Friday 22 May 2015

Compass Points 127

It’s official – Alexander McCall Smith is an uproariously funny writer! He has just won this year’s Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party, (£7.99, pb 978-1846973239 ) published by Birlinn imprint Polygon. This is the first time McCall Smith, has appeared on the comic fiction prize shortlist and he beat off competition from Caitlin Moran, Irvine Welsh, Nina Stibbe, Helen Lederer and Joseph O’Neill. Following his win, McCall Smith has been presented with a locally-bred Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, which will be named after his winning novel. He will also receive a jeroboam of Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année and the complete Everyman Wodehouse Collection. What a great prize! McCall Smith said of his win: “I am greatly honoured to be awarded the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize. I very much enjoyed writing that book and if there are those who are enjoying reading it, then I am content. I am also content with the jeroboam of champagne, the 52 Wodehouse novels, and the pig that go with this award. That is what I would call a very well-balanced prize.” Broadcaster and author James Naughtie, who was one the prize judges, added: “It's right and proper to couple the names of Alexander McCall Smith and P G Wodehouse. No writer in recent times has been a more prolific dispenser of wit. He makes people laugh out loud and, like everyone who understands the absurdities of life, he understands sadness too.” We couldn’t agree more! Congratulations!

Three trade news stories this week on forthcoming titles from Compass publishers: Skyscraper Publications is publishing a controversial new book in September by Joan Brady entitled America’s Dreyfus: The Case Nixon Rigged. The book is the culmination of 10 years of research into the case of Alger Hiss, the American lawyer and government official accused and convicted of being a Soviet spy in 1950. The book claims that Richard Nixon exploited the anti-Communist feeling in the US during his presidency, manipulated the media and invented evidence in order to have Hiss convicted. Using her conversations with Hiss as well as evidence she has unearthed, Brady sets out to prove his innocence while also drawing comparisons with modern global politics. Karl Sabbagh, Skyscraper MD, said: “The book has not yet been published in the US; the thought of Hiss’ innocence is apparently too shocking to contemplate. I am delighted to bring this story to a UK readership, who will see the resonance between US anti-Communism in the 1940s and ‘50s and the hysteria governments try to create in the 21st century against a range of other enemies, from terrorists to immigrants.”

There was a piece in the Bookseller about an exciting new signing for Robson Press – who have acquired a book from veteran advice columnist Bel Mooney. The book will be entitled Lifelines: Words to See You Through. The book will draw on Mooney's years of columns, which have revised and updated to create what the publisher calls an “inspirational" collection. Mooney has been an advice columnist in the Daily Mail for several years, offering help on topics from grief to martial breakdown and says "This book comes as a result of many requests from readers who have asked whether I intend to collect an anthology of my own columns and the quotations I choose carefully each week to provide uplifting thoughts on my page. I hope it will make a comforting book to dip into." The book will be coming in October 2015 – you’ll hear more about both of these titles in the coming months!

And Scott Pack has announced his latest acquisition for Aardvark Bureau; Self & I which will be published next spring. This is a memoir by Will Self’s former personal assistant, novelist Matthew De Abaitua who spent six months in the early 1990s living and working with author Will Self in his remote Suffolk cottage as his amanuensis. Pack said: “This is a remarkable insight into two fascinating writers: Self as his career was just taking off and De Abaitua before his had really started. Self is aware of the book but will not be endorsing it. It is frequently hilarious, often revelatory and always hugely readable.”  De Abaitua said: “I am delighted that Aardvark Bureau is publishing Self & I and brimful with innovative ideas on how to bring this story to a wide audience. It’s not a gossipy book, it’s not a biography, it’s a true comic story of a great writer and his wide-eyed apprentice.” 

Compass attended an excellent launch party for new publisher Periscope this week at Pushkin House in London. Periscope describe themselves as “fiercely independent” and say they aim to “present bold, distinctive voices in fiction and non-fiction from around the world. We maintain that although the industry is changing, the power of narrative to question, inspire, inform and stir remains constant. Revelling in its size as a small publisher, Periscope will move nimbly in a heavily consolidated publishing environment. Dancing in the path of juggernauts, we can enable stories to be told that might otherwise be lost.” Dennison Smith, Hannah Lowe. Hwang Sok-yong and Neamat Imam all read from their books during the party.

