Portrait of the Spy as a Young Man by Edward Wilson
1941: a teenage William Catesby decides to leave Cambridge to join the army and support the war effort. Parachuted into Occupied France as an SOE officer, he witnesses tragedies and remarkable feats of bravery during the French Resistance.
2014: now in his nineties, Catesby recounts his life to his granddaughter for the first time. Their interviews weave together the historical, the personal and the emotional, skipping across different decades and continents to reveal a complex and conflicted man.
Catesby’s incredible story recounts a life of spying and the trauma of war, but also lost love, yearning, and hope for the future.
Delighted on publication day to share my review of Portrait of the Spy as aYoung Man (Arcadia Books) by Edward Wilson. This is a gripping wartime spy novel set in two time zones set in 1941 and 2014.
The career of spy William Catesby has been set out across seven previous novels and what a remarkable career. In Portrait of the Spy as a Young Man we find our hero recounting his wartime role to his granddaughter. Catesby was only a teenager when he walked away from Cambridge University and join the fight against Nazis that had defeated mainland Europe. But for Catesby his role because of his unique background he joined the Special Operations Executive and following his training was parachuted into the highland region of Southern France, Catesby was there following the massacre of Oradour-sur-Glane as well as supplying weapons to the French underground forces fighting the Nazis and creating mayhem and chaos with the tactics of a highly trained SOE operative.
Now as the years have passed and it is 2014 and Catesby is in his nighties and the memories of his years as a spy are still there like time capsules in his memory and he is spending time with his granddaughter recounting his remarkable life.
I found this to be fantastic read and also one that was also moving as Catesby was a human that cared for the future of the human race. Many will ask about the previous spy novels but you need not worry as this can happily be read as a standalone novel. But like me you may want to seek out the previous seven books involving William Catesby. Highly Recommended.
Thank you Sophie Ransom (Midas PR) for the review copy of Portrait of the Spy as a Young Man by Edward Wilson
Portrait of the Spy as a Young Man by Edward Wilsonwas published by Arcadia Books and was published on 15th October 2020 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Orenda Books was established by Karen Sullivan in 2014 after she left her role as managing editor at Arcadia Books. The name of the business comes from the novel The Orenda by Joseph Boyden and is based on the Canadian First Nations word meaning: “The mystical power that drives human accomplishment”.
In Orenda Books first year of publishing it released six books that then raised to sixteen titles in its second year. I have been incredibly fortunate enough to have known Karen and Orenda Books as we both started in the same year and I have been incredibly fortunate enough to have read so many of the books published by Karen Sullivan. With an emphasis on crime/thrillers and many being translated. There has always been a big focus on debut authors, like many writers they have suffered the rejection process and yet they have gone on to write superb books under Orenda Books and with some of the authors then going on to be shortlisted for awards and Orenda Books themselves also going on to be shortlisted in publishing awards. With the exciting return of Ragnar Jónasson to Orenda Books to conclude his million-copy Dark Iceland Series with Winterkill due for release in December this proves that I can only see Orenda Books growing in strength in the years to come as Karen continues to find exciting new writers who have a story to tell that will capture the imagination of readers far and wide. For more information on the books released visit their website: Orenda Books
Here are a selection of the titles currently released and also titles soon to be released through Orenda Books:
A Song of Isolation by Michael J. Malone
Published: 17th September 2020
Film star Amelie Hart is the darling of the silver screen, appearing on the front pages of every newspaper. But at the peak of her fame she throws it all away for a regular guy with an ordinary job. The gossip columns are aghast: what happened to the woman who turned heads wherever she went?
Any hope the furore will die down are crushed when Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is arrested on charges of child sexual abuse. Dave strongly asserts his innocence, and when Amelie refuses to denounce him, the press witch hunt quickly turns into physical violence, and she has to flee the country.
While Dave is locked up with the most depraved men in the country and Amelie is hiding on the continent, Damaris, the victim at the centre of the story, is isolated a child trying to make sense of an adult world.
Breathtakingly brutal, dark and immensely moving, A Song of Isolation looks beneath the magpie glimmer of celebrity to uncover a sinister world dominated by greed and lies, and the unfathomable destruction of innocent lives in an instant.
Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardóttir
Published: 1st October 2020
Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.
But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And why has the death of her father in police custody so many years earlier reared its head again?
As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch-like cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…
The Coral Bride by Roxanne Bouchard
Release Date: 12th November 2020
When an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift off the coast of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, DS Joaquin Moralès begins a straightforward search for the boat’s missing captain, Angel Roberts – a rare female in a male-dominated world. But Moralès finds himself blocked at every turn – by his police colleagues, by fisheries bureaucrats, and by his grown-up son, who has turned up at his door with a host of his own personal problems.
