Friday 18 August 2017

Compass Points 226

Is there a man or woman among us who does not love this theme tune?

Super-popular TV channel Gold are about to screen a brand new six-part series on Only Fools and Horses starting on Tuesday August 29th which looks like a real must-watch for the show's millions of fans. (At its height, more than 24 million people watched this classic comedy series, making it Britain's most popular television programme ever!) As well as featuring Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst, the new programme gives rare perceptions into the show and what went on both on and off camera. The Story of Only Fools and Horses features previously unseen material as well as insights from the show's biggest fans, such as Jonathan Ross and Danny Baker AND Steve Clark, author of Only Fools and Horses: The Official Inside Story (pb, £9.99, 978 0955891694) which is published by Splendid Books and available now! You can find out all about the new TV series here.  Only Fools and Horses: The Official Inside Story is fully authorised by the family of John Sullivan (the show's creator and writer) and contains in-depth interviews with all the show's stars and a comprehensive episode guide. Its author Steve Clark was the only writer on set for the filming of Only Fools and Horses, and this book gives a thoroughly engaging and unique insight into this legendary series – time to get it back into your bookshops methinks as the new Gold series looks like a biggie!
Are you a fool or do you know your horses? How much do you really know about the classic series – take the quiz here!

The world is littered with castles, once majestic but now standing as ghostly reminders to the way we once lived: an ancient hilltop fortress, a crusader citadel in the West Bank, a fairytale medieval castle fallen into ruin. A beautiful new book, Abandoned Castles by Kieron Connolly (hb, 978 1782745228, £19.99) just published by Amber, explores more than a hundred from all around the globe. From medieval Japanese castles to French foreign legion forts in Morocco, the book ranges widely across history telling a story about the way we fought and defended ourselves. Some are beautiful, others brutal, but each has survived and aged, long after the people are gone. With 150 outstanding colour photographs, Abandoned Castles is a brilliant pictorial examination of castles, forts, keeps, and defensive fortifications from the ancient world to the end of the nineteenth century. This title was featured in the Guardian recently as their Travel Photograph of the Week, which you can see here and as one reviewer said “There is something incredibly romantic about castles…more than anything they are also our link with a different world, places we can explore while walking in the footsteps of people who saw the world in a different way from us. I love this book because of its scope and its beauty and its explanations of why, where and when these castles came to be built…this would make a terrific present.”

In a year when much has been written about Passchendaele; 1917 - The Passchendaele Year: The Diary of Achiel Van Walleghem (pb, £19.99, 978 1911454403) is unique. Not just a forgotten source of the western front, it is one that will change our views on the conflict, and on how men and women tried to cope. It offers a personal documentary and highly individual witness to the terrible events in Flanders in 1917 which epitomized the worst slaughter on the western front of the First World War. This book tells the previously untold story of a village priest, Achiel Van Walleghem who lived just west of Ypres, and kept an extensive day-by-day account. He was very well informed by the officers lodging in his presbytery and, urged by his innate curiosity, he witnessed and noted the arrival of the first tanks and the increasing importance of the artillery. He also visited the camps of the Chinese Labour Corps and the British West Indies Regiment. On 7 June 1917, he awoke early to see the enormous mines of the Battle of Messines exploding. And he was present when a deserter was shot at dawn. He records all this, and much more with an unusual humanity. As a bystander living amidst the troops, he often had a special view of the events that unfolded before his eyes. and equally records the misery of the local Flemish population and their relationship with the British rank and file. This unusual and moving book was published by Edward Everett Root Publishing this spring, and definitely deserves its place on the bookshelves among the weightier WW1 tomes.

Many of us are very disturbed about what appears to be a rising tide of Islamophobia sweeping through the United States and Europe. The Islamophobia Industry by Nathan Lean (£12.99, pb, 978 0745332536) takes the reader through a world of conservative bloggers, right-wing talk show hosts, evangelical religious leaders and politicians, all united in their quest to exhume the ghosts of 9/11 and convince their compatriots that Islam is the enemy. Nathan Lean uncovers their scare tactics, reveals their motives and exposes the ideologies that drive their propaganda machine. Situating Islamophobia within a long history of national and international phobias, The Islamophobia Industry challenges the narrative of fear that has for too long dominated discussions about Muslims and Islam and is a thought provoking and many would say essential read for anyone concerned about the world today. If any bookseller would like a proof to read of this title which has just been published by Pluto, please email Kieran O'Connor to request one.

It's that time of year again, when the very best, bonkers and brilliant from the world of theatre, comedy, circus, dance and performance descend on the beautiful city of Edinburgh; when flyering becomes an art form in itself, and when it's never too early (or too late!) to head to a theatre or pub – or both! Oberon Books are the experts the field of theatrical publishing, bringing you the latest from the writers and theatre-makers at the top of their game, as well as a whole host of fantastic new faces – in short, the very best of the Fringe! Two “Festival Picks” from their list are firstly How to Win Against History (pb, £12.99, 978 1786822918) which the Telegraph called “a work of genius ★★★★★ and Postcards from the Gods said “The thing is so good... Must see. Kill to inherit a ticket.” This new Songbook Edition contains the fully-transcribed piano and vocal arrangements for all fourteen songs from the show, so readers can pour themselves a sherry and sing any of the glamorous roles! 

