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

Follow the Blog Tour

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

Three-Fifths by John Vercher

Three-Fifths by John Vercher

Summary:

Set against the backdrop of the simmering racial tension produced by the LA Riots and the O.J. Simpson trial, comes this powerful hardboiled noir of violence and obsession

Pittsburgh, 1995. Twenty-two-year-old Bobby Saraceno is a biracial black man, passing for white. Bobby has hidden his identity from everyone, even his best friend and fellow comic-book geek, Aaron, who just returned from prison a newly radicalized white supremacist.

During the night of their reunion, Bobby witnesses Aaron mercilessly assault a young black man with a brick. In the wake of this horrifying act of violence, Bobby must conceal his unwitting involvement in the crime from the police, as well as battle his own personal demons.

Three-Fifths is a harrowing story about racism and brutality that is more urgent now than ever.

My Review:

A powerful and also moving debut novel by John Vercher, Three Fifths (Pushkin Vertigo) is set in 1995 and I have to say it was a book that I could not put down and found myself waking up in the early hours just to carry on reading this compelling novel.

The Story set in Pittsburgh begins with Bobby Saraceno who is a young biracial black man, who tells everyone he is white but does not tell anyone that his father was black and he never got to know his mother who was white but clearly had her problems. Bobby his is true identity from everyone. His closest friend Aaron has just been released from a three-year term in prison and they meet up but there is something about Aaron that has changed. Being inside has changed him, something clearly effected Aaron as he has become radicalized and a white supremacist.

Tensions are running high as the backdrop is set against the O.J. Simpson trial and the riots in LA. It is late in the evening and the pair are involved in a crime and this is where Bobby sees Aaron assault a young black man, leaving him fighting for his life.

Bobby is clearly fearing for his own safety and if caught he knows he will go to prison for a number of years. If this was not difficult enough he knows his friend still does not know his true identity and what then if he finds out, and then when Bobby’s father suddenly appears after many years, this is where he not only has to come to terms with his past and his true self but this will also collide with the very present day and the dangers this will bring. This is a powerful narrative that John Vercher has written in Three-Fifths and is a story that involves many themes that include race, identity, friendship, racism, family.

John Vercher has manged to write a debut that is masterful and also timely. I felt I wanted to learn about the characters as the story went on you become involved with the characters. A novel that cries out to be read. John Vercher is a new writer to watch.

@jverch75 @PushkinPress

248 Pages.

Thank you Poppy Stimpson and Pushkin Press for the review copy of Three Fifths by John Vercher.

Three Fifths by John Vercher was published by Pushkin Pressand was published on 1st 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 #6

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

# 6. RED DOOR PRESS

Delighted to share my sixth Independent Publishers Showcase, welcoming Red Door Press to the weekly showcase.

Relatively new, Red Door Press was set up as a purely bridging the gap between being an independent publisher and self-publishing services.

They describe themselves as a hybrid, of the two models and they are very selective in who they take on, but have a small select group of authors with whom they work closely with and believe in. They also have a very select list of books that they have published, they only publish very few books a year so that they can focus on these books. They will not publish a book if they cannot get behind the book. Just take a look at their website and see the list of both fiction and non-fiction books they have published so far.

There is on their website a submissions page, also meet the team behind Red Door Press and you can sign up for the regular newsletters. Details of their website are below.

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @RedDoorBooks of visit their website:  Red Door Press

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

The Uganda Sails Wednesday by Stuart Condie

Published: 24th September 2019

Summary:

It is 1960 and as the SS Uganda steams her way to Africa, tea plantation manager William Fontwell is left wondering why his wife and son are travelling so urgently to see him.

On board, Heather and Johnny Fontwell make friends amongst passengers and crew. But with the temperature rising, bigotry and jealousies emerge, and Heather is subjected to a series of unpleasant events that risk her secrets being exposed.

Events take a tragic turn before they dock at Mombasa and William arrives at the port to confront a captain and crew who seem to be hiding the truth.

The SS Uganda has a rich history, as a passenger-cargo liner, school cruise ship, and hospital ship and troopship during the Falklands War. The Uganda Sails Wednesday is the first of a trilogy which puts the ship at the heart of the stories of the Fontwell family, their friends and the ship’s crew.