When Angel’s body is finally discovered, it’s clear something very sinister is afoot, and Moralès and son are pulled into murky, dangerous waters, where old resentments run deep.
Exquisitely written, with Bouchard’s trademark lyrical prose, The Coral Bride evokes the power of the sea on the communities who depend on it, the never-ending struggle between the generations, and an extraordinary mystery at the heart of both.
Winterkill (Dark Iceland Series) by Ragnar Jónasson Release Date: 10th December 2020 (HB)
When the body of a nineteen-year-old girl is found on the main street of Siglufjörður, Police Inspector Ari Thór battles a violent Icelandic storm in an increasingly dangerous hunt for her killer … The chilling, claustrophobic finale to the international bestselling Dark Iceland series.
Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.
Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.
Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death…
As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth … one that will leave no one unscathed.
Chilling, claustrophobic and disturbing, Winterkill marks the startling conclusion to the million-copy bestselling Dark Iceland series and cements Ragnar Jónasson as one of the most exciting authors in crime fiction.
Deity by Matt Wesolowski
Release Date: 18th February 2021
Online investigative journalist Scott King investigates the death of a pop megastar, the subject of multiple accusations of sexual abuse and murder before his untimely demise in a fire … another episode of the startlingly original, award-winning Six Stories series.
When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls. Online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rakes over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge: Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Whose remains – still unidentified – were found in the ashes? Why was he never officially charged? Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…
Exciting, thrilling and gripping books available now or due for release in the weeks ahead some of the most perfect books to curl up with during the autumn and winter. If you are reading or going to read any of the titles from Orenda Books, drop me a line and let me know what you think.
Visit the Orenda Books Website for information on all their books and you can also find a manuscript submission page: Orenda Books
You can also find them on Twitter: @OrendaBooks and Instagram: @orendabooks
I hope you have enjoyed this week’s showcase. 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
It is 1943, and a month into their service as Land Girls, Bee, Anne and Pauline are dispatched to a remote farm in rural Scotland. Here they are introduced to the realities of ‘lending a hand on the land’, as back-breaking work and inhospitable weather mean they struggle to keep their spirits high. Soon one of the girls falters, and Bee and Pauline receive a new posting to a Northumberland dairy farm. Detailing their friendship, daily struggles and romantic intrigues with a lightness of touch, Barbara Whitton’s autobiographical novel paints a sometimes funny, sometimes bleak picture of time spent in the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War.
The very latest release from the Imperial War Museum as part of their Wartime Classics series is set in 1943 and the men are away fighting and so the women recruited as part of the Women’s Land Army (WLA) in Green Hands (IWM) Barbara Whitton (pseudonym for Margaret Hazel Watson) tells the of the experiences of three young women working the land.
The story is told by Bee and her two friends Anne and Pauline are sent to chilly windswept farm in a remote part of Scotland in Winter, with no training they are expected to learn quickly how to work a farm. It is hard-going, cold and tough for the young women who are expected to work 6 days a week and long hours. The novel is based on the authors own experiences in the WLA.
It is physically hard and soon one of the women gives up and goes home leaving both Bee and Pauline to be relocated to a dairy farm in Northumberland and from the story tells of how they coped during the war years.
It is funny and insightful and the author writes in such a way that she paints a picture of life working on a farm doing the job the men would be normally be doing but with not a hint of a thank you. At a time when the country had to pull together or go hungry, Green Hands tells of a time during the war years when it was the women who worked the land to keep the country fed and important part of our history.
Thank you to Imperial War Museum and Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for a copy of Green Hands by Barbara Whitton
Green Hands by Barbara Whitton was published by Imperial War Museum and was published on 10th September 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Delighted today to begin my journey in showcasing the UK’s Independent Publishers, it has been a project that I have been really looking forward in putting together. Across the country I will aim to bring highlight the books being published by an important part of the publishing industry.
The UK’s independent publishers have a vital role in book publishing, they will bring to our attention some fresh new writers from all forms of genres. As you will see over the weeks and months as I journey the length of the country just how vibrant these small publishers really are, and each with their own unique voice.
For my first stop I would like to introduce Neem Tree Press based in London, they are a young publisher with the sole aim of producing books that will broaden and change perspectives.
It was while I was researching the name of the publisher that I discovered the name: The Neem is a hardy and drought resistant tree that thrives in poor conditions. It has many uses such as medicinal. The United Nations declared it a ‘tree for the 21st Century’
Neem Tree Press have become a global when it comes to securing writers, not just here in the UK but contracts from as far as Germany to the Middle East, Spain and Turkey.