One of Periscope’s first titles is The Moors Account by Laila Lalami (pb, 978 1859644270, £9.99) which comes out in August. This extraordinary novel, which one reviewer described “ringing with thunder”, illuminates the ways in which a story can transmigrate into history. It takes as its starting point the year 1527, when the Spanish conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez arrived on the coast of modern-day Florida with hundreds of settlers, and claimed the region for Spain. Almost immediately, the expedition was decimated by a combination of navigational errors, disease, starvation and fierce resistance from indigenous tribes; and within a year, only four survivors remained. These were three noblemen and a Moroccan slave called “Estebanico”. The official record, set down after a reunion with Spanish forces in 1536, contains only the three noblemen’s accounts, but Laila Lalami’s masterful novel gives us The Moor’s Account – her imagined version from Estebanico’s point of view. Lalami gives us Estebanico as history never did: as a vibrant merchant forced into slavery and a new name, and then reborn as the first black explorer of the Americas, discovering and being discovered by various tribes both hostile and compassionate. In Estebanico’s telling, the survivors’ journey across great swathes of the New World transforms would-be conquerors into humble servants and fearful outcasts into faith healers. He remains ever-observant, resourceful and hopeful that he might one day find his way back to his family, even as he experiences an unexpected (if ambiguous) camaraderie with his masters. The Moor’s Account shows how storytelling can offer a chance for redemption, reinvention and survival. Salman Rushdie called it “An absorbing story … brilliantly imagined … feels very like the truth.”  Laila Lalami has previously been longlisted for the Orange Prize and as the New Yorker said, this novel is “an exciting tale of wild hopes, divided loyalties, and highly precarious fortunes” which I think could do very well.

Now we all know that many of your customers have an ongoing fascination with true life espionage; and in August comes the first complete history of “Special Branch” – or to use its full name – The Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police – right from its formation in 1883 to its demise in 2006, when it was subsumed into the Counter Terrorism Command of the Metropolitan Police Service. The first Special Branch was set up as the ‘Special Irish Branch’ to combat the threat posed by the Irish Republican Brotherhood. From there its early role broadened to include tackling the suffragettes, anarchists and Bolsheviks, as well as more peaceful responsibilities. A unique feature of the Special Branch was its role within the intelligence community, sitting somewhere between the secret service, with whom it maintained close ties, and the police’s anti-terrorism functions. Special Branch would generally be deployed to arrest suspected spies. MI5 having no jurisdiction to do so. The book details some of the most fascinating espionage stories from the Branch’s long history, including how it was used to counter the rise of British fascism before the war. It deals with the rivalry between Special Branch and MI5 which ended with the latter eventually wresting back primacy in the investigation of Irish republican terrorism on mainland Britain from the former.  This is the first complete history of the Special Branch, and its authors Ray Wilson and Ian Adams are both former Special Branch officers who have had have had access to archive documents and interviewed former members. The Special Branch: A History 1883-2006 by Ray Wilson and Ian Adams (hb, 978 1849549103, £20.00) is published by Robson Press and you can order it here.

All a lot more exciting than the portrayal of the London Police force as seen in the much loved Dixon of Dock Green; give yourself a 90 second burst of burst of nostalgia here!

Exciting news this week for Skyscraper Publications and their author Anna Starobinets whose collection of short stories, The Icarus Gland, has been shortlisted for the Read Russia Prize, awarded each year for the best translation of a Russian book into English. (The U.K. based translator, Jamie Rann, also translated Starobinets’ dystopian novel The Living.) The Icarus Gland is a collection of short stories set in a time that is almost today, and a place that is almost anywhere, Starobinets stories are neither science fiction nor magical realism but combine elements of both. They remind me a bit of Roald Dahl’s short story collections that became the TV series Tales of the Unexpected – and like Dahl, they will appeal to YA readers as well as adults. Examples of these unsettling tales are:  The effects on family life of a routine surgical operation to make males nicer; Two mysterious movie producers offer a budding screenwriter his first major break, but they are not what they seem; A hospital cleaner whom no one notices witnesses the astonishing result of a doctor’s experiments in metamorphosis; The holiday outing to end all holiday outings, and not everyone can return and The electronic nanny that every child wants, who takes over the family in a sinister way. Last year, Starobinets was awarded the Russian Bestseller Award for a writer under 35 and the winner of this Read Russia award will be announced on May 29th in New York, coinciding with Book Expo America.  Karl Sabbagh, managing director of Skyscraper Publications, said: “Anna is a very unusual writer with an appeal to young adult readers, and James Rann has achieved a fine translation reflecting the popular speech and narrative style which makes the stories compelling to read.  The book is competing with translations of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, as well as other dead Russian writers, so we hope that this nomination helps to focus on the new generation of writing that is coming out of Russia.”  This is Anna’s second collection of stories – her first led to her being dubbed Russia’s Stephen King” . The Icarus Gland (pb, 978 0955181054, £12.99) is available now – it has an eye-catching cover, and as I say I think you could definitely sell this collection to teenagers as well as adults. Find out more here.

