Friday 2 March 2018

Compass Points 251

Russell Findlay spent decades taking on the most dangerous men in Scotland's criminal underworld. As the BBC remarked, he “puts his head where most journalists wouldn’t put their feet.” Two days before Christmas 2015, Findlay became the target of an unprecedented attack when William 'Basil' Burns, came to the journalist's home disguised as a postman and hurled sulphuric acid in his face. But Burns then lost control of his knife and was overpowered by Findlay who handed him over to the police. This botched hit is the starting point of Acid Attack: A Journalists War with Organised Crime (978 1780274997, £8.99, pb) in which Findlay unravels the identity of those suspected of hiring Burns, at the same time giving a unique insight into the criminal landscape of modern Scotland and explaining how journalists risk their safety to expose dangerous and depraved crime bosses. Unsurprisingly, journalists have loved this one – Russell Findlay was talking about it on Radio 5 Live and there was a great piece in Private Eye, which gives a good background to the book which you read below.. Acid Attack is shortly to be featured in Roy Greenslade’s Guardian column and Radio Clyde, the Times and the Daily Record have also picked it up. It’s published by Birlinn and you can see it here looking mightily eye-catching in Blackwell’s Oxford in a crime display entitled rather terrifyingly “Organised Crime is All Around Us”! This title is sensational – honest, horrific – and strangely, also humorous! Many have said it is un-put-downable and I think it should sell really well!

Who watches Endeavour – the prequel to Morse currently drawing in about 6 million viewers every week on ITV? Last Saturday’s episode featured Naming of Parts, by WW2 poet Henry Reed and declaimed by DI Thursday in its closing moments. This attracted no end of buzz and enthusiasm for this powerful poem over on Twitter and Facebook – with many pointing out the poem’s relevance to the current debates about gun culture in the US. Written in 1942, you can read it on the War Poets Association website here. It is published in Carcanet’s Henry Reed: Collected Poems, edited by Jon Stallworthy (£12.95, pb, 978 1857549430). Naming of Parts is easily Reed’s most famous poem – but this profound, witty and humane poet is well worth a closer look and the many other poems, translations, songs, and early fragments included in this collection should help establish him alongside the other great war poets.

The publicity campaign for Dance of the Jakaranda (pb, £8.99, 978 1846592096); the critically acclaimed historical novel set in Kenya against a backdrop of British colonisation is now in full swing! It’s published by Telegram next week and Peter Kimnani will be in the UK for a tour between 11 – 18 March with events planned at the Cambridge Centre of African Studies, Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa Studies at the LSE, SOAS in partnership with the Royal African Society, Waterstones Tottenham Court Road and Daunts Hampstead. Peter has also written a feature for the Guardian which will be published on 14th March and there are other reviews to come as well as radio interviews confirmed with the BBC World Service (13 March), Colourful Radio (15 March) and a podcast interview with English PEN World Bookshelf.

Loads more great publicity for On Her Majesty’s Nuclear Service by Eric Thompson (hb, £19.99, 978 1612005713) which has just been published by Casemate. There was an article published in War History Online which you can read here which got lots of likes and shares on Facebook; there will be three pieces coming up in Forces News in the next fortnight – entitled:  Blessed are the Peacemakers (which is about how nuclear submariners have kept us safe for 50 years with no credit), Ten Most Annoying Things That Can Happen on a Ten Week Nuclear Submarine Patrol (self-explanatory), and Pyjama Party (which is an anecdote of a submarine officer’s wife falling into the water and the farce that ensues!) Eric was on TV on Tuesday on STV’s Live at Five which you can watch here it’s about 11 minutes in. He also was a very interesting guest on Talk Radio Europe which is here – about 30 mins in.

The popular Delicious Magazine podcast includes a great plug for the fabulous Valentina Harris’s Italian Regional Cookbook. She is interviewed at length and they discuss her role as the Face of the Delicious Produce Awards as well as plenty of mentions of her "beautiful encyclopaedic book". The Italian Regional Cookbook (978-0754832409, hb, £25) is a truly magnificent culinary tour of Italy in 325 recipes and 1500 colour photographs – it came out from Lorenz last Autumn. You can listen to the Delicious podcast here – she’s about 8 minutes in.

