BOOK NEWS: E L James Announces New Book

11330545_764415793657178_268538240_nJune 2 2015 – London – On social media late last night bestselling author E L James announced that she will shortly release a new version of her worldwide bestselling novel Fifty Shades of Grey — this time written from Christian Grey’s point of view. The new book, titled Grey, will be published on June 18th –a date that devotees may remember as Christian’s birthday.

Since the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey in 2011, thousands of readers have written to James requesting Christian’s point of view. On the opening page of Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told By Christian, James writes, “This book is dedicated to those readers who asked…and asked… and asked… and asked for this.” In the new work, she will offer her fans the opportunity to see the world of Fifty Shades anew through the eyes of its intriguing and enigmatic protagonist.

“Christian is a complex character,” said James, “and readers have always been fascinated by his desires and motivations, and his troubled past. Also, as anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows, there are two sides to every story. It’s been a great pleasure to return to my happy place – writing, being with Christian and Ana in their universe, and working with the fantastic publishing teams in the US andthe UK.”

Readers know Christian as someone who exercises control in all aspects of his life. His world is neat, disciplined and empty – until the moment that Anastasia Steele stumbles into his office. What is it about her that captivates him? Why can’t he forget her? He is swept up in a storm of emotion he cannot comprehend and cannot resist.

‘Fifty Shades of Grey is a love story that has captivated a readership like no other book’ says Selina Walker, Arrow publisher and E L James’ UK editor. ‘I was absolutely thrilled when we heard that Erika wanted to write Christian’s side of the story. Grey is just as addictive as the trilogy, and I know that thisis what the fans have been waiting for.’

‘Planning for publication on June 18th in all our territories has been challenging – but what a fabulous challenge to have! Thanks to superb teamwork and meticulous planning, I know that fans around the world will be able to help mark Christian’s birthday by reading his side of the story.’ says Susan Sandon, Managing Director of Cornerstone.

The Fifty Shades trilogy – Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed – has reached worldwide sales of more than 125 million copies, and become one of the most successful publications in the history of book publishing. Like the earlier books in James’s trilogy, Grey will be published in paperback original format and as an ebook by Arrow Books, an imprint of Cornerstone Publishing, a division of Penguin Random House.

GREY will be published simultaneously by Penguin Random House US on June 18th.

Pre-order the book now and get FREE shipping!

Release of Beauty’s Kingdom by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

Long before the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, Anne Rice was writing a raunchy series of erotic novels in the 1980s under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure. The Sleeping Beauty series contained the following three novels: The Claiming of Sleeping BeautyBeauty’s Punishment and Beauty’s Release. The trilogy has been very successful for Anne Rice, and in the 1990s, she revealed her identity as the author behind the pen name A.N. Roquelaure.Beauty's Kingdom A.N. Roquelaure

The latest and most exciting news is that a new book has just been released, and Beauty’s Kingdom is the fourth in the series and the first in 30 years. Before I tell you about the latest release, let me give you a brief overview (or reminder) of the series in case you haven’t come across it before. And if the erotica genre is not for you, then click here for some art therapy to cleanse your mind, and I’ll bid you farewell.

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty is certainly not your typical fairytale, nor is it appropriate for children. Beauty is woken from her 100 year sleep, not with a kiss from a handsome prince, but with copulation. The prince takes her to his kingdom and in gratitude for waking her from her spell, Beauty is trained to become a plaything and sex slave. Don’t worry though, Beauty enjoys her encounters and falls passionately in love with a male slave. The sex is submissive and features elements of BDSM and pony play.

In Beauty’s Punishment, Beauty is punished for her affair with a fellow slave and is sold at auction. She is purchased by an innkeeper and captures the attention of the Captain of the Guard, who takes over her ‘education in love, cruelty, dominance, submission and tenderness.’ At the end of the book, Beauty and several other slaves are kidnapped and sent to serve in the palace of the Sultan.

