The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Translated by Louise Heal Kawai

Summary:

In the winter of 1937, the village of Okamura is abuzz with excitement over the forthcoming wedding of a son of the grand Ichiyanagi family. But amid the gossip over the approaching festivities, there is also a worrying rumour – it seems a sinister masked man has been asking questions around the village.

Then, on the night of the wedding, the Ichiyanagi household are woken by a terrible scream, followed by the sound of eerie music. Death has come to Okamura, leaving no trace but a bloody samurai sword, thrust into the pristine snow outside the house.

Soon, amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi is on the scene to investigate what will become a legendary murder case, but can this scruffy sleuth solve a seemingly impossible crime?

My Review:

First published in April 1946 The Honjin Murders was the first of a series to feature the amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi who went on to feature in 77 books, with many going on to become film and TV adaptations in Japan. Until now it has never been translated into English.

Set in 1937 and in the village of Okamura as there is going to be a wedding. There is a real buzz and anticipation as this marriage involves Kenzo Ichiyanagi the son of one of the most prominent and wealthiest of families in the region. Kenzo met Katsuko a schoolteacher, there love of books soon turned into romance.

 But death is stalking the newlyweds as that evening there is a terrible scream and followed by what sounds like strange music. Family members rush to see what the scream was about but cannot wake or get access to the home of the newlyweds. It is Katsuko’s uncle that breaks into the property and is faced with a shocking scene, both Kenzo and his bride lay dead covered in blood. Who could do such a thing just hours after the wedding. But that is not all. Outside thrust into the snow is a samurai sword covered with blood. Murder has come to the village.

But something does not fit, there is no sign of a break-in and the house was locked, who could have murdered the bride and groom and leave no trace of entrance or exit.

With the police on the scene looking for clues as to who may have committed the double murder, then a family member believes amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi could be of real help is solving the crime.

Kosuke goes about his work in a somewhat different way to the usual police methods and his demeanour may not appeal to everyone but Kosuke could just be the man to solve the mystery of who killed Kenzo and Katsuko.

I have to say that I really enjoyed reading this Japanese mystery and the translation was superb by Louise Heal Kawai. This reads like a good old fashioned murder mystery. Fans of Agatha Christie will really enjoy The Honjin Murders and how Seisho Yokomizo crafted the storyline keeping the reader guessing with a number of red herrings to throw the reader of course just when you think you have nailed who killed the newlyweds. A short murder mystery under 200 pages but with interesting characters adding to the plot. I can really recommend for a winter read by the fire.

192 Pages.

My thanks to Poppy Stimpson & Pushkin Vertigo for the review copy of The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo.

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo was published by Pushkin Vertigo and will be published on 3rd December 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE #10

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

#10 HOBECK BOOKS

This week see the Tenth in the series of Independent Publishers Showcase. This week I am pleased to welcome Hobeck Books to the weekly showcase.

Hobeck Books was founded by Adrian Hobart and publisher Rebecca Collins together bringing 50 years of experience in both media and publishing and is based from a 17th century farmhouse in Staffordshire. Publishing thriller, crime, mystery and suspense novels being published in hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook.

They have a very exciting listing of books for publication in January, these can be pre-ordered by visiting their website with details below.

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @HobeckBooksor visit their website: Hobeck Books  

A selection of the fiction titles currently released and soon to be released through Hobeck Books:

The Angel of Whitehall by Lewis Hastings

Published: 15h December 2020

Summary:

Jack Cade returns in this explosive thriller by Lewis Hastings, author of The Seventh Wave trilogy.

Twelve women hunted by a deadly enemy

A young African woman’s body is found slumped in a London side street. Her stomach slashed open, a single diamond hiding within.

A shameful secret that must remain hidden

An elderly sailor with just weeks to live harbours a dark secret that he has to share before he dies. The only problem. His memory is failing through dementia.

What’s the connection?

Former British police officer Jack Cade is the only man who can help unravel the mystery. Piecing together the fragments of information that the old man’s fragile memory reveals, Cade unearths a people trafficking conspiracy with links to the heart of the British Establishment.

They want his source silenced. Cade is the only person who can protect him. But who can Cade trust?

The Angel of Whitehall is the fourth brilliant Jack Cade thriller by bestselling author, Lewis Hastings.

Over Her Dead Body (The Quirk Files Book 1) by A B Morgan

Published: 5th January 2021

Summary:

Gabby Dixon is dead. That’s news to her…

Recently divorced and bereaved, Gabby Dixon is trying to start a new chapter in her life.

As her new life begins, it ends. On paper at least.