Born in what is now Ukraine to Polish parents, naturalised as British, and schooled on the high seas of international commerce, Joseph Conrad was a true citizen of the world. His novels bore witness to the dehumanising repercussions of empire, explored how state-sponsored terrorism could ruin individuals' lives, and pioneered complex structures in what was to become the first wave of literary modernism. To mark his 160th birthday, fourteen authors and critics have come together to celebrate his legacy with new pieces of fiction and non-fiction in Conradology (£9.99, pb, 978 1910974339) which was published by Comma at the end of last year.  It’s had some terrific reviews recently; the Glasgow Review of Books said "It is noteworthy to point out six authors are female. Joseph Conrad’s portrayal of female characters as inferior and of lesser narrative importance is notorious in his work. Thus, the editors should be applauded by their selection of female authors and work that puts the women at the centre of their narratives." That review is here.  Bookmunch said “Conradology should be praised for bringing it into the literature, and politics, of the twenty-first century;” that’s here,  and Storgy called it an “excellent collection, well edited... a vital companion to Conrad for his many fans" – that’s here. Conrad felt that the writer's task was to offer 'that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.” In an age of increasing isolationism, these celebrations remind you of the value of such glimpses.

Hands up who thinks they’d work better and harder if they were paid more? Not necessarily, say authors Stefan Stern and Cary Cooper, and in fact thinking that money is the best motivator for your staff is one of the many Myths of Management (£14.99, pb, 978 0749480233) An extract from this compelling and practical guide has just been published on the Telegraph website – which you can read here. The world of management is blighted by fads, fiction and falsehoods and this title is a highly entertaining journey through the most famous myths surrounding the much-written about topic. Fascinating insights from psychology, leadership theory and organizational behaviour show you how to avoid falling into the traps of cliché and misinformation and it’s packed with authentic insights drawn from extensive research and real-world business examples which give you all the essential knowledge you need to become a better boss! It’s published by Kogan Page.

Helen E. Lees, author of Education Without Schools (hb, 978 1 4473 0641 2, £70) was on Woman's Hour this week joining a conversation about the value of home education. You can listen to that here.  This topical and perceptive book challenges current policy relating to educational options and opens up the debate around what is a valid education in today’s world. It highlights the lack of governmental interest in alternative education and also considers the human rights issues, the relationship of the state to education and parental education choice. Professor Michael J Reiss from the Institute of Education said: “Home schooling is under-researched and often misunderstood. Helen Lees' excellent book goes a long way to remedying this. It combines insightful empirical work with rigorous conceptual analysis. It makes a major contribution to defining the field.” I appreciate that a £70 hardback is not for every bookshop – but for parents who are already home educating or interested in alternative options to state schooling, plus trainee teachers and policy makers this is a vital and original resource. It’s published by Policy Press.

Misery Lit. Much derided – terrifically popular. Author Lyn G Farrell has written a sensitive and thoughtful article on that very topic, this month for the online mag Mslexia. She believes that it really doesn’t deserve its rather prurient and low-brow reputation, and in fact a “misery lit” story can genuinely help the survivors of trauma. Lyn’s gripping debut novel, The Wacky Man (978 1785079559, £8.99, pb) won the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary Award and is published by Legend. It tells the story of Amanda, a damaged and desolate 15-year-old who has secluded herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised. As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape? The Daily Mail called this “An astonishing tour de force” and Clio Grey called it “harrowing, unsettling, but brilliant from the first page. My book of the year.” The word of mouth and reviews for this title are five-star and it seems as if Lyn is definitely onto something in terms of the value of the “misery lit” genre, with readers typically saying that Wacky Man was “an incredible, disturbing, important book that drew me in and made me consider the wide ranging consequences of abuse.”

God's vengeance on the wicked city of Sodom is a perennial source of fascination and horror. Award-winning author Michael Arditti's passionate and enthralling new novel Of Men and Angels explores the enduring power of the myth in five momentous epochs. From a mystery play of Lot's Wife in medieval York; to Botticelli painting the Destruction of Sodom in Renaissance Florence to a closeted gay movie star starring a controversial biblical epic in 1980s Hollywood; this novel is both formally inventive and imaginatively rich. Abounding in characters as vivid as they are varied, from temple prostitutes to fanatical friars, Bedouin tribesmen, Russian exiles and even angels, this is a novel of breathtaking scope and profound human sympathy. It is published by Arcadia on 22 March, and reviews are confirmed around that time in the Daily Mail, Attitude and the TLS. The Spectator called Arditti a “Graham Greene for our time” and the Times said that “anyone who is afraid that the English novel is sliding into a backwater of domestic anecdote should find their anxieties assuaged by the writing of Michael Arditti – this novel is bound to attract critical attention.