Under the umbrella of Seven Seas they release both MG & YA titles, all their fiction and non-fiction titles will be released through Neem Tree Press.
A selection of the fiction titles currently released through Neem Tree Press:
Children of War: A Novel by Ahmet Yorulmaz
Translated from Turkish by Paula Darwish
Released 26 March 2020
Hassanakis is a young Muslim boy of Turkish descent growing up on Crete during WWI. Fifteen generations of his family have lived on the island and until now he has never had any reason not to think he is a Cretan. But with the Great Powers tussling over the collapsing Ottoman Empire and the island’s Christians in rebellion, an outbreak of ethnic violence forces his family to flee to the Cretan City of Chania. He begins to lay down roots and his snappy dress earns him the nickname of Hassan ‘the mirror’. As WWI draws to a close and the Turkish War of Independence rages, he begins a heady romance with the elegant Hüsniye. There are rumors that the Cretan Muslims will be sent to Turkey but Hassanakis can’t believe he will be sent to a country whose language he barely knows and where he knows no-one. This powerful novel drawn from the diary of a refugee family evokes the beauty, complexity and trauma of Crete’s past and weaves it into a moving tale of an ordinary man living through extraordinary times.
About the Author:
Ahmet Yorulmaz (1932- 31March 2014)
Ahmet Yorulmaz was a Turkish a journalist, author and translator. He was born in Ayvalik to a family of Cretan Turks deported to mainland Turkey as part of the Greek/Turkish population exchange decreed in the Treaty of Lausanne. He was fluent in modern Greek and translated novels and poems from contemporary Greek literature to Turkish. Most of his original works were written with the aim of making people learn about Ayvalık, the city where he grew up. He dedicated himself to Greek-Turkish friendship and rapprochement.
The Umbrella Man by Keith Carter
Released: 3 October 2019
A witty and acerbic novel for our times about corporate greed, the hubris of bankers, contradictions of the clean energy economy and their unintended consequences on everyday people.
Finance, environmentalism, rare-earth mining and human frailties collide in a complex of flawed motives. We follow Peter Mount, the self-made Chief Executive of a London-based rare-earth mining company as he and his business are buffeted by crisis-torn Royal Bank of Scotland and by his own actions, real and imagined. Meanwhile in Oregon, Amy Tate and her group of local environmental activists do their contradictory part to undermine a component of the green economy, unwittingly super-charged by the Chinese state. The repercussions of events in pristine Oregon are felt in the corporate and financial corridors of New York and London with drastic consequences. This is a deeply involving novel about the current workings of capitalism, miscommunication, causes and unexpected effects, love and survival.
About the Author:
Born in Scotland, he read Economics at Cambridge, taking a First in 1981 when he was elected a Scholar. He worked as an investment banker before going straight and running a small pharmaceutical company. Now a writer and business consultant he enjoys travel, politics and economics, reading and writing, languages, music and meals with family and friends. Keith suffered a spinal cord injury in March 2018 and since rides a wheelchair.
Distant Signs by Anne Richter
Released: 7 November 2019
Distant Signs the debut novel by Anne Richter is an intimate portrait of two families spanning three generations amidst turbulent political change, behind and beyond the Berlin Wall.
In 1960s East Germany, Margret, a professor’s daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in the Thuringian forest. The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war. As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, their two families’ hidden truths are quietly revealed. An exquisitely written novel with strongly etched characters that stay with you long after the book is finished and an authentic portrayal of family life behind the iron curtain based on personal experience of the author who is East German and was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall.
About the Author:
Anne Richter was born in 1973 in Jena, in the former German Democratic Republic. Her degree in Romance languages and English included study periods in England, Italy and France. In 2011, Anne was nominated for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, a highly regarded German-language literary award. Her debut novel, Distant Signs, was published in Germany in 2013. Anne is currently writing her second novel.
Modesty: A Fashion Paradox by Hafsa Lodi
Released: 19 March 2020
Modest fashion has been gaining momentum in the mainstream global fashion industry over the past half-decade and is now a multi-billion-dollar retail sector. Its growing and now consistent appearance on high-profile fashion runways, on celebrities and in the headlines of fashion publications and news outlets, has shown that the modest fashion movement is hugely relevant to consumers. This is particularly true for millennials who are attracted to the feminist influences behind concealing your body, follow faith-based dress codes, or are attuned to social media, where more and more modest fashion bloggers are using imagery to inspire their followers. While the movement can credit European high fashion houses, like Gucci, for making conservative dresses and layering “in style” and “on trend,” and subsequent Western labels like DKNY, H&M and Mango for dabbling in the realm of modest wear, it is the newly emerging group of faith-influenced fashion brands who are driving the revolution, along with a new crop of Muslim fashion bloggers. These have helped catapult demure dressing trends globally. This book speaks to the various personalities and companies who have helped shape the modest fashion industry into such a significant retail sector, while also exploring the controversies that lie at the heart of the movement, such as one pressing question: even if it covers the skin but is flamboyant, modeled with the purpose of attracting attention, and publicly promoted on social media, can fashion truly be modest?