But Gabby is still very much alive. As a woman who likes to be in control, this situation is deeply unsettling.

She has two crucial questions: who would want her dead, and why?

Enter Peddyr and Connie Quirk. husband-and-wife private investigators. Gabby needs their help to find out who is behind her sudden death.

The truth is a lot more sinister than a simple case of stolen identity.

Over Her Dead Body is a ‘what if’ tale full of brilliantly drawn characters, quirky humour and dark plot twists.

Sleeping Dogs by Wendy Turbin

Release Date: 12th January 2021

Summary:

A jigsaw puzzle of a crime novel with a paranormal twist – the brilliant feel-good debut from Wendy Turbin

Meet Penny Wiseman, a private investigator by circumstance, stumbling through adulthood and desperately trying to keep her late father’s business afloat. 

She’s on the trail of her client’s husband. He’s guilty of hiding something, but is he having an affair? The case leads her to an intriguing series of mysteries and encounters, and not all are quite of this world.

Because, for Penny, seeing the dead is a fact of life, and when a teenage ghost wants justice, who else can the girl turn to for help?

There’s one big problem – the dead don’t talk. 

Penny’s first job is to work out exactly why she’s being haunted. 

Her second is to solve the case that should pay her bills, but will she find answers to either question?

Sleeping Dogs is full of brilliantly drawn characters, quirky humour and gripping plot twists.

Hunted (A Jane Haven Thriller book 1) by Antony Dunford

Release Date: 5th January 2021

Summary:

The brilliant debut action adventure thriller by Antony Dunford

Once a member of the world’s first all-female special forces unit, the Norwegian Hunter Troop, 

Jane Haven is now helping her brother Kennet protect some of the world’s most endangered animals at his Kenyan Wildlife Conservancy.

Heavily armed poachers pose a deadly threat to humans and animals alike, and when her brother dies suddenly, Jane vows to protect his legacy against the threats circling the Bandari reservation.

With rhino horn worth more than diamonds – those threats keep on coming – until Jane finds she’s the one being hunted … 

Hunted is a thrilling adventure that transports the reader into the savage beauty of the African bush. Antony Dunford captures the majesty of Kenya’s wildlife, and in Jane Haven, he’s created a modern kick-ass heroine for the Extinction Rebellion generation.

The Rock: 1 by Robert Daws

Release Date: 1st July 2020

Summary:

DS Tamara Sullivan is a British Police officer fighting to save her career. Exiled to Gibraltar from London’s Metropolitan Police after a lapse of judgement, Sullivan feels she’s being punished – no matter how sun-kissed the Rock is.  

But this is no sleepy siesta of a posting on the Mediterranean. Paired with her new boss, DCI Gus Broderick, Sullivan will need all her skills to survive the most dangerous case of her career.

A young constable is found hanging in his apartment. With no time for introductions, Sullivan and Broderick, unravel a dark and sinister secret that has remained buried for decades. 

Are they prepared to face the fury of what they are about to uncover?

The Rock is a riveting crime thriller packed with twists.

For further information on the publications from Hobeck Books please visit their website: Hobeck Books

You can also find them on Twitter: @HobeckBooks and also their Instagram feed @hobeckbooks and also Facebook: @hobeckbooks10

If you have enjoyed this week’s showcase, please look out for my next Independent Publishers Showcase next week. If you are an indie publisher and would like to add your name to the showcase, you can contact me via Twitter: @TheLastWord1962

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

Summary:

My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.
 
The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.
 
They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.
 
Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is a heartwarming tale about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.

My Review:

The year is 1625 and this is the remarkable story of Nat Davy. Nat is just ten-years-old but he is not like other boys of the same age. The Smallest Man (Simon & Schuster) by Frances Quinn is based on a true story that will span two decades. It is a remarkable story and one that is both fact and fiction.

Nat Davy was born into a family who were poor, but this never stopped Nat being happy but already the truth was becoming real to Nat and his family. Nat is different. Nat Davy is small but not just small, he is actually very small.

When you are different people stop and stare and they talk about you. Nat is our narrator as he tells his remarkable story. Nat’s life is about to change from a world of being shown off in a freak show. For the price of a Shilling he is taken from his family and is whisked off to London for a new life and is presented to the new Queen of England, Queen Henrietta Maria the wife of King Charles I.

He is to become the Queen’s latest pet to go alongside the dogs and also monkeys of court life. Imagine for one moment being a pet to the new Queen?

This is a life far and away from anything that Nat could have envisaged even at the tender age of just Ten. Soon Nat realises that the Queen is lonely and misses her family something incredible happens and the two form a unique bond of friendship.

