Thursday, 20 October 2016

Compass Points 189


I love science fiction for its ability to ask really big questions, and tackle really important subjects; and Iraq + 100: Stories from a Century After the Invasion does exactly that. This collection poses a question to ten Iraqi writers: what might your country look like in the year 2103 – a hundred years after the disastrous American and British-led invasion, and 87 years down the line from its current, nightmarish battle for survival? How might the effects reach across a century of repercussions, and shape the lives of ordinary Iraqi citizens, or influence its economy, culture, or politics? Might Iraq have finally escaped the cycle of invasion and violence and, if so, what would a new, free Iraq look like? Covering a range of approaches – from science fiction, to allegory, to magic realism – these stories use the blank canvas of the future to explore the nation’s hopes and fears in equal measure.
We meet time-travelling angels, technophobic dictators, talking statues, macabre museum-worlds, even hovering tiger-droids, and all the time buoyed by a dark, inventive humour that, in itself, offers hope. As the city of Mosul begins its fight back, writers from all over Iraq are also fighting back with their visions of the future, and of a different Iraq. There has been publicity about this on the BBC World Service and also on BBC Arabic, and a post this week by its editor Hassan Blasim about Iraq + 100  on Twitter became a social media sensation, receiving over 2,000 likes in just a matter of hours.  Iraq + 100 (pb, £9.99, 978 1905583669) edited by Hassan Blasim and featuring stories by Anoud, Hassan Abdulrazzak, Ibrahim Al-Marashi, Zhraa Alhaboby, Ali Bader, Hassan Blasim, Mortada Gzar, Jalal Hasan, Diaa Jubaili and Khalid Kaki is published on 17 November, by Comma Press.

Meanwhile back in the world  today rather than the future one, it’s another week, another US Presidential debate. I love this - a fascinating look back at photos of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton through the years from Getty Images.

There was a terrific 4-star review in the Mail on Sunday this week for Glen Maxwell’s Drinks with Dead Poets (hb, £12.99, 978 1783197415) published by Oberon: “Think Alice in Wonderland with a bit of Narnia thrown in…thrilling…readers will emerge enlightened and enthralled.” This follows an excellent piece in the Guardian praising it as a “a wholly brilliant evocation of a mysterious university campus, its students and visiting lecturers” – you can read that review here.
Drinks with Dead Poets is a gorgeous gem of a book, which I think will strike a chord with many readers and poetry lovers – it is truly written from the heart from the author who Simon Armitage called “compelling, original, charismatic and poetic.”

Talking of drinking, you can tell we are now well and truly in the run up to Christmas by the number of lavish alcohol adverts flooding the airwaves and billboards; so it’s also the ideal time for Birlinn to be publishing Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald (hb, £9.99, 978 1780274218) This is a terrific re-issue of what is – in the opinion of most whisky writers and experts – the finest whisky book ever written. It is certainly the first written from the point of view of the consumer and is thus historically significant. But more than that, poetic and polemic in style and with its emphasis on the importance of single malt whisky it remains fresh and relevant to the interests of today’s whisky drinker. It is a remarkably prophetic book, and with Ian Buxton’s shrewd commentary and analysis, combined for the first time with 20 full-colour period illustrations, it is brought bang up to date for today’s generations of whisky aficionados.  Previous editions have sold in excess of 10,000 copies in UK and the US and are highly collectable and this new edition features extensive notes from Ian Buxton, pre-eminent among contemporary whisky writers. His own book; 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die has now sold 200,000 copies worldwide. This beautifully designed new hardback edition of Whisky is published at the end of the month by Birlinn.

Who doesn’t love this - an iconic 15 seconds from the classic Ealing comedy Whisky Galore!

Well, while we’re on the subject of the auld country, what is Scotland’s favourite book? I’m sure in the future many of our titles from our wonderful Scottish indie publishers will be on the shortlist – but right now it’s Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon as voted for in a poll for the BBC's Love To Read campaign. You can see the full top ten titles here.

It was Super Thursday yesterday, when many publishers bring out their “biggies”:  a staggering total of 219 new books are published on this one day alone, many of which are expected to be this Christmas’s bestsellers. Have a look here at an article in The Guardian on what bookshops think will sell well for them in the next couple of months…

There has been loads of publicity for the new ITV Sunday evening series, Tutankhamun starring Max Irons and Sam Neill. You can watch a trailer for it  here. The only edition available of the discovery of the tomb written by Howard Carter himself is The Tomb of Tutankhamun (hb,£14.99,  978 1 906251 10 9) published by Max Press. For more than 3,000 years, the tomb of the boy king lay undisturbed by grave robbers. When Howard Carter uncovered it in 1922, his find made a landmark in archaeological history. To its discoverers the tomb yielded a treasure of unimaginable significance and the story of this great discovery, first published in instalments between 1923 and 1933, is here told by Howard Carter himself, who led the excavation. Carter’s diary captures all the drama of the moment and in this book the events and consequences of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb are rivetingly traced in the discoverer's own words. There has always been huge interest in this fascinating subject; which of course has been re-ignited with the new ITV series. The Tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter is available now.



The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight by Christina Courtenay (pb, £7.99, 978 1781893203) is book four in the Shadows from the Past series and has just been published by Choc Lit. This author gets absolutely rave reviews for her titles on Amazon – don’t let them scoop up all the sales – she has many many fans and as one reviewer says: “If you like romance and history then this book is perfect. The present and the past blend seamlessly to engage and delight the reader. Believable characters, a steady pace and a real page turner. I will seek out more of her books. Lost myself in the pages and had a wonderful reading experience.” This title is a fantastic time-slip adventure, combining drama, romance and mystery with plenty of skulduggery and intrigue. It follows The Silent Touch of Shadows, the Secret Kiss of Darkness and The Soft Whisper of Dreams.

