Friday 30 November 2018

Compass Points 285

As predicted in last week’s Compass Points, the appearance of 96-year-old war veteran John Martin talking about A Raid Over Berlin (pb, £7.99, 978 1912681198) on the One Show last week had an absolutely electrifying effect on sales, shooting this title straight into the Amazon bestseller lists. This miraculous true-life Second World War survival story of the brave airman who cheated death in the sky, only to face interrogation by the Gestapo, and months of hardship as a prisoner of war; is poignant and thrilling and you can watch the emotional moment when John is given a copy of the book on The One Show here  – it’s at 29 minutes in, just after an interview with Mick Hucknall! It’s published by Parthian – put it on display with a Pick of the Week card referencing The One Show and it will sell – let’s not let Amazon get all those sales in the run up to Christmas!

I’m so looking forward to hearing Brian May on Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70s this Sunday at 3pm on Radio 2 discussing his two latest London Stereoscopic ventures Mission Moon 3D (£30, hb, 978 1999667405) and Queen in 3D (£30, hb, 978 1999667429). You’ll be able to listen again here if you miss Sunday’s show. All the promotion Brian has done so far has given the sale of these books a HUGE boost – so please do make sure they’re on display ready for Sunday!

And talking of radio shows giving a boost to sales; listen out for Nige Tassel author of Butch Wilkins and the Sundance Kid (pb, £9.99, 978 1909715615) on BBC Radio 5 Adrian Chiles show next Friday, 7th December. Nige is terrific on the radio and last time he was on Talk Radio and TalkSport we got a big spike in sales. Charting similar waters to Nick Hornby's classic Fever Pitch, Butch Wilkins and the Sundance Kid chronicles the author's decade-long obsession with televised sport during his teenage years in the 1980s. It is memoir intertwined with nostalgia, combining humour, insight and poignancy to vividly depict the way sport can transcend the television screen to impact on wider life, hopes and ambitions. It’s published by Arena Sport.

Many of you are already doing extremely well with Canbury’s Under the Wig by William Clegg. There is a new review of it in the December edition of Counsel magazine, the house magazine for barristers which goes to 23,000 legal professionals in England and Wales.  It describes the book as "utterly compelling", "direct", "clear", and with chapters that should be absorbed "with joy" and "cherished" — and concludes: "My independent verdict is that I have never read a more accurate portrayal of our profession. Buy it."

It's Friday – who fancies a curry? Definitely me – and what I also fancy is watching this  classic clip from Gavin and Stacey. While we’re on the subject, this is a good time to tell you that South East Asian Curries (hb, £8.00, 978 0754834298) by Mridula Baljekar has just won a prestigious Gourmand World Cookbooks Award for best single subject cookbook in the UK and so is going forward to represent the UK in the best of the world in this category in Macau in July 2019. Some of the world's most exciting cuisines are found in the south-eastern corner of Asia. Each country has its own traditional cooking style, but all share a passion for fragrant dishes made with exotic spices and the very freshest of ingredients. This great little book published by Lorenz offers signature curries from Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

In the winter of 2009 Mac Macartney walked from his birthplace in England across Wales to the island of Anglesey, once the spiritual epicentre of Iron Age Britain, navigating by the sun and the stars, with no map, compass, stove or tent, and in the coldest winter for many years. The Children’s Fire records that journey, and seeks to understand sacredness as it applies to everything ordinary that brings joy to the human heart. There’s a thought-provoking interview with Mac in the latest issue of JUNO magazine talking about climate change and saying “We’re all keen to talk about plastic pollution, which is certainly a serious issue, but we don’t want to admit that it pales in comparison to the reality of climate change. We need a habitable planet to live on, yet we are destroying it. We describe ourselves as rational beings, but evidence suggests we are entirely the opposite. For all our cleverness, wisdom seems beyond our reach.” The Children’s Fire (£12.99, pb 978 1788600453) is published by Practical Inspiration and forges a trail into Britain’s wild and ancient Celtic past, locating the fragments of a story that still has resonance today; the pulse and surge of an older wisdom that is surfacing all around the world.

