INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE #15

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

# 15. PEEPAL TREE PRESS

For the fifteenth in the series looking at Independent Publishers, this week we head to Leeds and welcome Peepal Tree Press to the Independent Publishing Showcase.

It is has been a time of real celebration at Peepal Tree Press as they won the 2020 Costa Book of the Year award with award winning author author Monique Roffey and her book The Mermaid of Black Conch.

Peepal Tree press were founded in 1985 and aim to publish around 20 book a year. To-date they have gone on to publish over 300 books. In 2009 they launched the Caribbean Modern Classics Series that aims to keep essential books in print from the past.

With funding from the Arts Council since 2011, which helps them develop a writer’s development project.

They have a very exciting list of books and with many to come during 2021 these can be ordered by visiting their website with details below.

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @or visit their website: Peepal Tree Press

A selection of books from the Peepal Tree Press website:

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

WINNER OF THE 2020 COSTA BOOK AWARD

Published: 2nd April 2020

Summary:

April 1976: St Constance, a tiny Caribbean village on the island of Black Conch, at the start of the rainy season. A fisherman sings to himself in his pirogue, waiting for a catch – but attracts a sea-dweller he doesn’t expect. Aycayia, a beautiful young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid, has been swimming the Caribbean Sea for centuries. And she is entranced by this man David and his song.

But her fascination is her undoing. She hears his boat’s engine again and follows it, and finds herself at the mercy of American tourists, landed on the island for the annual fishing competition. After a fearsome battle, she is pulled out of the sea and strung up on the dock as a trophy. It is David who rescues her, and gently wins her trust – as slowly, painfully, she starts to transform into a woman again. But transformations are not always permanent, and jealousy, like love, can have the force of a hurricane, and last much longer.

Green Unpleasant Land by Corinne Fowler

Published: 17th December 2020

Summary:

Green Unpleasant Land explores the countryside’s repressed colonial past and demonstrates its importance as a source of ideas about Englishness.

The book presents historical evidence to show that rural England was a place of conflict and global expansion. It also examines four centuries of literary response to explore how race, class and gender have both created and deconstructed England’s pastoral mythologies. In particular, the book argues that Black and British Asian writers have challenged narrow, nostalgic views of rural England but also expressed attachment to English landscapes and the natural world.

The book questions the countryside’s reputation as a retreat from urban life. It interrogates the idea that country houses are models for civilised living or that moorlands are places of freedom. It presents new perspectives on the “English” flora and fauna that feature in literature, parks, allotments and suburban gardens. The book reconsiders a range of rural locations through the lens of British colonial involvement, including East India Company activity and the slavery business. The book connects England’s outward-reaching histories to what was happening in the countryside: the enclosure of common land, the beginnings of industrial mass farming and the reshaping of landownership through imperial profits. In bringing together histories usually separated by the Atlantic, Green Unpleasant Land makes connections, for instance, between the rebellion of enslaved people for their freedom in Jamaica in 1831, and the struggles of English agricultural workers in the Captain Swing uprising of the same year.

Stranger at the Gate by John Hearne

Release Date:   29th October 2020

Summary:

The stranger is a revolutionary leader escaping from certain death in a Francophone Caribbean state that has suffered a counter-coup aided by the big state to the north. As a leading member of a small communist party in the imagined state of Cuyuna, Roy McKenzie, has the dangerous task of hiding the escaped Etienne and then getting him off the island to be picked up by a passing Polish ship. McKenzie, a lawyer, a light brown man of elite background, radicalised by his wartime experiences, has to acknowledge that his party’s roots among the black working class are very shallow, and that his only hope of helping Etienne is to turn to his friends among the very elite he is supposedly committed to destroy. When he involves his oldest friend, Carl Brandt, and the woman who becomes his lover, in his mission, he sets in train a sequence of events that test the boundaries of the personal and the political in the deepest and most tragic ways.

Set in a colonial Caribbean country in the post-war years, Stranger at the Gate has the narrative drive of a Hemingway novel, the ominous sense of fate of classical Greek tragedy, a sensuous appreciation of a landscape, domestic interiors and food that draws on Hearne’s own Jamaica, and an acute, if indulgent, portrayal of the white and light-brown landed and commercial elite.

Weighted Words Edited by Jacob Ross

Release Date: 18th March 2021

Summary:

From the colonial idea of ‘British’ tea;  the demasculinising experience of infertility in a Jamaican family; a Black woman being both tourist and tourist attraction on her travels in  South Asia, and what it meant to be  ‘everybody’s midwife’ in an institutionally racist NHS, through to the experience of an Indian migrant child in the ‘country of ‘the oppressor’ — these are just a few of the themes explored in Weighted Words a new anthology by  Peepal Tree Press’ Readers and Writers Group.
The group comprises writers living in Leeds and West Yorkshire.  Through poetry, short stories, confessionals and memoirs, contributors interrogate race, gender, relationship with self and with family, as well as identity in contemporary Britain.

The Gift of Music and Song: Interview with Jamaican Women Writers by Jacqueline Bishop

Release Date: 28th January 2021

Summary:

In this collection of interviews, Jacqueline Bishop is in conversation with eighteen female Jamaican writers, some of whom have emigrated from the island. This deeply intimate and personal encounter between the writer and artist, Bishop, and those she admires touches on the tensions, reflections and memories one has when writing about one’s birthplace.

Beginning at childhood, each interviewee narrates their fond memories of the Caribbean country with a nostalgia and yearning for a place that is complex and freighted with political, social and racial difficulties. The Gift of Music & Song is a space for these writers to talk deeply about writing back to their homeland; about being female voices from Jamaica, how one should represent the country, its rhythms and cadences, and what it means to be a female writer in the world today.

