Friday, 14 July 2017

Compass Points 222

Wowsers – a real fizzer of a review in the Guardian this week for a Room Little Darker – the debut short story collection from June Caldwell which you can read in full here. “The Irish fiction renaissance continues with a gothic collection of short stories that shock and fascinate in equal measure” it said, comparing her writing to Irving Welsh, William Burroughs and Kathy Acker – pretty good company to be in! “As Irish fiction once again awakens to its true power and potential, Caldwell emerges as one of those giving the tradition a good old-fashioned shaking …. couldn’t get much blacker. It reads like boiling tar… If you prefer your Irish fiction sweet, ponderous and full to the brim with twinkles and craic – horseman, pass by. A work more attentive to – and understanding of – the terrible derangements of simply being alive I have not read in a long time.” Room Little Darker (pb, £9.99, 978 1848406094) has just been published by New Island Books

Book sales continue to rise, hurrah! According to Mintel, sales of physical books are forecast to rise by 6% this year to £1.7 billion while sales of e-books are predicted to fall by 1 % to £337 million in 2017. And no doubt we can attribute this to the excellent titles we are publishing and the superb job that the nation’s bookshops are doing selling them! Pats on the back all round then. But wait, what’s this? Apparently, the rise is actually due to a "shelfie" interior design craze sweeping the UK! Those cool cats out there are filling their living spaces with bookshelves, correctly believing that this makes them look like quirky, fascinating individuals to their dinner party guests and on social media! And having popped up the IKEA Billy Bookcase, they then realise they need several hundred yards of clever looking books to put on it! Can this possibly be right? Have a look at the article here in the Telegraph to find out!

There have been no end of fabulous events and publicity for the wonderful Wild Things books this summer – I spied a THREE-page feature for Hidden Beaches (pb, £16.99, 978 0957157378) last weekend in the Telegraph. And there’s an event coming up with three of the Wild Things authors at Stamford’s in Bristol. This great bookshop is celebrating their 20th anniversary of being in Bristol this week – Happy birthday guys! 

I see Stamford’s Bristol also have an event coming up on 24 August with author Julian Sayarer talking about Interstate: Hitchhiking Through the State of a Nation (pb, £8.99, 978 1910050934) which was published last year by Arcadia. This story of US morals found on the roads between New York and San Francisco grapples with the fault lines in US society and tells a tale of Steinbeck and Kerouac, as well as the frustrated energy of American culture and politics. Readers have found it a “colourful and sharp examination of the current soul of the USA, viewing it from its underbelly” and “enlightening, depressing, challenging and fascinating in equal measure.”

Talking of American politics, in January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions for 120 days and temporarily barring entry to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries. Mass protests followed, and the order has since been blocked, revised and challenged by judges, politicians, activists and artists alike. Comma’s forthcoming collection Banthology (pb, £9.99, 978 1910974360) features seven stories written directly in response to the travel ban. There is an event promoting this title at the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival next week, bringing together writers from some of the seven banned countries, and asking the question: what good is art in response to such times? Zaher Omareen and Cristina Ali Farah will both be reading from the stories in Banthology. The collection also features stories by Rania Mamoun, Anoud, Wajdi al-Ahdal and Najwa Bin Shatwan and is edited by Sarah Cleave. It is published by Comma in September.

The combination of literature and bans has a long history of course – here is an entertaining trawl though a top ten banned books!

“Anne Tyler meets Raymond Carver” says the information sheet, and fans of either of these authors will definitely enjoy Old Buildings in North Texas – a wry, witty and warm debut novel from Jen Waldo, which is out in paperback in August. Reviews for the hardback were universally positive: “Old Buildings in North Texas is about addiction recovery, familial relationships, and a journey to self-awareness. The narrative voice is strong and the main character, Olivia, is witty, complex, and compelling. The dialogue flows smoothly and is realistic. And the idea of exploring abandoned buildings in Texas is intriguing.”  “The writing style flows like a river. I could not put this down and I didn't want it to end.” If you would like a reading copy of the hardback to discover the delights of this title for yourself, then please email Nuala at Old Buildings in North Texas (pb, £8.99, 978 1911350170) is published by Arcadia on 17 August.

And if you want to immerse yourself in the experience of actually looking round an old building in Texas – then have a look here!