England is now in the grip of a civil war Nat was about to embark on a journey of a lifetime with the Queen a life away from his home in Oakham. Nat is our hero and a character the reader will get behind and cheer with his triumphs and tragedies. Beautifully crafted and researched by Frances Quinn The Smallest Man is a triumph of a novel.

384 Pages.

Thank you to Jessica Barratt (Simon & Schuster and also Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn.

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn was published by Simon & Schuster and will be published on 7th January 2021 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

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INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE #9

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

9. BARBICAN PRESS

Delighted to bring you the ninth in the series of Independent Publishers Showcase. This week I am pleased to welcome Barbican Press to the weekly showcase.

Barbican Press was founded by Martin Goodman and Martin became a publisher with the intention of publishing “impressive portfolio of beautifully crafted and utterly transgressive fiction” to quote from The Morning Star but have a look at their re-launched website and they also boast quite a selection of poetry, drama, non-fiction as well as books for children.

Barbican Press was set up in the city of Plymouth hence the name ‘Barbican’. They also offer a mentoring service to writers that has three packages available. 1. The Fresh Start (12-month package. 2. The Clean Run (12-month package) 3. The Full Commitment (15 to 24-month package).

With Christmas in mind, if you are looking for a gift, it is worth having a look at their website (details below)

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @BarbicanPress1or visit their website: Barbican Press  On their website you can make purchases in time for Christmas.

A selection of the fiction titles currently released and soon to be released through Barbican Press:

Red Hands by Colin W. Sargent

Published: 6th August 2020

Summary:

The remarkable fictionalised life of Iordana Ceausescu, who married Nicolae Ceausescu s eldest son, Valentin and became the mother of the Ceausescu s only grandson. A true-life tale that spins readers into the pleasures, excesses and horrors of late twentieth-century Europe. Drawn from eight hundred hours of unique interviews. Iordana is a normal girl, brought up with all the perks of Romania’s corrupt communist regime. Then she falls in love and marries the eldest son of her parents arch-rival, Romania’s monstrous dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. They become the in-laws from hell, but she brings them their only grandson. And then there’s the 1989 revolution, when crowds will kill anyone with the Ceausescu name. In all the blood and chaos, can Iordana keep her little son alive?

Notes from a Mountain Village by James Thornton (Poetry)

Published: 24th September 2020

Summary:

The Irish-American poet James Thornton returns to the same French Pyrenean village every Spring. Over 25 years he has settled at his desk, the flanks of hillsides beyond his window, and captured in verse the life and nature of this mountain community. James’s poetry conjures the lives of villagers, snakes, turtles, fish, birds, flowers, crops, insects, and hogs who make this valley their home.

Virgin & Child by Maggie Hamand

Release Date: 2nd April 2020

Summary:

A tale told ‘so humanely, so movingly and with such authorial depth and deftness that the reader would have to be a saint not to read it through in one enormous sitting.’ – The Morning Star

‘Virgin and Child cleverly merge crime with Catholicism and piety with a dangerous love.’ Mary Flanagan

A genre-busting, gender-bending Vatican thriller. What happens when everything you know is thrown into doubt?

And you’re the Pope?

The recently elected Irish Pope Patrick has plans for his future Church. Then he is attacked in St Peter’s Square. Cardinals turn against him. Shocking revelations threaten his traditional status and his faith.

In this novel where nothing is as it seems, Catholicism and modern morality are held in tension. Pope Patrick has to face challenges and make choices he could never have imagined.

Pansy Boy (Illustrated) by Paul Harfleet

Release Date: 23rd August 2017

Summary:

SHORTLISTED FOR THE POLARI PRIZE 2018! Pansy Boy is a stunningly beautiful book for children. It takes on the issue of bullying and lets a child feel proud for being different. As a beloved extra, it gives children their first field guides to bird s and flowers. Out in the natural world, a boy is in love with its beauty. Birds in flight amaze him. School squats at the end of summer. Bullies attack him. How can he defend himself? In a rhyming poem, the story comes to life in vivid graphic art. The boy takes strength from the flowers he loves. Where bullies pinned his life with their hate, he plants a pansy. The power of his actions empowers his school to value what is delicate and different.

