Friday 30 May 2014

Compass Points 87

It's always good news when a book is made into a film – especially when it’s one starring Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Jean Reno & Christopher Plummer which I would say bodes extremely well for its chances of success. Last night there was a special trade preview of Hector and the Search for Happiness which will open in the UK in August. You can watch a trailer on Simon Pegg's super-cool website Peggster here. Compass Points sent along our teenage blogger and reviewer Madeleine Jessop to see what she made of it, and here is her verdict.

“I knew hardly anything about the film beforehand; I felt the title had potential and of course the ever strong appeal of anything with Simon Pegg in it was undeniable. His hilarious previous films mean that most of my generation believe anything with him as the star can do little wrong. From the opening scene I thought I was going to watch a comedy, as the bright blue sky and shiny yellow plane, with Simon Pegg seated inside wearing flying goggles, seemed set up to be funny. However when this particular episode turned out to be a dream I wondered which genre the film would fall into. The film does have a jokey mood and many laugh-out-loud moments; but what I really enjoyed about Hector and the Search for Happiness was the more serious undertone, and the honesty of a young man looking for joy in this world. It seems as if the young psychologist (Pegg) has the ideal life. Everything is in order and his perfect girlfriend (Rosamund Pike) is everything a simple man like Hector dreams of. However an urge to find more in life, his current failure to make his patients happy, and the strong indication there’s another woman out there for him, leads Hector to go on a trip round the world finding out what makes people happy. It was often emotional and moving, and overall truly heartfelt. The clever individual style of the film is very appealing, the action sometimes merges into a Herge-style cartoon for a moment, and the occasional flashbacks makes it unusual and alternative. Moreover, I really appreciated the recurring Tintin theme. The yellow aeroplane at the start, the cartoons, the Blue Lotus book and Hector’s resulting trip to Shanghai; all unashamedly remind you of the Tintin books, and it’s just another quirky touch to this film that I think make it so successful.  I’ve never read Hector and the Search for Happiness, but now would like to. The film gives a fascinating account of different situations and cultures all round the world, and will raise some serious questions in your own mind about happiness. Anyone who sees it will not regret spending a couple of hours with Hector on his search for joy. Fantastic!”

Over two million readers worldwide have already engaged with psychiatrist François Lelord’s modern fable and it is published in paperback in the UK by Gallic Press.  Narrated with deceptive simplicity, its perceptive observations on happiness offer us the chance to reflect on the contentment we all look for in our own lives. The film is released in August 2014 and the book Hector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord (978 1908313676 £7.99) is available now.You can order it here

Congratulations to Comma Press; their short story collection The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim (translated by Jonathan Wright) has just been announced the Winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, 2014. As the Bookseller commented, “It is the first time in the prize’s 24-year history that it has gone to an Arab writer and also the first time that a short story collection has been victorious.” From legends of the desert to horrors of the forest, Blasim’s stories blend the fantastic with the everyday, the surreal with the all-too-real. A soldier with the ability to predict the future finds himself blackmailed by an insurgent into the ultimate act of terror…Fleeing a robbery, a Baghdad shopkeeper falls into a deep hole, at the bottom of which sits a djinni and the corpse of a soldier from a completely different war…Taking his cues from Kafka, his prose shines a dazzling light into the dark absurdities of Iraq’s recent past and the torments of its countless refugees. This is a new kind of story-telling, forged in the crucible of war, and just as shocking. You can watch an interview with author Hassan Blassim minutes after being announced the winner here; hear him on Thursday 22nd May's BBC Front Row here and also read the Guardian coverage of the win. A rave review in the Independent which you can read in full here said “Think Irvine Welsh in post-war and post-Saddam Baghdad, with the shades of Kafka and Burroughs also stalking these sad streets. Often surreal in style and savage in detail, but always planted in heart-breaking reality, these 14 stories depict a pitiless era with searing compassion, pitch-black humour and a sort of visionary yearning for a more fully human life. The Iraqi Christ deserves to take its place as a modern classic of post-war witness, elegy and revolt.” The Iraqi Christ (9781905583522, £9.99) published by Comma is available now.

