Sad news today that one of Britain’s finest character actors Andrew Sachs, who played Spanish waiter Manuel in Fawlty Towers, has died at 86. His autobiography I Know Nothing (£9.99, pb, 978 1849549004) is available in B-format paperback from Biteback. As the Times said “There is a lot more to the memoir than Manuel… as well as telling a jolly showbiz tale, he can also strike a more serious and insightful tone when the subject matter requires it.” The memoir begins in 1938, when few weeks before Kristallnacht Andrew Sachs looked on as Nazi officers arrested his father while the family was eating in a restaurant. The son of a Jewish father and a lapsed Catholic mother, a few days later he watched as the Nazis burned and looted Jewish shops on the streets of Berlin. I Know Nothing is full of stories of Sachs’ extraordinary life, as well as plenty of entertaining anecdotes about working with a galaxy of stars including Rex Harrison, Norman Wisdom, Noel Coward, Alec Guinness, Richard Burton and Peter Sellers. And of course, it tells of how he eventually came to team up with John Cleese (who has written the foreword for the book) on the show that would make him famous as the hapless waiter from Barcelona. It is a touching and inspiring read.
Which are your favourite Manuel moments? Well, I think two very strong contenders must be this and this!
Vahni Capildeo’s Measures of Expatriation (pb, £9.99, 978 1784101688) published by Carcanet has been selected as one of the Telegraph’s Best Books for Christmas – you can read the whole piece here and also as one of the Guardian’s Best Books 2016 where Marina Warner said “Measures of Expatriation by the Trinidadian-British poet Vahni Capildeo gives a long, searching look at dislocation and plurality and polyvocality and diasporas: it’s a very singular and powerful collection.”
Talking of Carcanet; their brand new January to August 2017 Catalogue is now online – have a browse here to see what tempting poetry goodies are in store for next year! Carcanet’s 2017 is a year rich in geographies with collections from Jamaica, the United States, France, China, Australia, Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland and England; and the imprint moves forward much enhanced by the addition of Anvil Press Poetry with its wonderful mix of new English-language poetry and translation, modern and classical.
Congratulations to Michael Bradley, who is a finalist in the People’s Book Prize for his book Teenage Kicks: My Life as an Undertone (pb, £15.99 978 1785581809) which is published by Omnibus Press. This bitter-sweet and heart-warming tale of unlikely success, petty feuding and playful mischief during five years of growing up in the music industry has been highly praised as “fascinating, brilliantly written and told with such a delightful humour that I found myself laughing out loud. It’s a must read, not just for Undertones fans, but for anyone interested in music. Without out a doubt this is the best music book to hit the shelves… Ever.” The People’s Book Prize is a national competition aimed at finding, supporting and promoting new and undiscovered works. Its founding patron was Dame Beryl Bainbridge and the current patrons are Frederick Forsyth and The Publishers Association. It aspires to champion new authors, showcase undiscovered works and empower the public to vote with confidence for the nation's next bestsellers and writers of tomorrow. It also wants to engage the community and raise the profile of publishers, libraries and new writers, forming an alliance with retailers to sell and distribute winners' books and you can see the whole shortlist and find out more about the prize here. The winners will be announced at the eighth Awards Ceremony in late May 2017.
Ooh let’s have a listen of Teenage Kicks John Peel's favourite record!) right now to celebrate!
Pumpkin Flowers: A Soldier’s Story by Matti Friedman (pb, £12.99, 978 1785900433) published by Biteback has been chosen as one of the New York Times’ 100 Most Notable Books of 2016. You can see the whole list here. Pumpkin Flowers is a lyrical yet devastating insight into the day-to-day realities of war, and a powerful coming-of-age narrative. Part memoir, part reportage and part haunting elegy for lost youth, it follows a band of young soldiers – the author among them – conscripted out of high school into holding a remote outpost in Lebanon. Raw and beautifully rendered, this essential chronicle casts an unflinching look at the nature of modern warfare, in which there is never a clear victor and innocence is not all that is lost.
The current focus on Cuba means there may well be renewed interest in Slow Train to Guantanamo: A Rail Odyssey through Cuba in the Last Days of the Castros (978 1908129505, £11.99, pb). Award-winning journalist Peter Millar jumps aboard a railway system that was once the pride of Latin America – and is now a crippled casualty case – to undertake a railway odyssey the length of Cuba in the dying days of the Castro regime. Starting in the ramshackle but romantic capital of Havana, once dominated by the US mafia, he travels with ordinary Cubans, sharing anecdotes, life stories and political opinions; to the Guantanamo naval base and detention camp. Peter Millar has been a correspondent for Reuters, the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph and was named Foreign Correspondent of the Year for his reporting on the dying stages of the Cold War. He has a new book out next spring – and Slow Train to Guantanamo is available from Arcadia now. “Loved this book. Travelled to Cuba whilst reading it and everything he says comes true. He packs in so much information without you even realising how much he is telling you. Definitely worth reading whether you plan to go or not.”
