Friday 16 October 2015

Compass Points 144

Which year do you think is the most important in British history? Well, I’d probably put up a strong argument for 1066, or possibly 1939. But no – Francis Beckett and Tony Russell feel that the crucial year is in fact….1956. 1956: The Year That Changed Britain is “a wonderfully evocative and thoughtful account of a year that saw the ends and beginnings that explain why and how we got to today” according to Michael Rosen and this is the story of a defining year that heralded modern Britain. In the immediate post-war years, many people thought that having conquered the Nazis, there was little else left to conquer. In 1956, they learned that they were wrong. 1956 was the end of the Second World War and the start of the ’60s. It was the year Attlee’s Britain started to crumble and Thatcher’s Britain stirred in the womb. This extraordinary book takes us through this most momentous of years, week by week and sometimes hour by hour. Britain and France occupied Suez, and the Soviet Union sent tanks into Hungary. Nikita Khrushchev’s ‘secret speech’ exposed the crimes of Stalin. The Royal Court Theatre unveiled John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, exploding the upper-middle-class complacency in which British theatre had cloaked itself. Tommy Steele and Lonnie Donegan leapt to fame; rock ‘n’ roll music replaced gentle pop songs. It was the first full year of independent television, and the year the Treaty of Rome was negotiated. All the comfortable post-war assumptions were shattered. Neil Kinnock has called it “an important and absorbing living history book” and 1956 : The Year that Changed Britain (hb, 978 1849549127, £20.00) is published this month by Biteback:  order it here

You can find out a bit more about this on the Francis Beckett's blog here where he’s talking about the changing attitudes to sex in the 50’s.

Here are three of my favourite hits from 1956: Louis Armstrong,  Count Basie and Nat King Cole . Who needs rock ‘n’ roll! I must say though, I think Francis Beckett and Tony Russell might just be onto something about the importance of this one year – if you look at the list of hit records from 1956 both the variety and quality is truly astonishing!

Good news for poet Rebecca Goss. Her Birth has just been shortlisted for the Portico Prize as well as the Warwick Prize for Writing. You may remember that it was previously shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Book Prize.  This poetic journal follows the short 16 month life of Rebecca Goss’s newborn daughter Ella who had a rare and incurable heart condition. She lived for just sixteen months. Her Birth is a sequence of poems beginning with Ella’s birth, her short life and her death, and ending with the joys and complexities that come with the birth of another child. Goss navigates the difficult territory of grief and loss in poems that are spare, tender and haunting. Her Birth (£9.95, pb, 978 1847772 381) is available from Carcanet now.

Let’s move from one sort of poetry – to something completely different! A Lion was Learning to Ski: Whimiscal Lines to Brighten up your Day by Ranjit Bolt (hb, 978 1783340828, £9.99) is a collection of hilarious nonsensical limericks that are the perfect Christmas humour stocking filler which Stephen Fry has described as  "rhythms and delights." Ranjit Bolt is a published playwright, who writes regularly for the Guardian and Telegraph. Ever since reading Edward Lear's A Book of Nonsense while growing up in Manchester, he has been writing limericks to for himself and his friends' children. When he is in between writing plays, he even goes out and sells them on a few pages stapled together to market goers in Canterbury where particularly children delight in them. These humorous limericks are written with the love for ordinary words that makes the dialogue of his plays so successful. A Lion was Learning to Ski is published in November by Gibson Square and you can find out more and order it here

Exciting news this week that Rebecca F. John has won the Pen International New Voices Award 2015for her dark and dazzling debut collection of short stories Clown’s Shoes published by leading indie publisher Parthian Books. In an interview with Wales Arts Review Rebecca said: “One of the great joys of the short story is that it can take you anywhere.  The stories in Clown’s Shoes amble around the globe, trip across history and into the future; they run through the minds of starving little girls and lost mothers, desperate men and neglected children; they explore voices and styles that might not be sustainable over the length of a novel.  And though they are small, short stories tackle the very biggest of subjects with more punch, often, than any novel.” Congratulations Rebecca – you can read that whole piece here.
Clown’s Shoes (pb, 978 1910409671, £8.99 was published this month and you can find out more and order it here.

More congratulations due – this time to author Kirstin Innes and publisher Freight Books for Fishnet which has just won the Not the Booker Prize  (run by the Guardian). Fishnet (pb, 978 1910449066, £8.99) was published in April, and has been hailed by reviewers. It is a novel which takes a clear-eyed, meticulously researched, controversial look at the sex industry and the lives of sex workers, questioning our perception of contemporary femininity. 
The Guardian said of it “Fishnet is a fine novel … there is some excellent writing in there, as well as real emotional and political urgency. It’s gripping, it’s humane and it’s the kind of novel that can actually make you investigate your own prejudices and opinions. I know it challenged a few of my ideas about prostitution and the vulnerability (or otherwise) of sex workers.  It’s a book that really moves people and really makes them think. It feels like a novel that has the potential to make a difference to a lot of lives – if only enough people read it. Hopefully this victory will help to make that possible. I hope that this book is spread far and wide – and I’m proud to have been involved in a prize that can ignite that process.” You can read the whole of that Guardian article and find out what the judges thought of all the books on the shortlist here.

