Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Time to say a few words about my new book, The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits. The publication date is November 4, which hopefully gives everyone plenty of time to pick up copies for every reader on your holiday list. The title pretty much says it all, but I should add that much of what is in this book came as a real surprise to me--yet one more instance of how all this recent work in history has been making up for those days I dozed through class in high school and college. I had always assumed that Charles Dickens had it pretty easy once he became established as the best-selling author of his time, but that is not the case. By 1843, he was broke, his critical reputation was shot, and his once-fabled popularity was at an all time low. By chance, he came up with a story that he believed would turn his fortunes around. But the fact is that A Christmas Carol, the most popular Christmas story of all time, very nearly did not happen. When he went excitedly to his publishers to pitch his story, Messrs Chapman and Hall listened patiently, then suggested he lie down until the urge to tell "a ghost story of Christmas" had passed. Angry but undeterred, Dickens resolved to publish the tale himself, even though he had only six weeks to finish writing it, have it designed, illustrated and printed, and copies delivered to the shelves. But he managed, and the story of how this self-published book became at one time second only to the Bible in readership gripped me like Jacob Marley fastening on Scrooge. There is much in here about how this book came to shape Christmas as we know it today; but it is also very much about writing, and the publishing industry, and personal courange and conviction...I hope you will enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it. Do let me know.
I will close with a final word on the fabulous job that the good folks at Crown have done with the design of my own "little book." The cover is obviously pretty cool, but wait until you have a look at the book itself: the layout, the colored ink, the uncut pages...forget the words inside, this would make a great gift as a holiday decoration! Kudos to my editors Rachel Klayman and Lucinda Bartley and everyone else inside Crown Publishers for all the hard work and care.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Great news: the 900-plus members of the American Booksellers Association have selected THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS as an "Indie Next" pick for November, one of only twenty titles that will be featured in every quality independent bookstore across the country. Here is an advance peek at that list:

The November Indie Next List & Notables Preview
Oct 02, 2008

Here's a preview of the November Indie Next List now on its way to ABA member stores in the IndieBound movement.

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford(Crown, $19.95, 9780307405784 / 0307405788)

"Les Standiford gives us the chance to understand Dickens not only as an author, but as a person struggling to save his career, who, in the process, reinvigorates the Christmas spirit. Standiford excels at telling the story of historical figures in a way that reads like a novel, so we learn almost in spite of ourselves. This is an irresistible read for the holiday season!" --Rona Brinlee, The Book Mark, Atlantic Beach, FL

(C) Copyright 2008 American Booksellers Association. All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 13, 2008


From Miami to Mobile to New York to Amherst to London, and points in between:

(keep checking back, as details will be added--that is an 1839 portrait of Dickens on the left, by the way--my author photo is in much sharper focus)

Tour Schedule for Les Standiford
The Man Who Invented Christmas

Fri, Nov 7 Miami

8:00pm: Books & Books
Contact:Cristina Nosti
Ph: 305-444-9044

Mon, Nov 10 Mobile, AL

7:00pm: West Regional Library
Reading, Q&A and signing
Contact: Nancy Anlage
Ph: (251)208-7097

Tues, Nov 11 Fairhope, AL

6-8:00pm: Page and Palette Bookstore
32 S. Section St.
Fairhope, AL 36532.
Tel: 251.928.5295

Sun, Nov 16 Miami

11:00am: Miami Book Fair
Contact: Penny Thurer, Author Liaison
Ph: 305-237-3564
With James Atlas, Nancy Milford, Stacy Schiff & Edmund White

Thurs, Nov 20 Ft. Lauderdale

1:30pm: Florida Center for the Book
Broward County Main Library
100 S. Andrews Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

Tues, Dec 2 Amherst, MA

2:00pm: UMass Amherst
Contact: Maddy Blais
Ph: 413-687-5161 (cell) or 508-696-8970 (landline)

6:00pm: Williston-Northampton School
Contact: Maddy Blais

Wed, Dec 3 Northampton, MA

7:00pm: The Odyssey Bookshop
9 College Street South Hadley, MA 01075
Contact: Emily Russo
Ph: 413-534-7307

Thus, Dec 4 NYC
6:00pm: University Club Library

Contact: Jane E. Reed, Assoc. Library Director
Ph: 212-247-2100

Sun, Dec 7 Palm Beach, FL

2:00pm: Lecture and Signing
Whitehall Museum Christmas Tree Lighting
Contact: John Blades, Director
Ph: 561-655-2833

Mon, Dec 8 Tampa, FL

6:00pm: Lecture and Signing
Plant Museum, University of Tampa
401 W. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33606
Contact: Gianna Russo, Curator of Education Ph: (813)258-7304

Tues, Dec 9 Sarasota, FL

1:00pm: Circle Books
478 John Ringling Blvd Sarasota, FL 34236
Contact: Eric Lamboley
Ph: 941-388-2850

