For the past 2 1/2 weeks, I have once again been judging the quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award – I know, I know, I spend most of the space on this blog bitching about Jeff Bezos and his encroaching army of Kindle-bots, but as a judge, I was hired by contest partner Publishers Weekly, so my morality is intact, thank you very much. PW has contracted me and 100 others to read & review 5 full-length manuscripts in the time allotted. By the time the quarters roll around, the field has been trimmed to 250 General Fiction manuscripts (down from around 5000 – 10,000 including the YA category which has the same guidelines), which, based upon the reviews of the PW reviewers, are then again trimmed to 50 by the editors of Penguin (the grand prize is a publishing contract from Penguin) and cut yet again to a final 3 by a celebrity panel of experts. (This year’s panel: Tana French, Sarah Dessen, and Nancy Werlin) Then, after all that, Amazon customers get to vote for the winner. I’m just a small cog in the machine…
Other than being pretty cool, what does this mean? Well, my reading life is not my own, hence the relative silence from the Catapult. (Right, like I post with any semblance of regularity.) This year – unlike last year – most of the manuscripts I’ve been assigned are quite readable (I can’t really talk about what I’m reading, sorry) but the whole process is rather time consuming and at this point, a bit overwhelming. I mean, Monday was the NCAA Final, it’s opening week for the Orioles, the Kings are headed for the playoffs, the iPad was released, and a 7.2 earthquake nearly knocked my overloaded bookcases to the floor over the weekend.
Before the manuscripts arrived, I read Olen Steinhauer‘s upcoming The Nearest Exit, Peter Temple’s Truth, and Yann Martel’s Beatrice & Virgil. The lowdown: Steinhauer’s was fantastic, picking up right where The Tourist left off – a fast-paced, complex, believable modern spy novel with enough twists and turns that even the seasoned crime novel reader is blindsided by the ending. A side note: someone told me the other day that Johnny Depp was currently filming a movie version of The Tourist. Uh, yeah, that’s a different kind of tourist – in his version, Depp’s actually a tourist in Paris, not a deep cover CIA operative; Truth is an equally complex, truly labyrinthine crime novel from the master of Australian crime fiction (full review coming, I swear); and Martel’s much-anticipated Beatrice & Virgil… you really have to wait until I finish the review for that one, cuz I kinda hated it.
That’s all. Carry on.