Who’s enjoying The Crown on Netflix – isn’t it fab?! There’s no doubt that it provokes an enormous surge of affection and respect for our queen. Some of you may have spotted that her first cousin Margaret Rhodes died this week aged 91; her intimate and revealing autobiography The Final Curtsey has already been a number one bestseller and is well worth putting on display with all the current interest in the monarchy. This is an enthralling account of a singular life, and a unique insight into the intimate moments of the British Royal family. The Queen Mother regarded Margaret Rhodes as her "third daughter", and she was extremely close to her cousins the Queen and Princess Margaret throughout their lives. The book is full of charming anecdotes, fascinating characters, and personal photographs and is an unparalleled insight into the private life of the British monarchy. The Final Curtsey: A Royal Memoir by the Queen’s Cousin (978-1780270852, £8.99, pb) is available from Birlinn now.
Here's a short interview Margaret Rhodes did in 2013 with CNN, talking about her very special relationship with the royal family.
Over a million people in the UK work in call centres, and the phrase has become synonymous with low-paid high stress work and dictatorial supervisors. However, rarely does the public have access to the true picture of what goes on in these institutions. Working the Phones (pb, £17.99, 978 0745399065) is a masterful account of life in a British call-centre by Jamie Woodcock who worked undercover to gather insights into the everyday experiences of the workers: it’s just been published by Pluto. He shows how this work has become emblematic of the shift towards a post-industrial service economy, and all the issues that this produces, such as the destruction of a unionised work force, isolation and alienation, loss of agency and, ominously, the proliferation of surveillance and control which affects mental and physical wellbeing of the workers. By applying a sophisticated, radical analysis to a thoroughly international 21st century phenomenon; Working the Phones presents a window onto the methods of resistance that are developing on our office floors, and considers whether there is any hope left for the modern worker today. Peter Fleming, author of The Mythology of Work said “This brilliant insider account of life in a British call-centre reveals the dirty realities of digital capitalism ... a book that is sure to become a classic.” You can hear Jamie talking about the book on YouTube here and read an extract from it here.
And talking of phone calls, I still think this complaint to Asda about a pizza with no topping must surely be the funniest phone call ever!
And finally, a charming festive title that you may not be aware was published today by Hesperus Press. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (pb, £8.99, pb) by L. Frank Baum (author of the Wizard of Oz of course) tells the true story of Santa Claus, from being found as a baby in the woods to making the first toy the world has ever seen (a carving of his cat Blinkie), to the invention of the dolly, the Christmas stocking, the Christmas tree, his battles with the evil Awgwas and being granted the mantle of immortality so he can keep bringing joy to children forever.
Beautifully written, and with glorious new illustrations by John Shelley, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus brings the magic of the Oz books to the life of Father Christmas and introduces the reader to unforgettable characters like the Master Woodsman, Necile the Wood-Nymph and little Mayrie, who just wants a toy of her own. This is truly a book for children of all ages.
That’s a version of Father Christmas you may not be familiar with – but who played him best on screen? Have a look here to see the top ten movie Santas!
Compass is on Twitter! Follow us @CompassIPS. Here are some of our favourite tweets from this week...
Michael Bradley @MickeyUndertone Thank you to everyone who voted for the book. It's through to the final next year. Conga through Derry now. @PeoplesBkPrize @OmnibusPress
Mark Thompson @marktwrites The Mayor and Mayoress of Stockton-on-Tees - 'Civilised Saturday' and signing of DUST. Fabulous day! @RedDoorBooks
Eddie Marsan @eddiemarsan RIP Andrew Sachs. You came here as a refugee with nothing but your talent and your spirit, and you enriched our lives. Thank you so much.
Miranda Hart @mermhart Andrew Sachs made me cry with laughter in my favourite sitcom. That legacy won't die but today a little cry that he and his era have gone.
Piers Morgan @piersmorgan Very sad to hear about Andrew Sachs - a true comedy legend & great actor. Thinking of you @johnrsachs & all the family. RIP.
Freight Books @FreightBooks Join us to launch Whisky Island - get a complimentary nip of whisky and sort out someone's Christmas gift in one go!
Sara @bookwitchsara No matter how goth you think you are, you aren't Charlotte "I repaired my mourning shoes with the hair of my dead siblings" Bronte
Claire Eastham @ClaireyLove #GivingTuesday - Take 5 mins today to ask someone how they are. You can even do it over a brew with no slap on! mentalhealth #anxiety
Red Lion Books @RedLionBooks 'You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.' - C S Lewis, born on this day in 1898.
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 please talk to your Compass Sales Manager, or call the office on 020 8326 5696.