Wakolda by Lucia Puenzo is a story of obsession, loyalty and control as one man with dark intentions charms his way into the lives of an innocent, unsuspecting family. This is a dark and chilling story full of dramatic tension and well-drawn characters, which is based on the true exile of Josef Mengele to South America. It begins when in Patagonia, 1960. José is on the run. Having fled from him homeland Germany, he has come to South America to continue his work – José is a doctor, who is seeking to manipulate genes to create the ‘perfect’ human race’. José is of course actually Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, infamous for performing human experiments at Auschwitz and sooner or later his past is going to catch up with him. Wakolda (Pb, 978 1843915430 £8.99) is published by Hesperus Nova in July. It was released as an Argentinian film (called The German Doctor in the US) this spring, and you can watch a trailer for it watch a trailer here – which gives you are pretty good idea of what a compelling and griping read Wakolda is.

There are lots of personal stories of both the first and Second World War out this summer of course, but Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer by Air Commodore Alastair Dyson Panton is perhaps uniquely poignant. So much more than merely a memoir of war, this is a vivid and often lyrical description of life as an RAF reconnaissance pilot in France during the hellish summer of 1940, as the Germans marched into first Belgium and then France. It brings to life the fear, loneliness, pain and terrible sadness Panton and his comrades came to live with during those long weeks, as well as drawing on the bravery, camaraderie and humanity which made those unpredictable days more bearable. The aeroplane Alastair Panton captained throughout this intense period was a Bristol Blenheim Mark IV and this is very much the story of a pilot and his plane.  As Louis de Bernières said; "One can’t help feeling awe and reverence for people like this. There are enough adventures here for a lifetime, let alone six weeks."  Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer: An RAF Officer’s memoirs of the Battle of France 1940 by Air Commodore Alastair Dyson Panton DFC, CB, OBE with Victoria Bacon (his daughter) is available in a beautiful mid-size hardback format with an untreated cloth cover (hb, 978 1849546683, 14.99)and is published by Biteback in July. It would make a very good gift book for all those hard-to-buy-for dads, uncles and grandpas!

The Bristol Blenheim has a fascinating history – have a look at this interesting and nostalgic 8 minute film which gives you a good impression of the affection many feel towards this plane.

Under the Channel by Gilles Petel was launched last week with a party in London where it is mostly set; I’ve just picked up a copy and I must say it’s pretty gripping so far. It starts with a murder midway through the Channel Tunnel, but this inter-city tale of changing identities is no ordinary crime novel. As Parisian detective Roland Desfeuillères investigates how the body of a Scotsman has turned up on board a Channel Tunnel train, he travels to London – and then immerses himself in the victim’s hedonistic lifestyle as he searches for the motive behind the crime. But the longer he walks in the dead man’s shoes, the more Roland discovers about himself.... The publishers, Gallic Press tell me this book should appeal to fans of Bret Easton Ellis, Martin Amis and Jay McInerney and that it has “more sex than your average Gallic novel” so I’ll definitely keep reading! Under the Channel by Gilles Petel (978 1908313669, 8.99) is available in paperback now.

That got me thinking about how often the Channel tunnel has been used in fiction and film. Who can forget the extraordinary helicopter and train chase in Mission Impossible for example?

And of course there was the Sky Atlantic series last year: The Tunnel - pretty grisly gripping stuff!

But the story of the real tunnel is fairly extraordinary in its own right. Who knew that they actually started building it 1880 – yes that’s right – 1880!! Watch this really brilliant British Pathe film from 1957 to find out a bit more – it will amaze you!

And even today, there’s lots more you don’t see – here’s an interesting two minute film about the service tunnel – entitled Inside the Channel Tunnel you Don't See - here you can actually walk across from Britain to France – 50km long and just 100 metres below the sea – a slightly scary thought!