There an interview in the Times T2 section coming up with Theodore Dalrymple, talking about his new book The Knife Went In: Real-Life Murderers and Our Culture (978 1783341184, hb, £16.99) which is published on 21 July by Gibson Square. Since the 1990s, Theodore Dalrymple has witnessed its modern variety in real life. For over a quarter of a century he has treated and examined many more murderers than most as a prison doctor, psychiatrist, and court expert in some of Britain's most deprived areas. Here, he delves deep into his life of personal encounters with the murderous underclass to determine what has changed overtime and what has not. Inimitably, his unique portrait of modern criminals is at the same time a parable of dysfunction in our own culture. Through his experiences, he exposes today's vicious cult of denial, blaming and psychobabble that hides behind a corrosive sentiment of caring. Illustrated with scores of eye-opening, true-life vignettes, The Knife Went In is in turn hilariously funny, chillingly horrifying, and always unexpectedly revealing. The title refers to a comment made by some of the murders Dalrymple has encountered, who felt “it was the victim of the stabbing who was the real author of the killer’s action: if he hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t have been stabbed. My murderer was by no means alone in explaining his deed as due to circumstances beyond his control. As it happens, there are three stabbers at present in the prison who used precisely the same expression when describing to me what happened. “The knife went in,” they said when pressed to recover their allegedly lost memories of the deed. The knife went in—unguided by human hand, apparently.” The Sunday Telegraph said this was a book “crying out to be written” and the Observer called it a “cultural highlight” while the Guardian praised it for its “surgical demolition”.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that TV history was made when Colin Firth's brooding Mr Darcy emerged dripping wet from Pemberley's lake. THAT scene from the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has clung to our collective conscience as closely as did Firth's white linen shirt to his sculpted torso. Two hundred years after the writer's death, Professor Kathryn Sutherland who is the lead academic on the bi-centenary celebrations, gives her historical perspective here on the long relationship between Jane Austen and the BBC – a most entertaining read!

Last week we were talking about Alexander McCall Smith’s evocative new short story collection, Chance Developments: Unexpected Love Stories (978 1846973703, pb, £9.99) based on old black and white photographs and published by Polygon. This short film caught my eye on the BBC about a Brazilian artist who is bringing new life old photographs in a different way – by adding colour. Have a look, it really is extraordinary how much more vivid and relevant the photos seem when they look more modern, which maybe says something about our ability to empathise.

'50 is the new 30 - haven't you heard?' Or so says Ben Wilde's record producer on the eve of his comeback. If only Ben could win back ex-girlfriend, Kate, he'd be a happy man. But married Kate has moved on, and moved out to Eden Hill, a quiet housing estate in the suburbs.  Or is it? Alongside a colourful cast of friends and family, Kate is living proof that older does not always mean wiser because in Eden Hill, there's temptation around every corner. Seeking Eden (pb, £8.99, 978 1911331896) by Beverly Harvey is the perfect summer beach read, and it’s just out from Urbane. There’s been lots of publicity for this author in her local Kent – both in print and on local radio.

A big feature this week in the Mirror for The Gender Agenda (pb, £9.99, 978 1785923203) which is out from Jessica Kingsley on 21 July.  Why do boys get sturdy shoes and girls delicate bows? Why do girls learn ballet and boys do martial arts? Boys play with trucks and girls with dolls' houses? Boys get toy dinosaurs and girls get toy unicorns?  Ros Ball and James Millar chronicles the differences they noticed while raising their children, and this very thought-provoking title (adapted from the authors’ tweets and blogs and diaries) shows how culture, family and even the authors themselves are part of the 'gender police' that can influence a child's identity. There’s loads to enjoy and debate in the Mirror article – which you can read here  and this is a topic that pretty much every parent has a strong opinion on, so there’s bound to be loads more media buzz for this one – there have already been pieces in the Sunday Express, the New Statesman and the Huffington Post. Jo Swinson, former Lib Dem Equalities Minister said of it “One daughter. One son. Two different worlds. This book is a fascinating insight in how gender inequality is embedded in our society from the earliest years of a child's life.”

There was a two page-spread in the Mail this week entitled by Helena Frith Powell, author of Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles: Look and Feel Ten Years Younger Without Effort (978 1783340910, pb, £8.99) published by Gibson Square. It mentioned the book, and you can read that piece here.  

Biteback had two titles in this year’s Saturday Guardian’s Best Holiday Reads 2017 which you can see  here.  Kazuo Ishiguro chose Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World (pb, £9.99, 978 1785902147) saying “Both Evan Davis and Matthew d’Ancona recently published excellent books on our so-called post-truth era, but I’d like to highlight James Ball’s Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World for its vivid analysis of how the business models and incentives currently prevailing in digital media render decent discourse all but inaudible.” 
And Phillipe Sands chose The Greatest Comeback (hb, £20, 978 1785901393) writing “History and memoir offer insights into other times and lives that make Britain’s current miserable travails marginally more tolerable. The Greatest Comeback by David Bolchover is astonishing, not least for its unlikely melding of football and mass murder, two of my daily passions.”