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

You can also find them on Twitter: @peepaltreepress and Facebook Page: @peepaltreepress also their Instagram feed @peepaltreepress

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

A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago

A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago

Summary:

Frances Howard has beauty and a powerful family – and is the most unhappy creature in the world.

Anne Turner has wit and talent – but no stage on which to display them. Little stands between her and the abyss of destitution.

When these two very different women meet in the strangest of circumstances, a powerful friendship is sparked. Frankie sweeps Anne into a world of splendour that exceeds all she imagined: A Court whose foreign king is a stranger to his own subjects; where ancient families fight for power, and where the sovereign’s favourite may rise and rise – so long as he remains in favour.

With the marriage of their talents, Anne and Frankie enter this extravagant, savage hunting ground, seeking a little happiness for themselves. But as they gain notice, they also gain enemies; what began as a search for love and safety leads to desperate acts that could cost them everything.

My Review:

Lucy Jago is an award winning writer and her book The Northern Lights (Hamish Hamilton) published in 2001 won the National Biography Prize. Now Lucy Jago returns A Net for Small Fishes (Bloomsbury) with a sumptuous 17th century novel based on the true story of the scandal at the heart of the Jacobean court. This is a fabulous read that lovers of historical fiction will really enjoy.

This is the time of the reign of King James I and what Lucy Jago brings into the novel a fabulous blend of both fact and fiction that tells the story of the two main characters the Countess Frances Howard and Mrs Anne Turner. Both women could not be different for Frances she was in an arranged marriage at age of just 14 to the 13 -year-old Robert Devereux who was the 3rd Earl of Essex and she was abused by her husband. Frances is beautiful but locked in a marriage leaving her desperately unhappy and fearful on the other hand Anne Turner really has nothing but it is her husband who is a respected doctor.

The marriage is doomed to failure but the friendship of the two women becomes strong and Anne with an eye for fashion begins to style Frances that gains her attention and of Robert Carr.

But life within the royal court is paved with danger, you are in the Kings favour one day and you can fall the next and so it is when news reaches the King that Sir Thomas Overbury who was imprisoned in the Tower of London died but not of natural causes but was actually poisoned. But by who and why? It just so happened that Overbury was a close friend and advisor to Robert Carr. After the death of Overbury, the marriage between Frances Howard and Robert Devereux was annulled and that just months later Frances and Robert Carr were married.

Now the two women at the centre of this story are now in a precarious position to put it mildly as any woman who dared to stand up and challenge would be destroyed. So much detail is contained within the storyline which makes for a great and riveting read. I have always enjoyed reading historical fiction but Lucy Jago has manged to weave a story and bring the characters to life that will captivate any reader and I for one read this in two sittings and I was so immersed in the story of the two women. Highly Recommended.

A Net for Small Fishes is published on 4th February.

#ANetForSmallFishes

#NetGalley

352 Pages.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for the NetGalley review copy of A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago.

A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago isnpublished by Bloomsbury and will be published on 4th February 2021 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE #14

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

# 14. HONNO PRESS

This week we welcome to the Independent Publishing Showcase a publisher based in Aberystwyth, and was formed in 1986 by group of women from Cardiff who got together and formed a small independent publishing company. Look closely at the logo for Honno Press and you will see a little owl and this appeared on the very first logo for the Honno Press and still remains to this very day. On the 1st March 1987 Honno Press released its very first two books, one in Welsh and one in English but both about two very inspirational Welsh women.

‘Honno’ is a Welsh word that means ‘That one (feminine) who is elsewhere’

Have a look at their website and there is just so much to see and read, from books released over recent years to books coming out in 2021 and also a blog you can buy direct from the publisher.

They have a very exciting listing of books in both fiction and poetry, these can be ordered by visiting their website with details below.

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @or visit their website: Honno Press

You can also find them on You Tube by searching for Honno Press.

A selection of the fiction titles currently released and due for release:

Advent by Jane Fraser

Published:  21st January 2021

Summary:

 Winter, 1904, and feisty twenty-one-year old Ellen has been summoned back from her new life in Hoboken, New Jersey, to the family farm on windswept Gower, in a last bid to prevent the impending death of her alcoholic father. 

On her return, she finds the family in disarray.  Ailing William is gambling away large swathes of Thomas land; frustrated Eleanor is mourning the husband she once knew; and Ellen s younger twin brothers face difficult choices.

Ellen, tasked with putting her family s lives in order, finds herself battling one impossible decision after another.  Resourceful, passionate, and forthright, can she remain in Gower, where being female still brings with it so many limitations?  Can she endure being so close to her lost love?  Will she choose home and duty, or excitement and opportunity across the Atlantic?

Cambrian Pictures by Ann Julia Hatton

Published: 25th February 2021

Summary:

When the Welsh heroine, Rosa Percival, resists her father’s plan to sell her to an English lord like a piece of property, her uncle praises her as ‘a bit of Cambrian blood, pure and honest, neither ashamed nor afraid to refuse the gingerbread gilding of a title’.

Weaving together themes of gender, liberty, power and transgression, Ann Julia Hatton’s Cambrian Pictures; or, Every One Has Errors (1810) is a comedy of manners and morals with serious intent. Notable for its inverse seduction plots, Cambrian Pictures is a witty and colourful courtship novel with a lively cast of characters: a cross-dressing Welsh girl duels with an unwelcome suitor, an ageing English aristocrat kidnaps the much-younger object of her lust. Mainly located in contemporary north Wales, Hatton explores idealised Welsh contexts in opposition to English-set metropolitan corruption. Featuring lyrical passages of description and sharply-observed domestic scenes, Cambrian Pictures is also stylistically interesting as a vehicle for poetry – in quotation and Hatton’s own. Drawing on domestic travel writing and the emergence of the Gothic, Cambrian Pictures is one of the strongest Welsh-set novels of the Romantic period.