So Brightly at the Last: Clive James and the Passion for Poetry by Ian Shircore

Published: 28th November 2019

Summary:

In this offbeat and affectionate poetic biography, Jimi Hendrix, Princess Diana and Syria’s Asma Al-Assad rub shoulders with Auden, Eliot and Shelley, and with the Trouser Thief Clive met during ten long weeks locked up in a closed psychiatric ward. Since 2010, when he was told he had three separate life-threatening conditions, Clive has poured out a stream of fine poems, sometimes light, witty and paradoxical, sometimes sad, heartfelt and regretful. Some, like Japanese Maple, an instant Internet sensation, have already made it into the anthologies. Others, like his book-length epic, The River in the Sky, are more demanding. All are packed with the unexpected ideas, inventive imagery and breathtaking wordplay that have helped him achieve his avowed ambition of becoming ‘a fairly major minor poet’.

The Unwrapping of Theodora Quirke by Caroline Smailes

Release Date: 15th October 2020

Summary:

Theodora Quirke has no reason to be merry. It’s bad enough that she has to work on Christmas Eve but now there’s a drunk bloke dressed as Santa and claiming to be St Nick hanging around outside her flat. Given he’s professing to be the giver of Christmas miracles and nearly 2000 years old, she’s wary.

Things get even more weird when St Nick insists he’s there to save Theo. And with the next St Nicholas Day somehow fast approaching, he’s even got a plan that’ll change her life forever.

It all seems pretty straightforward, apart for one awkward fact:

Theodora Quirke doesn’t actually need saving.

The Beckett List: An A to Z of First World Problems by Henry Becket

Release Date: 1st October 2020

Summary:

The Becket List is a not entirely serious compendium of ‘First World Problems’ – the sort of stuff that drives us round the bend on a daily basis. How is it that atonal music, bus stations, cling-film and coat-hangers can bugger us up so comprehensively? Or passport control people, modern poetry, or just about anything you’ll find in a typical hotel bedroom? Embracing both the inanimate – from allen keys to rawlplugs – and the animated (well, in some cases) – from your fellow-travellers to every third-rate waiter who ever walked the earth – this book is essential for your sanity. As such, this comprehensive A to Z provides a signal service to humanity.

How to Drink Gin: Make it, Mix it, Master it by Sue Telford

Release Date: 31st October 2019

Summary:

Juniper juice, Mother’s Ruin, heavenly spirit. Whatever you call it, gin is fast becoming the nations favourite tipple and once again Britain is in the middle of a gin craze. But how many people really know their juniper berries when it comes to gin?

How to Drink Gin is a practical, cookery-style book about gin that demystifies this most exciting and versatile of spirits. Fully illustrated with beautiful photographs and line drawings, this book makes gin culture and cocktails accessible and fun.

Discover how gin is made, gen up on key botanicals, learn how to properly taste gin, ‘build’ your own go-to gin cabinet, create simple but effective garnishes and master a few classic gin cocktails on the way.

Visit the Red Door Press Website for information on all their books: Red Door Press

You can also find them on Twitter: @RedDoorBooks and Instagram: @reddoorbooks and Facebook: @RedDoorPress

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 Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Summary:

An impossible murder
A remarkable detective duo
A demon who may or may not exist

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is facing trial and execution for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent, while also on board are Sara Wessel, a noble woman with a secret, and her husband, the governor general of Batavia.

But no sooner is their ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A strange symbol appears on the sail. A dead leper stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered in the night. And then the passengers hear a terrible voice whispering to them in the darkness, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft. Third: an impossible murder. Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?

With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent and Sara can solve a mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board.

My Review:

The Devil and the Dark Water (Raven Books) by Stuart Turton is a fantastic historical adventure on the high seas with so many twists and turns and more than just interesting characters that makes Turton’s second novel one not to miss if you enjoyed his first.

Set in 1634 and the renowned detective Samuel Pipps is on-board a ship that has set sail from the Dutch East Indies but he is not investigating a crime more a case that he himself is under arrest. The ship is bound for Amsterdam where Pipps will stand trial and he may even face execution if found guilty. Determined to prove his innocence is his bodyguard Arent Hayes.

