Friday 29 June 2018

Compass Points 266

Congratulations to Robert Minhinnick who this week won both the Roland Mathias Poetry Award and £4,000 Wales Book of the Year for Diary of the Last Man (pb, £9.99, 978 1 78410 348 4) which is published by Carcanet. Carol Ann Duffy said that this “new collection confirms his status as one of the most important poets of these turbulent times”. Described by the author (who is the co-founder of Friends of the Earth Cymru) as a walk across Brexit Britain as the world faces political uncertainty and a "change of all kinds" including climate change; this is a powerful call to action. Judge Carolyn Hitt described it as “environmentalism turned into elegy”. You can see Robert reading one of the poems from this celebration of the dwindling Earth here.

Celebrating books across three categories in both English and Welsh in poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction, the ceremony saw ten authors take to the stage to claim a total prize fund of £12,000, and we’re pleased to say that Compass publishers had two other winners on the night! M Wynn Thomas took the English-language Creative Non-Fiction Award for All that is Wales (£24.99, pb, 978 1786830890) University of Wales Press), a collection of essays on a number of English-language authors from Wales, offering a sample of the country’s internal diversity. Meanwhile, the Wales Arts Review People’s Choice Prize was awarded to Tristan Hughes for his moving and lyrical novel, Hummingbird (pb, £8.99, 978 1912109807) which is published by Parthian.

The comments by Ofsted head that white working-class communities can lack the "aspiration and drive" of many migrant groups, was all over the press this week, with England's chief schools inspector saying that a long-overdue debate was under way about why white working-class pupils fall behind. You can read that story here on the BBC and here in the Guardian. This topic is tackled head on in the excellent The Working Class: Poverty, Education and Alternative Voices (pb, £24.99, 9781781352786) in which Ian Gilbert unites educators from across the UK and further afield to call on all those working in schools to adopt a more enlightened and empathetic approach to supporting children in challenging circumstances. It is both a timely survey of the impact of current policies and an invaluable source of practical advice on what can be done to better support disadvantaged children. It came out in March from Crown House.

Who doesn’t like a daft quiz on a Friday? Try this one which claims to be able to tell your mental age from the way you perceive colours!

Super to see three terrific Comma events coming up at Edinburgh Book Festival this summer. Palestinian author Nayrouz Qarmout will be talking about her debut short story collection The Sea Cloak (£9.99, pb, 978 1905583782) which draws from her own experiences growing up in a Syrian refugee camp, as well as her current life in Gaza, stitching together a patchwork of different perspectives on what it means to be a woman in Palestine today. Editor Sarah Cleve and one of the contributors to Banthology (£9.99, pb, 978 1910974360) Zaher Omareen will talk about fighting Trump with fiction; and Kamila Shamsie and Jackie Kay discuss Refugee Tales II (pb, £9.99, 978 1910974308).

Often in this newsletter I bring you a book by one of our many hardworking publishers such as Canbury Press; attempting to explain the consequences of Brexit in an incisive and easily-digestible manner. Titles such as Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? (£8.99, pb, 978 0995497856). Clearly, despite their best efforts most people clearly still don’t get it; as Danny Dyer’s hilarious and spot-on rant this week illustrates, describing Brexit as a 'mad riddle' that nobody understands. I also very much enjoyed the pithy Brexit discussion on Love Island here.

Social scientist Catherine Hakim has been invited as panellist on Good Morning Britain shortly to talk about elite dating agencies – and of course she will be mentioning her book The New Rules (pb, £9.99, 978 1908096609). This Gibson Square title has already had lots of great publicity; the Independent called it a “masterwork” and the Times “too juicy to ignore.” Catherine has been on media as varied as Loose Women, the Today Programme, Sky News and Radio 5 Live discussing it, and is much in demand as an expert on the changing attitudes and theories on the position of women in society. The New Rules investigates how the internet is changing the power dynamic between the sexes, and looking at the latest data, Catherine Hakim traces a new fault line between men and women and how it is shifting in our increasingly sexualized culture.

Taking of publicity for books – I think we’ve all sympathised with the author who’s being interviewed by a journalist who clearly hasn’t read a word of their latest oeuvre. However, most don’t lose it quite so comprehensively as reality TV star Gemma Collins did – have a read here about her conversation with Now magazine, it’s very funny!

The longlist for the Polari Prize was announced this week, which is awarded annually to a writer whose first book explores the LGBT experience, whether in poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction. Now in its eighth year, this prize is celebrating a record number of submissions with four times the number of entries this year! You can see the full longlist of twelve here. I’m pleased to say that the Legend title, Little Gold by Allie Rogers (pb, £9.99, 978 1787199958) is on it! Little Gold is a story of survival and a celebration of love that comes up through the cracks, inspired by the author’s memories of the Brighton of her childhood. Her second novel, Tale of a Tooth (pb, £9.99, 9781787198524) was published by Legend this spring and is an immersive and compelling look at the impact of domestic abuse on a vulnerable family unit. Book Bag said of it “Allie Rogers strikes gold again … A book about issues that isn't issue-led, and a book about childhood that isn't mawkish and emotional. Allie Rogers has created a tale that's original, powerful and long lasting.” Good luck Allie – the winner of the Polari will be announced on 20th October 2018 at the London Literature Festival.