Emmet and Me by Sara Gethin

Release Date: 20th May 2021

Summary:

Summer 1966: When her father comes home with lipstick on his collar, ten-year-old Claire’s life is turned upside down. Her furious mother leaves the family and heads to London, and Claire and her brothers are packed off to Ireland, to their reclusive grandmother at her tiny cottage on the beautifully bleak coast of Connemara. A misfit among her new classmates, Claire finds it hard to make friends until she happens across a boy her own age from the school next door. He lives at the local orphanage, a notoriously harsh place. Amidst half-truths, lies and haunting family secrets, Claire forms a forbidden friendship with Emmet – a bond that will change both their lives forever.

The Covenant by Thorne Moore

Release Date: 20th August 2020

Summary:

Leah is tied to home and hearth by debts of love and duty – duty to her father, turned religious zealot after the tragic death of his eldest son, Tom; love for her wastrel younger brother Frank’s two motherless children. One of them will escape, the other will be doomed to follow in their grandfather’s footsteps.

At the close of the 19th century, Cwmderwen’s twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches are hard won, the holding run down over the years by debt and poor harvest. But they are all the Owens have and their rent is always paid on time. With Tom’s death a crack is opened up and into this chink in the fabric of the family step Jacob John and his wayward son Eli, always on the lookout for an opportunity.

Wild Spinning Girls by Carol Lovekin

Release Date: 20th February 2020

Summary:

Ida Llewellyn loses her job and her parents in the space of a few weeks and, thrown completely off course, she sets off to Wales to the house her father has left her. But Heather, the young woman still in her teens whose home it was, keeps the house as a shrine to her late mother and is determined to scare Ida away. The two girls battle with suspicion and fear before discovering that the secrets harboured by their thoughtless parents have grown rotten with time, and that any ghosts Ty’r Cwmwl harbours are of their own making. Their broken hearts will only mend once they cast off the house and its history, and let go of the keepsakes that they treasure like childhood dreams.

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

You can also find them on Twitter: @honno and also their Instagram feed @gwasghonnopress

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

Unto This Last by Rebecca Lipkin

Unto This Last by Rebecca Lipkin

Summary:

London, 1858.

Passionate, contradictory, and fiercely loyal to his friends, John Ruskin is an eccentric genius, famed across Britain for his writings on art and philosophy. Haunted by a scandalous past and determined never to love again, the 39-year-old Ruskin becomes infatuated with his enigmatic young student, Rose La Touche, an obsession with profound consequences that will change the course of his life and work.

Written in a style recalling Victorian literature and spanning a period of twenty years, the story poses questions about the nature of love, the boundaries of parenthood, and compatibility in marriage. Unto This Last is a portrait of Ruskin’s tormented psyche and reveals a complex and misunderstood soul, longing for a life just out of reach.

My Review:

John Ruskin (1819-1900) was a leading art critic, as well as artist, and also a writer on subjects such as geology, ornithology, botany and architecture. Author Rebecca Lipkin has written an outstanding fictional account of Ruskin’s love affair with Rose La Touch in Unto This Last (Book Guild Publishing Ltd) which is available now and I am extremely grateful to Rebecca Lipkin for sending me a copy before Christmas.

Unto This Last is a remarkable read and Rebecca Lipkin must be congratulated on writing a book on the subject that she has so much passion for. The level of detail is just outstanding. John Ruskin was 39 years of age when he was first introduced to the La Touche family in 1858 and this is where Ruskin was first introduced to Rose La Touche who was just aged ten. But there is much more to this fictionalised account of Ruskin’s troubled life. His marriage to the Scottish painter Effie Gray was difficult as both clearly had very different personalities and Ruskin never wanted to fall in love ever again. That is until he me Rose La Touche.

John Ruskin was a complex man but was fast becoming a renowned art critic and lecturer. The book is split into four parts and runs for 700 pages and covers a twenty-year period but reads beautifully as we follow Ruskin on his travels to parts to some of the most beautiful parts of Europe and back to his home.   

As the story progresses Rose is now eighteen and Ruskin is clearly in love with her but this is a relationship that would have a lasting effect on the rest of his life as well as his work. The genius but complex John Rushkin seemed to find peace in architecture and botany. As a reader you feel so connected to Rose La Touche but the story of John Ruskin and Rose La Touche is touching but heartbreaking.

Unto This Last is a work of art in itself and the incredible research by Rebecca Lipkin has not gone un-noticed. We gain an insight to the complex life of John Ruskin the prominent thinker and philanthropist.

*I will be interviewing Rebecca Lipkin about John Rushkin and her book Unto This Last. Details to follow soon.

700 Pages.

Unto His Last by Rebecca Lipkin was published by the Book Guild Publishing Ltd and was published on 28th August 2020 and is available to order 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 #13

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

# 13. URBANE PUBLICATIONS

This week I am more than delighted to welcome to Independent Publishers Showcase an indie publisher I have known since I first started my blog over six years ago we have shared some great books. Welcome to the showcase Urbane Publications.

