EXCELSIOR! News of a Starred Review

HOORAY!! Huzzah! Plus other exclamations of joy! We’ve got a splendiferous review of joy of Sleepless Knights from Publishers Weekly! With a star! Plus there’s a reproduction of the cover by Jimmy Broxton on the issue’s “Table of Contents” (still trying to track down an image of that page’s layout)!

But before we get there, let’s a provide a bit of information about who that is. Some of you are reading this in the United Kingdom and may not have heard about this US-​​based trade journal. A few years ago I was looking for Quill & Quire, which is the Canadian version of PW. I went into a location of one of Canada’s national bookstores and had the Store Manager tell me he didn’t know what Publishers Weekly was – never mind Q&Q unsurprisingly – explaining that he was “new to books.”

Jesus wept.

Anyway, let’s put it this way the most easily: Publishers Weekly is to the book trade essentially what Variety is to TV and Movies.

Publishers Weekly is described by Wikipedia as “an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents. Published continuously since 1872, it has carried the tagline, ‘The International News Magazine of Book Publishing and Bookselling.’ With 51 issues a year, the emphasis today is on book reviews.”

Fairly succinct and a fine job of summing it up.

Just to be fair, let’s go to the source and let Publishers Weekly describe itself.  “Publishers Weekly, familiarly known in the book world as ‘PW’ and ‘the bible of the book business,’ is a weekly news magazine focused on the international book publishing business. It is targeted at publishers, booksellers, librarians, literary agents, authors and the media. It offers feature articles and news on all aspects of the book business, bestsellers lists in a number of categories, and industry statistics, but its best known service is pre-​​publication book reviews, publishing some 8,000 per year.” You can read more about them in their own words right here on their site.

Notice that the magazine pushes the international aspect of the thing. They’ve recently appointed an editor specifically for reviews of Canadian published books, thus acknowledging we have the printed word i the Great White North (even if it might only be about hockey and coffee shops originally owned by former hockey players).

Cover art designed and drawn by the mighty JIMMY BROXTON!
Cover art designed and drawn by the mighty JIMMY BROXTON!

And speaking of reviews of Canadian published books…

logo ©Publishers Weekly, which is the property of PWxyz, LLCA ‘Highly Recommended’ STAR! from “Publishers Weekly!”Action and comedy duel for prominence in this brilliant début novel about the knights of the Round Table. Sir Lucas, King Arthur’s butler, has been Arthur’s faithful servant for hundreds of years. In the modern world, it’s Lucas’s job to make sure that Arthur and his remaining six knights gather on an annual basis to drink from the Grail and continue their Eternal Quest toward “truth, justice and the Arthurian way.” When the exploits of Lancelot and Gawain make the modern news broadcasts, threatening the secrecy of the quest, desperate measures must be taken, but plans to find Merlin end up releasing a host of dragons and undead. Lucas is left, Jeeves-​​like, to clean up the mess, which might do more harm to Arthur’s legend than the fall of Camelot did. Lucas brings a refreshing “downstairs” sensibility to the usual heroic acts, and his fate is both surprising and entirely satisfying. Williams, an experienced playwright and television writer, has created a delightful addition to the Arthurian canon. (Aug.)

Publishers Weekly, 6-​​17-​​2013, Vol. 260 Issue 24

What’s that star thing really mean, anyway? I hear you cry. I am so glad you asked, astute and inquisitive reader! Let’s turn to the people who award that little doo-​​dad, shall we?

Reviews editor Sybil Steinberg, starting in the mid ‘80s,  had a keener, more sophisticated critical eye, and for a wider range of books. She also yearned to give more prominent attention to books she particularly admired, and it was under her aegis that PW began to award stars to books of exceptional merit, and later to create the lengthier and more prominent boxed reviews.

Meanwhile, over at Wikipedia, we learn that Texas novelist Clay Reynolds, in The Texas Institute of Letters Newsletter (February, 2004), gave a behind-​​the-​​scenes glimpse into the policies of PW, saying he’d written 87 reviews for them and only “given three stars in all that time.” That’s a ratio of 1:29. My perusal sees that a bit a on the tough side, with over-​​all use of the star being one in about fifteen or twenty reviews.

This marks the ninth Atomic Fez published title from a total catalogue of  ten which has been reviewed by PW.

This is the third review with a star, so Atomic Fez is running a 1:3 ratio of critical acclaim. Which is fairly awesome!

The previous stars were for 2010’s back-​​to-​​back hits of John Llewellyn Probert’s Wicked Delights, plus the first “Benji Spriteman Mystery”: The Terror and the Tortoiseshell. Both are still available. Click the links. Please.

12 thoughts on “EXCELSIOR! News of a Starred Review

Leave a Reply