January 7, 2010

Food for Thought


From Network Effects, an article in The Economist, December 19 issue, pages 142 to 144, I condense below a few paragraphs.

“Some technologies produce dramatic upheavals.

“When in May 1844 Samuel Morse connected Washington, DC, and Baltimore with the electric telegraph, the status quo and business model that had served the newspaper industry for years was disrupted.

“This great revolution,” warned James Gordon Bennett, the editor of the New York Herald, would mean that some publications “must submit to destiny and go out of existence.”

“Instead, the newspapers themselves took control of delivering news over the wires with the formation of the Associated Press.

“[At present] there are predictions of the death of the newspaper; but it is not clear if that matters. For society what matters is that people should have access to news, not that it should be delivered by any particular medium; and for the consumer, the faster it travels the better.

“If paper editions die, that is not the same as the death of news.”


Now, I take the last two paragraphs above and substitute a few words and add some. Bear with me:

There are predictions of the death of the book; but it is not clear if that matters. For society what matters is that people should have access to books, not that it should be delivered by any particular medium; and for readers, the faster they can reach books the better.

If books on printed and bound paper die, that is not the same as the death of literature.


Predicting the outcome of the present revolution in the publishing industry at this point in time would be futile. But educated guesses are intellectually stimulating and quite amusing, so I’ll make ten assumptions and invite you to make an educated guess. I would really, really like to learn what you think.

My assumptions are:

  1. If all people over fifteen or twenty learned to read and write using paper and a pencil or ball pen, some may feel special affection for the medium that taught them the world was something more than Mom, Dad, teachers, schoolmates and neighbors.
  2. In the distant future children will probably learn to read on screens and use some electronic gadget to write on it.
  3. If assumption number 2 turns out to be correct, the new generations will develop the same special affection that we feel for paper and pencil toward the screen and the writing device.
  4. Young people are more willing to try new gadgets and experiment than the elderly.
  5. Most (not all) old people are unwilling to try new gadgets and experiment.
  6. For some individuals reading books is a very pleasurable and thought-provoking form of cultural entertainment. Others never read a book.
  7. Understandably, most if not all older readers like to read on printed and bound paper.
  8. The young readers who are not averse to reading regular books have been using technologies such as the Internet, the laptop, the smart phone, video games, etc. since childhood and are more willing to try reading literature on e-books.
  9. Back in the 1970s the expression “generation gap” became all the rage. It referred essentially to values, opinions and behavior concerning morals, sex, music, drugs and other social issues.
  10. Today, in what regards literature and the particular medium that people use to read it, we may be experiencing a transition period and a technological generation gap. Older, middle-aged and younger readers love literature, but their preferences on how to access it are different.

Educated guess: How will literature be read 50 years from now? Let me know.


Certain evening in October, 1957, several members of my family were standing on my grandparents’ terrace, anxiously looking north. The Cuban media had reported that on October 4 the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik, planet Earth’s first artificial satellite, and that at certain time that nightfall Cubans could see it cross the sky.

I was 17 years old. My grandfather, born November 1, 1881, was weeks shy of 77. Eventually we watched what looked like a big white star moving from east to west over the horizon.

Once it disappeared from view, Granddad heaved a deep sigh and shook his head. “The world is changing too fast for me,” he said.

It took me many years to understand what he meant.


José Latour

José Latour was born in Havana, Cuba, on April 24, 1940. He started reading at a very tender age, progressing from Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm brothers as a child to Raymond Chandler and Erle Stanley Gardner in his late teens.

By the time the Cuban Revolution came to power, José, who was 19, had become an ardent supporter. He joined the Ministry of Treasury as a junior financial analyst and translator and later moved on to the Cuban Central Bank. From there he transferred to the Ministry of Sugar, ending up in the State Committee of Finance, where from 1977 onwards he swelled the ranks.

Shuffling papers, however, was not challenging enough. In that same year José started writing crime fiction in his spare time. His first three novels (Preludio a la Noche, Medianoche Enemiga and Fauna Noctura), set in pre-revolutionary Havana, were published by Editorial Letras Cubanas in 1982, 1986 and 1989. The fourth (Choque de Leyendas), was launched in 1998, nine years after he first delivered the manuscript to the publisher.

José also joined the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists and the International Association of Crime Writers (IACW) in1988. Two years later he resigned his position as global financial analyst in the Ministry of Finance to become a full-time writer. In 1998 he was elected vice-president for Latin America of the International Association of Crime Writers.

In 1994 José delivered to his publisher The Fool, a novel based on a real-life case of corruption in the ministries of the Interior and the Armed Forces that was uncovered in 1989. This book was considered counterrevolutionary and José was labeled an “enemy of the people.”

Certain that neither The Fool nor the books he wanted to write would get published in Cuba as long as all publishing houses were state-owned, rejecting ideological subservience and adamant about pursuing a career as a novelist, José took a shot at writing in English.

His first novel in that language, Outcast, was published in the U.S., six Western European countries, Brazil and Japan. It got flattering reviews and was nominated for an Edgar. Since, he has penned Havana Best Friends (2002), Havana World Series (2003), Comrades in Miami (2005), The Faraway War, under the pseudonym Enrique Clio (2009) and Crime of Fashion (2009).

Seeking creative fiction and fearing dictatorial repression, the author and his family moved to Spain in August 2002 and to Canada in September 2004. In October 2012 he released as an ebook Riders of Land and Tide.

Website: www.joselatourauthor.com/


  • Charles den Tex (Australië, 1952) studeerde fotografie en film in Londen, doceerde Engels in Parijs,…
  • In 1988 publiceerde Chris Rippen (Haarlem, 1940) zijn eersteling Sporen en maakte als auteur van…
  • Eva Waiblinger, MSc, PhD (Dr. sc. nat.), is a Swiss zoologist and science journalist as…
  • Prof. Jim Madison Davis is the author of several crime novels and several nonfiction books,…
  • José Latour was born in Havana, Cuba, on April 24, 1940. He started reading at…
  • Jutta Motz wurde in Halle an der Saale geboren und ging in Frankfurt am Main…
  • Kriminalromansekundärliteraturexperte mit einer Vorliebe für lange Wörter, die es nur im Deutschen gibt. Hat Österreichs…
  • Sabina Naber arbeitete nach ihrem Studium in Wien u.a. als Regisseurin, Journalistin und Drehbuchautorin. 2002…
  • Sandra Balzo turned to mystery writing after twenty years in corporate public relations, event management…



While there are some excellent books on writing, the web is also filled with terrific sites on the topic. Now Novel has made an extensive list of the very best writing websites, and they’re organised for you by subject and genre.