The Saaradam is carrying cargo and also some interesting passengers among them Sara Wessel and her husband who just happens to be the governor general of Batavia from where they are sailing from. But there is another passenger aboard the ship. The gruelling journey will take approximately eight months to reach Amsterdam. Even before the ship has sailed a leper warns the passengers and crew that a demon by the name of Old Tom is already on-board ship and their fate is sealed. The leper then meets a grizzly end.

The ship sets sail and things do not go smoothly as the crew and passengers begin to wonder what is going to happen as murder and fate awaits. There is of course one passenger who may yet be of help but he is locked up in the deep in the ship. As a ferocious storm approaches there is whispers of another ship stalking them in the distance, could this be the ghost ship that was mentioned?

There are supernatural overtones within the plot as well as secrets, intrigue and murder. Turton has weaved together a gripping mystery novel along with many characters on the Saaradam that have no-where to run or escape ‘Old Tom’ but for some only death awaits.

The book runs close to 600 pages so this is heavy book but superbly written with historical references. A rollicking good read, and if you enjoy a mystery novel set on the high seas and will be in many reader’s selections of best fiction of the year.

576 Pages.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton is published by Raven Books and was published on 1st 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

My November/December 2020 Book Reviews for Word Gets Around Magazine.

My November/December 2020 Book Reviews for Word Gets Around Magazine.

The latest edition of Somerset’s Word Gets Around magazine has arrived for November/December. Issue number 42 for the Taunton and surrounding areas and issue number 6 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

Word Gets Around: Issue 42 for Taunton & Surrounding areas

Word Gets Around Magazine: Issue No 6 for West Somerset

The Fiction Book for the November/December Edition: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

This really is a wonderful read, and what a debut from Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club (Viking Books) is a really entertaining old fashioned murder mystery novel, but with a twist that is warm and funny but also moving. Set in a retirement village and the four retired friends come together to investigate unsolved murders with information from the local police.

It is clever and warm and one that many will love to read during the dark autumn and winter months as you get to know the four friends as they try and solve murder mysteries, sometimes in a very unorthodox manner. But do they get results? Not to be missed and now we can look forward to at least two more follow up titles from Richard Osman. One of my fiction titles of the year!

The Non-Fiction Book for the November/December Edition: The Little Library Christmas by Kate Young

Kate Young is one of my three favourite food writers and The Little Library Christmas (Anima/Head of Zeus) just brings out the real joy of the festive time of year. Kate brings together 50 festive recipes some old and some new but also she shares some of her Christmas memories past and present and also some of her favourite books she likes to read during the Christmas season along with some fabulous photographs that just make this book the ideal gift for under the tree.

Some of the recipes you will know but there are some that you will want to try for yourself, I know I will be. With the cover being bright red, it will make you feel just that bit more festive. This is one Christmas cookbook that will be pulled off the bookshelf year after year.

For more information on Word Gets Around Magazine please visit: Word Gets Around

Or on Twitter: @_wordgetsaround

Instagram: @WordGetsAround

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE # 5.

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE # 5. CLARET PRESS

Today I am delighted to share my fifth Independent Publishers Showcase, welcoming Claret Press to the weekly showcase.

Established in 2015 Claret Press was set up as a purely independent publisher with its books now sold and read across the world. Bring new and exciting authors to readers. Books published that will engage but also relevant. Publishing both fiction and non-fiction and on a personal note I have enjoyed the books I have read from Claret Press.  

Seven of the books published by Claret Press have since been turned into audio books by Essential Audiobooks based out of New York. They have been shortlisted for the 2020 RSL Christopher Bland Award for Black Tea by Stephen Morris. Claret Press are an exciting independent publisher and if you have not had a look at their books, it is worth having a look at their website detailed below.