Urbane Publications was founded in 2014 by Publishing Director Matthew Smith who has over 25 years of experience in the publishing business and with over 3,000 books he has consulted or published. I have met Matthew a number of times at the London Book Fair and his passion for publishing is boundless. Kerry Jane-Lowery is the Managing Director at Urbane. Kerry also has a passion for publishing but also has written one of her own books on particle physics for CERN. Also worked for The International Committee of the Red Cross working in extreme conditions with prisoners of war, hostages, genociders and displaced people.

Publishing books from established and debut writers, and take my word for I have read some incredible books from Urbane Publications.

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @urbanebooks or visit their website: Urbane Publications

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

Triple Jepardy by Christopher Lowery

Published: 18th February 2021

Summary:

A mysterious batch of diamonds that has lain undisturbed for almost a half century, reappears to be sold at public auctions in Switzerland. But what is the true provenance of these priceless gems, and who is behind their discovery and sale?

Jenny Bishop believes they are notorious blood diamonds with a legacy of deceit, corruption and murder, and is drawn into a web of intrigue and threat as she tries to unravel a conspiracy that threatens everything she knows and loves.

The perfect page-turning thriller read for fans of Frederick Forsyth, LJ Ross, Gerald Seymour, and Wilbur Smith.

Fall Out by M. N Grenside

Published: 21st May 2020

Summary:

An LA screenwriter is killed shortly after completing his latest script, FALL OUT – a thriller destined to be a blockbuster but written with a secret double purpose.

Echoing events from the past the screenplay is sent to a very specific group of people and will change their lives forever. All are connected to a movie that had abruptly stopped shooting in the jungles of the Philippines years before. FALL OUT exposes the truth about a conspiracy and murder that led to a half-a-billion-dollar fortune for a select few.

Follow the story of Producer Marcus Riley, who sets out on an increasingly dangerous quest to get FALL OUT made. From a powerful Agent’s office in Hollywood, hidden treasures in Belgravia and a remote chalet in the Swiss Alps to murder at the Cannes Film Festival, Marcus teams up with designer Melinda (Mako) de Turris as they and the other recipients of the screenplay are pursued by an assassin from the past.

With clues cleverly concealed in the screenplay, Marcus and Mako unravel a lethal puzzle that for some will bring death, others the truth and ends in a cave with a shocking secret…..

Jennifer Juniper: by Jenny Boyd

Non-fiction/Biography

Release Date: 12th March 2020

Summary:

‘THE BEAUTIFULLY POIGNANT STORY OF A PARTNER, MOTHER, FRIEND, AND TRULY INSPIRATIONAL WOMAN’ – MICK FLEETWOOD, MUSICIAN

Jenny Boyd’s extraordinary life is the stuff of movies and novels, a story of incredible people and places experienced at a pivotal time in the 20th century.

As an up-and-coming young model, Jenny found herself at the heart of Carnaby Street in London, immersed in the fashion and pop culture of the Swinging 60s. With boyfriend Mick Fleetwood, sister Pattie, George Harrison and the rest of the Beatles, she lived the London scene. But as a natural Flower Child, Jenny soon became part of the counter-culture in San Francisco during the Flower Power era, witnessing the Summer of Love; she was the inspiration for Donovan’s famous song, Jennifer Juniper, and her photograph was featured inside the box set of his eponymous album A Gift from a Flower to a Garden.

After working in The Beatles shop, Apple, the first of its kind, Jenny attended Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in India to study meditation with her sister and the Beatles, witnessing their creativity and the genesis of songs that would later appear on the White Album.

Despite being attuned to the spiritual bloom and innocence of the 60s, Jenny also experienced first-hand the turmoil and decadence of the 70s and 80s. Her two marriages to Mick Fleetwood, founder member of Fleetwood Mac, brought her to the forefront of the world of rock and roll – and its fame, money, drugs and heartache. Struggling in the darkness to find and develop her own voice and identity, Jenny went to college, achieving a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a PhD in Humanities – her dissertation on musicians and creativity became the critically-acclaimed book Musicians in Tune.

Jenny has spent her life in the company of some of the greatest musical and cultural influencers of the last 50 years – and the journey she takes to finding her own sense of self and creative ability makes Jennifer Juniper a truly captivating and inspiring story.

Eden Interrupted by Beverly Harvey

Release Date: 6th June 2019

Summary:

90s popstar Ben Wilde and his bride Lisa return from honeymoon to find a cuckoo in the nest and a surprise European tour in the diary.

Lisa befriends neighbour Rosemary, who is also home alone while husband Nigel travels for work. But will the women’s grim suspicions be confirmed, or does absence make the heart grow paranoid?

In the village, Eden Hill’s coffee shop is under new management with the arrival of divorced Mum, Chloe, and troubled teen son, Jake. But serving flat whites leaves Chloe feeling, well, flat until she meets Caleb, a widowed father of two; if only Jake and Caleb weren’t at loggerheads.

New to Eden Hill are Jan and Martin Bevan, but a frosty reception leaves them wondering if they’ve made a huge mistake.

From the writer of Seeking Eden, Eden Interrupted is another sizzling slice-of-life drama where paths (and swords) cross, and misunderstandings abound. Perfect for fans of Fiona Gibson and Marian Keyes.

Stealth by Hugh Fraser

Release Date: 4th October 2018

Summary:

London 1967. A working girl is brutally murdered in a Soho club. Rina Walker takes out the killer and attracts the attention of a sinister line-up of gangland enforcers with a great deal to prove.

When a member of British Military Intelligence becomes aware of her failure to fulfill a contract issued by an inmate of Broadmoor, he forces her into the deadly arena of the Cold War, with orders to kill an enemy agent.

Rina needs to call upon all her dark skills, not simply to survive, but to protect the ones she loves.

