An Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society’s report published in the summer found that earnings from writing had fallen by 15 per cent since 2013. The median annual income of a professional author, it revealed, is now £10,500 (well below the Joseph Rowntree Fund’s definition of the 2017 minimum income standard of £17,900). As winter arrives, imagine the scene: struggling authors in their cold and gloomy garrets trying to keep their fingers from freezing over their keyboards… But, as Robbie Millen recently pointed out in the Times, there is potentially a new source of income with the arrival of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. It means there is a huge demand for content, and novels ‘are obvious candidates’.
Some of the most admired recent television dramas are adaptations of contemporary novels – Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Edward St Aubyn’s series of Melrose novels, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, to name just three. Plus, of course, John le Carré’s Little Drummer Girl (1983), which has just hit our telly screens on Sundays. And it’s not only fiction: Misha Glenny’s 2008 Mcmafia became a hugely popular television thriller at the beginning of the year.
Wolf Hall won the Booker Prize and The Handmaid’s Tale was shortlisted. This year’s winner is Milkman by Anna Burns (see page 30). Reviews at its time of publication were not all complimentary (‘a long slog’ was one description) but the Booker Prize chairman, Kwame Anthony Appiah, suggested that people who found it a difficult read should try to read it aloud – so maybe it’s suitable for the screen? And if you look inside, there are several novels that also might make the big time: how about Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle? Or William Boyd’s Love Is Blind or Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks (these last two authors, of course, being veterans of the book-to-screen genre)? Destined for the screen or not, there are lots of immensely enjoyable books inside. Take a look. Liz Anderson