Helped by a couple of high-profile radio interviews, this week ex-Python Terry Jones became the first to have his book given the green light by Unbound, a new crowd-funding initiative. Evil Machines, 13 short stories about man's fraught relationship with technology – from a truth-telling telephone to a too-powerful Hoover – will be published in October. "Terry had started to write some stories, but there was the usual problem of where to put them in the shops (were they for adults or children?) and he was disheartened," says John Mitchinson, the co-founder of Unbound. "He's a bit of a rebel, so I think Unbound appealed to him. And I know he liked the idea of a 50/50 profit share."
The website allows writers to pitch their ideas directly to readers who can, in turn, pledge their support for the book – £10 for an e-edition and your name in the back up to £250 for lunch with author. Jones received over 1,000 pledges, averaging £31.20 each.
"It is a commercial venture for us," says Mitchinson. "It's been met with curiosity and some hostility. The truth is, publishers are staring into the oncoming headlights. The digital revolution is a huge opportunity but if you're a traditional publishing house, it is a scary time. But I don't think Harper Collins are quaking in their boots yet."
Return of the Zach
Scrubs star Zach Braff has turned playwright. His debut, All New People, opens at the Second Stage Theatre off-Broadway on Monday and stars Justin Bartha (the missing groom in The Hangover) as Charlie, a 35-year old who escapes to a Jersey Shore beach hut in winter to heal his broken heart, but finds his peace shattered by local eccentrics. Braff started writing it while appearing at the same theatre, in Paul Weitz's Trust, last year. "On Scrubs we'd shoot 10 punchlines and then head to the editing room to see which one worked best... With a new play you're figuring things out in front of the whole company," he told the website Broadway Buzz. "Someone will say, 'Well, don't you think it should be this?' and you say, 'Can I go in a dark room and get in the foetal position, figure it out and get back to you?'"
Alan Hollinghurst, Carol Ann Duffy and Jo Nesbo are all on the programme, but the most intriguing prospect at Edinburgh Book Festival is a talk from Orlando Figes. He'll be discussing his history of the Crimea but might he also, finally, spill the beans on Amazon-gate? Last year the author was revealed to have posted savage reviews of books by rival historians, Rachel Polonsky and Robert Service, on the website, while showering his own with fulsome praise: "Leaves the reader awed, humbled yet uplifted... a gift to us all." No media asked any questions about Amazon-gate at his event at Hay festival in May. Maybe they will this time, and he'll take some questions on it. That really would be a gift to us all.
The whole ten yards
As builders fill the skips at the Olympic Park, a resourceful young theatre outfit have poached their scrap materials and used them to build a new theatre. The Yard opens tonight in an old print warehouse across the canal from the Park, in London's Hackney Wick. Practice Architecture – best known for Frank's Café, the fearsomely cool art gallery/ hangout atop a Peckham car park – have designed it while the 120 seats have been salvaged from offices and hospitals. "We don't have much money but we have people," says Jay Miller. "The idea is to create a modern ensemble." On the bill is Stationary Excess, a one-woman show performed on an exercise bike and a play inspired by Ai Weiwei, performed by a cast of 139.
Brent is honoured
Happy 10th birthday to The Office! Marking the day, Ricky Gervais has revealed the original inspiration behind David Brent – a temp agency boss he met aged 17. Anti-hero he may be but he deserves our sympathy, adds Gervais on The Huffington Post. "David Brent doesn't represent evil, or nastiness or even ignorance. He's just a little out of place. Out of time. His worst crime is that he confused respect with popularity. He just tried a little too hard. He wasn't a bad man. In fact, he was quite a nice man... Insecure, eager to please, and needing constant positive feedback." You might say the same of his creator.