About the Author:
Hafsa Lodi is an American journalist who has been covering fashion in the Middle East for the past decade. She was born in New York City, and at the age of 14 relocated to the United Arab Emirates with her family, where she attended Dubai American Academy while interning after school with one of the region’s leading publishing houses, ITP.
After completing her undergraduate studies at the Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto, Hafsa moved to London for a year, where she earned her master’s degree in Islamic Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies. The relationships between religion, culture and modernity have always fascinated Hafsa, who covered topics like honour killings in Canada’s South Asian communities, the use of DNA evidence in rape cases in Pakistan and the industrialization of the Holy city of Makkah, before turning to the fashion journalism beat. While living in Dubai, Hafsa has written for The National newspaper, Luxury Magazine, Mojeh Magazine, Velvet Magazine, Savoir Flair and Vogue India, in addition to working as an online fashion editor for one of the Middle East’s largest luxury retailers, Boutique 1. She is a freelance stylist, and also has a part-time clothing line, creating whimsical maxi-cardigans and kaftans during Ramadan, and statement hand-embellished sweatshirts for the winter seasons. You can find Hafsa on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hafsalodi/
My grateful thanks to Dr Archna Sharma for review copies of copies of their recent releases.
Visit the Neem Tree Website for information on all their books and you can also find a manuscript submission page: Neem Tree Press
You can also find them on Twitter: @NeemTreePress
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
It is mid-morning and the warm September sunshine is pouring through the window onto my writing desk and it is distracting me. It must be time to pick Blackberries and Cobnuts.
Earlier this week I announced on Twitter that I was going to be running regular feature on my blog about UK independent publishers. I was amazed at the response received, I now have a long list of independent publishers to showcase over the weeks and months to come.
There are so many challenges that indie publishers face and these challenges like many other publishers have been exacerbated due to the Coronavirus pandemic, yet their passion and enthusiasm for publishing knows no boundaries as they find new writing talent and supporting their writers. Only in recent days Little Toller based in Dorset and who published Dara McAnulty’s first book The Diary of aYoung Naturalist went on to win the prestigious Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing, the youngest ever winner at just 16-years-old and has now also been longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize.
But unless we support independent publishers many may not survive, it is a tough business to be in especially in these difficult times. Many challenges are faced on a daily basis from selling books to digital piracy, it is a tough business to be in. I was touched by the messages and emails by many of the small publishers who wanted to get on board and be featured. It has been nearly six years since I started writing my book reviews and interviews and recently celebrated my 500th blog post and looking back to when I first started to that dark November afternoon it was a few of the small indie publishers who got on board and sent me books and encouraged me. I guess this is me giving something back!
During the last six years I have been impressed beyond words at the quality of writing being published by the indies such as Orenda Books, Bluemoose Books, Little Toller and urbane Books just to name four. Whether is it fiction or non-fiction, whether you like reading crime or contemporary fiction or you enjoy reading history there is something out there for every reader.
We are so fortunate in this country in that we have so many passionate people in publishing, no matter what part of the UK, they are rich and diverse and all with their own unique style and brand. Imagine a time if we lost our independent publishing industry?
Starting on my blog from next week I will showcase an indie publisher. This will be a journey across our country, join me as we discover the many authors and their books and those behind the scenes of each of the publishers.
If you are an indie publisher and would like to be showcased, contact me to get your name added to the list.
Rudi Graf has dreamt since childhood of sending a rocket to the moon. Instead, along with his friend Werner von Braun, he has helped create the world’s most sophisticated weapon – the V2 ballistic missile, capable of delivering a one-ton warhead that travels at three times the speed of sound.
In a desperate gamble to avoid defeat, Hitler orders 10,000 to be built.
Now, in the winter of 1944, Graf finds himself in a bleak seaside town in Occupied Holland. Haunted and disillusioned, he’s tasked with firing the V2s at London. Nobody understands the volatile, deadly machine better than he does.
Kay Caton-Walsh is an officer in the WAAF. She has experienced at first-hand the horror of a V2 strike. As the rockets rain down, she joins a unit of WAAFs on a mission to newly-liberated Belgium. Armed with little more than a slide rule and a few equations, the hope is that Kay and her colleagues can locate and destroy the launch sites.
But at this stage in the war it’s hard to know who, if anyone, you can trust.