Are you a nice bookseller? Do you empathise with others? If not then maybe you need to put down The War of the Worlds and pick up War and Peace. A new study has found that reading literary fiction sharpens our ability to understand others' emotions – more than thrillers or romance novels. Read the whole the whole article here.

Find Me A New Way to Die is the untold story of Edith Piaf by David Bret (pb, 978 1783199297, £8.99) which is published by Oberon Books next month and will be serialized in a major national Sunday newspaper.  This book is published to mark the centenary since Piaf’s birth in Dec 2015 and includes many new and shocking revelations about Edith Piaf, from her friends, lovers, colleagues and songwriters, as well as Bret’s close friend Marlene Dietrich.  Since her death in 1963 Piaf has become a legendary figure with a life story so compelling that it has become difficult to separate the truth from the hearsay, thanks to a wealth of stories, plays, films and biographies about her life. For the first time, David Bret is in a position to reveal the material on the ‘real’ Edith Piaf that was too controversial to publish whilst the interviewees were alive and this new book will mean a significant revision to the Piaf myth. There are legions of Piaf fans, who will want to read this book and David Bret is a prolific and bestselling author of revelatory (and often controversial) celebrity biographies – so he knows how to make a splash. The book is published in November and you can find out more and order it here.

If you are not completely up to speed with the whole legend that is Piaf – then you may enjoy this four minute film about her life – made in 1963 (the year she died) it is a very evocative tribute.

There seems to be a bit of a musical theme developing this week, so let’s move onto Blue Monday: New Order by Michael Butterworth. This is a firsthand account of the studio sessions for Blue Monday, New Order’s classic dance track, and Power, Corruption and Lies and Lies, their acclaimed second album; compiled from the journals of Michael Butterworth, trusted friend of New Order who lived and worked with the band. The book documents a string of notoriously intense sessions at London’s Britannia Row Studios to reveal exactly what went into the recording of this classic track, (the fastest selling 12” single ever ) as well as Power, Corruption and Lies. Committed to creating a minute-by-minute record of the band’s arduous creative process, Butterworth devoted three weeks to living and working alongside his friends and from beneath a perpetual fug of dope smoke, speed and alcohol in the band’s miniscule flat; not a single detail is censored. Blue Monday is an infectious dance anthem that will never date; released in 1983, it helped cement the band’s identity like no other track. In the wake of Ian Curtis’ loss – the maudlin, magnetic personality who once fronted them in the guise of Joy Division – it provided exactly the creative spark needed to ignite the band’s fledgling career. The book is written with the blessing of the band, and the market for New Order and Joy Division is still huge: New Order’s last tour encompassed sold-out stadium shows everywhere from Chile to California. Blue Monday: New Order (pb, 978 0859655460, £14.99) is published in November by Plexus and you can find out more and order it here.

And here is that classic track – Blue Monday, just the thing for a Friday!

#bluemonday or #fridayfeeling? Optimist or pessimist? Are you someone who thinks “hurrah, my bookshop is busy; excellent” or “damn I’m going to actually have to do some work this afternoon”? Here are 40 great quotes about life  for the cheerily positive among you – and here are 40 quotes about life for all you Eeyores!

And to finish, who doesn’t love a bit of Neil Young. He’s 70 in November, and Heart of Gold by Harvey Kubernik is the ultimate tribute to one of rock music’s true giants. Kubernik charts every aspect of Neil Young’s extraordinary career with exclusive interviews conducted with fellow musicians, record producers, music journalists, film directors and loyal fans. It encompasses a spell with the seminal West Coast band Buffalo Springfield, collaborations with Crosby, Stills and Nash, and a glittering solo career which began in the 1970s. The scale of Neil Young’s achievements as a singer-songwriter and his longevity as an artist have given him a status and an influence that helped shape the history of popular music and among those featured in this book are musicians Graham Nash, Nils Lofgren and Richie Furay, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, photographer Henry Diltz, producers Jack Nitzsche and many, many more. Along with a retrospective commentary on every studio and live album, this is a must buy for all fans. Neil Young: Heart of Gold (hb, 978 1783057900:£19.95) is published by Omnibus Press in November. Find out more and order it here.

I want to live, I want to give. I've been a miner for a heart of gold. Here’s some classic 1971 footage for you!

Compass is on Twitter! Follow us @CompassIPS. But if the world of twitter leaves you just a wee bit cold, then go straight to Buzzfeed to see these tweets that are guaranteed to make you laugh!

Here are some of our favourite tweets from this week ...
#APoemIs the nest, the branch, the wind and the fledgings all at once.
It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious." #OscarWilde #birthday

'The 5-a-side Bucket List'. No1: Jinhua, China

Enjoy @mrrobnewman's Entirely Accurate Encyclopaedia of Evolution on @bbcradio4 last night?
Absolutely thrilled to be named the winner of the PEN International New Voices Award last night! What an honour!
'What poem best explains politics?' Andrew Marr picks Hillaire Belloc.
'She was the ocean and I was just a boy who loved the waves but was completely terrified to swim' - Christopher Poindexter
How to beat Midlife Brain Fog by @DoctorMikeDow for @MailOnline: #BrainFog
The @BitebackPub stand at the Frankfurt book fair. 'Journeyman' in its rightful place just above Dave and Maggie T!

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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