In Beauty’s Release, Beauty finds herself in a new realm and a prisoner within a harem belonging to an Eastern Sultan. As the title suggests, she does escape her predicament and marry, but to tell you any more would be a spoiler. As the blurb says: ‘Anne Rice makes the forbidden side of passion a doorway into the hidden regions of the psyche and the heart in this final volume of the classic Sleeping Beauty trilogy,’ and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Throughout the Sleeping Beauty series, themes of desire, discipline, pleasure, pain and surrender are all explored, and the writing is evocative and erotic.

Beauty’s Kingdom is the latest release, and is set 20 years after the events at the end of Beauty’s Release. Other than that, I don’t know much more, but I can’t wait to read it.

Fifty Shades of Grey Film Review

Fifty Shades of GreyWarning: While not overly explicit, this blog does acknowledge the existence of, and briefly discuss, sex. If you’re not keen to read a blog about such things, I suggest you temporarily avert your eyes.

I couldn’t attend the Fifty Shades of Grey preview, so fronted up for the 10am session on the day of the film’s release. I felt slightly dirty doing so, until I discovered the theatre was three quarters full. Seems I wasn’t the only who had the idea.

I’m not sure what weirded me out most about attending that session. That a girl was there watching it with her mother (no, really), the 70-year-old women who were absolutely creasing themselves with laughter towards the end of the film (I’m still kicking myself for not asking them about it once the film was over), or the older gentleman I saw there who gave his wife a playful smack on the bottom on the way out (I’m not going to lie: it repulsed me).

Also, the previews were bemusingly unsubtle and geared towards the largely straight lady audience. That is, hot guys and fairytale romance in the forms of Cinderella and Channing Tatum.

Although I saw the film as soon as I could, I’ve held off on posting my review for a few days, because I’ve been a little unsure my take was wide of the mark compared with most other reviews. You see, I didn’t think the film was terrible. I thought it was relatively fine. Ok. Watchable.

Thankfully, Helen Razer sort of said as much. So I now know I wasn’t the only one who thought that way. A long-time and rabid Fitty Shades hater, she was looking forward to tearing the film apart. Instead she termed it ‘disappointingly tolerable’.

Fifty Shades of Grey is the trilogy, and now film, people love to hate. Especially if they’ve neither read the books nor seen the film. The film itself attracted much debate before anyone had even seen a single trailer.

Which made me wonder if the film would be—is being—assessed fairly. My thinking is it should be assessed in relation to the books on which is it based. And, arguably, the books on which those books are based.

The books were terribly addicitive terrible fan fiction of terribly addictive terrible books. If that’s the measure, then I think the film did a decent job. They turned a sow’s ear of a book into a not-too-terrible film.

For starters, they reigned in the massive corniness, toned down the farcical, unbelievable stuff. These include Christian’s (Jamie Dornan) obsession with having Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) eat, and the annoyingly ridiculously large number of times Anastasia either bites her lip or says (more like a 50-year-old author than a Gen Y) ‘oh my’, or both.

Neither the director nor the actors had a lot to work with, and yet they did a better job of making Anna and Christian believable and relatable than Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson did before them.

I wasn’t familiar with either actor prior to this film so I was neutral on the skills they would or wouldn’t bring to the table. I felt both were less wooden than K-Pat and gave more nuanced performances than the script easily allowed.

The sex scenes were vanilla, yes. But so were the ones in the book. (Did I mention this film should be assessed in relation to the book?) As they would be with an unfolding relationship with a girl taking first forays into sex.

I find that more realistic than if they’d gone from zero to S&M contortions. That’s even before you consider the challenges of portraying sex on screen in a film that still needs to jump through censors’ hoops in order to gain mainstream and worldwide cinema release.

Also worth noting is that although there are plenty of issues with the film (and the books that precede it), it’s not quite the domestic violence symphony hysterical critics are claiming it to be.

