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Ebooks roundup: Frankenstein in Paris, a murderous weathergirl and lives of crime

Benedicte Page: A new app lets you interact with the story of Victor Frankenstein and his monster, Joyce Maynard's To Die For arrives as an ebook and Scottish crime writers reveal their secrets
  
  

A new take on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (Profile Books, £2.99) is the most eye-catching development in April's digital publishing. Created as an app for the iPad and iPhone, it's being billed as "interactive fiction" because it offers the reader the chance to intervene in the narrative and create his or her own version of the story.

The writer Dave Morris has transported the tale to France at the height of the French revolution, and the reader begins the story in dialogue with Victor Frankenstein as he walks around Paris discoursing earnestly of his studies. Soon one is invited into his laboratory to witness the gruesome experiment on which he has been working. Later chapters allow the reader to make choices in the character of the monster or of Frankenstein himself, shifting one's relationship to the familiar story.

The American digital publisher Open Road is going worldwide with its ebooks. Among April's offerings is Joyce Maynard's To Die For (£10.29), the deliciously black comedy about a murderous TV weathergirl that, when adapted for film, gave Nicole Kidman her finest hour. Maynard is the writer who created a storm when in 1998 she published a controversial memoir (At Home in the World) which revealed the affair she had as a teenager with the then 53-year-old JD Salinger. That memoir isn't yet available as an ebook, but Open Road does have Looking Back on the Sixties (£10.29), the book Maynard was commissioned to write as a precocious 18-year-old when her doomed relationship with Salinger was just beginning. There's also Horace McCoy's classic novella about a young couple struggling through a gruelling dance marathon in Depression-era America, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (£10.29).

Long books, short books — in the world of e, the old conventions about how to publish have ceased to matter. Hence "bundling" — the practice of giving you multiple novels in one ebook package, because you won't be forced to have to carry a hefty volume around with you. So being made available as a single unit for the first time is Brian Aldiss's The Squire Quartet (The Friday Project, £7.99), first published in the 1980s and 90s. Aldiss is best known for his science fiction, but these are four wittily told novels about a middle-aged Englishman living in the late years of the cold war. The first, Life in the West, sees Thomas Squire, founder of the Society for Popular Aesthetics and presenter of a celebrated TV documentary series, being feted at an Italian academic conference in the 1970s, while his cronies in the secret services encourage him to keep an eye on the Russian delegates.

At the other end of the scale, author Ray Robinson is self-publishing a single short story, Cut (77p). The piece, about a man's complex reactions to his lover's breast cancer, is a memorable one which won the Phillip Good Memorial prize back in 2003. Robinson is also bringing out an ebook of his second novel The Man Without (£1.94), which the author decided to self-publish after digital rights reverted to him from print publisher Picador. The book is a compelling story of Anthony, a damaged young man on the edge who looks for solace within dangerous sexual fantasies.

Finally, the second volume of digital publisher Blasted Heath's The Crime Interviews (£1.99) has some enjoyably trenchant comments from Scottish crime writers. There are interviews from Craig Russell, Ray Banks and Quintin Jardine and a forward from Ian Rankin. But one of the most entertaining contributions comes from Denise Mina, who says her reactions to being shortlisted for literary prizes range from a lofty, "Who the fuck are you to judge me?" to a ravenous, "Give me that fucking prize." Though readers who want the unexpurgated version of what she says happens after going to have "a bad hotel dinner, while feeling really nervous and wearing uncomfortable clothes" will have to download the ebook ...

 

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