Well, the weather’s rubbish, we’ve had the May Bank Holiday – so that tells us it must be nearly time for Wimbledon right? Correct – it starts on June 23rd – so you’ve just got a couple of weeks to get your bookshops full of tennis themed titles!

One essential tome is Tennis Maestros: The Twenty Greatest Male Tennis Players of All Time by John Bercow (978 1849545129).  Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the top-ranked tennis players today - but how do today’s champions compare with those of earlier eras? From William Renshaw and the four French Musketeers to Cochet, Lacoste, Brugnon and Borotra; tennis fans have long enjoyed watching the greats strut their stuff. But who are the greatest singles players of all time? In this book John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, who was a competitive junior player and is a qualified tennis coach, assesses the merits of the maestros and proposes a ranked list of the all-time greats. It is no easy task. Court surfaces and ball speeds have changed, racket technology has revolutionised the game and trying to distinguish the best from the rest is as challenging as it is fun. This handsome £20 hardback is published by Biteback on 12 June, and the Bercow name has no doubt helped with some terrific publicity! There will be a Sunday Times review  and interview with John Bercow on Sunday 1st June, an interview and feature in the Daily Express next week; he’ll be on the Steve Wright Show on BBC Radio 2 on 10th June and has already been on BBC R4 on Sunday 25th May – and there have been reviews the Guardian and the FT last weekend. This is definitely the sort of book to provoke intense debate – and the ideal present for those zillions of tennis nuts – so get it on display!

Here are one fan's top ten tennis greats on You Tube – how many make it into Bercow’s book I wonder?

And don’t forget the Bluffer's Guide to Tennis by Dave Whitehead (pb, 978 1909937161 £6.99) which has just been published. This paperback will instantly enable you to acquire all the knowledge you need to pass as an expert in the world of tennis. Never again need you confuse topspin with a flatshot or a reflex volley with a bolo. Bask in the admiration of your fellow tennis lovers as you pronounce confidently on the merits of the windshield wiper, the reverse forehand, and the run-around. Above all, never wear a headband – and you too will soon be indistinguishable from the experts. As always, this series provides “An amazing amount of solid fact disguised as frivolous observation.” (the Sunday Telegraph said this so it must be true) and there will be plenty of publicity coming up in national and regional press, lifestyle, outdoor, fitness, travel and sports magazines plus a strong social media campaign – get yourself onto the Bluffer's Facebook page for plenty more time-wasting fun!

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

This newsletter is sent weekly to over 700 booksellers as well as 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.

Friday 23 May 2014

Compass Points 86

We have an office move this week, with intermittent access to our website, emails and publishers’ publicity news; so Compass Points will return to tell you more about our new titles next week. In the meantime please be aware that our office address from now on is:

Great West House
Great West Road
020 8326 5696

In the meantime, Compass Points brings you a selection of this week’s general publishing stories, just to give you something to read on a Friday!

We all know there’s more to a book than the cover – but hey, a really good cover certainly helps sell it. How many of these classic fiction titles can you identify just from looking at the covers?

Books covers not really your thing – you’re more of a music man right (ever considered you might be in the wrong job?) Well OK then, how many 1970's album covers can you recogniser? What do you mean they’re too old – that’s proper music that is – but if you must, follow the link and then you can test yourself on the 80’s and 90’s too!