A brilliant review in the Sunday Times for Sean O'Brien's new collection from Comma, Quartier Perdu (£9.99, pb, 978-1905583706) saying “O'Brien's ever-lurking sense of humour turns satirical … Atmospheric and highly literate, with a sense of writerly power in reserve, these gothic tales from a prize-winning poet strike a relishable balance between playful and macabre.” You can read more about it on the Independent Literary Fiction blog here which also gives it a major thumbs up saying “Britain has a long ghost story tradition and after reading Quartier Perdu, I’m happy to say that Sean O’Brien … at his best, is as chilling and compelling as any of them.”

Are we talking about football? Oh go on then, and as Germany crash out of the World Cup, there wasn’t much sympathy in sight on Twitter – here's  an amusing summary of some of the best responses…

If you’re a typical mid-career worker the chances are you are being squeezed. Hard. You’re under pressure like never before, coming at you from all directions. You’ve been asked to do more with less for years, and there is nothing left to give. Meanwhile the outside world appears to have gone mad, the millennials are coming up fast behind at half your salary and you ought to be worrying about when a robot is going to take your job. Sounds familiar? My Job Isn't Working! 10 Proven Ways to Boost your Career Mojo (pb, £14.99, 978 1788600224) uses real-life stories and examples to reveal the 10 techniques Michael Brown has used to help thousands of mid-career workers. Some good publicity for this one – Michael is writing articles in both the Sun and the Mirror to publicise it, which will appear around publication which is on 10 July from Practical Inspiration.

Which is your favourite work of translated fiction? You may be interested to see if it features in The 100 Best Novels in Translation (£12.99, pb, 978 1903385678) – a selection made by Boyd Tonkin which has just been published by Galileo. The FT praised its “expertise and research” while the Times wrote “what Tonkin has to say is… often a model of pithy insight and conveys an enthusiasm which makes you immediately want to read the book he is discussing …you will emerge with expanded horizons.” Tonkin’s selection of classics ranges from the well-known authors such as Proust, Dostoyevsky, Sartre, Cervantes, Nabokov, Marquez, Kundera etc, to lesser known authors writing in languages from every corner of the earth. For each selection he has written a commentary on the plot and theme of the work concerned. The result is a rich tapestry that will surely accelerate the recent trend towards a more outward looking approach to what we read. It is both a work of reference but as importantly a book that can read from cover to cover with huge enjoyment.

We don’t usually mention titles quite so far in advance, but Dazed magazine has already flagged up The Dominant Animal by Kathryn Scanlan (978 1999854935, pb, £12.99) as one to watch out for in March 2019 from New Island. They wrote “Scanlan's first collection will come out next year, but it’s worth putting on your list now to keep an eye on. Her stories are often just a page or two long, and she writes with a bold originality, almost casually pushing her characters into wild places. The imagery is unforgettable and, fittingly for the collection’s title, animalistic. Revenge is on the minds of Scanlan’s women, who are pursued, bought, sold, mistreated, and underestimated; that is, until the decisive moment approaches, and they act, as in the closing line of The Poker: “All of this is just to say that I have seen mine enemy upon the earth – and I smote him.” You can read the whole piece here.

Blood Money: Stories of an Ex-Recce’s Missions in Iraq (978 1612006611, hb, £19.99) is a riveting and rare glimpse into the world of private military contractors and the realities of everyday life in one of the world’s most violent conflict zones. It is written with candour by an ex-South African Special Forces (Recce) soldier, Johan Raath. And it’s getting quite a bit of publicity – there are articles coming up the syndicated media on fascinating topics taken straight from the book such as How sniffer dogs foiled suicide bombers in Iraq and What would have happened if ISIS had destroyed the Mosul dam? Blood Money contains lots of black and white photos and maps, and it’s published by Casemate this month.

Fishing is undoubtably having a moment. Angling continues to be one of the largest participant sports in the UK and Gone Fishing – the new BBC programme starring Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer has had rave reviews. A much-quoted statistic is that more people in the UK go fishing every week, than go to football matches. Trout is one of the best-known and most popular of all freshwater fish, and all those amateur anglers could do a lot worse than get a copy of The Trout Cook Book: 60 Classic Recipes (£10, hb, 978 0754834274) by Jane Bamforth which is published by Lorenz in July. This is an inspiring and essential guide to preparing and cooking all trout from the rainbow to the less common brown, golden and coral as well as succulent sea trout. The sixty recipes provide lots of tasty ways to make the most of this versatile fish, with tempting ideas for grills, barbecues, bakes, stir-fries, salads, terrines and mousses; everything from Trout Bisque and Smoked Trout Tartlets, to Stuffed Trout with Tarragon Sauce and Thai-Marinated Sea Trout. As always with Lorenz, it has stunning full colour, full page photographs throughout – and I cannot believe the fantastic price point!

Let’s finish with some music – and for a change we’ll go a bit classy this week with the fourth movement of Schubert’s lovely Trout Quintet.

That’s all for now folks! 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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