The Luckiest Thirteen: The Forgotten Men of St. Finbarr- A Trawler’s Crew battle in the Arctic by Brian W. Lavery

Release Date: 9th November 2017

Summary:

A true-life drama of an intense battle for survival on the high seas. The Luckiest Thirteen is the story of an incredible two-day battle to save the super trawler St Finbarr, and of those who tried to rescue her heroic crew in surging, frozen seas. It was also a backdrop for the powerful stories of families ashore, dumbstruck by fear and grief, as well as a love story of a teenage deckhand and his girl that ended with a heart-rending twist. From her hi-tech hold to her modern wheelhouse she was every inch the super ship the great hope for the future built to save the fleet at a record-breaking price but a heart-breaking cost. On the thirteenth trip after her maiden voyage, the St Finbarr met with catastrophe off the Newfoundland coast. On Christmas Day 1966, twenty-five families in the northern English fishing port of Hull were thrown into a dreadful suspense not knowing if their loved ones were dead or alive after the disaster that befell The Perfect Trawler. Complete with 16 pages of dramatic and poignant photographs from the period.

For further information on the publications from Barbican Press please visit their website: Barbican Press

You can also find them on Twitter: @BarbicanPress1 and also their Instagram feed @barbicanpress and also Facebook: @BarbicanPress

If you have enjoyed this week’s showcase, please look out for my next Independent Publishers Showcase next week. If you are an indie publisher and would like to add your name to the showcase, you can contact me via Twitter: @TheLastWord1962

David Hockney: A Life by Catherine Cusset

David Hockney: A Life by Catherine Cusset

Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan

Summary:

A compelling hybrid of novel and biography, Life of David Hockney offers an accessible overview of the painter who shook the world of art with a vitality and freedom that neither heartbreak nor illness nor loss could corrode. Born in 1937 in Bradford, David Hockney had to fight to become an artist. After leaving for the Royal College of Art in London, his career flourished, but he continued to struggle with a sense of not belonging, because of his homosexuality, which had yet to be decriminalised, and his inclination for a figurative style of art not sufficiently ‘contemporary’ to be valued. Trips to New York and California – where he would live for many years and paint his iconic swimming pools – introduced him to new scenes and new loves, beginning a journey that would take him through the fraught years of the AIDS epidemic.

My Review:

One of the most famous painters from these shores is one I have come to admire through many years. David Hockney: A Life (Arcadia Books) by Catherine Cusset is a fascinating and interesting ‘novel’ about the man himself and written before the author meeting David Hockney.

This was one of those books that I really was not sure about before I started reading as this is a novel about the man himself not a biography. But in the end I was actually really pleased that I did. Hockney was born in Bradford in July 1937 and later studied at the local School of Art before heading to London to study at the Royal College of Art.

What Cusset does in her novel is to write a fictional account of the painter’s life from his humble start from a family with little money to his determination to focus on his love of art and to achieve his goal. Using a mix of fact and fiction Cusset tells her story of Hockney’s life through the decades, the success and awards that followed but also the tragedies in his life. What I enjoyed reading about the paintings and making a note of them and later just spending time looking them up.

It is a brave step to write a novel about someone who is still alive and then later meeting them in person. I did wonder how that meeting went. But credit to Cusset as I found her writing to be vivid and shows a love for David Hockney from his days on both sides of the Atlantic. Not a man who paints to a trend but one who follows his own unique style and this is what made him one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. Now in his early 80’s David Hockney keeps fit by swimming for half an hour each morning and can stand at his easel for more than six hours a day painting. An enjoyable read.

192 Pages.

Thank you Anna Zanetti (Midas PR) for the review copy of David Hockney: A Life by Catherine Cusset

David Hockney: A Life by Catherine Cusset was published by Arcadia Publishing and was published on 12th November 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshops. UK Bookshop.org

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

Summary:

The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should absolutely not be suspicious. DS Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing to concern her in carer Natalka’s account of Peggy Smith’s death.

But when Natalka reveals that Peggy lied about her heart condition and that she had been sure someone was following her…

And that Peggy Smith had been a ‘murder consultant’ who plotted deaths for authors, and knew more about murder than anyone has any right to…

And when clearing out Peggy’s flat ends in Natalka being held at gunpoint by a masked figure…

Well then DS Harbinder Kaur thinks that maybe there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.

My Review:

We head off to quiet town of Shoreham on the coast of West Sussex for a murder mystery that really is an entertaining read. The Postscript Murders (Quercus) by Elly Griffiths focuses on the sudden death of a ninety-year-old woman in her sheltered accommodation flat. The police do not believe foul play as Peggy Smith had a heart condition.

Carer Natalka Kolisnyk finds arrives at Peggy’s flat and finds her dead sitting in her favourite chair by the window. This is where Peggy would sit with a pair of binoculars and she would enjoy the view and would also note passers-by. DS Harbinder Kaur arrives and believes it is natural causes but it is not long before Natalka has cause for some suspicions about how Peggy died.

