Books

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Good old days

I've just finished reading biographies of Ronnie Barker and Spike Milligan (right), both of which hark back to a "golden era" of broadcasting. The Barker book (by Bob McCabe, BBC Books) reveals that the audience for The Two Ronnies in the UK in the 1970s and 80s peaked around 20 million, accounting (by my calculations) for about two-fifths of the UK population and certainly well over half the viewing audience. I know times have changed, and there are many more viewing options, but it certainly puts the popularity of some of today's "stars" in perspective. The Milligan book (by Humphrey Carpenter, Coronet) reveals how the Goon Show scripts were vetted by the BBC, and one of the criticisms was that "there is no British embassy in Calcutta".

Cash? She's Rowling in it

It's no surprise that Harry Potter creator JK Rowling is the world's best-paid author, but the extent of her annual earnings stunned me. Here, according to a Forbes list, are the the top 10 literary earners with their pay packet in US dollars: JK Rowling ($300m), James Patterson ($50m), Stephen King ($45m), Tom Clancy ($35m), Danielle Steel ($30m), John Grisham ($25m), Dean Koontz ($25m), Ken Follett ($20m), Janet Evanovich ($17m), Nicholas Sparks ($16m). According to the BBC, Rowling earned about £5 (US$9 or A$11) a second over the past year.

Boned by whom?

Thanks to this article, we now know that Tracey Spicer is not the author of the TV expose Boned. So who is? This might be a bit left-field, but my money's on Eddie McGuire. Let's face it, Eddie likes to keep busy, he's got a lot of time on his hands right now - and it's a clever way to keep himself in the spotlight (since the whole concept of the novel is based on something he allegedly said).
PS: It's interesting to note all this talk about women over 40 being washed up. That must be a Sydney and Melbourne thing. Both Brisbane's senior female commercial television anchors - Kay McGrath and Heather Foord* - have been on the "wrong" side of that magic number for some time, and they are still going strong.
PPS: The comments after Spicer's piece make very interesting reading. Misogyny aside, I think the consensus is that reading the news is no biggie and that it doesn't matter about gener or age just how well it's done.
* In a slip of the keyboard, I originally wrote "Heather Paige". Thanks to Anonymous for correcting me.

Not quite the Famous Five

Enid Blyton's Famous Five have had a makeover for a new television series. According to The Guardian ...

the series producers have replaced Blyton's characters with a more international generation of adventurers led by Jyoti, the Anglo-Indian daughter of George. Julian's place is taken by his adventure-sports loving son Max, 13, while drippy Anne is replaced by Allie, her California-born daughter, a shopping and texting-obsessed mall rat. Dylan, the son of Dick, is a geekish 11-year-old, who follows the markets on his laptop.

At least, it adds "Timmy is still Timmy".

Farewell, Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke, the British-born science-fiction writer, whose best known work became the film 2001: A Space Odysssey, has died in Sri Lanka. While he'll be rightfully remembered for his contributions to film, literature and science (he foresaw communications satellites), Clarke's death will no doubt be the impetus for a lot of revelations about his private life. I expect there'll be more on that almost everywhere soon.

A matter of respect

I'm not entirely sure what to think of this. A musical based on The Diary of Anne Frank is to debut in Spain. Is the real death of a young girl in the Holocaust suitable material for a musical? Apparently the official guardians of her memory have given the show their blessing on the grounds that it will spread a message of tolerance.

And then there were eight

From the very start, author J.K. Rowling insisted she would only write seven Harry Potter books - one for each year he spent at Hogwarts school. Now, according to The Mail on Sunday, she's considering writing another tome about the boy wizard (or, at least, with him as a supporting character). She's already richer than the Queen, so surely it can't be about the money - although I'm sure there'll be plenty on offer if Rowling does decide to relent.

Terry Pratchett: not dead yet

Discworld series author Terry Pratchett, 59, has revealed he has early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. In breaking the news, on the website of illustrator Paul Kidby, he managed to maintain his sense of humour, ending with:

I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as 'I am not dead'. I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think - it's too soon to tell. I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

Paddington laid bare

How much can Paddington bear? In a new book, author Michael Bond's famous character - who turned up at London's Paddington Station 50 years ago after stowing away from deepest, darkest Peru - is to face arrest and police interrogation over his immigration status. No kidding.

Harry Potter's fate awaits

Will Harry Potter live or die? As the clock counts down to the release of the last book about the boy wizard, you can weigh in here.

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