Opened today’s Telegraph to find a full page interview with Amanda Ross, she of Richard and Judy fame, and it reminded me how many of the books I have read lately that have been Richard and Judy (or rather AR) selections. My favourite, and the one I was most surprised to see with the R&J sticker, is probably the Testament of Gideon Mack, which I loved for its sheer originality as well as the authenticity of its characters and settings, but I also enjoyed This Book Will Save your Life, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (which raised my mood in difficult week, even if it seemed to fall short of its original promise). Against this, I can’t say I was impressed by The Savage Garden, one of this year’s Summer Reads, and I have conscientiously avoided the dreaded Victoria Hislop winner of last year, having heard so many damning reports of it from friends. But on the whole, I’d have to agree with the Telegraph writer who puts Amanda’s tastes in ‘the mainstream of intelligent modern popular fiction’ even if I might argue with the odd one. In general they strike me as what Mslexia characterised not so long ago as ‘lite-lit’ i.e. on the crossover between literary and commercial fiction, which is certainly where I would like to be.
The problem for all us wannabes is not the selection (no ‘trashy celebrity spin-offs’ here, and they are what really saps the resources of the publishing industry) so much as the fear that R&J titles are promoted at the expense of other equally worthy novels. Not much that we can do about that, except write one that grabs everyone by the throat, Amanda Ross included.