Friday 31 October 2014

Compass Points 104

Happy Halloween! Got your costumes organised yet? Maybe you are serving your customers dressed up as Bellatrix Lestrange at this very moment? And this on the day when JK Rowling has revealed that one of her most truly terrifying creations – Dolores Umbridge – was actually based on a real teacher! Blimey I wouldn’t want to be that poor person once the media discover who she is! Read all about it in the Bookseller here. And have a look here on BuzzFeed for some great costume ideas – but ones that only Brits will understand!

While we’re in the mood for all things gloomy and ghoulish; there’s no better time to remind you about Dispatches from the Dark Side by Damian McBride. You’ll remember Damian from last autumn’s candid insider memoir, Power Trip (his account of working with Gordon Brown at the Treasury and then as his Spin Doctor in No.10) which became the political bestseller of the year, resulting in Damian becoming one of the most controversial but sought-after commentators on all things political. Well, two years ago, Damian McBride began writing a blog that quickly gained wide acclaim for the sharpness of its observation and for the author’s political acuity, marking him out as one of the most incisive (and iconoclastic) chroniclers of today. Writing on the events and personalities of modern politics, McBride provides an endlessly fascinating interpretation of the functions (and dysfunctions) of the political machine and the peculiar machinations of its operators. Dispatches from the Dark Side is collected writings taken from that blog, and as well as politics, McBride tackles such diverse subjects as Martin Luther King, death row executions, Jimmy Savile, Andean plane crashes, Arsenal Football Club and Whitney Houston! It gives readers a continuation of McBride’s popular ‘makes The Thick of It look tame’ subject matter and writing style – and needles to say, there will be plenty of publicity for it when it is published next week! Dispatches from the Dark Side: Collected Writings by Damian McBride is published by Biteback (978 1849547895, pb, 9.99) and you can find out more and order it here.

I am sure your bookshelves will be groaning under the weight of tomes by comedians who have written autobiographies this Christmas; so let me bring you something a little bit different – a popular comedian who is not just rambling on about himself; but has actually written a rather good novel. Robert Newman was the first comedian to sell out Wembley Stadium and has created renowned television shows such as History of the World Backwards, Newman & Baddiel In Pieces and The Mary Whitehouse Experience. The Trade Secret is the paperback edition of his novel, which the Guardian described as “A rollicking Elizabethan yarn that has much to say about the origins and nature of modern capitalism. Newman’s weaving of fact and fiction is really quite deft.” Set in  a Golden Age of trade and art; when merchants and poets from across the world pack London’s streets this is a swashbuckling, rollicking tale of espionage, intrigue and adventure concerning the pursuit of the new commodity of the times  — oil. The Telegraph said that has Robert Newman’s writing has “pace, imagination and humour... and a lightness of touch prevails.” The Trade Secret by Robert Newman (978 1908885906, £8.99, pb) is published in November by Cargo Publishing and you can order it here

No doubt inspired by the fabulous Downton Abbey, visits to stately homes are currently at an all time high. Make sure the 2015 edition of Hudson’s Historic Houses & Gardens is font of store – in fact I’m wondering if a Downton inspired window display wouldn’t be a bad idea, with posh books galore (I’m thinking Nancy Mitford, PG Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh for starters – and while you’re at it, why not include The Bluffer’s Guide to Etiquette! (pb, 978 1909937000) by William Hanson) in amongst the guidebooks!  Hudson’s Historic Houses & Gardens has been loved and trusted as the definitive guide to heritage places to visit for 28 years; and this new edition brings you up to date information on when to visit nearly 1000 of our grandest stately homes, great heritage gardens and smaller hidden gems across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Lavish photographs throughout and plenty of maps and directions make planning trips and finding your way easy and inspirational. Best of all for those who love snooping round the homes of the rich are the hundreds of pages of generously illustrated magazine articles on Britain’s heritage, You can also join Fiona Bruce and the Antiques Roadshow team at Chenies Manor House in the latest series of this much loved long running show and hear how Dame Jenny Abramsky (Chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund) feels the projects they have funded have made a real difference. Hudson's Historic Houses & Gardens 2015 is published in December by Hudson's Heritage (978 0851015590, £16.99, pb)

One of the major news stories this week has of course been the departure of British troops from Afghanistan. Death of a Soldier by Margaret Evison, was first published in late 2012 about a mother's very personal response to the death of her son whilst leading a patrol in Helmand Province, and her subsequent battle with the MOD to get to the truth.  Now with British troops having finally lowered the flag at Camp Bastion after 13 years and 453 deaths; a dramatisation of the book will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 10 November at 2.15pm (and thereafter it will be available on the BBC iplayer). Death of a Soldier shows us how Margaret Evison attempts to reconcile her own unanswerable sense of loss with the idea that her son died for a good cause. With her, we confront the horror of his death and witness her struggle to see epithets such as ‘heroic’ and ‘noble’ as more than a mask to hide that ugliness. Included in the book is Mark’s diary, kept while he was in Afghanistan and delivered to Margaret at home some weeks later. Widely quoted since its discovery, it contains the thoughts of a sensitive young officer and serves as a poignant reminder of the terrible human cost of the war in Afghanistan. Death of a Soldier is a vitally important reflection on loss, war and our responsibilites to those we send to fight. It is an extraordinary book, highly emotionally charged and among the best that Biteback feel they have ever published. Margaret Evison will be appearing on BBC News later this week, talking with Huw Edwards about the British casualties during  the campaign and Death of a Soldier (hb, 978 1849544498, £16.99) is available now.

It’s really good news that Played in London: Charting the Heritage of a City at Play by Simon Inglis (pb, 978 1848020573 25.00) has made it from the longlist onto a shortlist of seven titles competing to be the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. Congratulations to all at English Heritage! The books will compete for a £26,000 prize in the award’s 26th year and the winning author will also receive a free £2,500 William Hill bet, a hand-bound copy of their book, and a day at the races. The winner will be announced at an afternoon reception at BAFTA, in central London, on Thursday 27th November. Have a look here to see details of the other six titles, as reported in The Bookseller. Played in London reveals the history and heritage of sport in London covering a vast range of sports from rowing to rugby, archery to athletics, billiards to boxing and much more is beautifully illustrated with over 350 illustrations – ranging from archive and contemporary photography, maps and manuscripts. You can find out more and order it here.

A few more Halloween themed time wasters to finish – how about these fantastical pumpkin carvings,  and also here’s a very impressive one minute of speeded up pumpkin carving for you – hard to emulate – but impressive to watch! Happy Halloween!

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

This blog is read monthly by over 1,500  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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