Peggy Smith had an interesting background as a ‘murder consultant’ for crime writers and she would plot murders for writers. Her bookshelves are full of thrillers and many would contain written acknowledgments for Peggy’s involvement in writing of the book. But what would this have to do with Peggy’s death?

When Natalka talks to some of Peggy’s friends that include Edwin Fitzgerald who is an ex-BBC Radio Three presenter, Benedict Cole who a former monk but now runs a café that she believes that there was more to Peggy’s death than the police believe. But they need to come up with some evidence.

When Natalka and Benedict are in Peggy Smith’s flat sorting through some of her books they are held up at gun point and now they know something more sinister is going on and now DS Harbinder Kaur starts to take Natalka’s theory that Peggy was in fact murdered.

A wonderfully entertaining mystery novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy a crime novel with a few laughs along the way. I really enjoyed Elly Griffiths writing as she is strong on characters and adds a few red herrings along the way to keep the reader guessing. I have a feeling The Postscript Murders will be under many peoples Christmas trees this year. I am already looking forward to Elly Griffiths next novel due out in February.

352Pages.

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths was published by Quercus Books and was published on1st October 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE #8

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

8. HAUS PUBLISHING

This week sees the eighth in the series of Independent Publishers Showcase. This week I am delighted to welcome Haus Publishing to the weekly showcase.

Haus Publishing was founded in 2003 by Barbara Schwepcke and was inspired by the German publishing house Rowohlt. Haus Publishing has grown to now publish around 25 books a year and focus is primarily on: History, politics, current affairs, memoirs and books on art, in 2008 Haus Publishing started to publish literary fiction in translation. They also have some fabulous books on travel. Haus will keep 250 titles in print.

With Christmas in mind, if you are looking for a gift it is worth having a look at their website (details below) They also publish each year political booklets in the Curiosities Series.

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @HausPublishingor visit their website: Haus Publishing  On their website you can make purchases in time for Christmas.

A selection of the fiction titles currently released and soon to be released through Haus Publishing:

Dicken’s London by Peter Clark

Published: 2nd December 2019

Summary:

Few novelists have written so intimately about a city in the way that Charles Dickens wrote about London. A near-photographic memory made his contact with the city indelible from a very young age and it remained his constant focus. Virginia Woolf maintained that, `we remodel our psychological geography when we read Dickens,’ as he produces `characters who exist not in detail, not accurately or exactly, but abundantly in a cluster of wild yet extraordinarily revealing remarks.’ But the `character’ he was drawn back to throughout his novels was London itself, all aspects of the capital from the coaching inns of his early years to the taverns and watermen of the Thames; these were the constant cityscapes of his life and work. Based on five walks in central London, Peter Clark illuminates the settings of Dickens’s London, his life, his journalism and his fiction. He also explores `The First Suburbs’ (Camden Town, Chelsea, Greenwich, Hampstead, Highgate and Limehouse) as they feature in Dickens’s writing.

Churchill’s Britain: From the Antrim Coast to the Isle of Wight by Peter Clark

Published: 20th September 2020

Summary:

More than half a century after his death, Winston Churchill, the most significant British statesman of the twentieth century, continues to intrigue us. Peter Clark’s book, however, is not merely another Churchill biography. Churchill’s Britain takes us on a geographical journey through Churchill’s life, leading us in Churchill’s footsteps through locations in Britain and Ireland that are tied to key aspects of his biography. Some are Familiar-Blenheim Palace, where he was born; Chartwell, his beloved house in the country; and the Cabinet War Rooms, where he planned the campaigns of World War II. But we also are taken to his schools, his parliamentary constituencies, locations of famous speeches, the place where he started to paint, the tobacco shop where he bought his cigars, and the graves of his family and close friends. Clark brings us close to the statesman Churchill by visiting sites that were important to the story of his long life, from the site where his father proposed to his American mother on the Isle of Wight to his grave in a country churchyard in Oxfordshire. Designed as a gazetteer with helpful regional maps, Churchill’s Britain can be dipped into, consulted by the traveler on a Churchill tour of Britain, or read straight through–and no matter how it’s read, it will deliver fresh insights into this extraordinary man.