Talking of classics, many of us know kids sitting their GCSE English exam this week – and all over the country thousands are studying To Kill A Mockingbird. Its author, Harper Lee (who never wrote another book) is apparently reinstating a lawsuit against an Alabama museum she is accusing of exploiting her name. To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, and has sold more than 30m copies in English around the world today. Lee marked her 88th birthday in April by announcing that her story of a lawyer defending a black man accused of raping a white woman would be released digitally for the first time. The author said at the time: "I'm still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries. I am amazed and humbled that Mockingbird has survived this long. This is Mockingbird for a new generation." You can read the whole the whole article here

“The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family: hunks of salt pork, tomatoes, beans, even scuppernongs.” Who remembers this sentence from To Kill a Mockingbird?  It comes when the black community of the town bring gifts of food to thank Atticus Finch for his sincere defence of Tom Robinson, a black man who is wrongly accused of raping a young white woman.  I have absolutely no idea what a scuppernong is, but I certainly like the sound of the rest of it! What other memorable feast can we recall in the books we’ve read I wonder? Here are ten great literary meals – not all of them entirely delicious!

Now I’m sure you’re all familiar with the customer who comes into your shop  just to have a good old browse – and leaves the books in such a scruffy and dog eared condition that you then can’t sell them – but how well do you treat the books you actually own? Some of us consider that the more battered a book, the more we’ve loved it – but not all agree. Read this bibliophile's opinion here and then make up your own mind!

Are you finding you are selling more short story collections than you used to? Well apparently you’re not alone – this genre is on the up. Read more about the irresistible rise of the short story here.

Book prizes – an important way of recognising talent – or a total irrelevance that bear no resemblance to what people are actually enjoying? Who’s read Edward St Aubyn satire on literary prizes: Lost For Words? Well, it has just won the 15th Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction which will be awarded at the Hay Festival on Saturday. In reaction to winning the prize, St Aubyn commented: "The only thing I was sure of when I was writing this satire on literary prizes was that it wouldn't win any prizes. I was wrong. I had overlooked the one prize with a sense of humour." You can read all about it here.

The British Library has opened up a vast online collection of literary treasures and scholarly articles via its new website: Discovering Literature; in a bid to pique young students' interest in classic books. The new project covers the Romantic and Victorian periods, from William Blake to the science fiction of H G Wells. However, the British Library aims to extend this online collection up to present day authors and as far back in time as the Old English epic Beowulf. Among the artefacts digitalised for the first time are Jane Austen's notebooks, the childhood works of the Brontë sisters, manuscripts by Keats, Wordsworth and many others plus intriguing early drafts of William Blake's classic poem Tyger Tyger. The Discovering Literature website so far covers the Romantics and Victorians, ending with the fin de siècle aestheticism of Aubrey Beardsley's Yellow Book.

And you can go straight to the new British Library Discovering Literature website here.

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

This  blog is read weekly by over 700 booksellers as well as 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.

Friday 16 May 2014

Compass Points 85

Good afternoon! First up today we have a couple of titles which have been very successful for you in hardback, and are coming in paperback in July. Power Trip: A Decade of Policy Plots and Spin by Damian McBride (978 1849547147 £9.99) caused a sensation when it was published last year and now this fascinating, funny and at times shocking memoir has been updated with lots of brand new material and is set to sell extremely well  all over again – you sold 11,000 copies of the hardback. The Sunday Times called it “Current Affairs Book of the Year: This devastatingly forthright account of McBride’s years as Gordon Brown’s spin doctor and attack dog is the best book I have read all year“ while the New Statesman wrote “Damian McBride is a bastard. And, unusually for a memoirist, he's very keen to let you know that from the start. ” This riveting and eye-opening expose of British politics is published by Biteback. You can watch Damian being interviewed by Paxman – who naturally doesn’t pull his punches – they’re talking about the fallout from the publication of Power Trip in hardback – which you may remember, came out on the eve of the Labour Party conference – all very entertaining!

Next comes the paperback of The Merman by Carl-Johan Vallgren (978 1843915263, £8.99). This is ideal for those who like their summer reading to be challenging and intense. Time Out said it was “A Perfume for a new generation… Tremendous” while the Daily Telegraph wrote “The story is charged, atmospheric, and thought-provoking”. The Guardian found it “Challenging and shocking” while the Edinburgh Book Review called it “Unassumingly simple, sweetly aching, heart-warming and absolutely beautiful”. Harsh reality meets magical realism in Carl Johan-Vallgren’s bleak tale of sibling love, betrayal and redemption which has masses of fans in his native Sweden, and has made the bestseller lists all over Europe. This dark haunting fairytale has a striking and rather beautiful cover and is published in B-format paperback by Hesperus Nova in July.

