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Wed Nov 26 13:04:33 SAST 2014

Weird, wonderful titles vie for award

Andrew Donaldson | 26 February, 2013 00:35
Andrew Donaldson

Short, sharp guidance and observations from a journalist with attitude. All books available from Exclusives

IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK

The Honey Guide, by Richard Crompton (W&N) R180

GOOD news for fans of exotic police procedurals, crime fiction's first Maasai detective makes his debut here in what promises to be a series to watch. It is 2007 and Mollel, an outsider in a mostly Kikuyu force, investigates the murder of a woman as riots sweep through Nairobi following claims of corruption and vote- rigging in the Kenyan elections.

THE ISSUE

The shortlist for the 2013 Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year has been announced: Was Hitler Ill?, by Hans-Joachim Neumann and Henrik Eberle; God's Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis, by Tom Hickman; Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop: And Other Practical Advice in our Campaign Against the Fairy Kingdom, by Reginald Bakeley; Lofts of North America: Pigeon Lofts, by Jerry Gagne; How Tea Cosies Changed the World, by Loani Prior; and How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening, by David Rees.

You may well ask why. Britain's Daily Telegraph did, and was told by Horace Bent, who oversees the award: "It remains a great honour of mine to represent a prize that draws attention to authors not called Hilary Mantel that may need a little help in gaining column inches and subsequently entering public consciousness and bookshop bestseller bays."

The contest's first winner, in 1978, was Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. This year's winner will be announced on March 22.

CRASH COURSE

Are you, to coin a term, a wannaBeukes? The next great sci-fi writer? The Guardian's Damien Walter is convinced there must be dozens of you out there. Last year, he ploughed through more than 500 self-published e-books - many on Amazon's Kindle store, but others on blogs - to find the "best weird stories on the internet".

This year, he wants to find the best, independently published sci-fi e-books. He points out that "artisan author" Hugh Howey's Wool series began online and soon attracted hundreds of thousands of avid readers as well as the interest of film director Ridley Scott.

"I'm throwing the net wide to any and all science fiction, fantasy, horror, weird and speculative fiction," he writes. "I love great storytelling, and I believe the next Game of Thrones is already being written and, possibly, self-published. If it is, I intend to find it and share it with you." For details (as well as Walter's tips on self-publishing) see guardian.co.uk's book pages.

THE BOTTOM LINE

"Detroit is Pax Americana. The birthplace of mass production, the automobile, the cement road, the refrigerator, frozen peas, highly paid blue-collar jobs, home owner-ship and credit on a mass scale. America's way of life was built here." - Detroit: An American Autopsy, by Charlie LeDuff (Penguin).

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