Sat, Dec 12 Vero Beach/Jacksonville, FL

1:00pm: Vero Beach Book Center

2145 Indian River Blvd
Vero Beach, FL 32960
(772) 569-6650
Contact Cynthia Grabenauer

6:00pm: Book Mark, Atlantic Beach (Jacksonville Beach)
299 Atlantic Blvd
Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
(904) 241-9026

Contact Rona Brinlee

Tues, Dec 16 Highland Beach/Palm Beach, FL

2:00pm: Highland Beach Public Library
Contact: Rae Stempel
Ph: 561-417-7460

6:00pm: Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach
Contact: Molly Charland and Brandy Stevenson
Ph: 561-655-2766

Sunday, Dec 21 London

3:30pm: Everyman Cinema--Belsize Park
203 Haverstock Hill
London,NW3 4QG
Contact: Louisa de Albuquerque T: 0203 145 0514
Showing of A Christmas Carol (1951), followed by discussion & signing

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Yes, Virginia, I do read the reviews (the good ones that is.) And that is me on the right, pensively waiting for this one to show up.

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's a Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits
Standiford, Les (Author)
ISBN: 0307405788
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (NY)
Published: 2008-11
Binding/Price/Pages: Hardcover, $19.95 (256p)
Subject: Biography & Autobiography Literary; Literary Criticism Regional, Ethnic, Genre, Specific Subject English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
Reviewed: 2008-09-01

What would Christmas be without the yearly viewing or reading of A Christmas Carol? It is a classic of the season-perhaps the most memorable Christmas tale of all time-that captures the spirit of the holiday. Thriller and nonfiction writer Standiford (Bone Key: A John Deal Novel; Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Changed America) attempts to address what prompted Dickens to write this much-loved tale in this affectionate portrait of a once-successful writer trying desperately to revive his career. After a triumphant beginning, Dickens struggled as his later works failed to gain any critical or monetary success. Verging on bankruptcy and looking for inspiration, Dickens agreed to speak at a fund-raiser for the Manchester Athenaeum. Dickens left the event inspired and walked around Manchester until he had the fully formed Carol in his head. Standiford deftly traces the many influences in Dickens's life that led to and followed that momentous event, weaving an entertaining tale that will delight Dickens and Christmas lovers alike. Recommended for public libraries.-Deborah Hicks, Univ. of Alberta Lib., Edmonton

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Here is a link to a great slide show presentation of the recent FIU writers conference at Hutchinson Island, Florida. People, parties, and places...enjoy!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

In Memoriam: Jim Crumley

We have lost one of the true originals of the past century, my friends. If you have not read The Last Good Kiss, then set aside what you are now consumed by and find it. It is among the finest mystery novels written, as evocative of latter Twentieth Century America as any book to come out of the period.

I taught with Crumley at the University of Texas at El Paso for several years and being around him made me vow to myself to succeed. Besides it was a hell of a lot of fun.

Of course, Crumley and I had several hundred adventures in the El Paso days, and the stories seem endless to me. Here is one:

I remember one cool fall evening we were sitting in--where else--a bar, on Montana Street--when he remembered it was the night of a notable metor shower. We HAD to go out into the desert so we could watch, he told me. I told him that I was already seeing plenty of stars, but he was having none of it. Off we went, down Montana, into the Upper Valley and across the Rio Grande. A half hour later we were bumping along a sandy ranch road up the steep escarpment to a proper vantage place. "This is good," Crumley announced after a bit, and I pulled the Beemer over. Behind us, twenty miles or so to the east were the lights of El Paso, but to the West, there was nothing but blackness. Did I mention that we'd stopped for a couple of six-packs on the way? Well, we hauled them out, climbed up on the warm hood of the Beemer, and leaned back against the windshield to watch. I am sure there were plenty of meteors.

After a bit, Crumley climbed down and ambled off into the brush to meet a call of nature. I heard some unzipping, and rustling, and muttering...and then I heard a cry, followed by a series of thuds and crashes as something heavy went tumbling down a steep hill. There was another cry as the sounds stopped. "Goddamit, Standiford. Help!" I found a flashlight under the seat of the Beamer and made my way down the hillside to the big mesquite bush that had interrupted Crumley's tumble down the escarpment. If he hadn't gotten snagged there, he might still be rolling. As it was, he was lodged in one of the branches, pants around his ankles, almost as if he'd intended to sit down there on purpose. He couldn't pull himself out of the tangle because every branch was full of two-inch long thorns. But with me holding to some bush that didn't have thorns and the other hand on Crumley's, we managed to get him out, and back up the hill. Did I mention there was cursing?

After that, there was the matter of finding a pair of needle nose pliers in the trunk, and then a half an hour or so of pulling mesquite thorns out of Crumley's butt, lit up like a moon in the glow of the flashlight, him leaning over the hood of the Beemer and repeating, "Stop laughing, goddammit." Some people might assume that after we got done with the thorns, we would have climbed in the Beamer and gone back home.

But anyone who thinks so obviously does not know Crumley. There was a meteor shower, goddammit, and there was still plenty of beer. Some things are not meant to be missed. There are stories in which he comes off far more as Crumley the Invincible of course, but he knows I'd always tell this one first. I loved him like a brother. Peace.