Friday 13 June 2014

Compass Points 89

Well, before we get onto books, how very sad to hear of the death of Rik Mayall – surely one of the most hilarious men ever – and someone who has definitely featured many a time in Compass Points via one spurious link or another! Here then are some of his funniest moments – I especially love his reading of George’s Marvellous Medicine!

Now onto the literary stuff  – and I’m pleased to tell you that coming in August is a new Alexander McCall Smith – something to get your tills a-jingling and a-jangling with joy! Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party is published by Polygon in hardback (978 1846973000 £9.99) and is a brand new, stand-alone novel from this most popular or writers. It follows on from the great success of Trains and Lovers, which sold 20,000 hardbacks in the first six weeks of publication; so let’s hope you do just as well with this one! The story begins when Fatty O’Leary’s loving wife Betty plans a trip to Ireland for his 40th birthday and almost immediately things start to go wrong. The seats in economy class on the plane are too small; Irish bathroom furniture is not as commodious as he’d have liked. And all the time Fatty must put up with the unthinking cruelty of strangers. In a hilarious and touching portrayal of a kindly and misunderstood soul, Alexander McCall Smith has created yet another memorable character who will become an instant favourite to his many fans.

Gabriel Gbadamosi’s debut novel, Vauxhall has been selected by Fay Weldon as her choice for BBC Radio Four’s A Good Read. The programme will be broadcast on the 24th June, and repeated on the 26th June. And of course it will remain available on the BBC iplayer. This really is terrific publicity for this title, which is published by Telegram this month so do make sure you have it on display. Vauxhall (pb, 978 1846591464 £12.99) is a tender and occasionally dark portrait of a child looking for his place in inner city London in the early 1970s.  Police, methylated tramps, Nigerian royalty, gypsies, Irish aunts, teachers, thieves, cockneys and homesick Jamaicans clamour for young Michael’s attention: his world is bursting with all walks of Lambeth life. This title will appeal to readers of Brick Lane, Pigeon English,
Capital, White Teeth and NW.

A real buzz is building for a beautifully produced little hardback book published by Birlinn entitled In Love with Death by Satish Modi (pb, 978 1780272146 £9.99).  Satish Modi is chairman of Modi Global Enterprises. He supports a wide range of charities, educational institutions and the arts, and is a key member of Ambassadors for Philanthropy. In this book he explores the questions surrounding the fact that death is the inevitable fate of every single person on earth. How do we accept the inevitability of our own death? How do we live our lives with meaning? Will money lead us to happiness? The author examines these questions is a moving, powerful, thought-provoking work based on his own reflections as well as the experiences of people from all walks of life. The result is a fascinating book that teaches us that whoever we are and whatever our aspirations in this life, it is important for each and every one of us to accept our own passing. In doing so we can free ourselves to live as well and fully as possible, guided by the principles of goodness, love and compassion.  This is definitely a book which touches those who read it very deeply – and Satish Modi has been over from New Delhi promoting it tirelessly and effectively. He was on air live for a one-hour programme on BBC Asian Network last week. This was an extremely engaging interview and discussion on the book, where Modi responded brilliantly to the host's questions and covered several important topics on the theme. This evoked great interest from listeners - resulting in an overwhelming number of phone calls, text messages and e-mails to the producers of the programme! Some of these phone calls were put on air and the reactions were amazing – many expressed how impressed they were and how much they agreed with Satish Modi's views on the subject. Overall, a fantastic, very well handled and very interesting interview! You can find it on the iplayer here. Back on 15th of May, Modi also participated in a discussion on "Death as a taboo" on the BBC World ServiceBBC World Service radio has 256 million listeners a week, and all of the many the listeners who phoned in said they would certainly buy copies for themselves and for others! If you’d like to here Satish on the BBC World Service, then you can download the interview here
The book was launched with a lecture by Satish at the Old Operating Theatre Museum (a museum of surgical history and one of the oldest surviving operating theatres in the world) in London – you can read an account of the evening in Frost - an online lifestyle magazine - here and it’s very complimentary! The journalist says “I read some of the book on the way home and almost miss my stop in doing so. I find it engaging and as enlightening as talking to the man himself!” More interviews are coming up in the May and June issues of various literary and lifestyle magazines such as Mayfair Times and Bric. This is truly a book which affects all those who read it.  A little anecdote for you: Ms Magda, the Manager of the Richoux Cafe in central London, was so highly influenced by it that she is displaying copies of In Love with Death along with the chocolate boxes in her showcase! She also mentioned that one lady guest picked up a copy of the book and spent four hours on the table with a cup of coffee and read the whole thing!  Magda instructed the waiters not to disturb the lady or ask her to vacate the table, as she felt reading the book was more beneficial than having a few more customers for the table! High praise indeed! Please order and read this book if you haven’t done so already and get it on display – it is definitely a real word of mouth book – and has a very appealing cover – one for those personal recommendations!

