Friday 30 May 2014

Compass Points 87

It's always good news when a book is made into a film – especially when it’s one starring Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Jean Reno & Christopher Plummer which I would say bodes extremely well for its chances of success. Last night there was a special trade preview of Hector and the Search for Happiness which will open in the UK in August. You can watch a trailer on Simon Pegg's super-cool website Peggster here. Compass Points sent along our teenage blogger and reviewer Madeleine Jessop to see what she made of it, and here is her verdict.

“I knew hardly anything about the film beforehand; I felt the title had potential and of course the ever strong appeal of anything with Simon Pegg in it was undeniable. His hilarious previous films mean that most of my generation believe anything with him as the star can do little wrong. From the opening scene I thought I was going to watch a comedy, as the bright blue sky and shiny yellow plane, with Simon Pegg seated inside wearing flying goggles, seemed set up to be funny. However when this particular episode turned out to be a dream I wondered which genre the film would fall into. The film does have a jokey mood and many laugh-out-loud moments; but what I really enjoyed about Hector and the Search for Happiness was the more serious undertone, and the honesty of a young man looking for joy in this world. It seems as if the young psychologist (Pegg) has the ideal life. Everything is in order and his perfect girlfriend (Rosamund Pike) is everything a simple man like Hector dreams of. However an urge to find more in life, his current failure to make his patients happy, and the strong indication there’s another woman out there for him, leads Hector to go on a trip round the world finding out what makes people happy. It was often emotional and moving, and overall truly heartfelt. The clever individual style of the film is very appealing, the action sometimes merges into a Herge-style cartoon for a moment, and the occasional flashbacks makes it unusual and alternative. Moreover, I really appreciated the recurring Tintin theme. The yellow aeroplane at the start, the cartoons, the Blue Lotus book and Hector’s resulting trip to Shanghai; all unashamedly remind you of the Tintin books, and it’s just another quirky touch to this film that I think make it so successful.  I’ve never read Hector and the Search for Happiness, but now would like to. The film gives a fascinating account of different situations and cultures all round the world, and will raise some serious questions in your own mind about happiness. Anyone who sees it will not regret spending a couple of hours with Hector on his search for joy. Fantastic!”

Over two million readers worldwide have already engaged with psychiatrist François Lelord’s modern fable and it is published in paperback in the UK by Gallic Press.  Narrated with deceptive simplicity, its perceptive observations on happiness offer us the chance to reflect on the contentment we all look for in our own lives. The film is released in August 2014 and the book Hector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord (978 1908313676 £7.99) is available now.You can order it here

Congratulations to Comma Press; their short story collection The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim (translated by Jonathan Wright) has just been announced the Winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, 2014. As the Bookseller commented, “It is the first time in the prize’s 24-year history that it has gone to an Arab writer and also the first time that a short story collection has been victorious.” From legends of the desert to horrors of the forest, Blasim’s stories blend the fantastic with the everyday, the surreal with the all-too-real. A soldier with the ability to predict the future finds himself blackmailed by an insurgent into the ultimate act of terror…Fleeing a robbery, a Baghdad shopkeeper falls into a deep hole, at the bottom of which sits a djinni and the corpse of a soldier from a completely different war…Taking his cues from Kafka, his prose shines a dazzling light into the dark absurdities of Iraq’s recent past and the torments of its countless refugees. This is a new kind of story-telling, forged in the crucible of war, and just as shocking. You can watch an interview with author Hassan Blassim minutes after being announced the winner here; hear him on Thursday 22nd May's BBC Front Row here and also read the Guardian coverage of the win. A rave review in the Independent which you can read in full here said “Think Irvine Welsh in post-war and post-Saddam Baghdad, with the shades of Kafka and Burroughs also stalking these sad streets. Often surreal in style and savage in detail, but always planted in heart-breaking reality, these 14 stories depict a pitiless era with searing compassion, pitch-black humour and a sort of visionary yearning for a more fully human life. The Iraqi Christ deserves to take its place as a modern classic of post-war witness, elegy and revolt.” The Iraqi Christ (9781905583522, £9.99) published by Comma is available now.

Wakolda by Lucia Puenzo is a story of obsession, loyalty and control as one man with dark intentions charms his way into the lives of an innocent, unsuspecting family. This is a dark and chilling story full of dramatic tension and well-drawn characters, which is based on the true exile of Josef Mengele to South America. It begins when in Patagonia, 1960. José is on the run. Having fled from him homeland Germany, he has come to South America to continue his work – José is a doctor, who is seeking to manipulate genes to create the ‘perfect’ human race’. José is of course actually Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, infamous for performing human experiments at Auschwitz and sooner or later his past is going to catch up with him. Wakolda (Pb, 978 1843915430 £8.99) is published by Hesperus Nova in July. It was released as an Argentinian film (called The German Doctor in the US) this spring, and you can watch a trailer for it watch a trailer here – which gives you are pretty good idea of what a compelling and griping read Wakolda is.