For further information on the publications from Urbane Publications please visit their website: Urbane Publications

You can also find them on Twitter: @urbanebooks and also their Instagram feed @urbane_publications and also Facebook: @urbane-publications

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

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE #12

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

#12 FLIPPED EYE PUBLISHING

It is the twelve in my series of Independent Publishers Showcase and this week I am delighted to welcome to the showcase Flipped Eye Publishing.

 Flipped Eye Publishing was founded by award winning writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes in 2001 focussing on fine literature both in poetry and fiction books and has won critical acclaim across the world for some fine poets in Inua Ellams, Malika Booker, Miriam Nash, Nick Makoha and Warsan Shire. All the writers from Flipped Eye publishing have a home in a publisher that really allows them to express themselves. There is a dedicated team at Flipped Eye from poetry to fiction as well as a team of editors. A publisher that really is worth having a look at.

During these difficult times small independent publishers need all our support to survivie. They have a very exciting listing of books in both fiction and poetry and these can be ordered by visiting their website and details are below:

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @flippedeyeor visit their website:  Flipped Eye  

A selection of the poetry and fiction titles currently released:

A Warning to the House that Holds Me (Flap Series) by Amina Jama

Poetry

Published: 19th December 2019

Summary:

 Warning to the House That Holds Me builds on the milestones and mythology of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo to perform a deeply personal act of reclaiming power. Fully aware of the political significance of rejecting the dominant, Amina weaves together a series of poems that pay homage to her home country and lineage – exploring displacement, dual nationality and Somali history. Drawing on a long tradition of Somali storytelling, these poems achieve the complex balance of being as conversational as they are crafted. Brimming in them is a sense of longing for escape, yet accepting the inescapable reality of generational trauma and the ever present grip of a mother’s embrace.

29 Ways to Drown by Niki Aguirre

Fiction

Published: 25th October 2007

Summary:

From an incredible new talent come ten stories that fizz with the irreverence of ZZ Packer, the time-bending antics of Borges, the layered mystery of Alice Munro and whiffs of Marquez’s surrealism. Whether it’s a boy trapped at age fourteen after a botched attempt to capture time in a capsule, an organic seed distributor entrapping an errant lover with a replica pre-Columbian Aztec artefact bought in Chicago, or a woman attempting to drown herself in a water aerobics class in London, Niki Aguirre’s stories grip by their absolute logic and the sheer absurdity of the inevitable truths they unravel.

Breathe: Stories from Cuba by Leila Segal

Fiction Collection

Release Date:21st January 2016

Summary:

Breathe is a collection that explores the heart of Fidel Castro-era Cuba; an outsider’s look that is balanced by a weight of empathy to illuminate truths that lie couched between the island’s propaganda and the Western media’s portrayal. Characters from Europe and the USA in Swimming, Taxi and Sabbatical seem to want to hold on to the indulgences that their countries offer them, while praising Cubans for the more abstemious lives they lead and seeking to sample what the locals experience; in Siempre Luchando, I Never See Them Cry and The Party, romantic liaisons strengthen or buckle under the strain of the minute exploitations that result from the assumptions one makes about the other; the seedy sexual aggression of Luca’s Trip to Havana is undercut by the subtle yet intense lust of Breathe; while Leaving Cuba, with its closing image of Havana’s night sky, is as eloquently balanced a tale of the lives of everyday Cubans as you will read in a long while – whichever path one takes, something is lost. As Aida Bahr, winner of Cuba’s Premio de la Critica Literaria says, “relying more on subtleties than on drama, [Segal] portrays the tensions and struggles, but also the joy and warmth, that fill Cubans’ lives.”

A Class Act by Chip Hamer

Poetry Collection

Release Date: 1st May 2020

Summary:

As the opening poem of this debut, Death of a Pie ‘n Mash Shop, attests: Chip Hamer is not your typical man of letters. A founding member of the Poets on the Picket Line squad, his poems have been bellowed against the din of rush hour traffic from picket lines throughout London, bringing solidarity and attention to workers across the capital. Chip’s first full collection is unflinching in its appraisal of the first fifteen years of the millenium, from New Labour’s descent into Middle Eastern conflicts to the ConDem government’s age of austerity. But while the outlook may seem grim, A Class Act is characterised by an attitude of stern determination and a tender, underlying empathy that never forgets the human story behind each headline and statistic. Revealing another passion, as a coach at the All Stars Boxing Gym, these poems jab, feint and move before catching you with a hard left hook.

Paper Doll (Flap Series) by Katherine Lockton

Poetry Collection

Release Date: 24th September 2020

Summary:

Proudly staking a landmark for the UK’s Latinx community, Katherine Lockton’s debut pamphlet, Paper Doll, strikes the poetry landscape as disruptively as a meteor scars earth with its impact. Documenting a shape-shifting existence between activist and survivor, immigrant and alien, lover and loner, this is a tract of the unseen made visible and given a striking, defiant vocabulary. Having fallen from a building as a child in Bolivia, Katherine seems to have retained an ability to stack images that zip along, only leaving an imprint of their meaning as the poem descends to its conclusion. This quality, combined with a contrasting directness makes reading Paper Doll a profoundly affecting experience. There is no smooth ride to be had here. As the poet puts it in the poem The Paper Doll Chain, “she will defy me; time after time/ teaching me how to live when she does.”

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

You can also find them on Twitter: @flippedeye and also their Instagram feed @flippedeye

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

Red Corona by Tim Glister

Red Corona by Tim Glister

Summary:

It’s 1961 and the white heat of the Space Race is making the Cold War even colder.