For starters, both characters are slightly more believable. Christian is shown to be a little more damaged and a little less BDSM-obsessed two-dimensional. And, as this BuzzFeed article notes, the film went at least part way to giving Anastasia more agency and self-awareness than the books:

Christian famously presents Ana with a contract he wants her to sign that would establish the boundaries of their relationship. Which she won’t sign! She leaves him in the end. So I’m flummoxed […] Why are people fretting over Fifty Shades of Grey more than other movies where couples fall into bed and don’t have these sorts of conversations?

‘I put a spell on you, because you’re mine’ are the lyrics overlaying the opening scenes. We don’t see Grey’s face, reminiscent of a dentist’s ad. He’s exercising, getting ready for work, selecting a grey tie from his vast collection. When we first see Anastasia she looks uncannily similar to, and is even dressed like, Bella from Twilight. This is surely deliberate.

I’m not going to lie. The opening kind of set the tone for what’s an ok-ish film. Or at least a visually arresting one as the limits of the text didn’t limit the cinematography.

There were, of course, some moments even decent acting and cinematography couldn’t save. Anastasia’s fall into Christian’s office was terrible. I don’t know how many takes they did of that, but I find it hard to believe that was the best one. Or rather, I’d hate to have seen the ones that didn’t make the cut.

But there was a lot less emailing or texting than in the books, which was refreshing, because the books got bogged down in them. Or maybe that’s coming in the second book/film…

I got some LOLs from reading around the film, especially from BuzzFeed’s 141 Thoughts I Had While Watching “Fifty Shades of Grey”. I truly think I had the same 141 the author did. And yes, ‘I will launder this item’ is the best line of the film.

So, while I don’t want to get bogged down in the furore surrounding the books and the film (led largely by those who’ve read or watched neither), I will say the film is ok enough to watch. Or, at the very least, read the books and watch the film and draw your own conclusions.

Fifty Shames of Earl Grey

Fifty ShamesThere’s no such thing as too much Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey, especially when it’s in the form of a savvy, fun-poking parody. Fifty Shames of Early Grey by Fanny Merkin (AKA Andrew Shaffer) is the first (but certainly not the last) Fifty Shames spoof to emerge.

The first three chapters of its existence were serialised on EvilReads.com as Fifty-One Shades—another example of the increasingly occurring self-publishing-major-publisher pick-up. And, despite its speedy release, the book of Harper’s Lampoon style is surprisingly insightful, intelligent, and well done (especially given the shabbily written original from which it draws its inspiration).

Erotica writer Alyssa Palmer nails the book in her one-sentence testimonial: ‘I’m laughing as much as when I read the original Fifty Shades.’ In fact, it’s chuckle worthy just a few sentences in:

As I brush my long brown hair, the girl in the mirror with brown eyes too big for her head stares back at me. Wait … my eyes are blue! It dawns on me that I haven’t been looking into the mirror—I’ve been staring at a poster of Kristen Stewart for five minutes.

Soon afterwards, Anna Steal somersaults into Earl Grey’s office and Merkin/Shaffer works in the first of many Twilight–poking references: ‘HOLY MOTHER EFFING SPARKLY VAMPIRES HE IS HOT.’ From thereon in, while relatively PG-rated compared with the Fifty Shames books, Fifty Shades does venture into plenty of deliberately cringe-worthy territory (if you’re squeamish of stomach or easily offended, I’d suggested ceasing reading right about now).

Steal’s Walmart boss tells her:

‘I’m just glad you’re here. You know that Anna—I’m always happy to see a full set of teeth around here.’
I smile.
‘Anyway,’ he continues, ‘someone dropped a massive load in the women’s restroom and I need you to clean it up. It’s the biggest damn thing I’ve ever seen come out of another human being.’
I head to the women’s restroom with a plunger and a pair of gardening shears, and I’m soon lost in my task.

TwilightOf course, Grey soon arrives on the scene to sweep her off her feet and provide us readers with endless opportunities for author jibes. He gives Steal a first edition of Snooki’s Jersey Shore-inspired debut novel, A Shore Thing.

The entrance to his ‘Room of Doom’ is exposed ala moving bookcase seen only in the movies by pulling on a shelved copy of Twilight. He plays a mournful tambourine, and there’s also later a reference to his—and this is one for the editors among us who can testify that it never gets old—‘dangling participle’.