Congratulations to author Guy Ware who won the London Short Story Prize 2018 this week. Comma know how to spot a winner and they published Guy's debut short story collection You Have 24 Hours to Love Us (£7.99, pb, 978 1905583263) back in in 2013. The Guardian described it as an "intellectual romp … the best debut I have read in years" while Time Out praised Guy Ware as a “remarkably successful short story writer, the best I've read for a long, long time.”

The Flag (£20, hb, 978 1612004471) is Book of the Month in Britain at War magazine and it has also posted a large and passionate review calling it “poigant, honest, humane and deeply respectful, The Flag is a tribute to the memory of David Railton MC MA who served valiantly as a chaplain during the First World War. Written beautifully be former Household Cavalry officer Andrew Richards, if there’s one book that should be read about the 1914-1918 conflict then this is it. The Flag is a memoir full of hope and inspiration. It offers up a lesson to us all. It’s a must-read and, once and for all, ensures the life and times of Padré Railton will never be forgotten”. It’s published by Casemate.

Yes, yes we know that you may well be up to your ears in Brexit books, but a new title from Emerald provides a compelling insight in a uniquely historical context. Looking at previous 'Brexits' the book tackles five specific themes relating to the Brexit result - competition in the global innovation economy, the generational split, the 'left behind' aspirational working and middle classes, the impact on international relations, and popularism in the internet age. Tales of Brexits Past and Present: Understanding the Choices, Threats and Opportunities In Our Separation from the EU (pb, 978 1787694385, £12.99) by Nigel Culkin and Richard Simmons is published next week, and Richard will be appearing on the All Out Politics show on Sky, hosted by Adam Boulton, to talk about it on the 6th, 10th or 11th December. The book explains that far from entirely unprecedented, that there have been similarly disruptive experiences in Britain, and in England in particular. The book is part history lesson, part stakeholder manual and in part a stepping stone to help wider public debate.

I’m pleased to say that Oxbow have not just one, but two title in the 2019 Archaeology Book of the Year Award which is announced in March. Winchester: Swithun's City of Happiness and Good Fortune: An Archaeological Assessment (hb, £40, 978 1785704499) by Patrick Ottaway which is the first published comprehensive review and critical assessment of the archaeology of the historic city of Winchester and its immediate environs from earliest times to the present day. Britannia Romana: Roman Inscriptions and Roman Britain by RSO Tomlin (hb, £48.00, 978 1785707001) is based on the author’s forty years’ experience of the epigraphy of Roman Britain and collects 487 inscriptions (mostly on stone, but also on metal, wood, tile and ceramic), to illustrate the history and character of Roman Britain.

Some lovely pieces about Gaia Holmes' Comma poetry collection Where the Road Runs Out (978 1910974452, pb, £9.99) this week. Michael Stewart joined Gaia for a walk through the Dean of Luddenden (where Gaia was born) to discover the hidden depths behind her third collection, he wrote about the experience here. Also John Foggin gave the collection a stellar review on his blog, saying "What I want now is for this collection to be given the recognition it deserves, I want it to win prizes, and I finally want to be able to tell poets about Gaia Holmes and not need to explain who she is." You can see that one, together with some excerpts here.

Good to see How to Propagate 375 Plants: A Practical Guide to Propagating Your Own Flowers, Foliage Plants, Trees, Shrubs, Climbers, Wet-loving Plants, Bog and Water Plants, Vegetables and Herbs (978 0754834410, hb, £15) by Richard Rosenfeld make the shortlist of five for the prestigious Garden Media Guild Practical Book of the Year 2018 Award. This new 2018 edition is beautifully illustrated with over 1,100 clear and informative photographs and illustrations and as with all Lorenz titles, it’s well -priced, authoritative, comprehensive and practical.

