespread problem.

Players switching allegiances mid-season is.

Canberra Raiders young gun Josh Papalii is the latest to be caught up in the messy saga, as the Parramatta Eels secured his services for the 2014 season and beyond on Friday night.

Let’s make it clear, I don’t blame Papalii or his manager for engaging in talks with a rival club for a contract beyond this season.

It’s the system players have become forced to operate under, and one the NRL persists with despite constant condemnation from the game’s most influential stakeholders – the fans.

Without people walking through the turnstiles, or more importantly switching on their television sets, the NRL wouldn’t be the billion-dollar business it is today.

I’ve got no doubt players remain professional and don’t drop their level of performance irrespective of where they’re playing next year.

But how are fans expected to cheer for their favourite star and buy merchandise featuring their name or number knowing in 12 months’ time the jersey will be redundant?

We grow up with a belief sport is a tribal beast.

You don’t choose who to support, it’s instead passed on to us through the generations.

You stick by your club through thick and thin, the good and the bad, no matter how dire the situation.

Raiders fans know that better than most, having endured a roller-coaster existence of making the finals one year and missing the next for the best part of a decade, and haven’t won a premiership since 1994.

Football clubs pull on those heartstrings when they go on membership drives.

Campaigns thrive on emotive language, throwing around phrases such as ”belonging” and ”culture” with reckless abandon.

Then, in the same breath, we’re to understand sport is a professional business, and your favourite player one season may be running out in a different jersey the next year.

I’ve got no qualms with players switching clubs. It is, after all, the way they make a living.

The vast majority of the population would do the same – leave one employer for another if there was a significant pay rise on offer.

Papalii’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last.

New Zealand Warriors fans would have had mixed emotions seeing James Maloney run around last year knowing he’d be lining up for the Sydney Roosters in 2013.

The players’ association makes the argument its members need job security and can’t be expected to end a season not knowing where they’ll be the following year.

It seems to work pretty well in other sports.

AFL clubs can’t technically sign rival players until the end of the season, although many have been rumoured to have all but had the ink dry before the deal has been announced.

Soccer is just as successful at keeping their movements under wraps, while the biggest issue facing rugby union in this country is the uncertainty of re-signing players before knowing how much the Australian Rugby Union will contribute.

The Brumbies are keen to lock in several of their young stars, including scrumhalf Nic White and back-rower Colby Fainga’a, but can’t do it until they know what top-up amount they’ll get from the game’s governing body.

Perhaps a better example lies overseas.

No-one does professional sport better than the United States, where players are seen as assets and can be traded at a whim as seen at the conclusion of Friday’s NBA trade deadline.

There were crazy scenes in Houston where three of their players left their arena 20 minutes before their game with the Thunder as they’d been sent packing to another team.

Not even time for a farewell game, yet Papalii and others who abide by the NRL’s ludicrous rules get a farewell season. The madness continues.Deserving winner

Common sense prevailed at the Canberra Capitals’ presentation night with forward Brigitte Ardossi a deserving winner of the club’s Most Valuable Player award.

The stand-out player in a disappointing season, Ardossi was in danger of being ruled ineligible for an ugly tripping incident, which resulted in her being handed a three-game suspension.

Ardossi overstepped the mark on that occasion, but once she had served her punishment that should have been the end of the story.

She’s the type of tough and uncompromising player the Capitals sorely need to retain if they’re to turn their fortunes around next season.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Steelers set to steal the show

Just two things remain in the Australian Steelers’ preparation – fine-tuning their defence and finding out whether their hitting is as good as coach Bob Harrow thinks it is.
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With less than a week before the Aussies begin their world championship defence, the Steelers will play four games against Japan at Hawker International Softball Centre on Sunday and Monday.

Then the team will leave for New Zealand on Wednesday and play its first game of the world championships against the US on Friday.

Not surprisingly, Harrow was confident in his team’s pitching.

He has the two best pitchers in the world at his disposal – Canberra’s Adam Folkard and Andrew Kirkpatrick.

Harrow just wants to make sure the fielders all do their jobs to back up the duo.

He has confidence in his hitters, with Canberra’s Michael Tanner leading them off.

Harrow said Joel Southam, Nick Shailes and the ACT’s Zenon Winters were some of the best players in the world with a bat in their hand.

Kirkpatrick is also a world-class competitor with the bat.

”We know we have the pitching … it’s just if we can get the young newcomers blended in with the veterans,” Harrow told The Canberra Times on Friday.

”We’ve got a faster team than last time, we’ve got as good or better hitters … it’s just now if we can get our defence together … and seeing if our hitting is as good as I think it is.”

The Japan games are the final hit-out before the title defence begins, making it a crucial part of the Steelers’ preparation.

Harrow said the Japanese were a world-class team in their own right, having finished sixth at the last worlds in 2009.

”They’re a world powerhouse, they’re up there with us; they play a different style of game,” he said.

”It’s very important, plus they’ve got good pitching, so it’s quite important we play them and see what level we’re at – we need to be a lot sharper on defence because they’re so quick and can execute.”

AUSTRALIA v JAPAN

At Hawker International Softball Centre.

Saturday: Game 1 at 2pm, game 2 at 2pm; Sunday: Game 3 at 11am, game 4 at 1.30pm.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.