Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Rick Friedman, founder of the James Mason Community Book Club on Goodreads, prolific book reviewer, and fan of the cinema great James Mason, and welcome him to my blog.
Many thanks Marcia!!
Q: When did you found your group on Goodreads, and what led you to start the Book Club?
A: Interesting story there…back in October of 2009. I happened to be on Twitter, a relatively new user, when I saw a tweet from a writer who mentioned a site named “Goodreads.com” As I have always been a major book lover I checked it out. I enjoyed the site quite a bit and then noticed that there were individual Groups. I started to check those out and while I felt they were all quite good, I found myself skipping to various Groups to discuss various genres of books. This was also coinciding with the closing of the majority of brick and mortar bookstores. One of my favorite things was to go to bookstores and not only browse books, but also discuss them with others there and attend author readings and other events. The idea formed in my head that it would be wonderful to have an all inclusive, multi-genre “Virtual Community” where readers and writers from around the World could gather to discuss all things books. I also wanted to provide a place for writers to feel comfortable posting about their books and talk with readers about the writing process. Many Groups frown on members talking about their own projects, I strongly encourage it! So, I decided to start my own group…not an easy thing…but truly a labor of love.
As we near 7,000 members, I remember quite vividly how excited I was when I reached 7 members! The James Mason Community Book Club is quite organic in that it continues to expand along with current trends. We have over 300 threads, including ones that deal with films and TV as well as member participation games. There is a real sense of Community in the Group…as anyone can tell if they check it out…quite amazing is the friendships and sense of closeness have increased as the membership has. One might feel that a Group so large in number would be distant and formal…it really is a fun place to “stop by” and enjoy the diversity of members…and make great friends and contacts. I also, again, highly encourage Member Writers to post all about their books, links, blogs etc…as “Members supporting members” is a key tenet of the Group.
Q: You have a prolific output of reviews on Goodreads. Do you have a reading program/schedule which works for you?
A: I really do not. It came as quite a surprise…a pleasant surprise…that as the Group grew in membership and stature, I would receive emails from writers asking me to review their books. Also from publishers as well. Some weeks I get a book or two in the mail, other weeks…over a dozen! I make an effort to read each book and as I am supremely loyal to my member writers, I always look for the positive aspects of their books to highlight in my reviews. This has been quite easy, as I have truly enjoyed everyone of them! I am constantly amazed at the level of talent in the Group…and this certainly includes Indies who I feel are putting out some of the most cutting edge fiction today. I make it a point to treat all members with equal respect…as I have many NY Times Bestselling writers as well as folks just starting out…everyone is equally respected in both the Group and my reviews.
Q: Do you have any favorite book genres which you love to read?
A: I have always enjoyed thrillers and Victorian Classics…yet over the years I have found my tastes broadening quite a bit into all genres as I get to know so many superb writers.
Q: Are there any favorite books and authors who you have followed over the years?
A: Mostly classics…Wilkie Collins is a particular favorite. I have always loved Elmore Leonard…amazing that at over 90, he still is at the top of his game. As far as other writers…my answer is…my favorite books are those written by James Mason Member Writers and my favorite writers are James Mason Members! I feel a strong bond with my Member Writers.
Q: Have you ever considered doing any writing yourself? If you have, in which genre(s) would you like to write?
A: I have…like most folks! A few tries…yet never able to stick to it…that is one reason I have such immense respect for writers. The ability to formulate an idea, complete all the writing and have it published…I certainly have not been able to do that!
Q: Your book club is named in honor of cinema legend James Mason, who was a fine actor indeed who, unfortunately, never won an Oscar, despite receiving many nominations over his long career. When did you first discover James Mason as a film viewer, and what qualities of his do you find so compelling to witness?
A: I receive a lot of questions about why I named my book club in honor of an actor. When I was deciding on a title, I just felt the need to honor the memory of James Mason. He actually did write two books, and was a voracious reader. I was about 10 when my older brother was watching Heaven Can Wait on TV. This would have been in the late 1970’s. I happened to see his first scene…where as Mr. Jordan, Mason tries to explain to Warren Beatty that “This is not a dream…life has a quality…a feeling all its own…and so do dreams…” I always loved classic films and especially the character actors…and I had never heard a voice so distinct and cultured before. I asked my brother who it was and he told me James Mason. I did what I always did when I wanted to delve more into a subject…I went to the library…as there was no internet then! I discovered that James Mason has a legendary career in Hollywood…and became an instant fan.
I remember very well the 1982 Oscars when he was nominated for the third and final time for The Verdict. I was, at that time, a major fan already, and was utterly crushed when he lost. I have not watched an Oscars Telecast since. It is inconceivable to me that after 50 years and over 100 films, James Mason never won an Oscar…which tells me all I need know about the Oscars…As this was the only Oscars he ever attended…I learned that Mason detested them as pretentious and never showed up, even the previous two times when he was nominated. He only showed up the final time to please his second wife who never attended one before. I was devastated a year or so after when he died suddenly. I very much wanted to honor his memory so as I always intended my Group to be somewhat different from the traditional book club, naming it in honor of Mr. Mason was a perfect fit. I love getting emails from new members who still revere him as much as I do…and also young members who never heard of him until they joined the group…and became fans as a result.
Q: Do you have any favorite TV shows, from either the past, or still on the air?
A: My favorite shows will always be The Honeymooners and The Odd Couple. I really do not watch much new TV, the vast majority of TV I watch is sports, which I love. Favorites are Hockey…FL Panthers…and Baseball…NY Yanks of course!! I was weaned on the Yanks as I was born in a suburb just North of NYC!
Q: Are there any hobbies you like to participate in when you have spare time?
A: I have always enjoyed playing sports as much as watching them…so certainly baseball. Golf when I have time. I would say the vast amount of free time I have is spent working on the Book Club and reading…which are my favorite hobbies!!
Q: Do you have any other book-related projects that you would like to mention?
A: I wish I could say I had a book written and ready to be published…yet…nah!! but for all writers who do…please do join our wonderful James Mason Community…and remember to post about your books!!
I am certain that you will join me in thanking Rick today for his time, and that we look forward to hearing about more great books from his group in the future. If you wish to contact Rick, he is available on:
*Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/rick.friedman.9