Friday 27 May 2016

Compass Points 171

There’s been lots in the press this week about the terrible tragedy when a boat carrying migrants capsized in the Med – but what is it really like to be a refugee, attempting to make the journey over the sea to Europe? Award-winning journalist Wolfgang Bauer and photographer Stanislav Krupar were the first undercover reporters to document the journey of Syrian refugees from Egypt to Europe, and their book is called Crossing the Sea: With Syrians on the Exodus to Europe (hb, £15.00, 978 1908276827) which came out in March from And Other Stories.  Posing as English teachers in 2014, they were direct witnesses to the brutality of smuggler gangs, the processes of detainment and deportation, the dangers of sea-crossing on rickety boats, and the final furtive journey through Europe. Combining their own travels with other eyewitness accounts in the first book of reportage of its kind, Crossing the Sea brings to life both the systemic problems and the individual faces behind the crisis, and is a passionate appeal for more humanitarian refugee policies.
There has recently been some very positive review coverage for this title, which is going to really make readers want to find out more. The Irish Examiner said “where Bauer excels is filling in the back stories, and providing detail on the nefarious, cut-throat business of people smuggling” and there have also been good piece in the New Statesman and the Times Literary Supplement. The title is a staff pick at Foyles Charing Cross and I really do urge you to stock it if you haven’t done so already! As one of the reviews of the German edition said “The last words of this book are Have mercy. There is no more to say. Wolfgang Bauer’s impressive and brutally honest depiction of the fates of refugees speaks for itself.”
Nancy Clara Cunard (1896 – 1965) was a writer, heiress (to the Cunard shipping fortune) and political activist. She was born into the British upper class and devoted much of her life to fighting racism and fascism. She became a muse to some of the 20th century’s most distinguished writers and artists, including Aldous Huxley and Ezra Pound, who were among her many lovers, before suffering from mental illness and dying aged 69 in hospital in Paris.
Carcanet are publishing her Selected Poems (978 1784102364, pb, £9.99) edited by Sandeep Parmar at the end of July which will be a major poetry event. These poems by a trail-blazing muse and activist of the Jazz Age include experimental free verse as well as popular balladic forms – and there is bound to be media coverage for this rebellious writer who was way ahead of her time. You can find out more and order Selected Poems here.
If you’d like to find out a bit more about Nancy Cunard, there is a good piece here in the Huffington Post with some fab pics of this queen of the jazz age. As they say: “Cunard truly was one of the twentieth century’s great, unrepentant individualists: her silhouette remains unique and instantly recognizable even today: an exclamation point-thin frame; dark, kohl-rimmed eyes; arms invariably heavy with bracelets.” Or you can watch a short photographic montage of some of her most famous images on YouTube here.

Is there anyone who doesn’t love a bit of Bob Marley – especially in the summertime? Coming this summer from Omnibus Press is the Bob Marley Graphic Novel by Jim McCarthy, Gerry Kissell and Benito Gallego (pb, 978 1783059676, £16.99). This is a graphic novel telling of the life of the Jamaican reggae singer who achieved such immense international fame and acclaim. Starting out in 1963 with the group The Wailers, he forged a distinctive song-writing and vocal style that would later resonate with audiences worldwide. Diagnosed with a type of malignant melanoma in 1977, Marley died on 11 May 1981 in Miami at the age of 36. He was a committed Rastafari who infused his music with a sense of spirituality and is considered one of the most influential musicians of all time credited with popularizing reggae music around the world, as well as serving as a symbol of Jamaican culture and identity. I like the sound of this one; the Omnibus biography of Bob Marley Catch A Fire is widely regarded as one the best music books ever written and I think there will be a good market for this graphic novel. It’s out in July and you can find out more about it here.
And you can hear one his most famous songs here – incidentally, this has had over ninety-two million views on YouTube which I think is a tremendous testament to his immense popularity!

Over half a million students are currently sitting their A-Levels to see if they can get the grades to enable them to head off to the dreaming spires (or possibly the scummy cesspits) of university life. And they will all be wanting to know what it’s going to be like which is where A Guide to Uni Life by Lucy Tobin comes in.  The Telegraph called this a “must-read” and this is a fully revised edition of this bestselling one stop guide to university life, packed with real-life student tales. Written by a graduate, A Guide to Uni Life offers a unique viewpoint on how to juggle studying, having fun and avoiding money troubles by someone who has lived through the experience themselves and can pass on lots of handy tips and advice for new or potential students. There is a very large target market for this title, and Lucy Tobin (a graduate from Oxford) is a an author and widely published journalist of educational articles in many national newspapers including the Times and the Guardian who really knows her stuff. A Guide to Uni Life by Lucy Tobin (pb, £9.99, 978,1844552160) is published by Crimson in August and you can find out more here.
Any of you who have been to uni will find this rings very true – some of the truly stupid stuff students say !