Hamlet, starring the very wonderful Andrew Scott, is currently playing to packed houses at the Harold Pinter Theatre. This is a radical new version of Shakespeare’s classic, reworked and directed by Robert Icke, who the Observer called "one of the most important forces in today’s theatre" and the script is published by Oberon (LOVE the cover!) This new production has had absolutely cracking reviews: “an admirable lucidity. Much of the time it feels like a modern and highly charged family drama, steeped in Nordic Noir... Icke’s interpretations of classic plays are unapologetically audacious, yet they have a rigorous logic... rich and beautiful” said the Evening Standard; and there will be a demand for this new paperback. Hamlet (pb, £9.99, 978 1786822246) by Shakespeare/Robert Icke is available now and you can find out more on the Oberon website here.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy": Andrew Scott plays Moriarty to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock of course – oh go on then, you know you want to see them; here are his very best moments!

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 talk to your Compass Sales Manager, or call the office on 020 8326 5696.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Compass Points 221

A big extract in the Times this week for Death of a Translator (£14.99, hb, 978 1911350088) by Ed Gorman which has just been published by Arcadia. PJ O'Rourke said he had “never read anything that so fully and perfectly captured the personal experience and the personal aftermath of war” and this gripping, enlightening and deeply moving title is sure to get more review coverage. One of our own Compass reps who has recently read this title has also given it a major thumbs up saying it was “compelling, honest, insightful, a little bit heart breaking at times but kinda weirdly joyful by the end – much more than I would imagine from a war type book. You can really imagine the author as a young man, his curiosity, his enthusiasm, his endearing naivete at times and it taught me more about the Afghan Soviet war which is a war I was curious about as there is such resonance with the history I've seen created over the last 15 years. So, yeah. It's a good book. Highly recommended!”

We all know that we probably need to do more to promote books on social media – but how? Using Facebook by making enticing content from your titles freely available, is something that expert parenting publisher White Ladder Press are very good at indeed! This form of promotion reaches a huge number of parents, and the latest title to benefit is Weaning Made Easy. You can see the video they’ve produced together with Mother & Baby here and there will be more recipes from this practical and popular book to come. After being on FB for less than a day, the post had already had over 7,000 views – so this is clearly a really good way to engage the potential audience for this title! Weaning Made Easy (pb, £9.99, 978 1908281746) contains 150 healthy, tasty recipes for both traditional purees and baby-led weaning plus simple weekly meal planners, nutrition advice and foods for each stage of weaning. Parents are very enthusiastic about the simple and heathy approach of this fab little book, by expert nutritionist Rana Conway, saying: “I bought this and one of the "well known mainstream" books and this has been my bible. I've made nearly every recipe, they're all delicious and genuinely quick and easy rather than completely tedious like those in some other books.”

Congratulations to Carcanet poet Adam Crothers who has just won the £5,000 Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry First Collection Prize for Several Deer (pb, £9.99, 978 1784102449). Also winner of the Shine/Strong Poetry Award, this acrobatic debut collection is as much indebted to Bob Dylan and Lana Del Rey as to Emily Dickinson and George Herbert; and the rhythmic subtlety as well as the verbal craftsmanship of the poems have won him much praise.

We often feature stories about inspiring libraries in Compass Points because, let’s face it much as we all want people to BUY books, being able to freely access the written word is the sign of a truly civilised society. So I think you’ll be interested in this article. When ISIS took control of Mosul and declared its caliphate in 2014, militants ransacked the city's university then burned down its library, destroying hundreds of thousands of books in Arabic and English, historic maps and periodicals from the Ottoman era, and ancient Islamic manuscripts, including a ninth-century Qur'an. Now one anonymous blogger is leading efforts to restock it.

Plenty of publicity for the new Alexander McCall Smith title; Chance Developments: Unexpected Love Stories (978 1846973703, pb, £9.99) which has just been published by Polygon. In this beguiling book McCall Smith casts his eye over five black and white photographs and imagines the stories behind them. Who were those people, what were their stories, why are they smiling, what made them sad? This is vintage McCall Smith, full of insight and empathy, surprising and poignant tales of love and friendship in a variety of settings –  an estate in the Highlands, a travelling circus in Canada, an Australian gold-mining town, a village in Ireland, and Edinburgh. Alexander McCall Smith is doing a BBC Radio 4 Live interview with Clive Anderson in August; one of the stories is running in the current issues of Good Housekeeping magazine, there is an interview in Reader’s Digest plus there is station advertising running in Scotland. This title should keep selling right through until Christmas – his previous romantic short story collection Train and Lovers sold extremely well!