For every action on one side, there is an equal and opposite reaction on the other. As the death toll soars, the separate stories of Graf and Kay ricochet off one another, until in a final explosion of violence their destinies are forced together.
Historical fact and fiction blended together in the latest blockbuster by bestselling author Robert Harris. V2 (Hutchinson) tells the story of Hitler’s last desperate attempt to turn the tide of WWII. Hitler so desperate he ordered 10,000 to be built of the most advanced rockets the world had seen. Mostly written during the pandemic lockdown, V2 is an enthralling read.
The story is set in the winter of 1944 in London, Holland and Belgium, for Rudy Graf who used to look up at the moon and thought about designing a rocket to land a man there, life during this stage of the war took a sinister turn along with his friend Werner von Braun designed the ballistic Vengeance weapons to strike terror and death and destroy London and also Antwerp and win the war. It takes just 5 minutes from launch in Holland to hit London and there are no warnings.
In London intelligence officer with photographic reconnaissance, 24-year-old Kay Caton-Walsh has had a lucky escape when a V2 hits close to where she has been staying with a married senior officer in the RAF, now Kay wants to get more directly involved in the war effort before the war ends. Locating the launch sites for the V2 rockets has been a massive problem and now efforts are being stepped up to find them and Kay together with a team of women and officers are sent to Mechelen in Belgium to work on calculations based of the trajectory of the V2’s when they are launched and then the RAF is scrambled to the target and destroy the launch sites.
The death toll in the construction of the rockets is huge around 20,000 slave labourers were killed in the production of the V2 weapons. The rockets were never accurate but carried a one-ton warhead that caused death and devastation, the need to seek and destroy the rockets sites was now a priority.
In Holland Graf was becoming more and more disillusioned, some of the rockets were failing and malfunctioned. But now the SS officers running the sites believe Graf is involved in deliberate sabotage. Tension is running high as the high command insist on more and more rockets are launched.
Meanwhile in Mechelen it is pencil and paper and calculations that a pin pointing the launch sites. But the correct calculation has to be made in no more than six minutes to prevent another launch.
V2 by Robert Harris is a gripping and enthralling account of life during the latter stages of WWII and what it takes to try and stop the V2 rockets destroying London. It is also fascinating to read what happened at the end of the war.
Thank you to Hutchinson for the NetGalley review copy of V2 by Robert Harris.
V2 by Robert Harris will be published by Hutchinson on 17th September 2020 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
My September/October 2020 Book Reviews for Word Gets Around Magazine Issue number 41
The latest edition of Somerset’s Word Gets Around magazine has arrived for September/October. Issue number 41 for the Taunton and surrounding areas and issue number 5 for West Somerset.
Inside it is packed with great articles for Taunton and its surrounding areas as well as pieces for West Somerset. If you are in Somerset, they magazines are widely available and you can find out more by visiting the website for more information: Word Gets Around Magazine
The Fiction Book for September/October Edition: Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin
Published by Europa Editions, Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin tells the story of Violette Toussaint who is a caretaker of a cemetery in Bourgogne, France. The visitors come to make final arrangments and Valérie shares coffee and tears with the occaisonal laughter. It is a story of those that share the duties of the cemetery, the gravediggers and groundsmen and a priest. But one day a visitor arrives in the form of the local police chief, Julien Seul. A beautifuly written novel with tears and laughter and a secret past.
The Non-Fiction Book for September/October Edition: Into the Tangled Bank: In which our author ventures outdoors to consider the British in nature.
Writer and conductor Lev Parikian sets off on a journey across the country in his latest book Into the Tangled Bank (Elliott & Thompson) to discover how we look at the natural world. It all begins with a Butterfly on the pavement outside his home. From here Lev visits the homes of the great nature lovers, Charles Darwin, John Clare, Etta Lemon and Gavin Maxwell. A wonderful book packed with humour and tells of how we all have a connection with the natural world around us.
For more information on Word Gets Around Magazine please visit: Word Gets Around
Step inside a bookshop and a world of literary delights awaits
Blog Journal: #3
4th August 2020
When was the last time you visited a bookshop? That may seem like a strange question to ask but so much of our lives have changed over recent months and since bookshops have reopened many are still very quiet like many high street outlets. But there is something very special about visiting a bookshop.
During these strange days of social distancing and the wearing face coverings there is still a joy to be had in going to visit a bookshop. May be you are looking for that big summer read you have promised yourself or one of the books on the literary prize you are following. September is going to be a big month for book releases as publishers held off book launches during the lockdown. The key date is September 3rd and 250 hardback books will be launched on that day. Booksellers across the country will be busy that week and it will be a critical time for all bookshops including the indie bookshops who have suffered during the lockdown.
