Friday 28 November 2014

Compass Points 108

How sad to hear the news that PD James died yesterday aged 94. Those of you that have had the pleasure of meeting her in your bookshops will know what a remarkable person she was – a great loss to the publishing world. She told the BBC last year she was working on another detective story and it was "important to write one more. With old age, it becomes very difficult. It takes longer for the inspiration to come, but the thing about being a writer is that you need to write," she said. "I hope I would know myself whether a book was worth publishing. I think while I am alive, I shall write. There will be a time to stop writing but that will probably be when I come to a stop, too." Here are a couple of clips from films of two of her best known works: the thought provoking and chilling Children of Men, and in complete contrast, the scene where one of her best loved characters, detective Adam Dalgiesh (played by Martin Shaw) proposes, in The Murder Room. If you haven’t read any PD James I urge you to start now – you have many treats in store!

The buzz is really building for The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault (pb, £7.99 9781843915362) published by Hesperus. There have been three great reviews so far with the Guardian calling the book “quirky and charming”, the Independent calling it a “beguiling story” with “all the makings of a hit” and the TLS saying “the writing is peppered with delightful insights”. Its author, Denis Theriault is in the UK at the moment and doing lots of publicity before his slot on the Simon Mayo’s BBC Radio 2 Book Club on Monday 1st December at 6pm. Radio Two are already trailing the book – you can see it on the Radio 2 website here. The Radio Two Book Club could not be better promotion for this title – the show is massively popular, and just the thing to really push this title into the big league. You have sold 11,500 copies so far and after Monday it could be even more!

There was a fantastic plug for A CH Sisson Reader, which is edited by Patrick McGuinness and Charlie Louth in the Guardian last week which you can read here. C.H. Sisson was born in Bristol in 1914 and to celebrate his centenary, the CH Sisson Reader includes a generous selection of his poems, translations and essays. The poems are drawn from all periods of Sisson's writing life, from the darkly satirical work of the 1950s and 1960s to the Virgilian Somerset poems to the reflective late poems in which Sisson, looking out on the landscape he cherished, sees himself standing at the “last promontory of life”. The essays demonstrate the wit, precision and sheer scope of Sisson's writings on literature, culture and politics. The review in the Guardian is glowing: “He was great, in his way, and shouldn’t be forgotten … His essays are superb. His pieces on Eliot, WB Yeats and Edward Thomas are supremely useful no matter how well you know their work.”  A CH Sisson Reader by Patrick McGuinness and Charlie Louth (978 1847772657) has just been published by Carcanet and you can find out more here

Refusing the Veil by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (978 1849547505, £10, hb) is another title in the new Provocations series (the groundbreaking new series of short polemics composed by some of the most intriguing voices in contemporary culture) from Biteback. As a Shia Muslim woman, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown will never accept that the veil is a legitimate choice for any woman. Her mother’s generation threw them off in the 20’s and stamped their mark on history. Alibhai-Brown argues that what they did was as serious and brave as the struggles of western suffragettes. The Koran does not command full veiling. In Refusing the Veil, she makes an argument for reclaiming female human rights and freedoms. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a prominent commentator on issues relating to immigration, diversity and multiculturalism. She is a regular columnist for The Independent and the Evening Standard. Yasmin is writing a piece for the Independent on Sunday on this topic – and there will be many who are very interested in what she has to say. They have just reviewed the book saying “Those interested in equality, justice and the emancipation of all women should buy this accessible, forthright book, talk about it and share its central message.”

Authenticity is a Con (hb, 978 1849547871, £10.00) by Peter York is the third title in this series, published this month. Politicians are now told they must be ‘authentic’-like Nigel Farage, drinking, smoking, men of the people. Food has to be ‘authentic’ meaning, presumably, made in ovens of clay with woods taken from the right tree in Tuscany or Bengal, using milk from named cow breeds which have been grazing on particular age old grass etc. It is all a con says York – the authenticity brigade is taking people for a ride. Nothing is real, and that’s no bad thing! Peter York is an author, broadcaster, journalist, management consultant and cultural commentator. He was Style Editor of Harpers and Queen for ten years and he co-authored The Sloane Ranger Handbook in 1982.

Ok here’s a title to order under the category books you know your customers will be clamouring for come January; but aren’t the slightest bit interested in at this precise moment. And that title is Stop Drinking Now by Allen Carr (pb, £9.99. 978 1848379824) published by Arcturus. This is a fresh take on the Allen Carr method with all-new text and includes a free hypnotherapy CD. Most drinkers are convinced that it's almost impossible to stop drinking. But this book shows you how to stop immediately, painlessly and permanently. It understands drinkers and how they think and, without being judgemental or patronising, takes them through the process of how to get alcohol out of their lives. This book has more compelling evidence than ever before that your addiction to alcohol is much less physical than it is mental. Alcohol is not something your body needs, but something your mind thinks it needs. Stop Drinking Now explains the mental process of addiction and how to reverse that process easily, painlessly and permanently. Allen Carr is recognized as the world's leading expert in helping smokers to quit and he has sold over 15 million books. Stop Drinking Now applies Allen Carr's Easyway method to the problems of addiction to alcohol, allowing readers to take back control of their lives.

