Between the Covers 23/06/2013

Your weekly guide to what's really going on in the world of books
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The Independent Culture

A California court has confirmed the right of all men and women to read werewolf erotica in prison, after a two-year legal battle in which a prisoner protested that the banning of one such book violated his rights under the Penal Code and the First Amendment to the United States' Constitution.

Inmate Andres Martinez had ordered a copy of Mathilde Madden's The Silver Crown to be delivered to him at Pelican Bay State Prison, but prison guards confiscated it on the grounds that it was obscene and likely to incite violence. The novel stars a young werewolf-killer, Iris, who falls in love with a big old hairy lycanthrope. "All Iris wants is to snuggle up with her alpha wolf and be left alone," reads the blurb. "He might turn into a monster once a month, but in a lot of ways, Iris does, too." The best thing about the case is the 27-page judgement, which includes a studious consideration of whether the book has "serious literary value". "The sex is sometimes rough but always consensual," it reads. "Women are portrayed as frequently aggressive, always willing, and seemingly insatiable. Men are portrayed as frequently demanding, always ready, and seemingly inexhaustible. The sex occurs between humans and werewolves, as well as intra-species. On the other hand, the sex appears to be between consenting adults. No minors are involved. No bestiality is portrayed (unless werewolves count)." The court decided that The Silver Crown "does not lack serious literary value and thus should not have been withheld from petitioner on grounds of obscenity." The best news for prisoner Martinez, who is in for a long stretch: it's part of a series.


A new book lands on the desk of Between the Covers. It's by Bill Dare, the Radio 4 chap whose name is familiar from the credits of comedy such as Dead Ringers, The Now Show, and The Mary Whitehouse Experience. His novel, Brian Gulliver's Travels, is based on the radio show of the same name and described as a modern take on Gulliver's Travels, which satirises the modern "celebocracy". Ian Hislop described it as "a modern tale that keeps the flavour of the original classic, cleverly managing to provoke both laughter – and thought." Dare is the son of Peter Jones, the voice of "The Book" in the 1978 Radio 4 comedy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was later successfully turned into a series of novels by Douglas Adams. If Brian Gulliver's Travels is half as successful, Dare will be a happy man.


The travel writer Robert MacFarlane once did work experience in The Independent's offices, so we were thrilled to see his book The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (now out in paperback) riding high in the best-seller charts above celebrity memoirs and "mommy porn". As he says, it's not often you see a book with 60 pages of footnotes outselling Schwarzenegger.


Father's Day has been credited for a 2013 high in book sales in the week preceding last Sunday, with Iain Banks, Dan Brown, Jamie Oliver, Phil Tufnell and The Hairy Bikers all selling well, supposedly to dads. But what's this? Philippa Gregory's The White Queen whooshing up the charts? Maybe dads can read books by women, after all!