When Alan Rowan finished his shifts as a sub-editor at a national newspaper at midnight, he knew he was too jacked up on deadline adrenaline to attempt sleep. At the same time, he was starting to worry if he would ever complete his ambition to reach the summit of every ‘Munro’ in Scotland – those peaks of over 3000ft. One crazy night, he decided upon a single solution to both problems. He would begin his ascents in the middle of the night, see the sun rise above the clouds and then come down the mountain just as everyone else was going up, before arriving home to have breakfast with his unsuspecting family. Moonwalker: Adventures of a Midnight Mountaineer is a unique story – the memoir of a man whose love of mountains would override his body-clock and all conventional notions of health and safety. It is funny and touching; at once a deeply personal memoir and a riotous travelogue. This title would appeal to armchair travellers as well as those walkers who will be familiar with many of the mountains Alan climbed; and is an entertaining addition to the leisure, outdoors and adventure bookshelf. Moonwalker: Adventures of a Midnight Mountaineer (978 1909430174, pb, £9.99) by Alan Rowan was published by BackPage Press yesterday and there has already been some good publicity, you can read a great article here. There is also a terrific 3 minute promo video for Moonwalker here on YouTube with some really stunning photography of the sun rising on a mountain top. If it doesn’t make you want to set off immediately for Scotland with your climbing gear, at the very least it should certainly make you want to order lots of copies of the book!

Oooh, and since it’s Friday and we like a few entertaining videos to watch – let’s just remind ourselves of the original and best moonwalker himself...

Well, summer football fever is now really starting to build up now and I’m pleased to say you are already selling lots of copies of our various footie titles. The Celtic player Fraser Forster is part of  Roy Hodgson’s 23-man England squad which has given the media a nice little link to talk about a new title from BackPage Press: Sean Fallon: Celtic's Iron Man by Stephen Sullivan (hb, 978 1909430013, £19.99) which is currently being heavily promoted by anther footie legend Pat Bonner. Sean Fallon is one of British football's great untold stories. For the first time in this authorised biography the Celtic legend speaks candidly about his time as right-hand man to Jock Stein and how together they ruled Scottish football and conquered Europe with the Lisbon Lions. We learn how the Irishman shaped Celtic's glory era of the 1960s and 70s by signing not only the majority of the Lions, but also players such as Kenny Dalglish, and Pat Bonner. Fallon also reflects on his stellar playing career and his own, oft-underestimated role is illuminated by revealing interviews with the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish. The Times called it “Magnificent... an important and eloquent account of arguably the greatest talent-spotter in British football history." while the Daily Mail said "A remarkable redefining of a true giant of the game" and the Daily Record recommended "If you are going to read one football book this year, this should be it. Beautifully written, an incredible story." 
 You can read lots of the coverage via the links on the BackPage blog here.

And you can watch a short 2 minute tribute to Sean Fallon here on YouTube broadcast by RTE news last year when he died, aged 90.

The Last Victorians: A Daring Reassessment of Four Twentieth Century Eccentrics tells the story of four eccentric public figures who attempted to promote Victorian values throughout the early and middle years of the twentieth century. The subjects of are Sir William Joynson-Hicks, the controversially authoritarian Home Secretary from 1924 to 1929; William Ralph Inge, author, Anglican priest and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral; John Charles Walsham Reith, founding father of the BBC; and Sir Arthur Bryant, influential and bestselling historian. Each of these four individuals represented a school of thought swept away by modern views in post-Victorian society but, author W Sydney Robinson argues eloquently, they still have lessons to teach us. Propelled from the outset by Robinson’s brilliant prose, The Last Victorians is an unusual slice of narrative history by an exceptionally talented young writer.  The Last Victorians: A Daring Reassessment of Four Twentieth Century Eccentrics by W Sydney Robinson (hb, 978 1849547161, 16 pages of pictures, £20.00) is published by Robson Press in July.