If you are too young to have watched the Tales of the Unexpected first time round I can recommend them on YouTube – although the 1970’s adaptations are a little dated, Dahl’s stories still pack quite a punch – have a look at this one here - introduced by Dahl himself and featuring a whole galaxy of British stars!

It’s summer (sort of) so it’s camping season, and Cool Camping Britain is getting a big double page splash in the Guardian tomorrow: Saturday 23rd May. This will also go online. Then Cool Camping Europe is getting the same treatment in the Sunday Telegraph on 31st May, which will also go online. So make sure you have both of these super books on display – they are the definite market leaders in the field (see what I did there). Cool Camping Britain is a fully updated second edition which has been expanded to feature 160 stunning campsites – many of which are new finds and have never featured in a Cool Camping book before - this book showcases the very best of British camping, from the wilds of the Scilly Isles to the sandy shores of Scotland’s coastline. 
Cool Camping Europe is also a fully revised second edition – the original 2009 edition was the best-selling camping guide to Europe and since the book has been out of print, has been selling on Amazon for up to £100! As with the original book, the new edition will feature a selection of the best campsites and glamping sites in Europe and covers 100 outstanding European campsites spread across 12 countries explores a stunning range of camping grounds from the tip of Portugal’s Algarve to the shady forests of Slovenia. Cool Camping Britain (978 1906889630, £16.95, pb) and Cool Camping Europe (978 190688964, £18.95, pb) are both published this month by Punk Publishing and you can find out more here and here.

And to give you a taste of some really cool camping, carry on and have a look here!

Faith in Food: Changing the World One Meal at a Time by Susie Weldon and Sue Campbell published last year by Bene Factum Publishing has been shortlisted for this year’s Derek Cooper Award for Campaigning and Investigative Food Writing in The Guild of Food Writers 2015 Awards: the most prestigious awards in food writing and broadcasting. The winners will be announced on Tuesday 9 June at a ceremony in London. The shortlist highlights emerging talent as well as featuring some of our best-known food writers and broadcasters (including Diana Henry, Yotam Ottolenghi, Tom Parker Bowles and Ruby Tandoh) and celebrates the breadth of knowledge and expertise at work in a thriving creative field. As it features some well known food writers and broadcasters, it is sure to get quite a bit of coverage – so fingers crossed for Faith in Food, which has a foreword by Prince Charles and is a gorgeous trade paperback, combining essays, scripture, storytelling, recipes, initiatives and general wisdom in one beautifully produced book, all seeking to change our relationship with what we eat and how we obtain our food. This is a groundbreaking collaboration between Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism and Hinduism, alongside secular organisations as well, to get people thinking, acting and eating! Faith in Food (pb, 978 1909657410, £14.99, pb) is available now.

Compass is now on Twitter! Follow us @CompassIPS. And below here are some of our favourite book and film mash-ups from #BookFilmCrossovers!
#bookfilmcrossovers Paradise Lost in Translation
#bookfilmcrossovers The Unbearable Lightness of Being John Malkovic.
Gone With The Wind in The Willows #bookfilmcrossovers
We Need to Talk About Kevin and Perry #bookfilmcrossovers
@Waterstones Nineteen Eighty-Four Weddings and a Funeral #bookfilmcrossovers
#bookfilmcrossovers Catch-22 Jump Street
#bookfilmcrossovers The Loneliness of the Long Distance Blade Runner
Cape Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas #bookfilmcrossovers

And finally – what must it be like when your own literary creation grows up and decides to do a saucy photo shoot? Read JK Rowling’s entertaining twitter banter with Mathew “Neville Longbottom” Lewis on Buzzfeed here!

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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