Friday, April 30, 2004

From the postbag...

Looks like I'm not the only person to have strange iPod updating problems. Several e-mails from people who had crashed iPods or computers in the attempt (and here's a blog entry from someone who had the pretty much exactly the same experience I had):

Not really a faq, but you're not the only one with iPod updating problems:-

I got an iPod for my birthday on wednesday, and I think I'll be waiting to update mine. Did you ever find a suitable cover for 3G iPods in the end?

(I'm still using the grey podsleevz I got at the end of last year, because it fits into the inMotion speakers cradle. There's probably something better out there these days though.)


Hi, Neil,

Just wanted to interrupt your writing briefly to let you and (potentially) your readers know that Apple has posted a potential fix for the iPod updating problem.

=Brian J. Geiger
Member of the Apple Consultants Network

Thanks -- that's good for the OS X problems, but there seems to be something going on over on the Windows XP side of the fence as well.

Dear Neil,

Just a random thought question, really ...

Do you ever worry that people will ever misinterpret comments on your blog that you meant sarcastically? I'm thinking particularly about your sage response yesterday to the article about the arrested 15-year-old, that "people should be taught not to draw the wrong things". Wouldn't you be horrified if someone else quoted that in support of strengthening art censorship?

I'm sure such a thing must have happened to you before. Just curious.

Good (continuing) luck with "Anansi Boys" et al,


It hadn't occurred to me that people would think that I meant that people should be taught not to draw the wrong things. (I was tempted to continue that sentence, "No, what I meant was that people should be taught not to think the wrong things..." when I realised that, yes, someone could assume that was indeed what I meant.)

I suppose that there are people who could fail to notice when I'm deploying irony, exaggerating for humorous effect or just burbling. But I'd hate to have to take this journal down to the lowest common denominator, just in case. I think you lot are brighter than that.

Just wanted to tell you, rather than ask you, something. If and when you decide to research the police, be prepared for the fact that the first thing they will do is research you for crime records, etcetera. Then you still may find that the situation is very tense. Everyone is afraid that you'll write something damning about them for all to see. It's best to ask for the name and whereabouts of a retired cop in the Fraud Squad, who will be glad to reminisce and won't have as much to lose. Or at least, that's how it is in Canada. Bev

Well, when I wrote American Gods, I made contact with some Wisconsin police who were incredibly helpful -- they gave up much of a day to answering my questions, showing me around the jail facility, and then taking me on a "ride-along". In my experience people generally like answering questions about their speciality, and correcting misinformation. The trick is normally finding the right people in the first place.


The Met doesn't employ people to talk to novelists (though it would be a great job), but that's because there are some very nifty books that handle the task for them.

Though I hate to entice you away from writing and into research, you might as well order one or two of the following so that you can take a look at them on the way to the next draft.

First, there is the trusty A Writer's Guide to Police Organization and Crime Investigation and Detection by D.J. Cole. It's a few years old now, and doesn't cover the Fraud Squad directly, but it gives a good background on UK investigation techniques and the way the Force is structured.

For more specific fraud detail, check out Fraudbusters: Inside Story of the Serious Fraud Office by Mark Killick. This covers high-profile, high-value frauds in the UK up until 1998 and includes, it says here, "many interviews with Britain's top fraud investigators".

And finally, you might be interested in Financial Crime Investigation and Control by K.H. Spencer Pickett and Jeniffer M. Pickett, which deals with how company auditors deal with having to detect fraud before the police get involved. Again, it's a UK publication, but will be available from all the usual sources in the US.

Alternatively, dial 999 and ask for emergency literary services.

All the best,

David Varela

Right. Books ordered. And I'm very grateful...

OK, your turn with the question, mine with the answer:

The police seem entirely happy to help writers get it right: friends who are members of the Crime Writers' Association ( are forever going to talks on the finer points of procedure -

It's funny, I was re-reading all the good reasons at the beginning of this blog about why it wasn't going to be about the process of writing (as opposed to publishing) the book. And now we're on to the next book, and blogging about it, and it's fascinating - I'm glad it's working out, blog and book alike!

Best wishes


Actually, it's one of the coolest things for me about the blog -- writing The Monarch of The Glen, for example, was made much easier because there's a reader of this journal who lives near where it's set, and when I mentioned here that I'd not been able to get there to the research I'd hoped for, she offered to read the manuscript and point out errors.

And there's the web, of course. The Metropolitan Police have an excellent site, I learned yesterday -- is filled with fascinating stuff. As they say, of the Nigerian fraud, We can issue all the advice, advertise the existence of the frauds but there is no doubt that everyday of the week there is a victim sitting in a hotel room in London, Madrid or Johannesburg (the current hotspots) just waiting to receive his/hers $26,000,000 in black money, which sounds like a story in its own right...

Lawrence Block writes a good article about the whole book-signing thing at, although the answer to his final question (how long before the bastards start wanting the damned books signed in blood?) is 1988, and it was Clive Barker signing at Forbidden Planet New York (a quick google gives us the story in Clive's own words --

Good morning, Neil. Nice to hear, er, read that things are going along well on the new novel. I wanted to be a writer when I was in university, and got my BA in English Writing, though I haven't written anything of interest since graduating 7 years ago.

Anyhow, I was thinking about writing and I see that you write things out longhand. I always tried to write things out longhand which led me on to a "quest for the perfect pen". I still have not found the ultimate "smooth writing, never splotch" pen, though now my quest has turned into a search for the most expensive pen I've ever seen. So far the most expensive pen I've found was about $400US. That was here in Kyoto Japan.

What type of pen do you use when writing and why? And what's the most expensive pen you have seen?

Glad you got your iPod working again. Perhaps they need to make a patch for the problem, they could call it iResurrection...

Have a great evening there in the States. Drop me an e-mail if you ever make it to Osaka / Nara / Kyoto area in Japan. I'll give you a really neat tour of some old and very fascinating places (and not the typcial "please come here, Mr. Foreigner!" places.)

Jeffrey Shaffer

The most expensive pen I've seen? No idea. But my favourite fountain pen of all (the one I'm mostly writing Anansi Boys with) is an 80 or 90 year old Waterman Ideal; I like the shape and feel of it, and the way the nib moves across the paper; it makes beautiful marks. Of modern pens, I like the feel of the Lamy 2000, although it's a writing-a-novel sort of pen, not a signing-your-name pen.