Red Door are looking for book bloggers to take part in the book blog tour for Andrew Marshall's new memoir The Power of Dog: How A Puppy Helped Heal a Grieving Heart which will be published this summer – go to the Red Door twitter feed for details. This title follows Andrew’s previous book My Mourning Year: A Memoir of Bereavement, Discovery and Hope (£9.99, pb, 978 1910453315) which was a is a frank and unflinching account of one man's life for a year after the death of his lover. In turn heartbreaking, frustrating and even sweetly funny, this is not a step-by-step guide to dealing with bereavement but a shoulder to lean on when facing the unknowns of death and a resource for those left behind. The Guardian called it “wonderfully comforting.” Andrew Marshall has written seventeen self-help books – including the international best-seller I Love You But I’m Not in Love With You.

This truly is a time of renewed interest in the short story form, so it is the perfect time for Little Island Press to re-issue Jason Schwartz’s A German Picturesque (£12.99, hb, 978 099570523) which was first published in the US in 1998. Schwartz was once a protégé of Raymond Carver’s editor Gordon Lish, and there are signs of that influence in the taut minimalism of his prose. There’s just been a superb review for it in this week's Times Literary Supplement which you can read here. The New York Times said of it that “unlike much so-called experimental fiction, Schwartz's work contains genuine passion and invention and an enormous appetite for challenging himself and his audience." Publishers Weekly said that “reading the 21 rune-like stories that comprise Schwartz's debut collection is a bit like eavesdropping: you may not follow the conversation, but you'll certainly overhear something interesting.”

Good coverage for Ten Years in the Death of the Labour Party (£12.99, pb, 978 1785902239) by ex-Labour MP Tom Harris which was published yesterday by Biteback. There’s a serialisation in the Telegraph this week, plus Tom joined the Daily Politics show on BBC2 to discuss Labour’s future. From Gordon Brown’s momentous decision not to call an election in 2007; Ed Miliband’s crushing defeat in 2015 and the continued rise of Corbynmania; Tom examines the seismic events in Labour’s recent history and the decisions that have shaped its fortunes. He wonders how long can the uneasy peace between moderate, anti-Corbyn MPs and the leader's loyal grassroots activists last? Does Corbyn's victory give cause for celebration? Or is the Labour Party, as generations of voters have known it, finally coming to an end? More publicity on this one to come!

Sarah is just like any other urbane young woman in her twenties. She has a job in a Central London hotel, a boyfriend, commutes to work on the Tube, eats out, goes to films and theatre. This is all the more remarkable (though not to her) because Sarah was born with Down’s Syndrome. It came as a huge shock to her parents when they had a daughter with a disability and 1999 her father Andy Merriman wrote a frank and moving book, A Minor Adjustment, about the challenge of her early years. The national publicity it gained saw it become a treasured resource for other families on a similar journey. On 28 March, Safe Haven bring out the follow-up, telling how Sarah Merriman, whose favourite expression is ‘I love my life’, has grown up. A Major Adjustment: How a Remarkable Child Became a Remarkable Adult (pb, £9.99, 978 0993291142) is an important and inspirational book, published a time when pre-natal testing is threatening the very existence of people with Down’s syndrome. Sarah’s even written the final chapter herself – and both she and Andy are appearing on ITV's Loose Women on 21 March which is absolutely perfect publicity for this title! Andy will also be talking about the book on Talk Radio Europe and BBC Radio Suffolk during March and his original radio drama series about Down's Syndrome (also entitled A Minor Adjustment) is scheduled to be re-run on Radio 4 Extra at the beginning of May.

The Beast from the East – a great excuse not to go work or a right pain in the bum? Whether you’ve been channelling your inner Elsa or stomping around like the Grinch, we can probably all agree that it’s the most ludicrous name for a weather system ever. Go to the blog to see pics of traffic jams in the south west, the frozen sea round the Isle of Wight, London in the snow, a great gallery of snow drifts from all over Britain and of course the man in Scotland jumping onto the snowy trampoline! And to help us get it all in perspective – here's Alaska at -52 degrees!  

That’s all for now folks! Stay warm and safe, and more next week!

This weekly blog is written for the UK book trade. If you would like to order any of the titles mentioned, then please talk to your Compass Sales Manager, or call the Compass office on 020 8326 5696. Every Friday an e-newsletter containing highlights from the blog is sent out to over 700 booksellers – and if you’d like to receive this then please contact

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