I don’t think you expert booksellers will have any problems with this - a chance to see if you can guess the famous book from its cover image alone. From those Friday funsters over at BuzzFeed!


The Life Assistance Agency (pb, £8.99, 978 1911129035) Thomas’s Hocknell’s debut novel just published by Urbane, will be in the WH Smith Fresh Talent promotion in January 2017. This entertaining story features Ben Ferguson-Cripps who sets aside his literary ambitions to join the mysterious Life Assistance Agency. Their first case is to trace a missing person with links to the Elizabethan angel-caller Dr John Dee. Pursued by a shadowy organisation the trail leads through Europe into the historic streets of Prague, where long-buried secrets are revealed, and Ben discovers there is far more to life than simply living…

Speaking of Urbane, here is author Anne Coates at the launch party for Dancers in the Wind (pb, £8.99, 978 1911129639), a gritty and gripping crime thriller which was published last week – we love it when publication day involves cupcakes with edible books on! You can read a great post about Dancers in the Wind and an interview with its author Anne Coates on the Damp Pebbles book blog here.


The Adventures of Tintin is often considered to be one of the greatest series of all time with an estimated 230 million copies of the titles sold worldwide – over 100,000 a year are sold in the UK alone.  So if you stock this iconic series, then make sure you have Tintin in the Congo which is newly available in the UK from Casterman. In this, the second of the Tintin books, the young reporter travels to Africa, unearthing a criminal diamond smuggling operation run by the American gangster Al Capone (who he will meet again in Tintin in America). Tintin in the Congo has not previously been widely translated into English or available in the UK, and its publication has often led to heated discussions concerning accusations of racism and censorship. However, many have argued that banning the book would set a dangerous precedent for the availability of works by other historical authors, and Tintin in the Congo should be read in its historical context – it was first published in 1931. This new hardback edition will be shrink-wrapped and have a bellyband saying “Collector’s Edition” and fans will certainly want it to complete their collection of all 24 Tintin adventures. Tintin in the Congo (hb, £10.99, 978 2203096509) was published this week. Reviewers have praised it for “showing off the early spontaneity of Herge’s drawing style” and said it “provokes thought rather than outrage.”
Here is an interesting 5 minute film  from the European Journal from 2012 when a Congolese man tried (unsuccessfully) to get Tintin in the Congo banned in Belgium.

Where do you stand on the news that Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature? He is the first songwriter to win the literature prize; other contenders this time included Salman Rushdie, Syrian poet Adonis and Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Author Karl Ove Knausgaard told the Guardian: “I’m very divided. I love that the novel committee opens up for other kinds of literature – lyrics and so on. I think that’s brilliant. But knowing that Dylan is the same generation as Pynchon, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, makes it very difficult for me to accept it. I think one of those three should have had it, really. But if they get it next year, it will be fine.” However, so far Dylan has responded with silence since he won the prize last Thursday, and has yet to get in touch with the Swedish Academy, made any mention of the accolade or indicate whether he will attend the celebrations! On 10th December, all the Nobel prize winners are invited to Stockholm to receive their awards from King Carl XVI Gustaf and to give a speech during a banquet. Sara Danius the academy’s permanent secretary said “I have called and sent emails to his closest collaborator and received very friendly replies. For now, that is certainly enough. If he doesn’t want to come, he won’t come. It will be a big party in any case and the honour belongs to him.” See if you agree with these  - the Top Ten Bob Dylan songs of all time!
Compass is on Twitter! Follow us @CompassIPS. Here are some of our favourite tweets from this week...
Comma Press ‏@commapress Did you see @commapress in @thebookseller yesterday talking about #northern #indie #publishing, the #NFA and @Book_Fair!
Freight Books ‏@FreightBooks Your publisher needs you! Walking the Lights needs votes to win @GuardianBooks #NotTheBooker prize.
Matthew at Urbane ‏@urbanepub Book sales of Tea & Chemo have provided over £1,600 for cancer charities #charitytuesday #breastcancer
Gallic & Aardvark ‏@BelgraviaB Did you know that Promeces longipes, encountered on #tablemountain were the models for the mystery beetle that infests Nineveh? #bugs
BrookesPoetryCentre@BrookesPoetry Our #WeeklyPoem is 'Belle √Čtoile' by John Kinsella & Alan Jenkins from their book 'Marine' pub by @EnitharmonPress: "Don’t stretch out a hand to the drowned man I’ll roll like a pebble to the sea"
Booksaremybag ‏@booksaremybag We love this write-up about Stromness Books and Prints, one of the UK’s most remote and northerly bookshops http://bit.ly/2eFbqtC  #Orkney
And Other Stories ‏@andothertweets Retweeted Chloe Turner: “The stitched together tapestry of over three hundred teasing glimpses of love...” Lovely review of Emmanuelle Pagano's Trysting!
Polygon Books ‏@PolygonBooks Jan-Philipp Sendker tours the UK next week with latest mystery novel, DRAGON GAMES. Come along to meet him and hear all about his writing.
Leah Moyse ‏@LeahJMoyse There are books that sit within their genre. #AnHonestDeceit smashes the boundaries of brilliance with its own genre. @urbanepub @Gmankow
Freight Books ‏@FreightBooks What does Friday afternoon at Freight mean? #BookAndABeer of course! *opens can*
That’s all for now folks! More next week!
This bog 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 please talk to your Compass Sales Manager, or call the office on 020 8326 5696.

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