Since the high street started to reopen I have visited my local bookshops a number of times and the staff have done an incredible job in making sure that both staff and customers feel safe and making the bookshops welcoming and I have felt more at ease in a bookshop than the local supermarket. May be it is the book hunter gatherer in me that I want to visit bookshops and the bookish delights that await instore and socially distant book chats with the staff.
As I write and review books on my blog and through magazines, I tend to hear the ‘thud’ on the doormat as the postman delivers book packages from publishers. In the years that I have been reviewing books I still feel real gratitude that publishers and authors have trusted me with proofs ahead of publication but saying that you just cannot better walking into your local bookshop.
Then of course there are the bookshops that also have their own instore coffee shops and for me this is heaven, books and coffee and not forgetting the cake of course. Since the lockdown the one joy that I have missed is the visiting author and the interview. Will we ever get back to the pre-Corvid19 days of writers being interviewed in front of a packed audience in a bookshop. We can only hope.
Sales of books during the lockdown really held up as people discovered the joy of books, but the dreaded spectre of Amazon is always never far away and they threaten the existence of our local independent bookshops across the country. Footfall in independent bookshops dropped off, our indie bookshops are part of the local community and it is vital they survive. Many are still taking orders online and will help track down that hard to find book for you.
Then of course there is the antiquarian bookshops, as you walk in there is that aroma of the old books, I have missed some of my favourites on the Charing Cross Road which was of course famous for Marks & Co who sold rare and second hand books at number 84 Charing Cross Road. You know the book by Helene Hanff which also inspired the film with Anthony Hopkins. Sadly, they are long gone but there are still second hand bookshops in Charing Cross Road.
Bookshops are a delight to visit and spending time just browsing the bookshelves, maybe it is just me but I find it really relaxing spending time looking for that book I really want to read that is where you will find me. But wearing a face covering.
It’s a small story. A small town with small lives that you would never have heard about if none of this had happened.
Hinton Hollow. Population 5,120.
Little Henry Wallace was eight years old and one hundred miles from home before anyone talked to him. His mother placed him on a train with a label around his neck, asking for him to be kept safe for a week, kept away from Hinton Hollow.
Because something was coming.
Narrated by Evil itself, Hinton Hollow Death Trip recounts five days in the history of this small rural town, when darkness paid a visit and infected its residents. A visit that made them act in unnatural ways. Prodding at their insecurities. Nudging at their secrets and desires. Coaxing out the malevolence suppressed within them. Showing their true selves.
Making them cheat. Making them steal. Making them kill.
Detective Sergeant Pace had returned to his childhood home. To escape the things he had done in the city. To go back to something simple. But he was not alone. Evil had a plan.
Having really enjoyed Good Samaritans and Nothing Important HappenedToday by Will Carver I was really looking forward to seeing what was to come next. The wait was worth it. Hinton Hollow Death Trip (Orenda Books) is released on 6th August and its narrator is evil itself.
The story begins with Henry Wallace an eight-year-old boy who was put on a train by his mother and a note attached to him saying keep him safe for a week. Back in his home town of Hinton Hollow evil has arrived and over the next five days the 5,120 inhabitants of this small town will know darkness has befallen their small town and lives will never be the same again.
This is gripping and dark novel that follows Carver’s previous novel Nothing Important Happened Today and we back with DS Pace. Nothing will prepare you for this one though. Will Carver a writer who will take you on a reading journey unlike anything else you will ever read. This small town where everyone knows everyone and their business. Now evil is here and he has a job to do. In this town you will meet some characters that could be similar to those who live in your town. But now evil is here and he is going to make them do things that are out of character to say the least.
This is the third in the series involving DS Pace, but I felt sorry for him as he returned to his home town only to face evil and its manipulations and this will be his biggest test yet. Can he save the residents of Hinton Hollow from themselves? As much as you can read as a standalone you will want to read the previous two after you have read Hinton Hollow Death Trip.
This is a novel with short chapters and into days and allows the storyline to creep under your skin the deeper you get into the book. It will leave you asking many questions of yourself and others. Will Carver’s novels are some of the best in the way that he writes and crafts his storyline and they leave you just wanting more and more. Highly Recommended.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) for the review copy of Hinton Hollow DeathTrip by Will Carver.
Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver was published by Orenda Books and will be published on 13th August 2020 and is available to Pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Interview with Craig BennettCEO The Wildlife TrustsThe Global Conservation Prize
On Friday 5th June the longlist for the 2020 Wainwright Prize was announced. This year for the first time there are two prizes.
The Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing:
Specifically, for nature writing, the outdoors or travel covering Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Robert Macfarlane won the 2019 prize with Underworld.