Ahh – how times have changes when adults actually want to stop drinking. Not so long ago, we even featured having one too many in popular children’s TV programmes – who remembers this classic moment in Camberwick Green when Windy Miller has to have a little snooze after one too many glugs of cider!

Do you enjoy selling books? Or would you rather be doing something else? How about this for a really interesting job; Basil Thomson was responsible for hunting, arresting and interrogating possible spies identified by the British intelligence services before the First World War. Odd People (pb, 978 18495479, £9.99) was originally published in 1922 and this classic espionage title is available for the first time in many decades in January from Biteback.  Basil Thomson was head of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Metropolitan Police and in Odd People, he recalls the hysteria of his age, rocked by exuberant spy-scares provoked by German aggression in the build-up to war and by those within the British establishment who sought to manipulate popular panic. Speakers in Parliament claimed that there were 80,000 Germans working in Britain’s railway stations and hotels just waiting to reinforce an imagined invasion army. The Daily Mail helpfully instructed its readers that they should ‘refuse to be served by a German waiter’. Against this backdrop, Thomson himself was an Edwardian novelty; a real-life Sherlock Holmes, to whom he compared himself –though he thought his own caseload far more interesting than any of Conan Doyle’s fictional sleuth. Odd People is a compendium of the marvellous specimens he tracked and interrogated in those extraordinary times, most famous among them the exotic dancer, courtesan and spy, Mata Hari. Above all, this extraordinary memoir is a wittily observed and fascinating portrait of an incomparably exciting job at a time of great national crisis and paranoia.

Hollywood has always been fascinated by these spies – Mata Hari in particular. Here is a particularly daft (and also rather saucy!) two minute clip about her from a film made in 1984!

Stevie Davies is a Booker Prize shortlisted author whose new novel Awakening is published by Parthian in January (pb, 978 1909844704, 8.99). The novel is set in Wiltshire 1860: one year after Darwin’s explosive publication of The Origin of Species. Sisters Anna and Beatrice Pentecost awaken to a world shattered by science, radicalism and the stirrings of feminist rebellion; a world of charismatic religious movements, Spiritualist séances, bitter loss and medical trauma. This historical novel is “Charged with sensitivity to the otherness of the past ...her social comedy breathes life into an oppressive world” according to  Helen Dunmore writing in the Guardian; while the Independent says that “Davies weaves this intricate web of faltering, painful relationships with great skill and writes very powerfully and movingly about the subtle half-tones and tentativeness of love, of childbirth, of loss as well as the horribly intrusive shock of male Victorian medical practice towards women.”

You can here a short clip of Stevie reading from the first chapter of Awakening here.

What do we think those who are dead would say to us if they could talk? Well according to a recent episode of Dr Who, they would say “Please don’t cremate me“ (prompting a fairly large of complaints to the BBC incidentally). Maybe many of us don’t think about this that often, but lot of people believe that there is a purpose behind the events of our world, that everything happens for a reason, that there are no mistakes. And lots wonder, what’s next? Is there life after death? Will I ever see my loved ones again? In The Top 10 Things Dead People Want to Tell YouNew York Times bestselling author Mike Dooley explores these questions, and gives readers a fresh and unconventional perspective on life, its meaning and how to live it well. In ten profound chapters, he offers his personal observations about the world in the form of a letter from the recently deceased, sharing the revelations and insights they have gained since their transition, like:
• They're not dead.
• They're sorry for the pain they caused.
• They were ready to go when they went.
• Your pets are as crazy, brilliant and loving, here, as they were there.
The Top 10 Things Dead People Want to Tell You offers hope to those who've lost loved ones, and gives us a new way of looking at death that can radically improve the way we live today. The Top Ten Things Dead People Want to Tell You by Mike Dooley has just been published by Hay House (£10.99, pb, 9781781803943 and the book and author will be featured in the November/December issue of Kindred Spirit magazine.

You may find interesting the news that Amazon Anonymous has raised £7,000 for a campaign urging people not to shop with Amazon this Christmas. The campaign group is asking people to sign up to its Amazon Free Challenge, where customers boycott shopping with Amazon from the 1st to the 25th of December to show the retailer that: “if they don’t pay their workers or pay their fair share of tax, we won’t pay them”. The group said instead it would help shoppers find more ethical alternatives to buy their Christmas presents from. You can read all about it in this Bookseller article here – and I would recommend scrolling down to the comments section for more salient points on this thorny issue.

Following last week’s fab 6Music film about the glories of a library, I rather like this beautifully illustrated love letter to libraries  by Chris Riddell explaining exactly why they are such special places. As with last weeks paean, much of this could equally well apply to bookshops!

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

This blog is taken from a newsletter 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.

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