The Diarists: The week in history

23 September 1896

Susan Hill: The Woman in Black author talks evil urges, prison reform and angry drivers

Murder is a boring subject There are only certain ways people can kill and it's not very interesting to write about. With my crime novels, I'm not interested in whodunit, but whydunit: most murders are committed within the family, or from within the neighbourhood; very rarely are the police left baffled.

Between the Covers: what’s really going on in the world of books

Authors are having a spot of bother with Amazon. Again. Not, this time, owing to Amazon knobbling sales of some authors’ books to get back at their publishers for standing up to them. This time, authors are suffering as a result of Amazon reviews. If you can call them “reviews”...

First, JoJo Moyes came under fire from a particular customer, who appears to have bought every single one of her best-selling novels and marked them all with the succinct critique: “I hate it.” (We can tell that the reviewer is a balanced critic, however, because a Slap On Snap On Silicone Rubber Sports Watch gets five stars and “I love it.”) Silly billy.

Meanwhile, Owen Jones (right) has sent an “embarrassing plea” to friends and fans asking if they can help to counter the slew of nasty, one-star reviews that littered Amazon even before The Establishment And How They Get Away With It was published. “I’ve not read this book,” begins a typical diatribe, unnecessarily. Jones begs: “Please do not buy this book from Amazon ... buy it from a local, tax-paying bookshop”, but frets that “the website is a key reference point for potential readers”. Don’t worry: readers who can read will see through it.

The Novel Cure: Literary prescriptions for the tendency to believe everything in the news

Ailment: The tendency to believe everything you hear on the news

Historical crime fiction round-up: Plagues, priests, peasants and power struggles

Is the modern world too much, with news broadcasts presenting impossible problems in every direction? You could plunge safely into the past, where everything has been resolved by time.

Alan Titchmarsh, gardener, novelist & broadcaster: 'I am a die-hard Wodehouse fan'

Where are you now and what can you see?

English poet and author Laurie Lee

Laurie Lee's Rosie: What is it like to inspire a writer's work and be immortalised forever on the page?

The inspiration for Laurie Lee's Rosie, who died this week, was relaxed about her literary alter ego. But not all writers' subjects have carried the burden so well, says Philip Womack

Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker

Jarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan: A 'Hemingway for hippies'

The novels of Richard Brautigan are being republished for a new generation. Jarvis Cocker explains why he's such a big fan
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose

Douglas Adams: How a new biography sheds light on his genius

In the 13 years since he died, Douglas Adams' fictional universe has lost none of its appeal. His biographer Jem Roberts explains how he came to tell his story – and the treasures he found

Author Diana Souhami: 'Why I ‘rescued’ a character left in the lurch by George Eliot'

Souhami is admirably equipped for the job, having made her name as a biographer who blurred the boundary between fact and fiction

Between the Covers: What’s really going on in the world of books

One unexpected winner in last week’s Man Booker Prize shortlist announcement were the bookies – with Ladbrokes’ longlist odds correctly predicting five of the six shortlisters. The only author in the top betting to miss out on a shortlist place was poor David Mitchell, for The Bone Clocks (below), who is now odds on never to win. But how will Ladbrokes decide when an author has never won? When he *gulp!* dies? “It’s a good question,” says a spokesman. “When we offer the same bet in a sporting contest, the bet runs until they retire.” Mitchell is now a youthful 45, and we all hope he keeps writing forever. But maybe, in 20 years’ time …

The Diarists: This week in history

15 September 1927

The Top Ten: Eponyms

Eponyms are words that derive from a person's name. This idea was suggested by Rich Greenhill, a word wizard extraordinaire. He started with 'milquetoast' (a fictional cartoon-strip character) and 'quisling', the name of the army officer who ruled Norway for the Nazis. Alan Robertson mentioned Stigler's Law: that no discovery is ever named after the person who actually discovered it.

Arts and Entertainment
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Lena Dunham

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