Friday, February 19, 2010

Andy Griffith


A popular entertainment Web site reported that the actor Andy Griffith was "indicted into the Gospel Country Music Hall of Fame."
Maybe you can spot at least two reasons why that is not true.

Griffith is well known for his TV roles as Sheriff Andy Taylor on the Andy Griffith Show and as the attorney Ben Matlock on the TV drama Matlock. He is also known for his movie roles and even his gospel albums. But his big break into show business didn't come from his singing or acting. Rather, it was a comedy monologue he recorded in 1953 entitled "What it Was, Was Football."

In the monologue he takes the part of a country preacher who accidentally finds himself at a football game. Having never seen the game before, he describes what he sees. A portion:

"And what I seen was this whole raft a people a-settin’ on these
two banks and a-lookin’ at one another acrosst this purty little
green cow pasture! Well, they was! And somebody had took
and drawed white lines all over it and drove posts in it and
I don’t know what all! And I looked down there and I seen
five or six convicts a-runnin’ up and down and a-blowin’ whistles!"

The album sold more than 800,000 copies.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Best selling authors

And now, the answers you've been waiting for:

Excluding Shakespeare, who was the best selling author of all time?
Answer: Agatha Christie, whose 85 books sold between 2 billion and 4 billion copies, which is actually about the same as Shakespeare despite the slightly more compressed sales window.

Who was the best selling author in the English language?
The same two: Shakespeare and Christie, followed by Dame Mary Barbara Hamilton Cartland, another Brit, whose books sold between 500 million and 1 billion copies.

The fourth best selling author of all time is also the answer to the next question:
Who was the best selling American author?
Harold Robbins, with an estimated 750 million copies.

Who is the best selling living author?
Another American — Danielle Steel, whose actual name is Danielle Fernande Dominique Schuelein-Stell, with 580 million copies sold and going strong.

Who is the best selling children's author?
If you guessed J.K.Rowling, you might be right. Or not. She is the best-selling living children's author with an estimated 400 million copies sold. But the 60 books of Theodor Suess Geisel, or Dr. Suess, have sold as many as 500 million copies. Geisel, by the way, also edited humor magazines, wrote humor articles for leading magazines and drew editorial cartoons during World War II.

Precise numbers of books sold are not public information, and book publishers are notoriously protective of those numbers. These rankings are based on a compilation from Wikipedia, which used estimates from multiple sources.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Prolific writers

I started reading Bernard Cornwell's "Agincourt" recently and noticed in the flyleaf that he has written more than 50 books, historical novels. Cornwell is best known for his Sharpe books, which were adapted for the British film series Sharpe's Rifles starring Sean Bean.

That got me wondering, who is the most prolific author in the world? I knew Isaac Isamov had written 100 books. Was that the most? Turns out Isamov wrote many more than that. Depending on the source, he wrote as many as 500 (most sources credit him with writing or editing 500, with the actual number authored perhaps half the total). But whatever the actual number, Asimov was surely the record-holder, right?


The prize goes to the South African author Mary Faulkner, according to Faulkner wrote a mind-boggling 904 novels under six pen names.

Second place, at 850 books, was also a woman, Lauran Paine. The most prolific American author, Paine wrote Western novels under 14 pen names, all male — except perhaps the gender-neutral J.F. Drexler and J.K. Lucas. Born in 1916, Paine holds the distinction as most prolific living author.

Another source credits English romance novelist Dame Mary Barabara Hamilton Cartland with "an estimated" 723 books. credits her with 280+ books.

But continuing with the list:
Third: American dime novelist Prentiss Ingraham — 600+.

Fourth: Polish writer Jozef Ignacy Kraszewski — 600+.
Fifth: English children's book author Enid Mary Blyton — 600.

British authors dominate the top-20 list, but American children's book author Howard Roger Garis comes in at 10th, with 500+ books.

Later we'll look at the list of best selling authors. Care to venture a guess at the following?

Excluding Shakespeare, who was the best selling author of all time?
Who was the best selling author in the English language?
Who was the best selling American author?
Who is the best selling living author?
Who is the best selling children's author?