Richard Knox is a secret agent in big trouble. He’s been hung out to dry by a traitor in MI5, and the only way to clear his name could destroy him.

Meanwhile in a secret Russian city, brilliant scientist Irina Valera makes a discovery that will change the world, and hand the KGB unimaginable power.

Desperate for a way back into MI5, Knox finds an unlikely ally in Abey Bennett, a CIA recruit who’s determined to prove herself whatever the cost…

As the age of global surveillance dawns, three powers will battle for dominance, and three people will fight to survive…

My Review:

I really enjoy reading spy thrillers and I was delighted to receive a copy of Red Corona (Point Blank Books) the debut novel by Tim Glister set in 1961 and at the height of the cold war and the space race and this was one book I literally raced through. Superbly written and researched.

In the world of politics and spies there was so much going on and this at a time when there were not computers as we know them today, so it was the basic spying techniques and this was at a time when the world was worried about nuclear war happening at a moment’s notice.

Richard Knox is out of MI5 meanwhile his boss James Holland is critically ill and in a coma. Somewhere out there is a traitor and Knox needs to find him. Time really is of the essence and it is not helped that the new Director General of MI5 believes Knox is a KGB spy.

The spy centres of the UK, USA and the USSR were red hot at this time as each one was trying to be the first to get the technological advance over Moscow and it was in space that the countries were focusing their attention. When two Italian men are found murdered in Depford in South East London and the two just happen to be of interest this could be a chance for Knox to take a closer look at what the two Italians were doing.

Meanwhile in Russia there is a secret city called Povenets B which was a former Soviet labour camp and this is now where top scientists are kept and treated extremely badly living on meagre rations and scientist Irina Valera is based here with her young son. But Irena has discovered something that could well change the course of the power over the West that involves sending messages via space that would be a huge victory for the Communist state. But Irina manages to escape putting lives in danger. Has she taken her secrets with her?

In London the CIA operative Abey Bennett who is now out of favour decides to forge an alliance with Knox and hunt down the traitor but they also take a real interest Irina Valera and want to meet her. A dangerous game of cat and mouse is underway as the major superpowers are on the very brink.

What I really enjoyed was how Tim Glister brings to life the characters in Red Corona and describes the time of the early 1960’s perfectly a lot of research has gone into Tim’s debut novel especially the science aspect of Red Corona and a lot of this science and technology is real. A gripping and compelling espionage thriller that delivers.

288 Pages.

My thanks to Margot Weale (Oneworld) for the review copy of Red Corona by Tim Glister.

Red Corona by Tim Glister was published by Point Blank Books and will be published on 14th January 2021 and is available to order 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 #11

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SHOWCASE

#11 BLUEMOOSE BOOKS

Happy New Year everyone! As we enter Lockdown V.3 and news is pretty bleak and with the festive period over it is a welcome return to the Independent Publishers Showcase on my blog. To start the year, we welcome Bluemoose Books to the showcase.

Bluemoose Books was founded in 2006 by Kevin and Hetha Duffy and are based in beautiful Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire with the idea of bringing brilliant stories to readers across the world. And just look at the books that Bluemoose Books have published over recent years: Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession still one of the most beautiful novels I have read in many years. The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers is just a stunning novel and won the prestigious £25k Walter Scott Prize in 2018 and if that was not enough Benjamin Myers won the Portico Literature Prize in 2015 with Beastings and it also went on to win the Northern Writers Award in 2014 and went on to win the Gordon Burn Prize in 2013 with Pig Iron.

With a dedicated team of editors, they may not have a publishing house in the big city but what Kevin and Hetha did was to re-mortgage their house with the sole intention of bringing great stories alive.

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

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @ofmooseandmenor visit their website: Bluemoose Books  

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

Captain Jesus by Colette Snowden

Published: 28th January 2021

Summary:

When three brothers find a dead magpie and peg it to the washing line, the resurrection re-enactment becomes a portent of tragedy to come, and a reminder of past guilt and trauma. In Captain Jesus we see a family struggle to cope as loss rips through their lives; through the teenage eyes of their mother, twenty years earlier, we glimpse the events that shape her response. The icons, influences and family histories that define faith connect the two narratives as the family gradually heals, thanks to the quietness of love and the natural world.

Should We Fall Behind by Sharon Duggal

Published: 22nd October 2020

Summary:

Jimmy Noone walks from one side of a sprawling city to the other, looking for Betwa, a friend he found and lost on the bustling city streets. Jimmy becomes the catalyst for lost lives colliding, exposing stories of tenderness, devotion, displacement and tragedy, and the subtle threads of commonality which intersect them all, making the invisible, visible again.

East Coast Road by Anna Chilvers

Release Date: 28th November 2020

Summary:

As university term gives way to the summer break she is plagued by dark memories and the only person there for her is her cousin – a cousin that no one else can see – together they embark on a journey that changes Jen and her world forever. ‘Haunting, shape-shifting and tense, ‘East Coast Road’ takes the reader on a thrilling quest which challenges our preconceptions. Chilvers is a master storyteller and she guides us through the complexities of devotion, faith, tenderness, grief and desire, all set against the rugged coastal edges of north east England.’ – HELEN MORT

The Sound Mirror by Heidi James

Release Date: 20th August 2020

Summary:

‘Tamara is going to kill her mother, but she isn’t the villain. Tamara just has to finish what began at her birth and put an end to the damage encoded in her blood. Quitting her job in Communications, Tamara dresses carefully and hires a car, making the trip from London to her hometown in Kent, to visit her mother for the last time. Accompanied by a chorus of ancestors, Tamara is harried by voices from the past and the future that reveal the struggles, joys and secrets of these women’s lives that continue to echo through and impact her own.’ The Sound Mirror spans three familial generations from British Occupied India to Southern England, through intimately rendered characters, Heidi James has crafted a haunting and moving examination of class, war, violence, family and shame from the rich details of ordinary lives.