Welcome to a new member of the Compass family:  Amber Books who publish illustrated reference books for adults and children. You can find out a bit more about them on their website Coming from them in August are three terrific Mini Encyclopaedias which should give DK a run for their money! Each one is paperback, 163mm x 123mm and combines engaging accessible text with highly detailed colour artwork.
Dinosaurs by Gerrie McCall (pb, £9.99, 978 1782743842) profiles these mighty lizards who still fire our imaginations. The entries are grouped chronologically, and each dinosaur or other prehistoric creature is illustrated with a stunning full-colour picture. For easy reference, each entry also includes a table of information containing key data such as size, weight, diet, meaning of name, armour, hunting techniques and distribution of fossil remains. Engaging accessible text provides an introduction to each dinosaur's behaviour, habits and other key information. You can find out more about Dinosaurs here.
Mammals by Chris McNab (pb, £9.99, 978 1782743859) comprises some of the most intriguing creatures on the planet and offers a truly comprehensive overview of mammals from every continent, from the big cats of Africa to the dolphins that roam the world’s oceans. The entries are grouped by order, then within each order by family (and where necessary, within each family by subfamilies); each family section contains examples of the key species, which are illustrated with beautifully detailed, full-colour artworks. Find out more about that one here.
And finally, The World of Birds by Michael Wright (pb, £9.99, 9781782743231) includes 300 fascinating entries which cover all of the world’s major bird families – from the penguins of the Arctic to the flamboyant inhabitants of the Amazon rainforests. Being pocket-sized like all three mini-encyclopaedias; the book is handy for taking with you when birdwatching and with its outstanding colour artworks, an at-a-glance table of information and authoritative text, Birds will appeal to anyone interested in the natural world. Michael Wright is a Natural Sciences graduate from Cambridge University and a member of the Association of British Science Writers who has contributed to many books in the field of wildlife, natural history and the environment. Find out more about Birds and order it here.
What is it like to work for an indie publisher? Have a look at this fun blog post from Katie Caunt who works at Carcanet here!
What do you know about Iceland’s most celebrated novelist Sjón? Born in Reykjavik in 1962 he is a poet, librettist and lyricist, (he has worked with his countrywoman Björk), who has written three operas and published eleven volumes of poetry. His novels have been translated into thirty languages; he won the Nordic Council’s Literary Prize for his novel The Blue Fox and the novel From the Mouth of the Whale was shortlisted for both the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. This author has a growing UK and international profile with praise from the likes of A. S. Byatt and has had great reviews in the mainstream UK press.
His new novel Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was is published by Sceptre in June and there will be a UK-wide tour by Sjón from 2 -7 June (including the Hay Festival) and a major media campaign with confirmed coverage in the Guardian Review where there will be a centrefold interview with him just ahead of publication; as well as BBC Radio 4 Open Book, BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking and Newstalk with Pat Kenny and reviews in the TLS, the Spectator and the Guardian. So please do make sure you order his three backlist titles The Whispering Muse, From the Mouth of the Whale and The Blue Fox from Telegram – they have great covers (go to the blog!) and as Steven Cooper at Waterstone’s said recently in the Bookseller: “Sjón will no doubt find a place alongside Karl Ove Knausgård in the hearts of literary hipsters everywhere”. David Mitchell called his writing “a quirky, melodic, ticklish, seamlessly-translated, lovin­gly-polished gem… it deserves space on any self-respecting bookshelf of European fiction.” There is much affection for this author whose work is a highly original mix of folk tale and thriller, all set against the beautiful Icelandic landscape. All three of these paperbacks are available now!
From the Mouth of the Whale (978 1846590832, pb, £8.99) is set in 1635 when Iceland is a world darkened by superstition, poverty and cruelty. Men of science marvel over a unicorn’s horn, poor folk worship the Virgin in secret and both books and men are burnt. Jónas Pálmason, a poet and self-taught healer, has been condemned to exile for heretical conduct. Banished to a barren island, he recalls his exorcism of a walking corpse on the remote Snjáfjöll coast, the frenzied massacre of innocent Basque whalers at the hands of local villagers and the deaths of three of his children. This is a magical evocation of an enlightened mind and a vanished age.
The Whispering Muse (978 1846591242, pb, £7.99) is set in 1949 when Valdimar Haraldsson, an eccentric Icelander has had the singu­lar good fortune to be invited to join a Danish merchant ship on its way to the Black Sea. Among the crew is the mythical hero Caeneus, disguised as the second mate. Every evening after dinner he entran­ces his fellow travellers with the tale of how he sailed on the Argonauts’ quest to ret­rieve the Golden Fleece.
The Blue Fox (978 184650375, pb, £6.99) is set in 1883 with the stark Icelandic winter landscape as the backdrop. We follow the priest, Baldur Skuggason, on his hunt for the enigmatic blue fox. And just as the priest pulls the trigger we are swept away to the world of the naturalist Fridrik B. Fridriksson and his charge, suffering from Down’s Syndrome, who was found shackled to the timbers of a ship run aground in 1868. The fates of all of these characters are intrinsically bound, and gradually unravelled in this spellbinding fable that is part mystery, part fairy tale –  Bjork called it “magical”. 
This week we raised a glass to say goodbye and remember Burt Kwouk the actor who played Cato in the Pink Panther films. Hopefully the “little yellow friend” is still leaping out on Peter Sellers somewhere up above us – here he is in one of his first bouts with Clouseau from from 1964 and here again in 1975 and also here . I had to include three clips as it is genuinely impossible to decide which is funniest!
That’s all for now folks! More next week!
This blog is taken from a newsletter which 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 click here  or talk to your Compass Sales representative.

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