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @ClaretPress of visit their website: Claret Press  

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

Black Tea by Stephen Morris

Published: 25th September 2019

Summary:

‘Elegiac, evocative and disarmingly candid… it can be soothingly poetic and then bring you to a standstill with its sharp, searing honesty.’ BBC Russia correspondant, Lucy Ash’This fascinating autobiographical travelogue is an unblinking self-analysis.’ Zinovy Zinik, Russian author’a triumph of art as well as of observation.’ Paul Binding, cultural critic and authorInspired by the artful prose of Primo Levi, Raynor Winn and Deborah Levy, Black Tea is a book about Russia that starts in London at the height of the Cold War and ends on a beach in Crimea forty years later.Morris combines elements of his life forged during the breakup of the Soviet Union to create a memoir based on reflections and memory, and a narration that starts in England leads the reader on a journey through Russia from the White Sea to the Caucasus.The book comes to terms with the central lacuna in twentieth-century thought: the tacit support for communism by Western intellectuals. It describes the author’s father’s support of Russia and his activism on behalf of nuclear disarmament in the 1970s, and contrasts this with his grandmother’s stark warnings of the evils of socialism, and his own ambiguous position growing up in the suburbs outside London, a position that was for many years dominated, in spirit, by a huge military map of the Soviet Union tacked to his bedroom wall.Highly informed with a unique perspective, Black Tea chronicles the changing geography, politics and personality of Russia over his thirty years there. A reflection and a travelogue, Steve Morris hauntingly explores love and identity, commitment and family.

Plague by Julie Anderson

Published: 15th September 2020

Summary:

There are many ways to die. Plague is just one of them.

Work on a London tube line is halted by the discovery of an ancient plague pit and, within it, a very recent corpse. A day later another body is found, killed in the same way, also in a plague pit. This victim is linked to the Palace of Westminster, where rumours swirl around the Prime Minister and his rivals.

As the number of deaths climbs, the media stokes fear. Government assurances are disbelieved. Everyone feels threatened. This has to be resolved and fast.

The Westminster connection enables Detective Inspector Andrew Rowlands, working alone on  a series of rapes and murders of vulnerable young people in central London, to finally persuade his superiors that there is a pattern. He is assigned to lead the case.  Cassandra Fortune, a disgraced civil servant, is given the uncomfortable task of investigating the investigation, while joining forces with Rowlands to find the killers before Parliament rises for recess.

Together they navigate the arcane world of the Palace of Westminster as the body count grows. But someone is leaking important details about the case to the press and the media ratchets up the pressure. Misinformation and malice online feeds distrust and panic and the Black Death begins to stalk the streets of London once again.

Meanwhile the commercial and political world focuses on the launch of a huge government Thames-side building programme worth billions. Powerful forces, in Parliament and the City, are competing for its spoils. How, if at all, does this link with the killings? Drawn into the melee, Cassandra Fortune finds herself the object of the attentions of one of the major players, wealthy City broker, Lawrence Delahaye. The attraction is mutual. Fortune and Rowlands discover a shadowy underground network of influence and power as they race against the clock to prevent the death of more innocents and the destruction of the Mother of Parliaments itself. Cassandra will be forced to make a terrible decision as she faces ruin. Time is running out and it’s not clear what, or who, is going to survive. 

Urban Creatures by Sarah Gray

Release Date: 25th May 2020

Summary:

Urban survival makes creatures of us all. Clamouring for love, terrified of boredom and anxious for success, we fight a futile battle.

Primal urges feed the city, stalking its inhabitants. From a psychotherapist gorging on tragedy to a grief-stricken father searching for his daughter’s lost soul, humanity’s subterranean secrets and shames are unearthed.

In her third collection of short stories, Sarah Gray occupies the edge of reality, dexterously inhabiting and defying form and genre. Gray’s stories shift from the unsettling to the surreal to the frightening, all cut with her characteristic black humour.

Brushstrokes in Time by Sylvia Vetta

Release Date: 6th January 2016

Summary:


Brushstrokes in Time is the fictional memoir of Chinese artist Little Winter, who tries to re-establish the bond with her American daughter, telling the story of her emotional and rebellious past. While growing up in Communist China, Little Winter discovers talent and rebellion, joining ‘The Stars’ art movement for freedom of speech in an era where self-expression and love was a dangerous act.
Little Winter and her haunting love story connects us to a time of hope for freedom, and to a man frustrated by being kept in small shoes.