Who said “Once we have understood housework, we will understand the economy”? You can find out by reading Wages for Housework: A History of an International Feminist Movement, 1972-77 by Louise Toupin (£19.99, 978-0745338675, pb) published by Pluto which has just had a great review in the Morning Star  which you can read here. Wages for Housework was a key movement in “second-wave” feminism. Totally original in its philosophy, it threw light on the unrecognised and invisible forms of labour performed mainly by women. The Morning Star calls this book “essential”.

Balfour in the Dock (£16.99, hb, 978 1911072225) by Colin Andersen, has won joint first prize in the academic section of the MEMO Palestine Book Awards. Balfour in the Dock outlines the origins of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and the betrayal of British promises to Palestine, through a biography of the Daily Mail journalist J.M.N Jeffries and the researches he did which uncovered the truth.  It’s published by Skyscraper.

Ticket to the Moon: Aston Villa: The Rise and Fall of a European Champion (£18.99, pb, 978-1909245761) by Richard Sydenham was extracted recently in the Birmingham Mail  - you can read that here, here and here. Richard also was on Talk Sport 2 talking about it and live on Facebook with BBC Radio Wm here .Aston Villa’s1982 European Cup win in many ways was the most romantic in football history. And yet, set against the backdrop of English dominance in the competition it is widely a forgotten achievement.  By taking readers inside the boardroom, revealing through minutes who said what to whom at key meetings, Richard Sydenham paints a vivid portrayal that covers more than 20-years of turbulent Midland football history. It’s published by De Coubertin

Some strong reviews coming in for Amy Arnold's debut novel Slip of a Fish (978 1911508526, pb, £10), winner of the Northern Book Prize 2018, which has just been published by And Other Stories. The Guardian Review , compared elements of the book to Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse, praising it as “original, ambitious and challenging.”  The White Review called it “strange and dextrous” and The Irish Times “an impressive portrait of motherhood, loss and fragility.” The Sheffield Telegraph said “Arnold’s language is mesmerising; like a literary fugue, phrases are repeated, looped and returned to as we follow Ash’s stream of consciousness” and The Skinny wrote:“Few novels achieve the delicate shimmer Arnold's poetic prose evokes in the mind – a cool-warm, unsettling and very beautiful new voice.”

Congratulations to Thomas Kinsella, one of Ireland’s greatest poets, who will be honoured with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at the An Post Irish Book Awards 2018, in his 90th year. You can find out more on the Carcanet website here.

Michael Crick’s Biteback biography of the legendary psephologist David Butler, Sultan of Swing (hb, £25, 978 1785904387) has featured recently on Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, BBC Radio London’s Robert Elms Show, the Polling Politics Podcast and BBC Parliament. Following an effusive write-up by Sky News’ Adam Boulton, Sue Cameron gave the book a very favourable review in TotalPolitics, with further coverage expected in The Political Quarterly and FT.

There has been some exceptional coverage of Speaking the Piano: Reflections on Learning and Teaching (978 1783273256, hb, £19.99) by Susan Tomes over the weekend. It made the Financial Times Best Books List 2018, where they said “learning to play the piano well is about more than getting the notes right. Drawing on a career in chamber music and teaching, Susan Tomes casts her eye over everything from classic TV comedy to Japanese cherry blossom in an all-embracing exploration of how to make music come alive.” The Sunday Times have also featured it in their round up of best music books of 2018 writing “Drawing on her long experience, pianist Susan Tomes investigates, with crystalline clarity, some of the interferences that disrupt the flow between players and their music. The text is studded with gems of insight, encapsulating elusive matters that often defy articulation, including difficult topics such as unconscious biases against female teachers, or why some performers ham up their playing for the YouTube generation. A must-read for anyone who plays or loves the piano.” It’s published by Boydell Press.

So, let’s finish with some piano music – here are the “world’s most breathtaking piano pieces ever” courtesy of YouTube – surely 4.5 million listeners can’t be wrong!

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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