All four of these fascinating characters have fine upstanding Victorian names: William, William, John and Arthur – but you might be intrigued to learn that this wasn’t necessarily the case for everyone in this era. Have a watch here for some facts that may surprise you!

On Further Reflection: Sixty Years of Writing by Jonathan Miller is a beautiful £20 hardback (978 0992627065) published in July by Skyscraper. Jonathan Miller is 80 this year, and this book will be one of a number of ways in which his birthday will be marked.  Miller himself is a much-sought-after interviewee, and always gives good value. He will make a keynote appearance at Hay-on-Wye in May and Dartington in July and this title is likely to attract major reviews in the quality press. Actor, doctor, TV presenter, film director, opera director, sculptor – Sir Jonathan Miller’s careers cover a vast range. He is also a gifted and insightful writer, but his writings have been scattered across a series of books and articles over the last sixty years. This selection gives an idea of the depth and variety of his preoccupations, from mesmerism to neurology, film and theatre to art history and technique, parody to reportage. Each extract has an introduction by Miller, setting it in the context of his interests in the arts and sciences. Here is the great man being an Oxbridge philosopher with John Cleese back in 1977.

Well, John Cleese may have been funny then, but he certainly isn’t nowadays – at least not in my opinion anyway. But humour of course is a very personal thing. Here are 21 jokes so stupid they're actually funny – or are they? You decide!

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

This newsletter is sent weekly to over 700 booksellers as well as 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.

Friday 9 May 2014

Compass Points 84

This week the Guardian discussed overlooked novels – those that have faded into obscurity.  As journalist John Sutherland remarked, most novels come, have their day, and are gone. Most deserve their "do not resuscitate" label. Every so often, though, a novel rises from the grave to claim its belated fame. Last year in July, addressing the nation on the Today programme, Ian McEwan did a revival job on Stoner – a novel published to modest praise in 1965 and long out of print.  And we all know what has happened since to John Williams’ bleak, but exquisitely written, chronicle of a second-rate professor in a third-rate American university; it went on to become the 2013 novel of the year and a massive bestseller. So what other dead and forgotten works would one dig up from the dusty vaults of the British Library? You can see the top ten overlooked novels chosen by the Guardian here. How many have you read I wonder? Well one of them I’m pleased to tell you is The Book of Disquietude by Fernando Pessoa (978 1 857543 01 8 £17.95 paperback) which is published by Carcanet. This is the first, and only complete English edition: all other versions are abridgements. Will The Book of Disquietude go on to become as big as Stoner? Why not order some and let’s find out!

The Last Tiger by Tony Black is a literary thriller from one of the UK’s finest authors (978 1908885555 B format paperback, £8.99) coming from Cargo in June. Subject to a bidding war among several publishers in 2013, The Last Tiger is a remarkable book. Tony Black has incorporated his page-turning crime style into a literary story that has much to tell us about alienation, persecution, loss, and the bonds of family; all set in the stark, sweeping landscape of Tasmania. Twelve year-old Myko and his family have fled the Czarist occupation of their native Lithuania for the freedom of America – only to discover their ship has arrived in Tasmania, the once notorious prison island of the British Empire. All are anxious about how they will survive in this wild new land where tigers roam. Myko has never seen a tiger before – except in his picture books – and is filled with fear as stories of the tigers’ vicious attacks on the settlers are retold to him. But when he discovers the den of the last tigers, the family are thrust into a fight over the last of these beautiful, wild beasts that will force dark secrets to the surface – and pit son against father.  The Sun has called this “a beautiful powerful tale to move the hardest heart” and there is some great publicity coming up for it. Tony Black will be on The One Show (which has a weekly audience of 6 million viewers!) on 3 June, and he will also be on BBC Radio’s The Culture Show. There will be interviews with Tony and/or reviews in the Guardian, the Times, the Independent on Sunday, the Sunday Times, Daily Record and the Times. Tony Black is touring the UK, and will be appearing at Blackwell’s in Edinburgh on 5 June, Waterstones Glasgow on 10 June, Waterstones Ayr on 12 June, Bad Language Manchester on 22 June and Waterstones Deansgate in Manchester on 22 June.