Talking of black and white photographs, why is it that the world seems so much more evocative when seen in monochrome? Have a look at this  –  two minutes of the most beautiful black and white film shots.

Hurrah for Comma Press who last week were crowned the Northern Publisher of the Year at the Northern Soul Awards at The Hilton in Manchester. Northern Soul is a celebration of culture and enterprise, from theatre, music, authors and art, to heritage, small businesses, food, and leading figures, as well as everything in-between. Comma won the award for their many accomplishments like acquiring excellent writers, terrific design and superb marketing and a strong social media presence – if you'd like to find out more about Northern Soul and see the winners of all the awards, click here!

It’s the Pride in London parade this weekend, and And Other Stories have a great guest blog from editorial assistant Claire Browne on her experiences of being LGBT+ and working in publishing, as well as a great discussion about LGBT+ fiction. You can read that here.

And this is an excellent time to remind you about Not Guilty: Queer Stories from a Century of Discrimination by Sue Elliott and Steve Humphries (pb, £12.99, 978 1785902161) which is just out from Biteback. Only fifty years ago, sex between men was a crime, and although the Sexual Offences Act 1967 changed that in part, it was only the beginning of the long fight for equality in the eyes of the law, in society and in millions of private lives. Not Guilty gives voice to previously untold stories of denial, deceit and subterfuge, public pain and secret pleasure through the ten tumultuous decades before and since that watershed Act and is a vibrant celebration of past achievements. It offers a powerful reminder of how much has changed in the past fifty years, and a warning that hard-won freedoms can so easily be eroded in uncertain times.

I LOVE this – a celebration of brave voices from #ProudToBe

A fascinating article in the Guardian this week on the current state of Russia, by distinguished journalist Angus Roxburgh referencing his book which is out from Polygon in September. Moscow Calling: Memoirs of a Foreign Correspondent (hb, £17.99, 978 1780274928) presents not the Russia of news reports, but a quirky, crazy, exasperating, beautiful, tumultuous world that in forty years has changed completely, and yet not at all. From the dark, fearful days of communism and his adventures as a correspondent as the Soviet Union collapsed into chaos, to his frustrating work as a media consultant in Putin's Kremlin, this is a unique and often hilarious insight into a country that today, more than ever, is of global political significance. Angus Roxburgh’s piece in the Guardian was the third most viewed article that day – which bodes very well for interest in the book – and you can read it here.

The Threat Level Remains Severe (pb, £8.99, 978 1910709153) from Gallic was featured in Good Housekeeping magazine this week as “One to Watch” describing it “a witty and well-observed contemporary drama.” And Rowena Macdonald was interviewed on Simon Lederman’s BBC Radio London show on Wednesday, discussing the book and talking about her own stalker experience in light of the news report that came out this week about support for victims of stalking. You can listen again to that here.

Congrats to Jeffrey Wainwright whose poetry collection What Must Happen published by Carcanet has been announced today as one of the final five books in the running for the 2017 Arnold Bennett Book Prize. The prize celebrates Stoke-on-Trent author Arnold Bennett – this year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the 'Bard of the Potteries'. The competition was open to any writer from North Staffordshire, or authors from elsewhere who wrote about life in the area. What Must Happen is Jeffrey Wainwright's most intimate and elegiac collection of poems to date, recalling lost parents, relations and friends along with shared childhood memories and the history of his hometown Stoke.

One of the finest players football has ever seen; Alan Hudson is still revered at Chelsea, Stoke City and Arsenal, and yet his professional success was dogged by injuries and enormous personal challenges. His love of the glitzy 'footballer lifestyle', dominated by hard-drinking and glamorous women, saw Alan descend into rampant alcoholism, depression, and frequent brushes with authority. Huddy: The Official Biography of Alan Hudson by Jason Pettigrove (pb, £13.99, 978 1902719573) reveals for the first time, the full story of the real Alan Hudson, the man behind the lurid newspaper headlines and booze-fuelled anecdotes. A straight-speaker who doesn't suffer fools gladly, he has as many enemies as close friends. Even his team-mates were evenly split; they either loved or loathed him. The one thing that couldn't be taken away from him, however, was his talent for the beautiful game. Some years after retiring from the sport he loved, Alan embarked on a new career in the media but in 1997, he was the victim of a 'hit-and-run' car accident near his East London home and his 'life well-lived' changed forever when he sustained injuries that the medical profession thought would kill him. Huddy, which has just been published by St David’s Press describes a fascinating story, and one that has never been fully told ... until now.