The only thing I want is you, Grey emails Steal. Oh, and the latest Apple products. His survey also provides us with some gems.

I am:
a.     
Team Edward
b.     
Team Jacob
c.      
Team Edward Does Jacob

In a relationship, I prefer to be:
a.      Submissive
b.     
Dominant
c.      
Awake

An extracurricular activity I’ve always wanted to try is … Well, let’s just say I had to google them.

While Stephenie Meyer’s/EL James’ stories provide plenty of low-hanging fruit ripe for picking parodying, it’s the subtle, timely pokes that make Merkin/Shaffer’s spoof worth reading:

‘Let’s get comfortable, shall we?’ [Grey] says, removing his calculator watch and setting it on top of the nightstand by the bed.
I take a cue from him and remove my yellow LiveStrong bracelet, setting it next to his watch.

Fifty ShadesIt contains some fantastic trivia too: The Starbucks logo used to feature, apparently, a topless mermaid.

That’s not to say Fifty Shames got it absolutely right. One grating fact is that Merkin/Shaffer replaced the annoying lip biting of the Fifty Shades books with stomach-turning nose picking. The sentiments don’t marry up and this element disgusts and jars.

Likewise, the plot is sometimes a little thin and I found my attention wandering. Then again, he had to work with Meyer’s/James’ work, so I could arguably blame for them for the plot weaknesses.

But those are small irritations rather than outright flaws. And they’re more than compensated for by Merkin’s/Shaffer’s wicked sense of humour at his riding-the-coat-tails-of-others publishing contract good fortune.

‘I wasn’t lying when I said I would sell out, change the characters’ names, and hide from y’all in my brand new McMansion. Good luck getting past my alligator-filled moat!’ Merkin/Shaffer writes in the credits, making him (as if he weren’t already) a writer whose future works I can’t wait to read.

A Shore ThingEspecially as Merkin/Shaffer continued to surprise me even after the story officially ended. He finishes the book with a Boardroom Hotties feature (AKA an article in the mag the parody originally sent Steal to interview Grey for) and ‘the complete, unexpurgated list’ of Grey’s 50 shames. These include, in no particular order:

  • having a mancrush on Tom Cruise, even after all the Scientology/Katie Holmes BC
  • crying when Oprah went off the air, but never finding time to watch her 24/7-running cable channel
  • not understanding why everyone hated the Star Wars prequels so much
  • using a PC laptop with an Apple sticker covering the Dell logo
  • supporting Team Jacob
  • making frequent references to Snakes on a Plane, even though it wasn’t even funny to do so when the movie was in theatres.

I should probably also mention that it appears there’s going to be a sequel …

No Book Left Behind?

Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades of Grey (herein referred to as Fitty Shades, because it sounds totes more street) is, according to hotel chain Travelodge and The Telegraph newspaper, the book most likely. Most likely to be left behind in hotel rooms, that is.

Hmm. So much to unpack there. ‘Left behind’ implies deliberate ditching, but I wonder if that’s truly the case. I for one have been known to accidentally contribute my fair share of too-expensive-to-lose Apple iPhone and laptop chargers to hotels’ lost-and-found bins. (Holiday Inn, Spencer St, Melbourne being the most recent. Holiday Inn, if you’re reading this, hi.)

Books, in particular, are easy things to leave behind. They’re often kept out longer than most other items as we decide to read just a few more pages when we’re waiting to leave or before we go to sleep—they are, after all, an excellent way to pass the time. Not to mention the fact that they’re small enough to be caught up in doonas or down the backs of couches and easy to miss being spotted and as you cast your have-I-got-everything eye over the room one last time.

The Hunger GamesStill, the leave-behind figures for just this one hotel chain are pretty high: 21,786 books out of 36,500 rooms over the past year. Multiply that by all the other hotel chains and, well, maths isn’t my forte. Let’s just agree that that’s a whopper bunch of books.

