By Richard Jay Parker
'On Saturday, 5 March 2011, two days after World Book Day, with the full support of the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries, World Book Day, the BBC and RTE, one million books will be given away by an army of passionate readers to members of the public across the UK and Ireland.'
Whatever you think of the above giveaway - and there are many arguments for and against raging on other forums - the positive element of this event I'd like to highlight is its addressing of books that aren't necessarily literary award winners. But even though Lee Child made the list of titles to be given away, my only slight criticism is that they probably haven't gone far enough.
There are books that people buy to leave on their coffee table (but don't necessarily enjoy or even read) and then there are the books they devour on public transport and during their holidays.
These are the books that don't win (major) plaudits but do have a tendency of flying off the shelves throughout the year and not for a few months on the back of a more prestigious award.
They're about engaging plots and they're the ones that keep our bedside light on long after it should have been turned out.
I'm not here to bash literary novels. I've always been a fan of the wit of Howard Jacobson - it's just he's never made me slam pages or lose sleep. And that's what a high percentage of readers consistently crave.
As a thriller writer I'm obviously going to be all for an acknowledgement of this. At 8.00 on Saturday BBC 2 are broadcasting a show to highlight the nation's healthy appetite for escapist literature. I haven't seen the show yet but it appears Sue Perkins will be delving into a territory she's unfamiliar but keen to get to grips with - rattling good books that get snapped up in their millions.
We can be derogatory about escapist or literary fiction:
Escapist = trash, pulp, commercial etc
Literary = pompous, elitist, snob fiction,
Fact is, like ebooks and paper books there's plenty of room in the world for both without one having to cancel the other out.
This isn't often reflected in the media though. Escapist fiction is frequently the elephant in the room. Examine any bookshop chart and you'll see what people are demanding. Yet this isn't really acknowledged by what's reviewed or given recognition.
The Internet is changing that - there are some great book bloggers and reviewers out there redressing the balance as well as discerning readers making their voices heard on Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari etc.
I don't suppose any of the best-selling thriller authors are really worried by the fact that the mainstream media passes over their work. Millions of people continue to buy and enjoy their work.
The people who are involved in World Book Night were never going to please everyone but kudos to them for highlighting the joys of both literary and escapist books.
If you do want to participate - whichever category you think it falls into - pass on a copy of something you really enjoyed.
Visit Richard at http://www.richardjayparker.com/
The Curzon Group assembled this week and welcomed some very entertaining guests - accomplished thriller writer Michael Ridpath, Chris Hunter, a new voice in military fiction who has spent years living what he's now writing about. We also enjoyed the company of author publicist Richard Foreman.
I can happily report that no real business was discussed but much wine was drunk.