Memoirs of Britain's first investigative hack 'a gem'
Short, sharp guidance and observations from a journalist with attitude. All books available from Exclusives
IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK
'The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry', by Jon Ronson (Picador) R120
THERE'S an intriguing question at the heart of this engrossing, hilarious investigation: what if society was not fundamentally rational, but was motivated by insanity?
Ronson trips, one anxiety attack after another, through the world of psychopaths and their therapists and uncovers some hard truths along the way.
AMONG the recently published biographies and memoirs is this gem, Muckraker: The Scandalous Life and Times of WT Stead, Britain's First Investigative Journalist, by W Sydney Robinson (Robson Press).
Stead died in the Titanic disaster, but before then he'd raised - or lowered - the bar when it came to tabloid reporting, and enjoyed a notorious reputation in Victorian society as both a Puritan and a sex-fanatic who dabbled, with equal measure, in social reform and the occult.
Your basic newspaper editor, in other words. He first shot to fame when he "purchased" a 13-year-old girl from her drunk mother and installed her in a brothel as part of a campaign against child prostitution. The story sold newspapers - but it also got Stead a prison term, for procurement.
GENRE writers are under the whip. The New York Times recently reported that "the e-book age has accelerated the metabolism of book publishing" and authors who were once regarded as productive if they released a new book annually "are now pulling the literary equivalent of a double shift, churning out short stories, novellas or even an extra full-length book each year".
Thriller writer Lee Child, for example, is now supplementing his Jack Reacher books with short stories available only in digital format.
He's not alone.
Publishers claim that such stories, carefully released before major new releases, could entice readers willing to pay about R10 for a download into later parting with major tom for a new hardcover.
Incidentally, a colleague has complained he can't find some of the titles mentioned in this column in book stores. Personally, I think it says a lot about where and how he shops. He refuses to order them - "Elmore Leonard? How do you spell that?" was the sort of response he got when he last tried - and he refuses to buy them online.
And he won't buy a digital reader - so he's not going to download them. "I like to browse in shops," he explained, defensively.
Well, take your time, buddy. Take your time.
THE BOTTOM LINE
"'GENTLEMEN,' he earnestly explained, 'you have a problem. You have a nigger on your hands.'" Preachin' the Blues: The Life & Times of Son House, by Daniel Beaumont (Oxford University Press)