There are thirteen books that make up this year’s longlist. The judging panel will be chaired by TV presenter Julia Bradbury, and her fellow judges are: Geoff Duffield, Wildlife Trust volunteer and former publisher; Andrew Willan, Wealden Festival Director; Patrick Neale, Bookseller Jaffe & Neale; Jessica J Lee, Editor WillowHerb Review; Celia Richardson, Director Comms and Insight, National Trust.
The Wainwright Prize for Writing on Global Conservation:
A new prize for this year that focuses on studies relating to conservation or climate change as it affects nature. The writing can be global not just on UK.
There are eleven books that make up the longlist this year. The Chair of Judges for the new Global Conservation Prize is BBC Countryfile presenter, Charlotte Smith. She is joined by Chris Packham, naturalist and TV presenter; John Lewis Stempel, previous winning author; Adrian Phillipps, conservationist; Rachel Woolliscroft, sustainability expert; and Craig Bennett, CEO UK Wildlife Trusts.
I am delighted to be joined on my blog by the new CEO of the UK Wildlife Trusts, Craig Bennett who joined the Wildlife Trust in April of this year. Craig is one of the judging panel on this year’s Wainwright Prize for Writing on Global Conservation.
Interview with Craig Bennett
CEO The Wildlife Trusts
JF: Congratulations on being part of the judging panel for this year’s Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing. This year sees the first Global Conservation Prize as part of the Wainwright Prize. There are eleven books on the longlist. Do you have to read all eleven books on the longlist?
CB: Well, yes, we certainly have to give all eleven books a fair shot!
I’ve always had to read a lot in my job, from policy reports and briefings, to longer reports and so I’ve developed a two-speed reading process; fast for getting an overview, slow to properly absorb and enjoy it.
I looked through the long-list using my fast-reading approach. I’m now taking time to slow-read the shortlist, and I’m enjoying the process immensely.
JF: The Global Conservation Prize is chaired by Countryfile presenter Charlotte Smith along with Chris Packham, twice winner of the Wainwright Prize, John Lewis-Stempel, Adrian Phillipps, Rachel Woolliscroft, because of the current lockdown conditions how are you and your fellow judges getting together to talk through the books on the longlist? Has this been a challenge for the panel?
CB: In the early stages, we worked quite independently to whittle down the original longlist and there was a surprising degree of consensus. But of course we’re going to have to hold round-table like discussions on Zoom to decide the winner. I suspect, they are going to be difficult discussions!
JF: The quality of nature writing in the UK is continuing to grow year on year, and also for books on the environment, as part of the panel of judges what do you look for in a book that could take it to the shortlist? Do you get a remit as to what to look for in each of the books?
CB: This is a new category for the Wainwright Prize and we’ve been told its purpose it to recognise books that “…that further the debate, increase the necessity for action or raise the profile of various conservation issues and address some of the very real problems of climate change”.
But, obviously, the winner will be one that does this while also displaying literary quality, dexterity and an entertaining pull of the narrative.
Personally, I’ll be looking for some good old fashioned story-telling and a little bit of quirkiness that makes me think some original thoughts, to separate out the eventual winner.
For me, that’s the difference between a book, and a report.
JF: As CEO of the Wildlife Trusts, the environment is now quite rightly a big news story, how important is the new Global Conservation Prize in highlighting the environment to people and to the news agenda?
CB: This prize certainly helps in raising the overall profile of the environment to book-lovers and in the wider media. But, as much as anything, I think it helps to keep the debate fresh, and provides a forum for new issues and themes to be discussed and debated. That’s critically important.
JF: You have recently been appointed as Chief Executive of the Wildlife Trusts and in a year that no-one could have predicted the Covid-19 pandemic that spread across the world. How has this affected the Wildlife Trusts on an operating basis across the 46 nature charities and also managing the reserves?
CB: Actually, I don’t think it’s right to say no one could have predicted the pandemic.
Not the specific circumstances, perhaps, but scientists have been predicting for decades that the fragmentation and loss of wildlife habitats – particularly in the tropics – through deforestation, agriculture, mining, roads, and other infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of and trade in wildlife species was creating a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases from wildlife to people.
As with the climate and biodiversity crises, recent pandemics like Ebola, SARS, MERS and now COVID are a direct consequence of human activity. And, as with all of these, we were warned but ignored those warnings.
If we don’t learn the lessons from this, humanity is just going to lurch from one crisis to the next.
Yes, it’s been a difficult period for us at The Wildlife Trusts. The lockdown has resulted in a big loss of income and we had to furlough many staff at the same time that people have been seeking solace in nature, and visits to many of our thousands of reserves have increased.