A Very Important Teapot by Steve Sheppard

Release Date: 18th October 2019

Summary:

A Very Important Teapot is a comedy thriller revolving around the hunt for a lost cache of Nazi diamonds in Australia.

Dawson’s life is going nowhere. Out of work and nearly out of money, he is forlornly pursuing the love of Rachel Whyte. But Rachel is engaged to Pat Bootle, an apparently successful local solicitor who has appeared from nowhere.

Then, out of the blue, Dawson receives a job offer from his best friend, Alan Flannery, which involves him jumping on a plane to Australia to “await further instructions”. But instructions about what?

This is the start of a frantic chase around south eastern Australia with half the local underworld, the police and the intelligence agencies of three countries trying to catch up with Dawson.

What is Flannery’s game?

Why has Pat Bootle turned up in Australia?

Who is the beautiful but mysterious Lucy Smith?

What is the teapot’s secret?

What has folk music got to do with anything?

And how do guns actually work?

Dawson’s life will never be the same again.

Visit the Claret Press Website for information on all their books: Claret Press

You can also find them on Twitter: @ClaretPress and Instagram: @claretpress and Facebook: @Claretpublisher

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

Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

Summary:

In an isolated castle deep in the Styrian forest, Laura leads a solitary life with only her elderly father for company. Until one moonlit night, a horse-drawn carriage crashes into view, carrying an unexpected guest – the beautiful Carmilla.
So begins a feverish friendship between Laura and her mysterious, entrancing companion. But as Carmilla becomes increasingly strange and volatile, prone to eerie nocturnal wanderings, Laura finds herself tormented by nightmares and growing weaker by the day…
Pre-dating Dracula by twenty-six years, Carmilla is the original vampire story, steeped in sexual tension and gothic romance.

My Review:

Being as today is Halloween, I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the day than with a cult classic that went on to inspire such books as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James to The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, not to mention the films under the Hammer House of Horror. I can only be talking about Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) First published in 1872 and what a stunning new edition that has just been released by Pushkin Press not to mention that fantastic cover. (One you have to see).

Acclaimed as the very first vampire novel, the story is set with a backdrop of a castle deep in an Austrian forest were Laura and her poorly father live in an almost solitary life. The days seem to merge into one for Laura. That is until one late one evening with the moon glowing in the night sky a horse-drawn carriage crashes and now the castle has a beautiful guest that is Carmilla.

Carmilla is to unwell to travel after the accident by chance or design and so she now is a guest of Laura and her father, and it does not take Carmilla too long to settle into her new residence and Laura has become intoxicated with the beautiful visitor. It does not take too long for a deep friendship to form, but it is Carmilla who has set her sights on Laura. Now Carmilla’s strange and also not to mention her nocturnal behaviour is having an effect on Laura who now suddenly finds she is having nightmares and is getting weaker as each day goes by and her strength is waning. Carmilla is beginning to prey on Laura.

The story is written eight years after the events at the castle, and just who were travelling with Carmilla and what was their purpose, what really brought Carmilla to the castle and to prey on Laura?

It is Baron Vordenburg who has experience of vampires that arrives to save Laura from Carmilla’s spell. But for Laura years after the experience Carmilla’s presence is still felt as she is haunted by the beautiful temptress and is that Carmilla’s footsteps she can hear in the dead of night?

If you are a fan of gothic vampire stories then I can really recommend Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu and read how it all began. Highly Recommended.

Happy Halloween

Thank you to Poppy Stimpson and Pushkin Press for the review copy of Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu.

Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu was published by Pushkin Press and was published on 15th October 2020, priced at £9.99 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Independent Publisher Showcase: # 4

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

# 4. Little Toller Books

Little Toller Books was established in 2008 purely as an imprint of Dovecote Press but Little Toller Books was established purely to seek out and revive those hard to find and forgotten books on nature and rural life.

It has since grown to be an established independent publisher in its own right publishing books by authors to seek to help us reconnect with nature and our landscape. Just recently one of the authors Dara McAnulty with his debut book ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’ won the 2020 Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing and is shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Readers Award #BAMBReadersAwards

With even more exciting news that Little Toller Books are to open their own bookshop at 10am on 3rd November in Beaminster, Dorset.