Assume for a moment that people did deliberately leave books behind (quelle horreur!). The question is: Why? Did they not like the books? Did they do a bunch of shopping and no longer have room in their suitcase? As someone firmly entrenched in the no-book-left-behind camp, both are completely foreign and utterly abhorrent to me—I’d sacrifice undies before I’d sacrifice books.

But I digress into didn’t-need-to-know territory.

I wonder what happens to said books after they’re left behind? Are they donated to the equivalents of The Footpath Library or Lifeline?

I noticed that the ditched books list reads like a Lifeline book sale table: Stieg Larsson’s Girl-plus-Dragon-Tattoo trilogy and the aforementioned Fitty Shades. (Shudder—who’s really going to want to commandeer a second-hand copy of the latter?) You know the ones: airport fiction books that despite everyone’s denials that they were reading them, were wildly, mainstreamingly popular. Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code presumably made the list some years back.

The Da Vinci CodeSurprisingly, Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games trilogy also made the list. Which perhaps lends cred to the accidental rather than deliberate leaving behind—I mean, book one, at least, is one you’d want to hold onto, surely?

The logical next-step question is: As e-book sales increase, will we see fewer (or even no) books left behind? Or just more expensive e-book power cables. Holiday Inn, Spencer St, Melbourne … hi!

A chaste book with the naughty bits avoided or omitted …

Fifty Shades of GreyI’m pretty much standing alone among writers in saying that the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon is a good thing. The general stance is that it’s poorly written commercial drivel leading the reading (and non-reading) masses astray. Me? I think the issues and opportunities are—please excuse the pun—a little more grey.

First and foremost, there’s an element of ‘why her and not me?’ in some writers’ chagrin. Nobody likes a whinger. It’s admittedly got to bite a bit when E.L. James’ writing’s so guffaw-inducing bad (my friend and fellow editor Judi makes me giggle regularly by quoting the bit about Ana’s very own ‘Christian-flavoured popsicle’). It’s got to bite a bit more when you’ve been slaving away for years at your own writing with limited success.

But it ignores the fact that there’s a lot going for Fifty Shades, not least that its success has opened others’ doors. I’ve personally been offered a number of chances to review ‘the next’ Fifty Shades book and to interview its author. Ergo, opportunities for me and opportunities for erotic fiction authors who, it should be noted, were until recently low on the (little-discussed) writing hierarchy—they’re like romance writers but considered more snicker-worthy.

Surely those writers should be grateful that James’ trilogy has ratcheted up the chance of erotic fiction writers for obtaining publishing contracts and has driven eyes and sales to the genre? And beyond the genre, for that matter—James’ own husband has scored a book deal for his crime thriller (I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered trying to find and marry an up-and-coming writer who might be able to piggyback me across the bestselling line).

Mr James’ book is apparently in no way connected to Fifty Shades, but who are we kidding? Everyone’s going to be scouring the pages for hints of his and Mrs James’ sex life (and if I were him I wouldn’t care—a book sale’s a book sale and he might even gain some readers who otherwise didn’t know they enjoyed thrillers).

The Da Vinci CodeBecause for all the ‘it’s so badly written’ grumbling, Fifty Shades has done for erotica what Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter have done for their respective genres before—they’ve got people reading and they’ve got people talking about reading.

Whether readers and critics realise it or not (and it’s the ‘or not’ that’s arguably key in the same way that parents try to ensure that kids don’t realise they’re eating green vegies), Fifty Shades has got everyone analysing the work. And then it’s set them off in search of more (hopefully better) reading material to fill the obsessive, book-devouring void.

It’s also provided a much-needed cash injection into a flailing publishing industry, inspired people to buy ebooks so as not to give their dirty reading secret away courtesy of a visible physical book cover, and lobbed previously published and soon-to-be published erotica to the fore. As far as I’m concerned, it’s win–win.