On the Rope: A Hero’s Story by Eric Hackl

(Translated by Stephen Brown)

Release Date: 28th May 2020

Summary:

The compelling story of how the quiet artisan Reinhold Duschka (1900 1993) came to save two lives in Vienna during Nazi rule. Duschka managed to hide Jewish mother Regina and her daughter Lucia in his workshop for four years. The three of them were tied together with an invisible rope, surviving by luck and mutual trust. The aftermath of these years is also explored, with the humility and honesty of Duschka evoking emotion in any reader. This story wouldn t exist without the promise that Lucia Heilman made herself: to honour the passionate alpinist Reinhold Duschka who saved her and her mother from deportation to a Nazi-German concentration camp. Based on Lucia s memories, the story takes the reader from the dramatic, if monotonous, years in the hideout right up to the present. Erich Hackl s exact language, which is glowing with passion, not only brings to life the saviours and the saved it forces us to acknowledge the current relevance of this story in a Europe where civil courage is needed more than ever.

DH Lawrence in Italy by Richard Owen

Release Date: 15th August 2020

Summary:

November 1925: In search of health and sun, the writer D. H. Lawrence arrives on the Italian Riviera with his wife, Frieda, and is exhilarated by the view of the sparkling Mediterranean from his rented villa, set amid olives and vines. But over the next six months, Frieda will be fatally attracted to their landlord, a dashing Italian army officer. This incident of infidelity influenced Lawrence to write two short stories, “Sun” and “The Virgin and the Gypsy,” in which women are drawn to earthy, muscular men, both of which prefigured his scandalous novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. In DH Lawrence in Italy, Owen reconstructs the drama leading up to the creation of one of the most controversial novels of all time by drawing on the unpublished letters and diaries of Rina Secker, the Anglo-Italian wife of Lawrence’s publisher. In addition to telling the story of the origins of Lady Chatterley, DH Lawrence in Italy explores Lawrence’s passion for all things Italian, tracking his path to the Riviera from Lake Garda to Lerici, Abruzzo, Capri, Sicily, and Sardinia.

Salzburg: City of Culture by Hubert Nowak

Release Date: 14th March 2020

Summary:

As the seat of prince-bishops it found wealth and power, as the birthplace of Mozart it found fame, and as a festival city it found its purpose and destiny. But can today’s Salzburg really be described by anything more than music and majestic baroque architecture? Hubert Nowak, who lived and worked in Salzburg for many years, sets out to find the lesser-known side of the city. Leaving the festival district, he plunges into the atmospheric old quarter and places known only to natives – and often not even to them. Through the stories of those who visited the city over the centuries, he gives the reader a fresh perspective and gives the old city new life. Salzburg: A City of Culture is essential reading for anyone interested in visiting the city.

For further information on the publications from Haus Publishing please visit their website: Haus Publishing

You can also find them on Twitter: @HausPublishing Instagram: @hauspublishing and Facebook: @hauspublishing

If you have enjoyed this week’s showcase, please look out for my next Independent Publishers Showcase next week. If you are an indie publisher and would like to add your name to the showcase, you can contact me via Twitter: @TheLastWord1962

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE #7

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

7. CANDLESTICK PRESS

This week’s Independent Publishers Showcase, I am delighted to welcome Candlestick Press to the weekly showcase.

Candlestick Press are a small independent publisher based in Nottingham and were founded back in 2008. The team consists of four dedicated people in Di Slaney (Publisher), Kathy Towers (Assistant Editor) and two admin assistants. Their aim is simple to spread the joy of poetry to adults and children alike who love poetry and or may be just beginning their journey in to enjoying poetry. These small pamphlets are just ideal for bedtime reading or like I have been doing and that is enjoying them on journeys.

They have published so many of these beautiful pamphlets on a wide range of topics from Christmas to Cricket, from birds to trees and bees and even Clouds also walking and how could we not have one about breakfast. These wonderful poetry pamphlets make the ideal gift to send to friends and loved ones.

With Christmas now just around the corner, the beautiful Christmas poetry pamphlets are a joy to give as a card that means so much more. I have sent in past years Christmas poetry pamphlets to friends and they have been so well received.

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @poetrycandle and please visit their website:  Candlestick Press Here you can make purchases in time for Christmas.

A selection of the fiction titles currently released and soon to be released through Candlestick Press:

Christmas Presents: Ten Poems to Give and Receive by Various Authors

Published: September 2020

Summary:

It’s better to give than to receive, as the saying goes. But then, of course, there is sharing which contains a bit of both. This mini-anthology of specially-commissioned poems by leading poets captures the rich rewards of that exchange – whether the memory of time spent with a loved one, the singing of carols or the magic of getting ready for Christmas morning with a young child:

There’s humour in an imagined baby shower for the new-born Christ-child, complete with a carpentry set and a bottle of pink fizz from someone who thought it was going to be a girl. Elsewhere we encounter an ailing family cat who recovers just in time to run rings around the Christmas tree.