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @LittleToller of visit their website:  Little Toller Books for more information on what will be an exciting day for Little Toller Books.

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

Ghost Town: A Liverpool Shadowplay by Jeff Young

Published: 19th February 2020

Summary:

Liverpool is a city of ghosts. Through the centuries, millions have lived here or come to find a new life, and found safe harbour. More than any other city in Britain its history resonates in the buildings, landscapes and stories that have seeped into the lives of its inhabitants. In Ghost Town, Jeff Young takes us on a journey through the Liverpool of his childhood – down back alleys and through arcades, into vanished tenements and oyster bars, strip tease pubs and theatres. We watch as he turns from schoolboy truant into an artist obsessed with Kafka, Terence Davies and The Fall. Along the way he conjures ghosts and puts hexes on the developers who’ve ruined the city of his dreams. Layering memoir, history, photography and more this is a highly original approach to this great city.

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty 

Published: 21st May 2020

Summary

Winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize, Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of Dara McAnulty’s world, from spring to summer, autumn to winter, on his home patch, at school, in the wild and in his head. Evocative, raw and beautifully written, this very special book vividly explores the natural world from the perspective of an autistic teenager juggling homework, exams and friendships alongside his life as a conservationist and environmental activist. With a sense of awe and wonder, Dara describes in meticulous detail encounters in his garden and the wild, with blackbirds, whooper swans, red kites, hen harriers, frogs, dandelions, skylarks, bats, cuckoo flowers, Irish hares and many more species. The power and warmth of his words also draw an affectionate and moving portrait of a close-knit family making their way in the world.

Savage Gods by Paul Kingsnorth

Release Date: 12th November 2020

Summary:


After moving with his family to a small-holding in Ireland, Paul Kingsnorth expected to find contentment. It was a goal he had sought, after years of rootlessness as an environmental activist and renowned author. Instead he found that his tools as a writer were failing him, calling into question his fundamental beliefs about language and setting him at odds with culture. Informed by his travels across the world, the writings of Annie Dillard and D H Lawrence, Savage Gods asks: what does it mean to belong? What sacrifices must be made to truly inhabit a life? And can words ever paint the truth of the world, or are they part of the great lie which is killing it?

Something of his Art: Walking to Lubeck with JS Bach by Horatio Clare

Release Date: 1st November 2019 (PB)

Summary:

In the depths of winter in 1705 the young Johann Sebastian Bach, then unknown as a composer and earning a modest living as a teacher and organist, set off on a long journey by foot to Lubeck to visit the composer Dieterich Buxterhude, a distance of more than 250 miles. This journey and its destination were a pivotal point in the life of arguably the greatest composer the world has yet seen. Lubeck was Bach’s moment, when a young teacher with a reputation for intolerance of his pupils’ failings began his journey to become the master of the Baroque. More than three hundred years later, the writer Horatio Clare set off to recreate this walk, following in Bach’s footsteps. The result of this journey is Something of his Art, an imaginative evocation of what the twenty-year-old composer would have seen and felt on his long journey is a sustained visualisation of the landscape, light and wildlife of early eighteenth century northern Germany. Bach becomes Clare’s walking companion, a vestigial but real presence, as he acutely observes the season and places he passes through.

Living with Tress by Robin Walter

Release Date: 2nd November 2020

Summary:

Trees and woods offer great potential for rebuilding our wider relationship with nature, reinforcing local identity and sustaining wildlife. We need more trees and woods in our lives, to lock up carbon, to mitigate flooding, to help shade our towns and cities and bring shelter, wildlife and beauty to places. Living with Trees is a cornucopia of practical information, good examples and new ideas that will inspire, guide and encourage people to reconnect with the trees and woods in their community, so we can all discover how to value, celebrate and protect our arboreal neighbours.

Visit the Little Toller Books Website for information on all their books: Little Toller Books

You can also find them on Twitter: @LittleToller and Instagram: @littletollerdorset and Facebook: @littletoller

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