King Crow by Michael Stewart

Release Date: June 2020

Summary:

Paul Cooper is an outsider. When he looks at people he wonders what bird they are. He finds making friends difficult especially when he has to move from school to school, so he obsesses about ornithology until he meets Ashley.

Winner of The Guardian’s Not The Booker

World Book Night recommended read.

Michael Stewart is a fascinating new voice, and King Crow is a fine debut novel. Part action thriller, part psychological drama, part birding manual. I’ve come across nothing quite like it. It’s a fantastic example of modern fiction at its innovative best.’ Melvin Burgess

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

You can also find them on Twitter: @ofmooseandmen and also their Instagram feed @BluemooseBooks

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

My Books of the Year 2020

Books of the Year 2020

1st January 2021

As we start the New Year this is my opportunity to look back at my favourite books that got me through that awful year of 2020. For all of us who love books they really got us through that difficult year. We could lose ourselves in stories and head of on adventures or we could read some non-fiction and learn from history or read books on natural history. How would we have got through 2020 without books.

This is also my opportunity to thank all the authors and publishers who have trusted me with their books. To each and everyone one of you all I can do is thank you. It is also a chance to mention bookshops. All have struggled through the lockdowns and have had to adapt. All are still struggling and need our support through the months ahead. Bookshops are vital for every community just like libraries. We would be poorer without them. They have managed to adapt by click and collect or many delivering free to people living local and who have been isolating. It has been inspiring to hear and read their stories.

Without further ado here are my ten shortlisted fiction and ten non-fiction books of 2020 and at the end I have chosen my fiction and non-fiction books of the year.

MY TEN SHORTLISTED FICTION BOOKS OF THE YEAR

The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel

Published by Fourth Estate.

Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020

Longlisted for the Booker Prize

The long-awaited sequel to Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and the conclusion to the fabulous trilogy. I have to admit this was my tip to win the Booker Prize and make it a hat-trick of wins. I still think this is just some of the best writing in many years.

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

Published by Doubleday

I have been a fan of Rachel Joyce’s writing for some years now and Miss Benson’s Beetle is set in 1950 a story of adventure and friendship.

Summer by Ali Smith

Published by Hamish Hamilton

Longlisted for the Highland Book Prize

The finale to the seasonal quartet. Like each season the quartet seems to have gone so fast. All four to cherish in the years to come.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Published by Tinder Press

Winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction

Waterstones Book of the Year 2020

This is one book I have been speaking about since I was lucky enough to receive a review copy and was one of the first books of 2020 that I read. Instantly I knew this was something incredible and without doubt Maggie’s finest hour in writing.

A story based on the story of Shakespeares wife Agnes (Anne Hathaway) and their young son Hamnet. It will break your heart but stunningly beautiful. Deserved of all the plaudits.  

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Published by Viking Books

This is just a brilliant debut from the TV quiz master Richard Osman. It has gone on to become one the biggest selling books of 2020. A novel set in a quiet retirement village. Readers will love the characters involved. Warm and very funny.

Winterkill by Ragnar Jónasson 

Published by Orenda Books

Sadly, the finale in the Dark Iceland series. As chilling as an Icelandic winter this is gripping finale as Ari Thor returns to solve the death of a young woman found dead beneath a balcony. Suicide or something much more sinister?

Shuggie Baine by Douglas Stuart

Published by Picador Books

Winner of the Booker Prize 2020

The Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year 2020

Shortlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction 2020

Bleak and heartbreaking. A story set in Glasgow in the early 1980’s of young Shuggie Baine and Agnes his mother. Even now I keep thinking of this story.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Published by Orion Books

Selling well over one million copies the international bestseller. A heart stopping thriller that had me guessing until the very end. Why did Alicia Berenson who had a perfect life and marriage suddenly shoot her husband dead five times in the head. Six years later and incarcerated she has not spoken a word.

Three – Fifths by John Vercher

Published by Pushkin Vertigo

Set in 1995 in Pittsburgh and a story of race, class and violence. A powerful novel, that is so brilliantly written. Nominated for many literary awards.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Published by Raven Books

The Year is 1634 and Samuael Pipps the great detective is being transported to Amsterdam from the Dutch East Indies to stand trial for a crime he says he did not commit. He could face the death penalty. But as the ship sets sail things begin to happen on board.

MY TEN SHORTLISTED NON-FICTION BOOKS OF THE YEAR

The Ratline by Philippe Sands

Published by W&N

A breathtaking account of the life of  SS Brigadeführer Otto Freiherr von Wächter. Painstakingly researched. Otto managed to escape justice as he was indicted for mass murder. Escaping via the Austrian Alps and then to Rome where he was helped by a Vatican Bishop. Powerful and reads like a thriller.

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

Published by Little Toller

Winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing

This is Dara’s diary from Spring to Winter looking at the natural world and his own life at school as well as being an environmentalist and conservationist. Beautifully written.

Rootbound by Alice Vincent

Published by Canongate

Longlisted for the Wainwright Prize

Part memoir, botanical history and biography. This is just a beautiful book about what the outside world can do even by bringing it indoors. Insightful and beautifully written.

The Lost Spells by Jackie Morris and Robert Mcfarlane

Published by Hamish Hamilton

If you loved The Lost Words then you will automatically know and love the follow up or the kindred spirit to The Lost Words. Breataking in its beauty in both words (Spells) by Robert Mcfarlane and the artwork by Jackie Morris. It is never too far away and how it has helped during periods of lockdown and being isolated. It is just georgeous!

