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Ducks in a row again

Ducks in a row again

On the back of Lucy Ellmann’s Booker Prize shortlisting for Ducks, Newburyport, her publishers, the small independent Galley Beggar Press, entered an agreement with the retailers The Book People to produce 8,000 special-edition hardbacks of the 1,000-page novel. So when The Book People went into administration Galley Beggar Press were suddenly left looking at a business-threatening hole in their accounts to the tune of £40,000. The response of the publishers Sam Jordison and Eloise Millar was to set up a crowdfunding appeal hoping to raise some £15,000. In fact, in little more than a day, generous literary folk had pledged more than £42,000. Indeed, Jordison and Millar said: “A man just knocked on our door and gave us £250. This whole day has been humbling. We have about two thousand thank you messages to write. Also: I need gin.” This Christmas cheer means that Galley Beggar Press remains in business and Ellmann’s Ducks will continue to paddle out into the world. So bah humbug to bah humbug.


Good news too for Kevin Barry whose Booker Prize longlisted Night Boat to Tangier has just been optioned for a film by the actor Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender. The novel’s publisher, Canongate, describe the book as “a novel drenched in sex and death and narcotics, in sudden violence and old magic. But above all, it is a book obsessed with the mysteries of love.” Perfect film fare in other words. Barry is not letting go of his baby altogether though; he is adapting it for the screen himself.


Barry might want to take advice from another Booker Prize alumnus, Eleanor Catton. Catton not only worked on the script for the television series version of her 2013 Man Booker Prize winner The Luminaries (due for screening next year) but has also written the treatment for a new screen version of Jane Austen’s Emma. Appropriately for a story of love’s complications and painful emotional development, the film is due to be released in the UK on Valentine’s Day 2020.


At this time of year literary pages in newspapers, magazines and websites look back at their favoured reading of the past year and forward to the treats on offer in the New Year. Treats don’t come much bigger than the third and concluding volume of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. The hugely anticipated novel is being unveiled by the author at a special event at London’s Southbank Centre on 6th March. Tickets are now on sale and purchasers will not just get to hear Dame Hilary discuss the new book but receive a discounted copy as part of the ticket price. Spare a thought though for the Booker Prize judges of 2020. Both earlier volumes in the trilogy, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, won the prize so the pressure is well and truly on. Will they make her the only three-time winner in the prize’s history or will they buck the trend to inevitable howls of outrage? As conundrums go, it’s a whopper.