Right then it’s not just those clever dicks on the Guardian who can give you fun Top Ten lists to while away your Fridays with! Here’s our very own Compass Points list of the Top Ten Tigers!

  • In at number ten of course is the book I’ve just mentioned; The Last Tiger by Tony Black – let’s get it to number 1!
  • Next I’m nominating Tiger Lily in Peter Pan – one of the less well known Disney Princesses- but as you will see – quite a heroine!

  • OK then, I admit Yann Martel might have just have come up with the idea making a tiger the star of a book before Tony Black did; we cannot possibly ignore  Richard Parker in Life of Pi

  • We’re into the top 5 tigers now – and even if you don’t like golf you must appreciate this utterly extraordinary shot from Tiger Woods

  • Number three – who doesn’t love Eye of the Tiger by Survivor as used in Rocky of course.

  • And that means that the number one tiger must be … well, as he says himself; “can it be possible that you don’t know who I am?” Yep, it’s the silken voice of George Sanders giving us the deeply cool but also burning hot (by the end of this clip anyway) Shere Khan !

Right that’s enough silliness, let’s move on to something literary – and they don’t get much more literary than Virginia Woolf. Virginia Woolf in Manhattan by Maggie Gee is the new novel by this critically acclaimed writer who has been previously shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Award. This is a witty, vivacious, yet profound novel about female friendships and rivalry, which takes as its premise the question what if Virginia Woolf came back to life in the twenty-first century? Bestselling author Angela Lamb is going through a mid life crisis. She dumps her irrepressible daughter Gerda at boarding school and flies to New York to pursue her passion for Woolf, whose manuscripts are held in a private collection. When a bedraggled Virginia Woolf herself materialises among the bookshelves and is promptly evicted, Angela, stunned, rushes after her on to the streets of Manhattan. This is a novel sure to attract attention as Virginia Woolf continues to inspire colossal adoration from her fans, all of whom will be keen to discover what Maggie Gee has done with their heroine. Virginia Woolf in Manhattan (hb, 978 1846591884 £14.99) is published by Telegram in June and Maggie Gee will be appearing at various literary festivals, including the Charleston Literature Festival, 26 May 2014 and the Edinburgh International Book Festival, 17 August.  Coverage will include the feature What Book Am I Reading in the Daily Mail on 13 June; a piece in the Sunday Telegraph; A Page in the Life in the Daily Telegraph; an interview in Guardian Review; a  Point of View column on Virginia Woolf; the Independent on Sunday, How We Met, with Fay Weldon; Meet the Author in the Observer; an interview in Metro; an interview in  the Independent; a piece in the Financial Times; What Book Am I Reading in the Daily Mail as well as reviews everywhere! I feel the cover is just right for this novel – and it should be a really popular summer read.

The great American poet John Ashbery is known as America’s foremost poet, and  his prose writing and his engagement with prose writers – through translations, essays and criticism – has also had a profound impact on the cultural landscape of the past half-century.  John Ashbery will be giving a rare interview from New York on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb on Friday 23rd May from 10pm. He’ll be discussing his Collected French Translations: Poetry (978 1 847772 34 3) and Collected French Translations: Prose (978 1 847772 35 0) both published by Carcanet, which is great publicity for these two paperbacks.

