Between The Covers: 27/02/2011

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

Parents are divided over the latest offering from CBeebies, the crime fighting mouse who "make a bad ting good", Rastamouse.

Based on the books by Genevieve Webster and Michael De Souza, and voiced by the DJ Reggie Yates, the cheese-eating Rastafarian uses patois such as "me wan go" ("I want to go"), "irie" ("happy") and "wagwan" ("what's going on?"). Parents are divided over whether they hate him because he is racist or because their children might start using funny foreign words (ie, because they are racist). To put it another way – a way that uses the true English language without any foreign in it: "Modors and fæders hate thes niwe mus by cause that heo talu niwe tunge and macian cilden bad." That's about the best way of saying, in "English" – and without any nasty corruptions from French, German, Latin etc – that parents hate this strange mouse because he speaks a foreign language that corrupts our kids. Perhaps people who complain about the English language being diluted by foreign tongues should be made to talk like that all the time.

***

Imagine the delight of the Glaswegian author Gordon Ferris when his fourth novel, The Hanging Shed (Corvus, £15.99 or £1 on Kindle) sped to the top of the Kindle download charts after a price promotion. Ferris's ebook has outsold those by the American author Dan Brown and the Swede Stieg Larsson, but there is just one problem: the Ayrshire slang. "I wanted my hero to have an Ayrshire accent to make it more authentic," he told the Scottish Daily Record, "so I used words like 'ken', 'could'nae' and 'braw'... especially in the Glasgow pub scenes. I got emails from readers who were left puzzled by the hero's broad Ayrshire accent. I also got emails from Scots who praised my novel but said the English would struggle to understand it." The Hanging Shed has received a flurry of five-star reviews and has been downloaded more than 30,000 times, so Ferris is not that disappointed. Besides, he says: "The Hanging Shed is nothing like Trainspotting, a novel I couldn't finish because I found the Scots slang too difficult."

***

Stand by for the next Scottish book of the year, Smokeheads (Faber, £12.99), by the IoS's top reviewer, Doug Johnstone. Launched on Thursday at a whisky-fuelled bash at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh, the novel features "Four friends, one weekend, [and] gallons of whisky" and is set on Islay. Johnstone is the author of two previous novels, Tombstoning and The Ossians, described by Irvine Welsh as "a drug-fuelled, counter-clockwise state-of-the-nation rock 'n' roll tour". But he's more excited this week about his novel appearing on a bookshelf in the background as Vanessa Feltz interviewed Amy Chua on The Vanessa Show on Channel Five. Go to Doug's website at http://dougjohnstone.wordpress.com/ to see a trailer for the book by the author Ewan Morrison and to find details of how to win books and whisky from Faber. And see next week's IoS books pages for Johnstone's review of How I Became a Famous Novelist, by Steve Hely, which has been making him cry with laughter on a train.

***

Following the cancellation of the 43rd Cairo International Book Fair, the American University in Cairo Press has announced plans for a "Tahrir Book Fair," to be held in the city at the end of March. The fair will sell books in Arabic and English and will celebrate freedom of speech, and the fact that you can't keep good books down.

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