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Monday, September 21, 2009

Author Review - Edward Marston

First, a little rant about the way literary publishers treat their customers.

Almost everything can be delivered digitally nowadays; from music to videos to sermons to software to TV. In most cases, the cost is a mere formality, and in many cases, free (for examples, check out Hulu, or Joost, or CrunchyRoll for anime/TV). So why is it that so, so many book publishers can't do something as simple as ebook delivery in a universal open format readable by everything under the sun?

Now, there's no doubt I prefer electronic formats in many cases, but not all. Isaac Asimov came up with an essay on why we should prefer paper-based books; he's got a point. They last much longer in terms of physical medium (properly treated, manuscripts can last thousands of years; try that with even optical discs), super-portable, required minimal energy to use (sunlight works quite well), etc and so forth blah blah blah. But you can't beat free.

Baen gets this right. There is even a site out there that serves up almost everything Baen has ever published for free, courtesy of Baen. In CD format, of course, since what they do is distribute the CDs with selected books as a promotion - but they allow redistribution. Baen itself maintains a limited selection of works from authors who volunteer their works in this manner. This is the Baen Public Library. What's even better is that the exact same mechanism is used to deliver their ebooks via their Webscription service. That is, every ebook that is delivered to you via Webscription comes in multiple formats (RTF, PDB, LIT, HTML amongst others), all open and all (once you have it) technically shareable.

Now, let's go to another ebook publisher, Ellora's Cave. Yes, it's erotica, and no, I've not shopped there before, so take this with a large pinch of salt. But notice amongst all the pretty pictures and all the nicely-written hype they don't bother telling you what formats your book's available in. That's because you get to pick. One. And if you regret it, you get to pick. Another one, upon which you PAY AGAIN.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. This is the Internet age, baby. People are going to convert your pretty little DRMed format (or even if it's open) into something more useful, like a PDF or an RTF, so you might as well offer the various options upfront.

OK, time for a slightly lighter tone. I'm going to continue with my author review series, and this time with a lesser-known name, Edward Marston.

Edward Marston is the pen name of Keith Miles, and he specialises in detective/crime novels. But set in an earlier era, say, oh, post-1066 England, or Puritan times, or Elizabethan times.

I was going to link to some of his books, but if you click the link above, you'll get a reasonably complete bibliography, complete with some Amazon links (of course, the guy's an affiliate, but so what, so am I).

However, you will note that some of the series don't get linky love (why?) so I'll do what I can to remedy that.

The Domesday series is the first one that I read, and I got hooked on it really fast. It's about two census officials, Ralph Delchard, a full-blooded Norman, and Gervase Bret, a half-Saxon. Now, this takes place pretty much after William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings (well, a few years later, at any rate), so you can imagine there's still a lot of resentment towards the invaders. It's an interesting read.

The Wolves of Savernake: A Novel (Marston, Edward. Domesday Books, V. 1.)

The Ravens of Blackwater: A Novel (Marston, Edward. Domesday Books, V. 2.)

That ought to be enough to get you started. You can go on to the Nicholas Bracewell series next, which he wrote first but I picked up later. It's about the bookkeeper (manager/accountant) of a theatrical troupe, and of course the troupe itself. Remember, this is during Elizabethan times, when actors were looked on
very much like prostitutes. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but close.

Then you can go on to the Restoration Mysteries series, which is about the unlikely friendship between
architect Christopher Redmayne and constable Jonathan Bale (who happens to be a Puritan).

The King's Evil

The Repentant Rake (A Restoration mystery)

Why do I like these stories? Well, due to the historical background, I suppose, and the Christian-ness of the setting, I guess. Plus, the murders, heh. Now, it does have romance of sorts in these books, but it's understated and the storyline is more the murder and stuff. If you've read Brother Cadfael before, then you'll have an idea of what to expect from Edward Marston.

For whatever reason, Borders doesn't stock it in Malaysia, and neither does MPH, which kinda limits my choices. And by the way, don't bother looking for it via P2P either; I tried no dice.

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