Between the Covers 12/08/2012

Your weekly guide to what's really going on inside the world of books

Congratulations to Doug Johnstone, whose novel Smokeheads is about to be published in a German translation, complete with a glossary of whisky terms.

Smokeheads: Vier Freunde. Jede Menge Whisky. Ein höllisches Wochenende will be published by Faber & Faber, with explanations of words such as dram, grist, kiln, washback and, err, Wicker Man. Between the Covers is only an ignorant Sassenach, but Johnstone confirms that Wicker Man is not actually a whisky term. The German edition describes it as "Keltischer Brauch, Menschenopfer in eine Figur aus Weidenzweigen zu sperren und zu verbrennen", or a Celtic expression meaning to make figures of people out of willow branches and burn them. Between the Covers always does that while enjoying a dram.

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The gold medal for foresight goes to Yellow Jersey Press, founded in 1998 seemingly with the sole intention of buying Bradley Wiggins's autobiography 14 years later. Bradley Wiggins: My Time will describe the Olympic favourite's life in and out of the saddle, and is due to be published in November.

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It's nice to find an imaginative book launch in these recession-hit times, so thanks to Shirley Conran and Naomi Alderman for theirs. Conran's on Thursday was to celebrate her 80th birthday and the reissue of her novel Lace, by Canongate, and was held at the home of her son, Sebastian, in a fragrant corner of west London. Guests were invited to wear "a touch of lace" – meaning that anyone not wearing it openly was assumed to be wearing it somewhere more … discreet. Alderman's new novel The Liar's Gospel is "the story of a Jewish man, Yehoshuah, who wandered Roman-occupied Judea giving sermons and healing the sick". Her launch party, at Daunt Books in September, offers "wine and various approximations of the food of Roman-occupied Judea (soft white cheese, olives, flatbreads, and hyssop in olive oil) to get us in the mood.

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Thanks to Douglas Coupland for his column of "practical writing advice" for litreactor, a website for writers. Wannabe writers should be prepared for stern words. "Books are long and they don't just come to you 'When the spirit moves you'. They take discipline. If the spirit is moving you, then make a daily time and place for it to do so." But there's also some inspirational advice: "Most people never finish the books they start. I'm guessing 97 per cent. So if you can just finish the damn thing, you're thousands of miles ahead of most other writers." Much of this is so common sense that it's the literary equivalent of the British cycling team succeeding by using round wheels, but aspiring writers take note – this man is the Dave Brailsford of writing.

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Speaking of which, Olympians Victoria Pendleton and Greg Searle (rowing) will appear at the Cheltenham Literary Festival in October, to discuss their new memoirs. The pair will appear alongside writers including Salman Rushdie, JK Rowling and Kofi Annan, who are very talented in their own ways but do not have a single medal between them.

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