A couple of important titles are coming from Carcanet in August, to commemorate the WWI centenary. War Poet by Jon Stallworthy is a new collection by the acclaimed biographer of Wilfred Owen and editor of Oxford Book of War Poetry. Jon Stallworthy has won the Wilfred Owen Poetry Prize and the WH Smith Literary Award and is the former Poetry Editor of Oxford University Press and Master of Wolfson College, Oxford. Review coverage for this collection is anticipated in all the major broadsheets.

Fall in, Ghosts: Selected War Prose is also published by Carcanet in August. (Hb, 978 1847772114 £14.95). Fall in, Ghosts is the startling prose of a survivor whose name is synonymous with war writing: Edmund Blunden. The poet Edmund Blunden (1896-1974) survived the battles of Ypres and the Somme, and moved among the ghosts of the Great War every day of his life. Long after the war he kept faith with his fallen comrades: he was an early editor of Wilfred Owen and his memoir, Undertones of War, is a prose classic. This selection is deeply informed by his reading of 18th and 19th century literature and by his love of the English countryside.  Rich with the spirit of his own much-loved poetry, this volume evokes what was most human and natural in that most unnatural of environments, the Western Front. Fall in, Ghosts is edited with an introduction by Robyn Marsack who is Director of the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh.

If you are unfamiliar with the work of Edmund Blunden – or just want a reflective moment of peace on a Friday; then have a look here at his poem: 1916 seen from 1921 on YouTube.

Staying with the war theme, but moving forward to 1939; Alphabet House is a gripping, psychological World War II thriller from bestselling Danish author Jussi Adler Olsen, author of the Department Q series. Jussi Adler-Olsen’s books have sold over 10 million copies worldwide and been translated into 35 languages. The Times said “Adler-Olsen is the new "it" boy of Nordic Noir” and the Guardian praised his “gripping story-telling”. Alphabet House is full of action and cinematic appeal – perfect for fans of John Grisham and Alfred Hitchcock. It starts Germany where two English pilots are shot down and crash land behind enemy lines. The area is swarming with German troops and they have only minutes to crawl from the wreckage and make their escape. Boarding a train reserved for wounded SS men on the way home from the eastern front, they ditch their clothing and personal belongings and pose as German soldiers, hiding for days in soiled, bloody beds, feigning unconsciousness. But their act is too convincing and they find themselves being transferred to Alphabet House, a mental hospital for those damaged by war. How will they escape? And for how long can you simulate insanity without going crazy for real? They are playing a dangerous game and it seems they might not be the only ones in Alphabet House hiding secrets... Alphabet House is published by Hesperus Nova in August (pb, 978 1843915447 £8.99).

Alphabet House has a terrific cover, which rather reminds me of the iconic moment with the bi-plane in Hitchcock’s masterpiece North by Northwest; and indeed I suspect this is intentional as Hesperus say Hitchcock fans are certain to enjoy this page-turning psychological thriller – and the film rights are just about to be optioned! Let’s have look at that famous scene to remind ourselves shall we!

Now, who fancies a novel where we can find out what has happened to all of our favourite Jane Austen characters? Oooh yes please hear you Janeties cry, but hasn’t that already been rather done to death (as it were) recently with Death Comes to Pemberley, Longbourn, The Austen Project, Me and Mr Darcy etc. etc. not to mention Pride, Prejudice and Zombies? Well, in fact Old Friends and New Fancies (pb, 978 1843915348 £8.99) was first published 100 years ago, in 1914 – so yah boo sucks to all the other pale imitators; Sybil Brinton can definitely claim to have come up with the idea first.  Old Friends and New Fancies was the first ever Jane Austen sequel and follows Elizabeth Bennett, Mr Darcy and many other beloved characters embarking on new stages of life, new friendships and new romances. Taking in all of Jane Austen’s preferred locations and backdrops, the plot of Old Friends and New Fancies takes us from London to Bath and, of course, to Pemberley where Elizabeth and Mr Darcy are now happily married. Austen fans will be thrilled to see such a wide palette of characters making their appearances, with personalities from each of her six novels playing a role in clever combinations. The union between Tom Bertram (from Mansfield Park) and Isabella Thorpe (from Northanger Abbey) is a brilliant new romance to discover. Yet it is also lovely to encounter once again the familiar tender relationship between Emma and Mr Knightley. Written in a style truly reminiscent of Austen’s and making free use of her characters, Sybil Brinton’s work is a must read for Austen fans and one which they will devour with relish. I don’t have to tell you that Jane Austen is a perennial favourite who never goes out of fashion, and interest in her works is currently at an all time high, so I think we can safely assume this will sell extremely well. Old Friends and New Fancies is published by Hesperus in August.

Well, if we’re going to mention Pride and Prejudice, there’s only one possible film clip to show really isn’t there - and what better way to cool down!

 You thought we were going to get away without mentioning football at all this week didn’t you?! Have a look here at the world’s most amazing footie pitches and then imagine you were there rather than sitting on your sofa watching England make a hash of things tomorrow!

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.

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