Poems by Andre Bagoo, Suzannah V Evans, Mark Fiddes, John Greening, Helen Ivory, John McCullough, Jessica Mookherjee, Pey Oh, Kelley Swain and Ben Wilkinson.

By Bus to Christmas by Tony Curtis

Published: September 2020

Summary:

A child’s delight in the excitement of Christmas is the abiding spirit of these new poems by Irish poet Tony Curtis. The mini-anthology sparkles with dreams, memories and surprises creating a magical world that families everywhere will love to share.

In one poem a boy scans the night sky for Santa Claus and sees instead his “lookout” in the form of a robin redbreast. We also meet two young brothers hunting for holly and stumbling on a magic spell that makes berries appear. The title poem is a modern nursery rhyme that readers of every age will enjoy reading out loud – a journey to Christmas on a bus with snowballs for wheels and stars for windows:

Specially written for the young and young-at-heart to read together, the poems are guaranteed to add an extra sprinkle of magic dust to every Christmas.

Poems by Tony Curtis.

Ten Poems for Winter by Various Authors

Release Date: November 2020

Summary:

Winter seems to divide opinion more than any other season; we love it or we definitely don’t! The poems in this mini-anthology are guaranteed to delight readers of every persuasion; we encounter muddy walks, ice-skating, cosy fires, chilblains and even a snow pudding.

There’s also a Skype meeting between a child and a grandparent – a poignant reminder that distance from a loved one can mean living in different seasons.

These are poems to curl up with: they relish the season’s rigours, finding warmth and humanity in the midst of darkness and cold.

This title completes our beautiful seasonal quartet, making a sumptuous collection of four spanning the whole year. Each pamphlet – or indeed the complete set – makes an ideal gift for occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries and more…

Poems by John Clare, Christine Coates, Jane Duran, Robert Hayden, Rhiannon Hooson, Christopher James, Ted Kooser, Ruby Robinson, Rob Walton and Holly Yuille.

The Wood in Winter by John Lewis-Stempel

Release Date: October 2016

Summary:

One for those of us who love tales of the natural world, and who enjoy seasonal woodland walks when things lie deep and crisp and even. John Lewis-Stempel’s The Wood in Winter is a beautiful piece of nature writing about the life of a wood in bleak midwinter, tying in old festivals and traditions which are so weighted with meaning at this time of year. He writes about why being in a wood in winter strips us to our essential soul, and how close encounters with the animals who thrive in this hard season remind us of our own deep connection to the earth.

“A wood on a winter’s eve, no matter where you are, when the snow is falling through the trees, is existence stripped back to the elements. It is the Ice Age returned in miniature.”

John Lewis-Stempel is an award-winning writer known for his books on nature and history. He lives in Herefordshire where his family have been farming for over 700 years.

Poems by Nancy Campbell and Jackie Kay.

The Christmas Wren by Gillian Clarke

Release Date: September 2014

Summary:

The Christmas Wren by Gillian Clarke, written in response to Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Gillian Clarke’s The Christmas Wren is an exquisite contemporary miniature, written for adults and children alike. A magical tale of the Christmases of a Welsh childhood, it is populated by aunts and uncles, snow and starlight, boxes and baubles.

Commissioned by the Dylan Thomas Centre, the story is for adults and children, and is a magical tale of the Christmases of a Welsh childhood populated by aunts and uncles, snow and starlight, boxes and baubles.
Gillian Clarke is a leading poet, and was appointed National Poet for Wales in 2008.

“The Christmas Wren is a masterpiece and is destined to become a classic.” Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate

Colour illustrations throughout the pamphlet. A welsh version of The Christmas Wren is available.

For further information on the publications from Candlestick Press please visit their website: Candlestick Press

You can also find them on Twitter: @poetrycandle Instagram: @candlestickpress and Facebook: @poetrycandle

If you have enjoyed this week’s showcase, please look out for my next Independent Publishers Showcase next week. If you are an indie publisher and would like to add your name to the showcase, you can contact me via Twitter: @TheLastWord1962

Fifty Words for Snow by Nancy Campbell

Fifty Words for Snow by Nancy Campbell

Summary:

Snow. Every language has its own words for the feather-like flakes that come from the sky. In Japanese we find Yuki-onna – a ‘snow woman’ who drifts through the frosted land. In Icelandic falls Hundslappadrifa – ‘big as a dog’s paw’. And in Maori we meet Huka-rere – ‘one of the children of rain and wind’.