The ‘what about me?’ criticisms also dismiss the fact that Fifty Shades taps into an epic love story. Badly written as it is (as was Twilight before it), there’s something utterly irresistible about it. Self-respecting feminist I may be, even I got caught up in the fairytale-like element of a wealthy, gorgeous, troubled-but-not-without-redemption knight in shining armour sweeping her off her feet (please spare me the hate mail about how the book sets us back centuries—I know it’s imperfect).

Something else has intrigued more than all the ‘it’s rubbish’ furore, both because it’s something I was vaguely thinking about and because it was articulated much better by an author I’m not sure I am a fan of. Jodi Picoult (AKA a reasonably divisive and commercially driven, commercially successful author herself) said that James is unfairly profiting from another author’s tale and characters.

TwilightPicoult kind of has a point, although truthfully, I’m not sure where I stand on the issue. Fifty Shades was explicitly created as Twilight fan fiction, ergo it seems to be fine to use the characters. But fan fiction as a whole is collaborative and something from which people don’t often profit—James’ breakout success is blurring and redefining this, potentially towards a less-open, more-greedy dynamic.

It’s tricky to know where Meyer stands on this issue too. Yes, they’re her characters, but one could convincingly argue that they’re not uniquely hers at all—they’re poorly wrought versions derived from archetypes. What is known is that she’s stayed fairly quiet on the whole issue.

On a pragmatic level, given her devout Mormon faith it’s unlikely (read: about as likely as you or me finding a real-life Christian Grey to call our own) that she’d have written a Fifty Shades or equivalent herself. In fact, you could say Fifty Shades emerged precisely because Meyer didn’t and wouldn’t give us the highly anticipated sex.

What I want to know is whether Meyer has read Fifty Shades. Because that’s the amusing part, isn’t it? A chaste book with the naughty bits avoided, omitted, or only committed in line with strict religious beliefs (AKA sex only after marriage) inspires a best-selling book that’s decidedly unchaste and that breaks all the religious rules …

Fifty Shades a replacement for the Bible?

Wayne Bartholomew, manager of Damson Dene Hotel, Crosthwaite, has upped the eternal damnation ante considerably by replacing the Gideon Bibles in his rooms with copies of Fifty Shades of Grey as reported in the Westmorland Gazette.

“I thought it would be a special treat for our guests to find it in their bedside cabinet and that includes the men too,” Bartholomew said. “They are as desperate to get their hands on a copy as the women…. The Gideon Bible is full of references to sex and violence, although it’s written using more formal language, so James’s book is easier to read.”

Rev. Michael Woodcock, the local vicar, commented: “It is a great shame that Bibles have been removed from rooms and very inappropriate to have been replaced by an explicit erotic novel. The Bible remains a source of comfort and inspiration that many people do find helpful.”

Buy Fifty Shades of Grey here…

Fifty Shades of Breath-Hitching Hilarity

Fifty Shades of GreyIt’s hard (no pun intended—and none intended for the ones that also appear later in this blog because the more you try to avoid euphemisms and innuendo, the more doggedly they appear) to know what to write about a book that everyone’s surreptitiously reading and talking and writing about. What more can I possibly add to the furtive-meets-open-mocking discussion?

I suppose I can add that while the writing’s at times either/or inadvertently hilarious and annoying, there’s a reason why EL JamesFifty Shades of Grey is a runaway success. Scoff how you will, just like the vampire–human love story that inspired its penning, Fifty Shades is, essentially, a rip-roaringly addictive, right-spot-hitting story.

To recap (in case you’ve been doing something enviably exotic and removed from the interwebs and popular culture such as setting world records scaling snow-capped mountains with a pet goat perched upon your shoulders), the book embarks on an epic love story between a nerdy, literature-studying girl and an all-knowing, all-controlling, self-made billionaire broken and made mysterious by his damaged past.

It began as self-published Twilight fan fiction and spread, courtesy of interwebs-based word of mouth, like publishing wildfire. The rest is history that publishers are now, by commissioning and rushing through anything remotely similar in style, desperately trying to repeat. That includes the distinctive (dare I say iconic?) covers that, as with the Twilight series before them, will spawn many, many recreation attempts.