There have been many challenges, but I hope one of the strange silver linings of this period is that perhaps many now have a greater appreciation of the importance of nature for people’s mental and physical wellbeing.
JF: I cannot think of anytime in my life that nature has been so important to each of us during the pandemic whether listening to the dawn chorus of a morning or out walking as a family watching wildlife, how important would you say is nature to our mental health and also our general wellbeing during these difficult times?
CB: We’ve known for a long time that contact with nature is important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Research has shown that patients recovering from operations recover more quickly it they have a view of nature from their hospital window, and also that the amount of greenspace in urban areas is linked to differences in life expectancy.
But this connection between people’s wellbeing and nature has become something of a hot topic during lockdown, as millions of people took steps to ensure they got their daily does of nature whether it was walking to a local nature reserve, spending time in their garden, or connecting online. At The Wildlife Trusts, visits to our wildlife webcams increased 2000% during lockdown, and this year a record 600k people participated in our #30DaysWild initiative during June where we invited people to consciously connect to nature in some way, every day, during the month.
Research from Leeds University has shown that many people taking part in #30DaysWild report an improvement in their mental wellbeing for up to two months afterwards.
JF: As the new CEO of the Wildlife Trusts what are your future aims and goals for both wildlife and also the environment?
CB: We like to think we live in a green and pleasant land but sadly the truth is that we live in one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. Forty one percent of our wildlife species have suffered sharp declines in abundance since the early 1970s, and many species that were once common are now rare.
It’s not good enough just to talk about conserving what we have; we need to reverse these declines and put nature into recovery, and help create robust, flourishing, fully functioning ecosystems at landscape scale once again.
At The Wildlife Trusts, we’ve now committed to an aim of getting at least 30% of our land and sea being managed for nature’s recovery by 2030; creating more space for nature, and protecting and connecting those areas to bring our wildlife back.
We want this to be happening everywhere; in our uplands and lowlands, on land and sea, in towns, cities and countryside, and in a way that allows nature to help us tackle both the causes and consequences of climate change. And while improving the physical and mental wellbeing of millions of people.
JF: As the country moves out of the lockdown, is it time for the government to put a green agenda to the forefront to the UK’s recovery?
CB: Yes, and more to the point, it would be disgraceful for them to do anything else.
Given all the evidence of how unsustainably we were living before, it would be madness to simply restart the economy exactly as it was before. We need to upgrade and reboot the economy into a sustainable, circular and regenerative economy, where we stop investing in economic activity that destabilises the climate and destroys nature, and start investing at scale in economic activity that cuts carbon and puts nature into recovery.
“The irony is that many aspects of lockdown have shown us how to do it; from the importance of super-fast broadband, to pop up cycleways, to local shops and supply chains, to local nature and greenspace, and – of course – communities looking after each other. There are so many positive examples of how to build back better, with emphasis on the ‘better’ and not the ‘build’.”
JF: Do you have a favourite wildlife moment to share with readers?
CB: Last summer, we had a week’s holiday sailing on The Norfolk Broads and one afternoon, an otter popped its head up in the water about 15 metres ahead of our boat, and then swam alongside us for ten seconds or so.
It was only the briefest of encounters, but truly magical.
And it probably wouldn’t have happened if organisations like The Wildlife Trusts hadn’t campaigned to protect otters when their numbers were in fast decline because of hunting and pesticide pollution in the 1970s and 1980s.
JF: Final question! For anyone who is reading this and has discovered nature during the lockdown period, what would you say to them about encouraging them to continue exploring nature and the environment as we move forward?
CB: Don’t stop! There is so much more to discover! At The Wildlife Trusts, we have more nature reserve than McDonalds has restaurants in the UK – one thousand more to be precise. And 60 percent of the British population live within three miles of a Wildlife Trust nature reserve.
Furthermore, nature is all around us, and even if you live in a flat with no garden – just space for a window box, you can take action for nature by planting bee friendly plants and enjoy watching the bees come and visit.
If you’re not a member, join with the 850,000 that are, and become a member of your local Wildlife Trust, and we’ll keep you updated with information and things to do. And you’ll get ever more hooked!
My grateful thanks to Craig Bennett for giving his time to be interviewed for The Last Word Book Review.
The Shortlist for The Wainwright Prize will be announced on Thursday 30th July with the winner being announced on 9th September. Sadly, due to the ongoing Corvid-19 pandemic the announcement of the winner will not be held at the BBC Countryfile Live event as this has since been cancelled. Further details of the virtual or digital announcement will be made soon.
The prize is supported by White Lion Publishing, publisher of the Wainwright Guides, the Wainwright Estate and in partnership with the National Trust. The £5000 prize fund will be shared and presented to the authors of the winning books.