Do you sometime feel that Britain is being run by public school blaggers – the sort who did PPE at Oxford but don’t really know anything about real life or normal people? Well, you’re not alone in this view, Andrew Greenway and James Ball (whose Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World did super-well last year) think so too; and Bluffocracy (£10, hb, 978 1785904110) has just been published by Biteback. It has got off to a fantastic start being both the cover and leading front page feature in this week’s Spectator. James and Andrew have written a great piece about “how Britain ended up being run by eloquent chancers” which has already aroused much comment on Twitter! Extracts are due to run in The New European, and the authors have written a dedicated piece for the Big Issue, too. This book chronicles how the UK became hooked on bluffing, how it became what we teach, what we promote and why we have to stop it. At the top of our government, our media, the civil service and business, sit men who know a little bit about everything, and an awful lot about nothing. The UK establishment has signed up to the cult of winging it, of pretending to hold all the aces when you actually hold a pair of twos. It prizes ‘transferable skills’, rewarding the general over the specific – and yet across the country we struggle to hire doctors, engineers, coders and more. This is an important new polemic from the Provocations series – sure to attract a lot more attention!
Bestselling thriller writer Lee Child has given Polygon a terrific endorsement for Black Camp 21 (978 1846974601, pb, £8.99) saying it was “Excellent - a story I never heard before, told with pace and power, and no pulled punches. Highly recommended.” Of course, this has gone straight onto the front cover which should increase the saleability of this electrifying tale which is published on 4 October. Inspired by terrifying actual events, this thriller is set during WW11 when all over Britain, POW camps are filling up with defeated German soldiers and the most dangerous are sent to Camp 21; SS diehards who've sworn death before surrender. Nothing will stop their war, unless it's a bullet. Beneath the wintry mountains, suspicion and fear swirl around like the endless snow. As one fanatic plots a mass breakout and glorious march on London, the story takes its readers on a gut-wrenching journey.
Think you’re pretty brainy? Well here are nine riddles that apparently only people with a high IQ can solve?
The ongoing saga with Palestinian author, journalist, and women’s rights campaigner Nayrouz Qarmout's visa continued this week, with her being twice refused a visa to visit the UK for two events to promote her Comma short story collection The Sea Cloak (978 1905583782, pb, £9.99). It is published on 4 October and is a collection of stories drawing from her own experiences growing up in a Syrian refugee camp, as well as her current life in Gaza. These stories stitch together a patchwork of different perspectives into what it means to be a woman in Palestine today and offer rare insights into one of the most talked about, but least understood cities in the Middle East. This was reported in the Bookseller, Reuters, the Guardian, and Channel 4 News. Happily, the decision has now been overturned and Nayrouz has been granted a visa – watch this space for events!
What’s your favourite punctuation mark? Well, Comma naturally has a place in our hearts here at Compass, but I’m also partial to a semi-colon. Which apparently means that my fictional soulmate is Thor! See what your fondness for inverted commas says about you here.
Some amazing reviews for People in the Room by Norah Lange (978 1911508229, £10, pb) which has just been published by And Other Stories and is Book of the Week in the London Review Bookshop. The Spectator described it as “hallucinatory and unsettling”; the Irish Times “masterful and deeply mysterious” and the Times Literary Supplement praised its “rhythmic, propulsive prose, powerfully translated by Charlotte Whittle” with its reviewer comparing Lange to Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf. The Guardian ran a considered reassessment of the work of “this ground-breaking poet and novelist” and their review of the book is expected this weekend. Words Without Borders has made People in the Room a highlight of their #WITmonth recommendations to subscribers, you can read that here and it has also been featured prominently by the Asymptote journal, who call it “unique in content and form”. And finally, translator Charlotte Whittle has written a great piece for the And Other Stories blog on her experience rediscovering Lange's work; that’s here.
The non-stop news cycle this summer has provided some of Biteback’s Provocations authors with ample opportunity to discuss their older polemics in the context of this week’s political discussions. Claire Fox and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown have both appeared on BBC Newsnight and written columns in The i and Quillette expanding on ideas from I Still Find That Offensive (£10, hb, 978 1785904165) and Refusing the Veil (978 1849547505, £10, hb).
A recent survey has revealed that almost one in four Americans has not read a single book in the past year. This highly amusing TV programme survey went one better and just asked Americans to name a book. Any book – whether or not they’d read it. It didn’t go well.
Detectives probing murder of the Putin critic Nikolay Glushkov have just released CCTV of a black van spotted near exiled businessman's London home the day before he was found dead. His murder came eight days after the assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal and a post-mortem showed he died before being strung up, suggesting staged suicide. The piece in this week’s Mail (which you can see here) says that “in his book The Putin Corporation, author Yuri Felshtinsky relates a claim that on Putin's instructions if he wanted to obtain Mr Glushkov's release, Mr Berezovsky was told he would have to renounce all political activity and sell all his media holdings, everything, including the newspapers.” The Putin Corporation: How to Poison Elections (978 1908096258 £9.99, pb) is published by Gibson Square and describes in gripping detail Vladimir Putin’s ruthless modus operandi in Russia. The Times called it “required reading” and the Telegraph “explosive.”
Would you describe yourself as a slightly odd book nerd? Well, apparently, if you’ve done 15/20 of these things, then yes, you are!
November sees the 100th year anniversary of the end of WW1, and Arcturus have three excellent poetry collections which commemorate this event. A Collection of Haunting Voices from the Great War (£16.99, 978 1784286880, hb) is a handsome 231x150mm hardback with a slipcase. The Poetry of World War 1 (978 1788287739, pb, £6.99) and In Flanders Fields and Other Poems of the First World War (978 1782123033, hb, £7.99) is a 165x105mm hardback with a slipcase.
Here are six gems about book marketing from Rachel Maund, director of publishing consultancy Marketability reminding us for example of Napoleon Bonaparte’s belief that “There are two motives to action: self-interest and fear.” How does that relate to promoting books? Have a read and find out!
In May it was the 70th anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. On 9 Dec it will be 40 years since the death of Golda Meir. A good time therefore to remind you about Golda Meir and the Birth of Israel (£12.99, pb, 978 1906142186) by Elinor Burkett published by Gibson Square. This is the first paperback edition of the biography of this important figure and tells the story of Israel through the life of one of 20th century's most iconic politicians. The Mail called it, “excellent,” the Guardian “fair-minded.” Golda Meir was instrumental in the creation of Israel as a sovereign state in 1948 and was one of the signatories of its Declaration of Independence. Mining unpublished archival treasures, this is authoritative biography revises the perception of this towering figure in modern history. As the first Iron Lady, Meir created the precedent for future female political leaders such as Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher (who admired her and borrowed the term 'Iron Lady'). In this riveting new biography, she receives a warts and all look at her life whose approach Burkett believes may offer answers to our own century’s problems.
Obscenity and the Arts (pb, £12.99, 978 0993037863) is a new 50th anniversary edition of a lecture from 1968 on the subject of pornography and censorship by Anthony Burgess published by Pariah Press in September. It has a new introduction by Burgess’ biographer Andrew Biswell, and contributions from Germaine Greer, Marie Said and Adam Griffiths. There’s already been a great piece on this in the TLS and the Guardian and London Review of books are among the others who have said they will review it.
Only one musician we could possibly end with this week – Aretha, we say a little prayer for you.
That’s all for now folks! More next week!
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