Fifty Shades DarkerNot being a big erotica reader—one might say I was put off some years ago as a bookseller by a certain dodgy customer who regularly returned erotic fiction, and who once did so with a bookmark that infamously turned out to be a long, curly, grey pube—I was surprised that Fifty Shades took a long time to get to the sexy bits. Seriously, there are many, many, many chaste chapters of suspense before Christian and Ana get it on, which may disappoint those who expect bodice-ripping from the outset.

That’s not to say there’s not a lot to follow, and I’ll not deny that there came a point in the third book (page 117, to be precise) where I thought: I’m not sure I can read any more sex scenes. Please, give me some more plot. But as S&M goes (or so I’m told), despite its promises the book’s sex is relatively middle-class vanilla.

But there’s also plenty personality-wise to interest, not least the plot-driving email exchanges between Ana and Christian, which were at times so witty I was I’d-never-think-to-write-that envious. They’re an interesting couple and the narrative gripping enough to make you want to know where it goes.

I’ll not deny, though, that wanting to see the story unfold precludes one from poking fun at it and highlighting its Swiss-cheese-like plot holes relentlessly. Were I a drinker (which I’m in this case sadly not), I’d invent a drinking game for every time someone’s breath ‘hitched’ or Ana bit her lip.

Yes indeedy, the repetition of certain terms and phrases reinforced to me the need for editors (James was clearly given one by the time the second and third books, published with publishing house money, were released). Meanwhile the stalker-like behaviour and too-talented-by-halves nature of the Christian character leant itself to hours of teeheeing about how a real-life version would have you taking out an AVO faster than you could dial triple-o that masked slight I-wish-I-could-find-such-a-man wistfulness.

Fifty Shades FreedA small side note is that I got a little confused by the mix of ‘Grey’, ‘Steele’, and ‘gray’ throughout the book and couldn’t help but wonder if there was a reference in there James hadn’t been able to make explicit. I’ll also admit the third book made me angry.

While the first two had been two-dimensional and guffaw-worthy, the third was one-dimensional, too quickly turned to guff, and was an absolute cop out. I don’t want to give the plot away, but I couldn’t help thinking it was as lame and as inexplicably over-the-top as Bella and Edward’s relationship with the naming of Renesme.

No matter. I had committed to seeing the trilogy through by then and wasn’t entirely unsatisfied overall. And while I’ll happily poke fun at the books, I’ll also happily admit I’ve read them and that even if they’re not capital-l literature, if they’re getting people to read books and talk about books and reading, then they’re not so bad at all.

Publisher pounces on mummy porn

HarperCollins has moved swiftly to sign up a new erotic fiction author, Indigo Bloome, in a bid to cash in on the Fifty Shades phenomenon.

HarperCollins paid the author a six figure sum in a three-book deal, brokered by literary agent Selwa Anthony with Harper’s publishing director Shona Martyn. The first title, due out July 1, is entitled Destined to Play.

If you’re a straight woman over 30, there’s a good chance you’ve already succumbed to peer pressure – or been driven by curiosity – and bought a copy of the internationally bestselling “mummy porn” novel Fifty Shades of Grey (you can buy it and the second and third novels in the Fifty Shades trilogy for $10.82 each here).

EL James has become a publishing sensation over the past year, not because her books are brilliantly written or encompass generation-defining themes, but because as works of erotic fiction, they contain dozens of detailed sex scenes, many featuring bondage and discipline and sadism and masochism.

For those who are squeamish about the riding crops and floggers, the ordinary, bookish heroine (Anastasia) and incredibly sexy, powerful, wealthy yet troubled hero (Christian) help on the aspirational side.

Which girl hasn’t at some point dreamt that a hot billionaire might sweep them off their feet? Especially if said mogul has a good heart and the potential to be saved from decades of internal turmoil by her love and support.

