Friday 11 May 2018

Compass Points 260

An absolutely lovely piece here on BBC Look North featuring award-winning author Jane Lovering and the café in which she writes her bestselling novels. Jane comes across beautifully – and it really makes you want to read her books! Her latest is Little Teashop of Horrors (pb, £7.99, 978 1781894200) which has just been published by Choc Lit and is, as the reviews have said: “Quite simply, wonderful! I have read and loved all Jane's books and can never get enough of her quirky sense of humour or different, but amazing, heroes. This, however, was probably my favourite.” Many in publishing have made the mistake of being somewhat snobby about romance titles. But as the stats confirm, from Pride and Prejudice to Fifty Shades; books that arouse readers’ passions and reliably offer a happy ending; capture fans in a way that few other genres can deliver. There’s an interesting article about the US market here — as one agent says “Romance readers are a really, really different animal from any other kind of reader out there. They are incredibly voracious. They consume content like locusts.” Not the politest of metaphors – but an thought-provoking read nonetheless!

After many months reading through Wales’ literary offerings from 2017, two independent judging panels have chosen their shortlists for the Wales Book of the Year Awards 2018. Hurrah – Parthian, Carcanet and University of Wales Press all have titles on it! The two Parthian novels up for the Fiction Prize are Hummingbird (pb, £8.99, 978 1912109807); a moving tale of loss, absence and redemption by Tristan Hughes and Bad Ideas /Chemicals (pb, £8.99, 978 1912109685) Lloyd Markham’s dark and witty take on small-town life. The Carcanet title up for the Poetry Award is Diary of the Last Man (£9.99, pb, 978 1784103484) by Robert Minhinnick which was also shortlisted for the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize and is a bleakly elegiac, environmentally political, vital and visionary celebration of the dwindling Earth. All That is Wales: The Collected Essays of M. Wynn Thomas (hb, £24.99, 978 1786830890) published by University of Wales Press is up for the Creative Non-fiction Award and is a collection of essays from number of English-language authors. Wales may be small, but culturally it is richly varied and this book offers a sample of the country's internal diversity. The result is a portrait of Wales as a 'micro-cosmopolitan country'. You can find out more about all of the books on the Literature Wales website here. The winners will be announced on 26th June.

While we’re on the subject of all things welsh – I absolutely LOVE this beautiful front cover for the Bookseller today, celebrating Parthian’s 25th birthday! Happy Birthday Parthian – or should I say Penblwydd Hapus!

If any of you are thinking of leaving the world of bookselling and becoming a writer – then I thought this was an interesting piece in the Bookseller: Five Questions Aspiring Authors Should Ask Themselves Now.

A new book, We Dared to Win: The SAS in Rhodesia (£24.20, hb, 978-1612005874) by Hannah Wessels and Andre Scheepers details the extraordinary SAS plan to kill Mugabe as he led the African National Union forces across the border from Mozambique in February 1979. The mission to kill Robert Mugabe before he seized power was thwarted when the British tipped him off that assassins were closing in. Mugabe was leading the fight for majority black rule against Ian Smith's government in Rhodesia – now known as Zimbabwe –  a year before he became the nation's prime minister. This story is getting lots of great publicity – you can read all about it in Daily Mail here  and the Times have just published a feature including a listing for the book here and the Sun published this . We Dared to Win begins with Andre Scheepers’ childhood on a farm, learning about the bush from his African friends, and becoming a soldier after the family had to leave the farm after being ambushed by terrorists. In addition to Andre’s personal story the book also reveals more about the other men who were distinguished operators in other celebrated SAS operations. This is the story of soldiers, the hardships, the battles they fought and the challenges they faced. It’s just been published by Casemate.

There has been lots of ongoing publicity for Smart Women Don't Get Wrinkles: How to Feel and Look 10 Years Younger Without Effort (pb, £8.99, 978 1783340910) by bestselling author Helena Frith Powell which came out in paperback last month from Gibson Square. There’s a feature coming up in the Sunday Telegraph and an extract agreed with the Mail. Along with advice from stunning-looking women from around the world, Helena Frith Powell describes one woman's battle with time, using humour, sensible advice from her seemingly eternally youthful mother (and the odd glass of champagne) as potent weapons in the fight to look good. Helena humorously interviews beauticians, doctors and scientists and discovers anything from improved breathing techniques to a procedure that is the equivalent of having your skin fried! Helena is a regular contributor to the national press, so you can expect plenty of publicity for this – the hardback certainly got oodles!