There are lots of personal stories of both the first and Second World War out this summer of course, but Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer by Air Commodore Alastair Dyson Panton is perhaps uniquely poignant. So much more than merely a memoir of war, this is a vivid and often lyrical description of life as an RAF reconnaissance pilot in France during the hellish summer of 1940, as the Germans marched into first Belgium and then France. It brings to life the fear, loneliness, pain and terrible sadness Panton and his comrades came to live with during those long weeks, as well as drawing on the bravery, camaraderie and humanity which made those unpredictable days more bearable. The aeroplane Alastair Panton captained throughout this intense period was a Bristol Blenheim Mark IV and this is very much the story of a pilot and his plane.  As Louis de Bernières said; "One can’t help feeling awe and reverence for people like this. There are enough adventures here for a lifetime, let alone six weeks."  Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer: An RAF Officer’s memoirs of the Battle of France 1940 by Air Commodore Alastair Dyson Panton DFC, CB, OBE with Victoria Bacon (his daughter) is available in a beautiful mid-size hardback format with an untreated cloth cover (hb, 978 1849546683, 14.99)and is published by Biteback in July. It would make a very good gift book for all those hard-to-buy-for dads, uncles and grandpas!

The Bristol Blenheim has a fascinating history – have a look at this interesting and nostalgic 8 minute film which gives you a good impression of the affection many feel towards this plane.

Under the Channel by Gilles Petel was launched last week with a party in London where it is mostly set; I’ve just picked up a copy and I must say it’s pretty gripping so far. It starts with a murder midway through the Channel Tunnel, but this inter-city tale of changing identities is no ordinary crime novel. As Parisian detective Roland Desfeuillères investigates how the body of a Scotsman has turned up on board a Channel Tunnel train, he travels to London – and then immerses himself in the victim’s hedonistic lifestyle as he searches for the motive behind the crime. But the longer he walks in the dead man’s shoes, the more Roland discovers about himself.... The publishers, Gallic Press tell me this book should appeal to fans of Bret Easton Ellis, Martin Amis and Jay McInerney and that it has “more sex than your average Gallic novel” so I’ll definitely keep reading! Under the Channel by Gilles Petel (978 1908313669, 8.99) is available in paperback now.

That got me thinking about how often the Channel tunnel has been used in fiction and film. Who can forget the extraordinary helicopter and train chase in Mission Impossible for example?

And of course there was the Sky Atlantic series last year: The Tunnel - pretty grisly gripping stuff!

But the story of the real tunnel is fairly extraordinary in its own right. Who knew that they actually started building it 1880 – yes that’s right – 1880!! Watch this really brilliant British Pathe film from 1957 to find out a bit more – it will amaze you!

And even today, there’s lots more you don’t see – here’s an interesting two minute film about the service tunnel – entitled Inside the Channel Tunnel you Don't See - here you can actually walk across from Britain to France – 50km long and just 100 metres below the sea – a slightly scary thought!

Well, the weather’s rubbish, we’ve had the May Bank Holiday – so that tells us it must be nearly time for Wimbledon right? Correct – it starts on June 23rd – so you’ve just got a couple of weeks to get your bookshops full of tennis themed titles!

One essential tome is Tennis Maestros: The Twenty Greatest Male Tennis Players of All Time by John Bercow (978 1849545129).  Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the top-ranked tennis players today - but how do today’s champions compare with those of earlier eras? From William Renshaw and the four French Musketeers to Cochet, Lacoste, Brugnon and Borotra; tennis fans have long enjoyed watching the greats strut their stuff. But who are the greatest singles players of all time? In this book John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, who was a competitive junior player and is a qualified tennis coach, assesses the merits of the maestros and proposes a ranked list of the all-time greats. It is no easy task. Court surfaces and ball speeds have changed, racket technology has revolutionised the game and trying to distinguish the best from the rest is as challenging as it is fun. This handsome £20 hardback is published by Biteback on 12 June, and the Bercow name has no doubt helped with some terrific publicity! There will be a Sunday Times review  and interview with John Bercow on Sunday 1st June, an interview and feature in the Daily Express next week; he’ll be on the Steve Wright Show on BBC Radio 2 on 10th June and has already been on BBC R4 on Sunday 25th May – and there have been reviews the Guardian and the FT last weekend. This is definitely the sort of book to provoke intense debate – and the ideal present for those zillions of tennis nuts – so get it on display!

Here are one fan's top ten tennis greats on You Tube – how many make it into Bercow’s book I wonder?

And don’t forget the Bluffer's Guide to Tennis by Dave Whitehead (pb, 978 1909937161 £6.99) which has just been published. This paperback will instantly enable you to acquire all the knowledge you need to pass as an expert in the world of tennis. Never again need you confuse topspin with a flatshot or a reflex volley with a bolo. Bask in the admiration of your fellow tennis lovers as you pronounce confidently on the merits of the windshield wiper, the reverse forehand, and the run-around. Above all, never wear a headband – and you too will soon be indistinguishable from the experts. As always, this series provides “An amazing amount of solid fact disguised as frivolous observation.” (the Sunday Telegraph said this so it must be true) and there will be plenty of publicity coming up in national and regional press, lifestyle, outdoor, fitness, travel and sports magazines plus a strong social media campaign – get yourself onto the Bluffer's Facebook page for plenty more time-wasting fun!

That’s all for now folks, more next week!

This newsletter is sent weekly to over 700 booksellers as well as publishers and publicists. If you would like to order any of the titles mentioned, then please click here to go to the Compass New Titles Website or talk to your Compass Sales representative.

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