And here's Huddy back in his prime in the 70’s at Chelsea – they really don’t make ’em like that any more!

Well done Bushra al-Fadil, who is the winner of the 2017 Caine Prize for African Literature for his story The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away (translated by Max Shmookkler). It’s published in The Book of Khartoum (pb, £9.99, 978 1905583720) from Comma. Bushra al-Fadil is the first Arabophone author to win the prize – a great achievement. You can read or listen to his story online, and more information can be found on the Caine Prize website.

Here is an interesting bit of radio, Deborah Levy discussing her novel Swimming Home (pb, £8.99, 978 1911508083) published by And Other Stories with James Naughtie on the Radio 4 Bookclub. “I’m always interested in people who are a little bit from here, a little bit from there" she says – and talks about how the darkness of the Brothers Grimm has influenced her. The Telegraph called it “a stealthily devastating book . . . Levy manipulates light and shadow with artfulness. She transfixes the reader: we recognize the thing of darkness in us all. This is an intelligent, pulsating literary beast.”

Rudolf Nureyev was arguably the greatest male dancer the world has seen, and many he worked with have described the moods and outbursts that accompanied his breathtaking performances. The autobiography of former prima ballerina and Artistic Director of English National Ballet, Dame Beryl Grey; reveals that he was actually so volatile and violent that he once caused a ballerina a spinal injury by kicking her, and threatened another colleague with a knife. For the Love of Dance (hb, £25.00, 978 1786820976) which is published next week by Oberon, reveals many other fascinating stories of the people, characters and institutions that made up the world of dance in the 20th century as well as giving us a very personal insight into an extraordinary woman. There were big piece on this title last weekend in the Times which you can see here and the Guardian here and there will be more publicity to come for this handsome 400 page illustrated autobiography of the woman whose hard work and natural virtuosity helped make British ballet the powerhouse it is today.

Here's a beautiful 6-minute film of Beryl Grey dancing Swan Lake over 50 years ago at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1958.

Talking of the spirited older lady (Dame Beryl is 90), The Year I Turn: A Quirky A-Z of Ageing by Angela Neustatter (978 1783340002, hb, £9.99) published by Gibson Square has plenty of publicity recently! There is no doubt that aging NOT so appropriately is a big trend at the moment and there are plenty of readers who want to find out all about the “deliciously naughty joy of being a bad granny” as the Daily Mail put it in their big full-page feature. The Mature Times called it “Humorous, clever and pertinent” and the Irish Times praised it for showing “How defying convention can be good at any age.” It was recently featured on the front page of Inspire Magazine (part of the Daily Mail) under the heading “Now that’s what 70 looks like!” This title is a bestseller – that has continued to sell and get publicity, so do stock it! There have been mentions in most of the broadsheets this year including the Sunday Times and Telegraph, and Angela is currently out and about promoting it. You can see a short clip of her talking about the book here on the BBC breakfast news when it first came out.

Compass is on Twitter! Follow us @CompassIPS. Here are some of our favourite tweets from this week …
NearSt‏ @NearSt Three essentials in life are; something to do, to love, and to hope for. Oh and these books from @BelgraviaB
Leeds Waterstones @WstonesLeeds Happy Birthday Laurent Gaudé (born 6 July 1972 in Paris) award winning author. His novel Hell's Gate is in stock and is highly recommended!
And Other Stories‏ @andothertweets Take this from Kingdom Cons: “Let them be scared, let the decent take offense. Put them to shame. Why else be an artist?”
Mr B's Emporium‏ @mrbsemporium Yep, festival goers still like to browse books at 1am #night bookselling @glastofest @booksaremybag @Bertrams
Anness Publishing‏ @Anness_Books Lovely summery #microwave mug meals by @TheoCooks on @thismorning - salmon looked delicious. Check out his cookbook!
Victoria Cornwall‏ @VickieCornwall Adding some Choc Lit Tasters to my mum's birthday present. She will love these novellas. @ChocLituk #birthday #gifts #books
David Barker‏ @BlueGold201 Looking forward to the annual #raftrace @thameswater at Reading this evening. I'll be selling Blue Gold from @urbanepub for @WaterAidUK
Compass Academic‏ @CompassAcademic Nice to see our lovely publishers @JKPBooks& @PlutoPress cozily nestled up together at the brilliant & cake filled @LRBbookshop #greatbooks #rollup

That’s all for now folks! More next week!
This blog begins its life as an e-newsletter which is sent weekly to over 700 booksellers as well as publishers and publicists. If you'd like to subscribe, then do add your email address to the box at the bottom of the homepage. 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.