The New York Times reports more than 10 million copies of Fifty Shades of Grey have been sold. Universal Pictures and Focus Features won a bidding warn for the film rights. Publishing houses are desperately seeking erotic fiction authors in the hope of cashing in on its popularity, which is partially attributed to the fact that ereading devices make it easy to read such titles on the sly, even if you are travelling on a bus or train, for example.

HarperCollins’ Martyn told a Sydney Writers Festival event audience last week that her publishing house’s regular meeting to discuss digital projects had been plotting an erotic fiction strategy the very week Anthony approached her with Bloome’s book.

Bloome is a thirtysomething mum with kids in primary school, and therefore publishing under a pen name. HarperCollins is rushing her first book into ebookstores by July 1, with a print edition to follow September 1. This is remarkably fast for a legacy book publisher.

Incidentally, Martyn said the biggest seller of her ebook titles to date had been John Howard’s Lazarus Rising, at 9000 copies, which is about the same number that Fifty Shades of Grey sold in Australia within its first week of reissue through Random House last month.

Fifty Shades was initially published as an ebook and print-on-demand paperback in May last year by The Writers’ Coffee Shop, a indie publisher and book community based in NSW. According to Wikipedia, it was originally developed as a Twilight tribute and published episodically on fan fiction websites, then on James’s own website, FiftyShades.com. The author is a London television executive, wife and mother of two.

I’ve just finished reading the book on the Kobo platform as an exercise in research into social reading and was intrigued to note that the Kobo Pulse “pulse”, which tells you how many others are reading at the same time as you, was at full strength most of the way through. There were only a handful of comments, including one deleted by the author – perhaps she was embarrassed by her initial thoughts on the book – and one comparing it to Twilight.

Even as I write on a Sunday morning, some 16 people are reading the Australian edition of Fifty Shades on Kobo. 1600 have read it on the platform so far. Of those, 41 have clicked “like” and 3 “dislike”. Readers have selected parts of the text and clicked highlight 250 times. You can bet many of those are sex scenes, though I also highlighted a couple of opera titles – Christian is a classical music buff. I liked this line too, “One minute he rebuffs me, the next he sends me fourteen-thousand-dollar books”.

So, is it any good?

Honestly, not really. I have friends who gave up because they read the first few chapters and wondered what the fuss was about (the first sex scene is in Chapter Eight of 26).

It does remind me of the Twilight books, but also of a Sweet Valley High spin-off series I read as a teenager, Caitlin (the Love and Promise trilogies), in which the heroine is an incredibly wealthy and beautiful individual with issues, just like James’s Christian. From memory she has a boyfriend with steel grey eyes just like Christian’s too.

The characters are card-board cutouts, their dialogue wooden and repetitive. I cared so little about them that I would prefer to read a dot point summary of the second and third books than actually read them. Anyone want to send me one?

The only interesting things about the central couple – their careers – are touched on but never examined in depth. Christian’s business sounds intriguing, but we never learn more about it than that it is staffed by good looking blondes, includes research into sustainable farming and is facing a major challenge. Anastasia is a literature graduate who wants to work in publishing, but we’re oblivious to what sorts of books she wants to publish, or why.

The plot revolves around their relationship and sex life, which frankly, is boring. Sure, he’s a little kinky, but most of these are standard sex scenes. I’m wondering why any woman who was feeling frisky would bother reading a book like this rather than taking their husband or boyfriend away for a dirty weekend or, dare I say it, hunting down some free iPad video porn.

There is that old issue that perhaps with the exception of James Deen the men who star in porn vids are usually the opposite to a woman’s fantasy, and the women hardly aspirational … but that’s another story (and business opportunity if the sales of Fifty Shades are any indication!).

One Kobo reader, Linda Thornton, summed it up quite nicely, I thought, with this comment on the final page:

“What can one say, “holy crap” would probably cover such a senseless stream of clichéd drivel. The author’s relentless pursuit to see how many times she can cram yet another sexual exploit into a page in order to exploit the reader into buying two more volumes can only be marveled at. Triple crap.”

But hey, it’s a publishing phenomenon, and these are always intriguing to read to gain insights into what does turn readers on.