Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Axe Arrives Again

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bookstores, RN Morris barges in with his paperback edition of The Gentle Axe, taking up shelf space sorely needed by struggling American novelists like Pamela Anderson Lee and Nicole Richie. Congress ties up our legislative process for months arguing about illegal immigration from Mexico, but do they devote even a minute to the influx of foreign books? No. And then, after exposing our children to spellings like "flavour" and "gaol" and "arse", and baffling concepts like "macadam" and "treacle", they wonder why Johnny Can't Read.

And, yes, I know Roger called it "A" Gentle Axe, not "The". But us Yanks are a straightforward lot, and prefer definite articles to those shifty, ambiguous, indefinite articles. We expect our articles, like our politicians, to take a position some time in kindergarten and never waver (which explains why so many of our policies seem like they were thought through by toddlers). "A" Gentle Axe? One of many? How many? Are there more? Nope, we like certainty, so in these parts, buckaroo, it's "The" Gentle Axe, and if you don't like it you can just haul your pansy ass back to Mrs. O'Leary's Dance Academy.

Although the US title is still The Gentle Axe, the publishers have wisely adopted the UK cover for the US paperback release. The US hardback was a handsome thing, with an elegant dust jacket, but the cover art never quite let you know the tone of the book. Was it a diplomatic novel? A straight-up historical? A spy novel? The UK cover, with its foreboding parkscape and the little lines of bloody tracks in the snow, is more to the point.

And, more to the point of this post, if you reside on the proper (left) side of the Atlantic, and were foolish or miserly enough not to buy The Gentle Axe when it was released in hardback, you really ought to take this opportunity to buy it on the cheap and read it. It's a damned good read, and the start of a damned good series.

And don't tell me you can't find it. I've verified it's sitting on the shelves at Barnes & Noble (face-out in our local one, and there's glory for you) and Borders and just about everywhere else, and that's just here in Southern California, which everyone knows is a literary wasteland.

But you can also order from Amazon US. Sort of. Just be aware that they have horribly muddled the genealogy of the book, and that although there are seven versions of the book to be purchased, if you search on "The Gentle Axe," they give you as options only 1) the US hardback edition; 2) the UK, Faber & Faber paperback edition; and 3) used copies of what they claim is a 2007 Penguin paperback, which, insofar as I know, doesn't exist (and which, confusingly, is listed as only available used).

The one thing they don't list is the edition I'm talking about here--the new US paperback reprint edition from Penguin. Perhaps they'll sort it out over the next few days, but at the moment, the only way to find it is to search on "Gentle Axe" and then go to the Faber & Faber paperback edition and then click on "See all 7 editions" and then click on "Paperback (Reprint)".

Alternatively, you could go here, which is the proper Amazon page. (Or you could buy it from Powell's, which is possibly the world's greatest bookstore as well as being a together online seller, unlike some.)

In other words, Amazon has thus far made it damn near impossible to find the most recent edition of the book. Amazon US is increasingly incompetent, and I can't figure out why everyone thinks Jeff Bezos is a genius. If I were Penguin, I'd be hopping mad.

Unless I were an emerald green Penguin, in which case I'd be in an Aliya Whitely story. But that's a Penguin of a different colo(u)r.

My point was, those readers in North America should go buy the damn book. Or, better yet, buy the hardback--it promises to be worth some serious money down the line.


Tim Stretton said...

Oho! What do you chaps call treacle? And how come Roger's US publishers have let the 'e' survive in 'Axe'?

Generally I am relaxed about the hijacking of the Mother of Tongues by our younger thrusting cousins: but I always think you've missed a trick on "arse", infinitely superior to the well, asinine, "ass".

And on the Vance Integral Edition there was a lengthy translantic debate on Jack's notorious "Servants of the Wankh", a title of course risible to UK readers--the result of which was a title change...

Roger Morris said...

Oooh, thanks David! You give good plog, mate. That's fantastic. Yes, I had noticed that the US amazon was making it tricky for people to buy the latest edition. Even I am confused by the array of editions. There even seems to be a kindle edition now, which was news to me.

I might alert some folks at Penguin to the situation and see if they send round the sinister Penguin from The Wrong Trousers to sort things out.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Tim--

In the rare cases where the lighter golden form of treacle is used in this country, it would be "cane syrup," but most folks don't know what that is, either. The darker forms are common, though, as "molasses."

"Axe" is one of those words over here where both spellings are still legit, though over time "Ax" will probably win as it uses less ink.

"Arse" always makes me think it's a version of "ars poetica."

The Vance title is pretty funny. "Wank" is still uncommon over here, but "wanker" has been a highly successful British export--much to the initial displeasure of the little town in Oregon named "Wanker's Corner". (We used to drive past Wanker's Corner frequently. They inist the name is pronounced "WAHN-ker". Yeah, right.)

David Isaak said...

Hi, Roger--

Send in the killer penguin! Maybe Penguin or Putnam have some idea how to get action out of Amazon. I certainly haven't had any luck.

David Thayer said...

Amazon is moving from Beacon Hill to Wankers Corner so I'm sure the brain trust is preoccupied with getting the office furniture squared away.

Tim Stretton said...

"Wanker's Corner" is magnificent! I'm glad to see this very British epithet making headway in the wider world.

I enjoyed the bathos, many years ago, when Brazil played Wales at football ("soccer"). The BBC left a bit too much crowd noise in, and a little local atmosphere came through as a Welsh youth abused the Brazil captain :"Socrates, you wanker!"

David Isaak said...

Hi, David--

If ever a business should have been based in Wanker's Corner, it's Amazon.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Tim--

The original Socrates was a bit of a wanker too, come to think of it.