The Lost Pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts

Published by Doubleday

I was just blown away by this incredible book. Across the landscape that is Siberia are the lost pianos that were created during the boom years of the nineteenth century. Sophy Roberts travelled this land in search of the pianos. This remarkable book is her story.

Jeoffrey: The Poet’s Cat – A Biography

Published by The History Press

Jeoffrey was a cat that lived over 250 years ago and with the poet Christopher Smart were confined in an asylum. This is the story of Jeoffrey the cat and how it came to be in one of the greatest poems of all time’Jubilate Agno’.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Published by Viking Books

Barack Obama started to write his memoir as he boarded Air Force One as he left the White House as President of America. This is the first part of what will become one of the great political memoirs. Obama writes with the calmness and assurance and with humour that we came to know and love. It is just a fabulous read.

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

Published by William Collins

What was it like to be around Churchill and his family through the countries darkest period, the blitz? This is the book to read. It is a gripping and page turning read that was painstakingly researched by Larson.

Beethoven: A Life in Nine pieces by Laura Tunbridge.

Published by Viking Books

In 2020 we celebrated the birth of truly one of the greatest composers the world had ever seen. Ludwig van Beethoven. Yet there are so many myths. Here Laura Tunbridge looks at parts of his life in each chapter and a piece of music. Not to be missed if you love Beethoven.

The Boundless Sea by David Abulafia

Published by Allen Lane (Penguin Books)

Winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2020

Some books just leave me speechless. The Boundless Sea by David Abulafia was one of those books. A stunning book that looks at the Oceans and the need to trade goods but in the end not only goods but culture. Not a small book in over a thousand pages but a book that will stand the test of time. A masterpiece and a deserving winner of the Wolfson History Prize.

And so now I have to find my fiction and non-fiction book of the year. There have been so many incredible books this year and selection ten fiction and ten non-fiction was hard enough. So hear are my two books of 2020.

My Fiction Book of 2020

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Published by Tinder Press

It had to be Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. This story of grief and loss has staye with me throughout this year and I cheered the when Maggie O’Farrell won the Women’s Prize for Fiction. How on earth does Maggie follow up on Hamnet. If you have not read Hamnet yet then this is one book that you must read. So much is weaved into the storyline about Agnes and Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, about a Kestrel and then there is the flea that finds its way aboard ship in Alexandria and the time of the plague that shut the playhouses in London and the devastation it would cause. Maggie’s writing is just dazzling.

My Non-Fiction Book of 2020

The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans by David Abulafia

Published by Allen Lane (Penguin)

A difficult decision to find my favourite non-fiction book of 2020, but ultamately The Boundless Sea by David Abulafia won through because it is a remarkable piece of writing. One of the greatest books on world history. I read The Boundless Sea through part of the Summer and just became lost in the book. Inside there are pages of maps and colour photographs that go to make up one book that takes pride of place among my non-fiction books. To even begin to think about writing a history of the oceans is heartstopping to produce a work that is a masterpiece. From pirates to kings to sailors and slave ships to conquerers they are all here. One day I will re-read and travel the worlds oceans through time again. Worthy winner of the 2020 Wolfson History Prize.

So there we are my books of 2020. A year that books got us through the worst year we have ever known. We will need books just as much in 2021. So here’s to all the writers and publishers and bookshops across the UK.

Have a Happy, peaceful and safe 2021.

Happy reading.

John

Blog Journal #7 December

A Christmas unlike any other

Dickens and festive reading

Blog Journal: #7 December

24th December 2020

For me Christmas eve is the best day over the festive period. I have always loved this day over Christmas day itself.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’


This year though, Christmas will be unlike any other we have known. Like the year that is coming to an end it has been difficult and worrying and hard on all of us. But saying that we will make the most of the festive period and contact friends and loved ones over Zoom on Christmas day just like we have during the lockdowns. We will all be missing friends and loved ones who should be with us over Christmas.

Many of us will be curled up over the days over Christmas watching Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol in one of its many forms of adaptation. Will it be the old black and white film or the Muppets? Charles Dickens first published A Christmas Carol in 1843 but it was not without its problems. Just how close it was to never being published is a discussion point as Dickens had a few failures before this and was struggling to get the story together and the characters. It was finally published on 19th December with changes to end papers and completed just two days before publication. Dickens paid for the publishing costs himself and even a year after publication the profits were not as good as Dickens had hoped for.

But still imagine a world without A Christmas Carol? He is after all the man that made Christmas. It has never been out of publication since release. A story I have loved since my childhood days and it always makes my Christmas complete.

A Poem for December.

Ring Out, Wild Bells

By Alfred Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.


We will all take memories of this year away with us and many of you like me will quite frankly be glad to see the back of this year, on a personal level it has been one of the worst. Good riddance to 2020 I say!

There is a Robin that sings from the garden during the early hours of the morning and is a joy to wake to. I have always thought of a Robin singing during Christmas is a sign of hope. Something we have all been clinging to.

Christmas is always a time to finally switch off and relax, for me I will be busy as I have a few articles to write and amazing books to read. But it is my favourite reading period of the year.

As this is my final blog journal for this year I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone for your kind words and encouragement. Books have never been so important to readers they have allowed us to escape these worrying times and so to all the authors who have been writing incredible books and the publishers who have worked so hard this year. Thank you for writing and publishing incredible books through this difficult year.

Have a Happy, peaceful and safe Christmas.

John Fish

The Last Word Book Review