Or how about Letters to Morrissey by Gary McNair (pb, 9781786822987), the third play in a trilogy of darkly comic works drawing on the joys and struggles of growing up in working class Scotland. It’s 1997. You’re 11. You’re sad, lonely and scared of doing anything. One day you see a man on telly. He’s mumbling, yet electrifying. He sings: “I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does”. You become obsessed with him. You write to him. A lot. British Theatre Guide said “McNair’s writing and delivery, under the direction of Gareth Nicholls, are impeccable, allowing visitors to enter into the young man’s soul and share his love of Morrissey and the musician’s philosophy.” And here is Morrisey singing that seminal line from the song that is something of a spiritual experience for many. Have a look here at the special pages on the Oberon website to find out about all the other Edinburgh Fringe plays they publish – inspiring stuff!

Oyster (978 1846973970) is the second collection from prize-winning Edinburgh poet Michael Pedersen featuring truly gorgeous illustrations from Frightened Rabbit lead singer and songwriter Scott Hutchison and is published on 1 September by Polygon. From Grez-sur-Loing to sizzling summers stretched out in the Meadows and Portobello; Michael Pedersen’s unique brand of poetry captures a debauchery and a disputation of characters, narrated with an intense honesty and a love of language that is playful, powerful and penetrative. It was launched at the Edinburgh Book Festival this week, and Michael was interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland, in The Skinny and in the Scotsman who made the launch one of their Top-10 EIBF picks. Michael was also on the BBC R4 Poetry Show and on BBC Live at the Fest and will be reading at events in Glasgow, London and Nottingham which are virtually all sold out – so there is certainly a demand for this playful and extravagant poet of whom Irvine Walsh said “Michael Pedersen's poems get under my skin. As well as defining and codifying my own experiences, they also challenge them. And I always feel more upbeat and hopeful after having read them. You really can't ask much more from a poet.”

Whatever happened to British protest? For a nation that brought the world Chartism, the Suffragettes, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and so many other grassroots social movements, Britain rarely celebrates its long, great tradition of people power. However, Protest: Stories of Resistance, edited by Ra Page (hb, £14.99, 978 1905583737) and published by Comma is set to change that! This timely and evocative collection contains stories by twenty authors who re-imagine key moments of British protest, from the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 to the anti-Iraq War demo of 2003. Written in close consultation with historians, sociologists and eyewitnesses – who also contribute afterwords – these stories follow fictional characters caught up in real-life struggles. Protest features stories by Sandra Alland, Martyn Bedford, Kate Clanchy, David Constantine, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Kit de Waal, Stuart Evers, Maggie Gee, Michelle Green, Andy Hedgecock, Laura Hird, Matthew Holness, Juliet Jacques, Sara Maitland, Courttia Newland, Holly Pester, Joanna Quinn, Francesca Rhydderch, Jacob Ross and Alexei Sayle. It covers events as diverse as the Welsh Language protests, the Poll Tax riots, the Greenham Common marches and the anti-Vietnam demonstrations.  There’s been lots of brilliant publicity for this: there’s a special Protest event coming up at the Edinburgh Books Festival this Tuesday and ahead of that the Skinny has just given it a rave review calling it “a kaleidoscopic feast... A great gathering of voices, a dispersal of perspectives” – you can read the whole piece here. The Protest event at Manchester Lit Fest with three of the authors and hosted by Maxine Peake has sold out in the space of a fortnight! You can listen to editor Ra Page discuss the Protest project on Radio 4's Open Book programme earlier in the year here .

And talking of protests, Protest Vote: How Politicians lost the Plot by Tim Newark (978 1783340729 £8.99, pb) is also getting some great press coverage at the moment! Through riveting inside accounts of how Britain's maverick politicians exploit the behind-the-scenes struggles in the major parties; Tim Newark takes us through the rise of protest voting in Britain. With entertaining portraits of the main players, he exposes the astonishing feuds and raging rows that are happening behind the scenes. The Spectator called it an “excellent and timely history of the decline of the old party system” while the Northern Echo wrote: “Newark’s pacey, racy gossip about political murky doings frequently made me chortle and also cleared up a few mysteries… This book is a treat: a political book which is the antidote to politics, you’ll love it, I promise.” And historian Andrew Roberts called it “brilliant and witty.” It is published by Gibson Square.

Congratulations to the Old Hall Bookshop in Brackley, Northampton which celebrated its 40th birthday recently with champagne and readings. John and Lady Juliet Townsend opened the shop in July 1977 to sell second hand and antiquarian books, shortly afterwards they started selling new books too. At the party last week John was joined by two of his daughters and four of his grandchildren to toast the continuing success of the shop. What a very gorgeous looking bookshop this is! It is now managed by Chris Bridger who is the buyer and along with John personifies the spirit of the place. It looks utterly idyllic – and apparently also has a lovely garden at the rear which is often used for events!

