Friday 1 November 2013

Compass Points 61

These days, often the first sign that a book is going to become a word of mouth hit is when all the online bloggers and book clubs start raving about it. Such a book is Black Chalk by Albert Alla.  Bookhugger calls it “Well written, deceptively easy to read and almost impossible to put down; this is a story that will shock you, make you think, and stay with you for a long time after you’ve read the last page.” Liz Loves Books said “It’s hard to put into words what I feel about this one … it got me right at the heart and is unlikely to let go for a while. Beautiful writing … truly brilliant, unequivocally stunning and often heart wrenching drama.” Reviewers on Amazon are calling Black Chalk “heartbreaking”, “poignant”, “memorable” and “gripping”. “This is a taut psychological thriller on a theme that is deeply relevant to the modern world with shades of Ian McEwan”. The book is set In the Oxfordshire countryside, where a student walks into a classroom and starts shooting. Nate, friends with the shooter and victims alike, is the only surviving witness. Easily led and eager to please, his recollections weave around others’ hopes and expectations, until he loses track of what really happened that day. This chilling contemporary novel is an unsettling tale of violence, retribution, passion and guilt, which takes the reader on an edgy journey into twenty-first century morality. Albert Alla’s literary thriller is a confronting, morally ambiguous tale of redemption and responsibility in the face of devastating and unexpected violence. There is some publicity for it already confirmed – there is an interview with Albert Alla in Cherwell magazine and also on BBC Radio Oxford, and there will be more to come. Although this title is published this month, you may not know about this book as it is published by Garnet Publishing – one of the Compass Academic lists – but you can find out more and order Black Chalk here.

Lots in the news this week – as there seems to be every week – about schools – are they better/worse than they used to be and are our lovely British children stupider/cleverer/lazier than kids in the rest of the world? One thing’s for sure, everyone enjoys a bit of entertaining reminiscing about their own school days … the exams, the classroom fun, the sticky situations we managed to get out of, the work we avoided and the teachers we annoyed. F in School: Blunders, Backchat and Bad Excuses by Richard Benson is the latest paperback in this bestselling series from Summersdale. An ideal present; teachers and pupils will thoroughly enjoy this new collection of hilarious exam answers, along with schoolyard jokes, amusing doodles, silly excuses, spelling slip-ups and loads more! This series, which includes F in Exams (978 1 84024 700 8) and F in Retakes (978 1 84953 313 3) has now sold over 330,000 copies.

And what about a bit of reminiscing of our own? Who’s old enough to remember the fabulous Grange Hillhere's the first ever episode. Groundbreaking in its time (1978) I must admit it all looks a bit tame now compared to the hilarious Bad Education; watch the first episode here and see which you prefer!

We all remember the fascinating and hugely popular BBC Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 Objects – and the massive book that sold by the bucketload as a result of it. Well, this Christmas here’s something even more thought provoking: A History of the Future in 100 Objects. What are the 100 objects, ideas, developments, or events that future historians will use to sum up our century? Smart drugs that change the way we think? A wedding ring between a human and an AI? A society which no longer has work to do? A cure for hate? Adrian Hon’s eloquent, playful and informed survey explores what the future might hold – not just in the fields of technology and science, but also religion, advertising, wars, economics, fashion, education and politics in a hundred essays, in the style of personal experiences, newspaper stories, official reports and scientific papers. Each chapter, a hybrid of near fact and outright fiction, tells its own story of individual dreams and collective lives, crossing countries, continents and entire worlds!  This inverse variation on a clever idea is a stimulating journey through the near future of humankind and is the brainchild of technology journalist and games producer Adrian Hon; who produces games for companies like the BBC and Microsoft, writes for the Telegraph and speaks frequently on the future of technology. This handsome paperback is published by Skyscraper at £14.99 and is a very graphically-rich design with illustrations, timelines and maps.