Deadly women next, and of course Mothers Day has been and gone here in the UK, but this weekend it is Mom’s Day in the US – have a look here for the ten worst mothers in literature!

The Poisoning Angel by Jean Teulé (pb, 9781908313683 £8.99) is published by Gallic Books in June. This novel is based on the true story of Hélène Jégado; one of the most notorious female poisoners of all time. The Poisoning Angel spent 100 weeks on the French bestseller list and is both an upbeat portrait of nineteenth century provincial French life and a startling chronicle of a decades long killing spree carried out by the most notorious female poisoner in history. Beginning with the demise of her very own mama, Hélène Jégado leaves a trail of devastation with the special soups and cakes she makes – those who taste them never recover. Jean Teulé brings his unique blend of imagination and historical insight to a novel that is unusual and extraordinary.

How many famous poisoners can you name – and how many victims of poison? Click here for a list of poisoners and poisonings – everyone from Socrates to Hitler to Alan Turing to Livinenko.

And while we’re in a macabre mood, if you fancy some more gothic grimness, then look out for Tim Burton: A Child’s Garden of Nightmares edited by Paul A. Woods and published by Plexus in July (978 0859654012 £14.99) This is a fully updated edition of an extremely popular cult title, which now includes Burton’s most recent films such as Sweeny Todd, Alice in Wonderland and Frankenweenie. Tim Burton’s fans are many and are enthusiastically in thrall to his penchant for intelligently stylised films such as Batman, The Night Before Christmas, The Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and many more. His new film Big Eyes is released in August. Tim Burton: A Child’s Garden Of Nightmares charts the filmmaker’s path from malcontent animator at Walt Disney to directing feature films with a fantasy aesthetic and a natural sympathy for the alienated outsider. Tim Burton: A Child’s Garden of Nightmares is the definitive guide to a cinematic career based on a love of pop-gothic imagery and shows how he revises the imagery of horror movies, TV sci-fi and cartoons, and imbues juvenile fantasy with emotional depth.
Here’s one of my favourites – the fab Jonny Depp in Edward Scissorhands

The Trials of Lady Jane Douglas The Scandal that Divided 18th Century Britain by Karl Sabbagh is published by Skyscraper Publications in June (hb, 978 0992627010 16.99) This is a mystery that has never been solved, until now – did the beautiful Lady Jane Douglas, sister of the richest man in Scotland, give birth to twins in Paris in 1748, or did she buy the babies from French peasants? The truth about what really has never been established. And the original exploration of this 18th century mystery took place in public over twenty years, culminating in a dramatic session in the House of Lords. Combining, as it did, issues of sex, power, money, politics, and aristocracy, ‘the Douglas Cause’ was a fertile source of gossip and tittle-tattle. Karl Sabbagh gets as near as anyone ever will to the truth, in a definitive account of a case which divided the chattering classes at every level A former documentary-maker, Karl Sabbagh is a British author whose books include The Hair of the Dog (a Radio 4 Book of the Week) and Palestine: A Personal History.

Sidney Reilly: Adventures of a British Master Spy is a classic espionage title available for the first time in many decades and is published by Biteback in July. This is the latest in Biteback’s series of republished Dialogue Espionage Classics. It is the autobiography of the so-called ‘Ace of Spies’, the master of deception Ian Fleming would later use as a model for James Bond. The first part of the book is Reilly’s life as told from his personal notes and more specifically his attempt to overthrow the Bolshevik regime in Russia and restore the Czar. The second part is written by his wife, Pepita, who, is determined to find out what really happened after his disappearance, searches Finland and Northern Russia for her missing husband. Sidney Reilly: Adventures of a British Master Spy (971849547185 £9.99) is a cracking read and you can find out more and order Adventures of a British Master Spy here

Who doesn’t love a spy – and especially a real one who was the model for James Bond! Talking of James Bond – I think you will all enjoy this rather rude spoof...

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

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