We’re loving this piece about our own Hugh Andrew in the Herald – accurately described as “a man of strong and swift opinions” who says “What I hate is the Scotland of tat, of See You Jimmy hats, of tartan and shortbread. It’s as infectious in books as it is infectious in everything else. And it’s an image of Scotland that many cultural bodies seem to think that our country is about. If I have one mission in life, it is to slay that myth. Everything we are about is a challenge to the bargain tat, which illustrates to me both cynicism and a crippling lack of confidence.” You can read the whole article here. 

Who doesn’t love a well-plotted, page turning thriller? Death's Silent Judgement is the exhilarating sequel to Dancers in the Wind by Anne Coates, and continues the compelling and twisty series starring London-based investigative journalist Hannah Weybridge. The series is very much in the best traditions of British women crime writers such as Lynda La Plante and Martina Cole and is attracting very favourable attention from the book bloggers. “Doesn't disappoint. The intricate plot created by Coates in this novel is well-researched and sensitively portrayed. Hannah is a thoroughly modern, feisty woman. Highly recommended.” It has just been published by Urbane and the third title in the gripping Hannah Weybridge series will be out next year!

The latest episode of the entertaining Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature Podcast is now available to download: this month, Kristian and Vikki are talking Fanaticism and Enlightenment; and you can find that here!

A mouth-watering recipe from The Homemade Sweet Shop: Make Your Own Confectionery with Over 90 Recipes for Traditional Sweets, Candies and Chocolates by Claire Ptak (pb, 978 1780195193, £9.99) has just been featured in the current issue of Baking Heaven magazine. Hard-boiled, chewy, soft or sticky, sweets are the stuff of childhood memories, and the good news is that they are surprisingly easy to make at home. This fabulous book opens with an overview of the history of sweets and chocolates, and a cook's guide to ingredients, equipment and techniques. More than 90 step-by-step recipes follow, including Salt-Water Taffy, Peanut Butter Fudge, Sugar Mice and Raspberry Lollipops. Each method is clearly set out and illustrated including a stunning picture of each finished confection. Packed with tips and variations, this guide will enable cooks of all abilities to recreate their best-loved sweets and chocolates at home. It is published by Southwater.
And who wouldn’t want to turn their kitchen into a truly scrumptious sweetie factory – just like this one!  

How many of us feel we are constantly trying – and inevitably failing – to be the perfect mum? The Supermum Myth: Overcome Anxiety, Ditch Guilt and Embrace Imperfection (pb, £11.99, 978 1910336342) empowers mothers to stop feeling like a 'rubbish mum' and start having confidence in their own parenting. Author Anya Hayes and psychologist Dr Rachel Andrew use mindfulness and CBT techniques, as well as other established therapies to help you turn around negative thoughts and learn to stop comparing yourself to others, or berating yourself for not living up to the unrealistic notion of Supermum. Instead, you'll learn to view your parenting in a different light, to be kinder and less tough on yourself. It's not about lowering your expectations of yourself, it's about accepting and acknowledging how well you're doing. Both authors have a very strong and popular presence on social media (@anyapilates and @timepsychology), all the #parenting and #mum bloggers are already very enthusiastic about it and there’s no doubt that the thousands of readers who loved Hurrah for Gin: A book for Perfectly Imperfect Parents and The Unmumsy Mum will definitely feel they are meeting up with fellow travellers on the bumpy road that is modern motherhood. The Supermum Myth is published by White Ladder Press in September and I very much like the sound of it!

Let’s finish with some music. Losi Havilio's Petite Fleur (translated by Lorna Scott-Fox) is just out from And Other Stories. This is a powerful and surprising new novel from the author of the cult hits Open Door and Paradises. When his fireworks factory job ends explosively and his wife returns to work, Jose is surprised to realise he has a talent for keeping house: childcare, tidying, cleaning, cooking, gardening, he excels at it all. On Thursdays, he hangs out and drinks good wine with his jazz-loving neighbour. But when Jose's new talents take a sudden and gruesome turn, life, death, resurrection, and domesticity unexpectedly converge. In one single, hypnotic paragraph, Petite Fleur harnesses the unpredictability of Aira, the strangeness of David Lynch and the mysticism of Tolstoy in a discordant riff on suburban life. Litro magazine said it was “lively and entertaining … highly visual language …. in its subtle strangenesses and jarring juxtapositions, Petite Fleur is a far stranger read than many more deliberately surreal works. Reality itself is incriminated.” You can read that review here.  Tweeters also love it; Chris@cjgrool wrote “WTF! I just read Havilio's 'Petite Fleur'   – a chilling, haunting, raunchy little masterpiece!”
So, let’s listen to a rendition of Petite Fleur to finish with today, played by one of my all-time favourite musicians, Sidney Bechet in 1954. Enjoy!

That’s all for now folks! More next week!
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