You probably think you know what to expect from the new edition of Hudson’s Historic Houses & Gardens, which is published in December, and is a lavish 5600 page £14.99 paperback with over 1,500 colour images. Hudson’s has been loved and trusted as the definitive guide to heritage sites for 27 years and the 2014 edition brings you information on when to visit nearly 1000 of our grandest stately homes, great heritage gardens and undiscovered hidden gems tucked away in every corner of the country. Gorgeous photographs throughout make planning inspirational and finding your way is made easy with maps and directions. There is information on gardens, Scottish clans, what families like best, festivals, poisons and much more besides! However, did you also know that it also contains an array of informative and entertaining articles which really bring Britain’s heritage to life including an interview with Lady Carnarvon at her home, Highclere Castle talking about the real impact of Downton Abbey on family life and the future of the castle?  Also Alan Bennett discusses how his new play, People, takes some familiar country house themes and challenges our pre-conceptions; The Earl of Shaftesbury tackles the restoration of St Giles House despite the hindrance of many small children & dogs and Baroness Young of Hornsey reassesses what country houses can tell contemporary audiences about the history of the slave trade. This book really does have lots to read in it as well as being a very user friendly guide book; and you can order it here

Talking of Downton Abbey – what about a Sesame Street version of the monster hit – yes you read that right– and you can watch it here!

Hope everyone had a good Halloween yesterday, and talking of the continuing allure of the macabre – don’t forget about Finding the Plot: 100 Graves to Visit Before You Die by Ann Treneman. In this riveting hardback (£12.99 from Robson Press) – part travelogue, part biography, part social history – Ann Treneman takes you to some of the most interesting graves in Britain. You’ll meet the real War Horse, the best ‘funambulist’ ever, Byron and his dog Boatswain, prime ministers, queens and kings, Florence Nightingale and her pet baby owl Athena, highwaymen, scientists, mistresses, the real James Bond and, of course, M. Then there are writers, painters, poets, rakes and rogues, victims, the meek and mild and the just plain mad. This unique book is made up of 100 entries, and some of the graves are chosen for who is in them, others for the grave itself. Some of the entries are humorous, some are poignant, but all tell us something about the British way of death. Completely off-the-wall, this is the perfect humour and gift title, packed with fascinating facts and the author will be promoting it hard around its publication this month. There is an entertaining piece in the online magazine We Love This Book about the top ten literary graves which you can read here and you can order Finding the Plot here

Ten best Halloween scenes in films anyone? Ooh – this must surely include ET, Mean Girls, To Kill a Mockingbird - and only one horror film – promise!

It is 1919. On a summer’s night in Normandy a newborn baby is left in a basket outside the home of Albert and Jeanne Arnaud. The childless couple take the foundling in, name him Jean and decide to raise him as their own, though his parentage remains a mystery. The Foundling Boy by Michel Déon is a literary novel, lightly told, and is a classic of modern French fiction. It is published by Gallic Press in December and is a fantastic portrait of inter-war France – those of us in the Compass office who have read it have absolutely adored it.  It would appeal to all those readers who love Evelyn Waugh, The Great Gatsby, The Forsyte Saga or The Go-Between.

Fab publicity in the Guardian this week for Wanksy: Interpreting a Graffiti Virtuoso published by Summersdale. This book really has the potential to become a cult title; as the Guardian blog says, it cleverly takes a massive swipe at everyday graffers, and by extension our entire society for humouring artists like Banksy. Guardian blogger Jonathan Jones writes, “If there's one thing more pretentious than graffiti art – the throwaway turned into the priceless – it's books about graffiti art. They treat so-so street art as if it were by Titian and aim for the coffee tables of the middle class with their colour spreads of Banksy masterpieces. I can't, therefore, resist noting an alternative art book that deserves a spot on your Christmas wish list. It is called Wanksy: Interpreting a Graffiti Virtuoso. The authors, Marc Blakewill and James Harris, have gone around photographing street art – except it ain't art. They have sought out some of the basest, most moronic everyday graffiti and reproduced it in full-page colour pictures with texts that analyse it in a deadpan fashion. Having written about Banksy three times in a month, I get the joke. For instance, some fool has scrawled MILLWALL in blue paint over a ("proper" graffiti artist's?) white stencil of a deer, and enhanced its anatomy. The authors lyrically comment: "Millwall; a white deer; a dangling blue penis. As enigmatic as the quatrains of Nostradamus, as mystifying as hieroglyphics, one could gaze at this in awe for hours." Enter a world of giraffes with giant knobs, yuppie defenders and nonsensical street names – you can look at some of the images from Wanksy on the Guardian website here and you can order Wanksy here

And finally – if you've always thought you could do better than some of the covers that publisher’s book designers come up with – have a look at these alternative covers for Shakespeare's plays on Cool Stuff and add your comments to the debate!

That’s all for now folks, more next week!

This newsletter is sent weekly to over 600 booksellers, publishers and publicists. If you would like to order any of the titles mentioned, then please click here to go to the Compass New Titles Website or talk to your Compass Sales representative.

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