A book by any other name

My first partridge shoot of the season this week, and two other firsts as well: it was my first one in Derbyshire, and my first shoot as a guest of the chairman of a FTSE 100 company who had paid for the whole affair out of his own pocket. This was, he told me, so that he could invite who he wanted rather than who he needed to ask.

Corporate shooting is declining thanks to laws such as the UK’s Bribery Act 2010, which has made it all but impossible to entertain clients over and above the occasional cinema ticket. This can only be a good thing, but as a general rule I am never keen on more legislation as I am not sure it makes much difference, and it also adds to my burden as a company owner.

I have recently been reminded of how little governments even use the powers they do have by reading Charles Ferguson’s book Inside Job, written after his Oscar-winning documentary film of the same name. I admire Ferguson; I interviewed him for the FT in 2001, in the aftermath of 9/11. The book covers the same subject as the film, the financial crisis of 2007, 2008 and 2009, but with a lot more detail. I was totally gripped and have sat up in bed every night reading it until my eyes just couldn’t stay open any more. I liked the film, and the book is even better.

If, like me, you are the kind of person who enjoyed Bryan Burrough and John Helyar’s Barbarians At The Gate, Michael Lewis’s books and his writing in Vanity Fair, or Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big To Fail, then you have to read this book. Ferguson doesn’t waste words. I found myself surprisingly grateful for his painstaking research, including reviewing the court documents that support financial services company Charles Schwab’s civil case against those banks who sold it mortgage backed securities. Schwab demonstrates in these documents how the baskets of mortgages in a number of specimen deals varied wildly in quality and detail from how they were described in their respective prospectuses. Despite what could have been turgid subject matter, the book is incredibly well structured, answers a myriad of questions and leaves the reader with one big one. Why, given all this evidence, has no one been prosecuted for almost destroying the US (and the world) economy? There is, Ferguson points out, no lack of legislation to help them do so.

I finished the book and found that I also wanted the answer to a different big question. Why, yet again, has a book that is published in the 21st century – when distribution boundaries have been swept aside by the internet – been given a different title in the US and UK? In the US it is called Predator Nation but in the UK its title is the same as the film, Inside Job. Why not just use one title? It is mightily confusing for the readers. People who read this and like it (and I suspect many will) may then want to buy other books by Ferguson. He has written others. But on Amazon in both the US and UK, this same book is available under both titles and there is nothing to warn you. You may end up buying the same thing twice.

This has happened to me and it drives me absolutely nuts. When I was told that my book was going to have a different title in the US, I didn’t complain because I assumed publishers know what they are doing. Assumptions are never a good idea, and I am told that the paperback in the US, due out in January 2013, will carry the same title as in the UK. Why didn’t we do this in the first place? People don’t live in a geographic vacuum and there is more than one person out there who has bought both my books to discover that they are in fact the same volume.

The reverse is equally true, two different books or even places with the same name. I am shooting at Catton Hall in Derbyshire. Did you know there was a Catton Hall in Cheshire? Where you can also shoot, admittedly clays? Buying the right book or attending the right shoot is getting increasingly hard.


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