Whenever a miscarriage of justice hits the headlines, it is tempting to dismiss it as a minor hiccup in an otherwise healthy judicial system. Yet the cases of injustice that feature in an eye-popping new book from Biteback, reveal that they are not just minor hiccups, but symptoms of a chronic illness plaguing the British legal system. In Guilty Until Proven Innocent (£12.99, pb, 978 1785903694) award-winning journalist Jon Robins lifts the lid on Britain’s legal scandals and exposes the disturbing complacency that has led to many innocent people being deemed guilty, either in the eyes of the law or in the court of public opinion. Here's a feature by Jon this week writing about his book in the Guardian.

The growth of the bookclub has undoubtably done wonders for book sales. But does anyone in a book club actually read the books or are they just an excuse to knock back the sauvignon and Aperol spritzes? Here are thirty-three sentences and their true meanings that anyone who’s in a book club will enjoy – from “May run a bit late tonight" = "I didn't read the book and I'm hoping you will be done talking about it by the time I arrive" to "So what did everyone think?" = "I did not understand this book, please explain it to me." I think these will strike a chord with many of us!

Finding a cure for baldness is an endlessly fascinating quest for scientists – and one reported just this week here on the BBC. This item and many more are included in the extraordinary stories in Bodyology: The Curious Science of Our Bodies (pb, £8.99, 978 0995497863) which evolved out of a project founded by the health charity Wellcome. These are sixteen terrifically readable pieces all by different writers – science writing that asks and answers intriguing questions. Chapters include: What’s it like to be struck by lightning; Are allergies a defence against industrial chemicals? Why dieters can't rely on calories; How 3D printers can now make body parts; What it means to lose your sense of smell and How to fall to your death and live to tell the tale. I think this book could do really well – popular science is a booming genre, and many of the authors here are well known journalists and prolific on social media, so hopefully there will be plenty of buzz about it! It has just been published by Canbury Press.

Some superb publicity for Caroline Warwick-Evans and Tim van Berkel, founders of The Cornish Seaweed Company and authors of course of The Seaweed Cookbook (978 0754832874, £15, hb) They featured in  this week’s episode of BBC2’s Back to the Land with Kate Humble; the feel-good tales of rural entrepreneurs and you can watch that here. There was also a great article about them in the Telegraph here. This beautiful new book provides a visual directory of the most popular edible seaweeds, with details of when and where they can be found, their uses and nutritional properties. Then there are a hundred deliciously creative recipes and stunning pictures by award-winning photographer David Griffen. Plenty of inspiration to leave readers eager to get foraging, cooking and feasting! The Cornish Seaweed Company – and sales of edible seaweed in general – are flourishing, so it stands to reason that sales of this Lorenz book should be too!

We’re used to hearing about the gender pay gap in publishing, but did you know that there’s also evidence that books written by women are also sold for less than those by men? Which means of course that female authors’ royalties will be less too! A new study found that books written by women were nearly half the price. The research analysed the prices of over two million books published in North America between 2002 and 2012 and cross-referenced the genders of the authors against the price, genre and publication of the tomes. Ultimately, they found that books penned by women were priced at an average of 45% less! You can read more about this in the Stylist here.

A terrific review from Allison Pearson in the Sunday Telegraph last weekend for Biteback’s People Like Us: Margaret Thatcher and Me (978 1785902246, hb, £20). She wrote “Slocock has done her former boss and women in general a great service in painting such a vivid, sympathetic picture of what it means to be powerful and female.” You can read the whole article here.

We’ve become accustomed to the pervy way that some male authors write about women in their novels. But imagine this was the other way around. How would that work? For example, they would probably talk about testicles in a borderline obsessive way. For this insight and more, go to Buzzfeed here!

This weekly blog is written for the UK book trade. If you would like to order any of the titles mentioned, then please talk to your Compass Sales Manager, or call the Compass office on 020 8326 5696. Every Friday an e-newsletter containing highlights from the blog is sent out to over 700 booksellers – and if you’d like to receive this then please contact

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