From mountain tops and frozen seas to city parks and desert hills, writer and Arctic traveller Nancy Campbell digs deep into the meanings of fifty words for snow. Under her gaze, each of these linguistic snow crystals offers a whole world of myth and story.

My Review:

What do you associate with snow? Childhood memories of snowball fights perhaps? The cold air as it catches your breath after a snowfall? But look closely and there is so much more to just the word ‘snow’. Fifty Words for Snow (Elliott & Thompson) by Nancy Campbell has just been released and it is a beautifully presented book from start to finish.

We are off on an international trek looking at what snow means as far as myth and culture but also this is a timely look at the current ecological crisis. Nancy Campbell was a Writer in Residence at the most northern museum in the world which was on the northwest coast of Greenland when she was looking at ice and the changing language and landscape of the Arctic. Now Nancy turns her attention to snow.

If you love the winter and snow, then this is a book that you will want to find under the Christmas tree this year. Nancy’s writing is just sparkling like freshly fallen snow. We travel around the globe looking at new words and meanings, some of the words you may struggle to pronounce but these are real and many will be new to many readers. Short essays follow that take the reader to new worlds even to places where you would not think of it ever seeing snow. From the ice roads on frozen lakes in Estonia to the Scottish borders across to read about Mongolian and the Kurdish word for Snowdrops.

Fifty Words for Snow is just a magical read and as Nancy explains that she started to write this in September 2019 and finished six months later. The world suddenly in the grip of a pandemic at the same time a climate crisis which means we would lose a lot of what Nancy talks about in this beautiful book that deserves so much praise and deserves to read.

224 Pages.

Thank you Alison Menzies and Elliott & Thompson for the review copy of Fifty Words for Snow by Nancy Campbell

Fifty Words for Snow by Nancy Campbell was published by Elliott & Thompson and was published on 5th November 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

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Blog Journal #6 November

Blog Journal #6 November

Shorter days

Lockdown days of writing and reading

16th November 2020

It is early in the morning and it is still dark and I am at my desk writing this month’s blog journal and we are deep into autumn and also our second lockdown, outside the wind has been howling and blowing fallen leaves around like confetti, now there is rain hammering against the window.

The days are now much shorter and I find these darker mornings best to write with a steaming mug of tea or coffee on my desk. This is the time of year when life should be slowing beginning to slow down, but this is a year unlike any we have known. With the darker evenings I like nothing better than to curl up with a book. These lockdown days have been a real struggle for everyone and my goes out to everyone who is struggling. Books and reading have played such an important role in my life and I have read so many books this year, but like many there have been times when I struggled to focus on reading when news has been so bleak. Writing and listening to audiobooks and podcasts have then taken over. Luckily I have had a number of writing projects to focus on in recent months that has kept me busy and focussed.

The little walks each morning along the canal and some mornings I am lucky to catch a glimpse of a Kingfisher, these little nuggets have been so important and have really helped through the difficult months this year. Nature as they say is such a great cure I really enjoyed the recent first frosty mornings and seeing fallen leaves covered in frost and walking on frost covered grass glistening in the early morning light as if the land has been covered in glitter during the night.

A Poem for November.

The Shepherd’s Calendar: November

By John Clare

The landscape sleeps in mist from morn till noon;
And, if the sun looks through, ’tis with a face
Beamless and pale and round, as if the moon,
When done the journey of her nightly race,
Had found him sleeping, and supplied his place.
For days the shepherds in the fields may be,
Nor mark a patch of sky – blindfold they trace,
The plains, that seem without a bush or tree,
Whistling aloud by guess, to flocks they cannot see …

Many of you may recall I ran The Lost Words campaign for Primary Schools in Somerset, and I enjoyed working with some of the schools. The pandemic has caused many children in primary schools across the country have fallen behind with reading with as many as 1 in 4 children having reading difficulties and CORVID-19 will have made this worse. I have been accepted onto the Schoolreaders programme and in the next few months I will be assigned to a primary school in Somerset to assist with one-to-one reading support with children who are having problems with reading.

When I was in primary school my reading suffered while I was in hospital having an operation on my eye and while I had both eyes covered for weeks it was my teacher who came to the hospital each day to read and to encourage me. Something I have never forgotten. When I look at everything I have done connected to books especially over the last six years, it was that support at such a vital time that enabled me to enjoy books and reading and so I hope I can help in some small way with children who are having reading difficulties in the months ahead.

Despite everything this year has gone by so quickly and it is hard to imagine my next blog journal will be for December as we begin Christmas and the last journal of this strange and most difficult of years.

Until then keep safe and happy reading.

Keep safe and happy reading.

John Fish

The Last Word Book Review