Our South London Indie Bookshop Crawl

Last Thursday afternoon, we left our desks in Clerkenwell and boarded a train from Farringdon station. Laden with cookies, book proofs and some other goodies, we headed out on our South London Indie Bookshop Crawl.images

On the agenda were Dulwich Books, Herne Hill Books and Review in Peckham.

dulwichWe chatted to some lovely booksellers, mainly about our new fiction paperback imprint Buried River Press, but also about what they look for when selecting titles for the store.
review
It was great to be out ‘in the field’ and to connect with booksellers, and we took away some useful insights. We asked what the most important criteria was for them as booksellers. The answer was quality, and recommendation by word of mouth! Social media was mentioned as a key tool too.

 

herne hill frontAbove all it reinforced the fact that independent bookshops are owned by people passionate about what they do, and committed to putting the best (and often relatively unknown) books out there for their eager audiences.

Hope you enjoyed the cookies!

Folly over passion: what Jane Austen really wrote about

by Beth Andrews

Jane Austen

Like her immortal heroine, Fanny Price, Jane Austen was a spectator of the foibles of ordinary human existence, rather than a participant. Despite the efforts of modern mythmakers, there seems little evidence that she ever fell deeply in love with anyone. This is reflected in her generally cool, detached tone, which both fascinates and repels readers, who often forget that her novels are satires – arguably the greatest of the nineteenth century.

Contemporary reinterpretations of her work seem inspired by a desire to inject something many readers feel is missing from the original: romance. This completely overturns Jane’s intention of deflating romantic pretensions. She took marriage seriously, but romantic love she considered a comic mixture of self-indulgence and delusion. She advised her niece not to marry “without affection,” for the very sensible reason that affection tends to last, while passion – which is now almost universally accepted as the only legitimate foundation for marriage – rarely does. One early critic commented on her ideal of “intelligent love,” and Jane’s six novels consistently warn that, without the guidance of the head, the heart is bound to go astray. Some may call her modified Christian Platonism outmoded, but after Victorian excess and postmodern posturing, I find it refreshing, exhilarating, and eminently sane.

When rewriting Love and Freindship, I chose to celebrate and expand upon Jane’s joyful anti-romanticism, even making fun of the iconic BBC production of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. Having written both regency romance and cozy mysteries, I think Jane would find the latter healthier and more respectable. After all, there are many “crimes of passion,” but whoever heard of a murder, for instance, being committed in a “frenzy of reason”?

Women discussing potential matches at a ball in Pride and Prejudice (BBC, 1995)

Curiously, I think that the lack of sex in her books is one of Jane’s greatest strengths, and one reason for her continuing appeal. Whether a result of ignorance or deliberate choice, the fact that she eschews any explicit physical details – even so much as a kiss – is both unusual and intriguing. By contrast, writers like D. H. Lawrence now seem dated and somewhat facetious, along with their pseudo-Freudian philosophy; and Lady Chatterley’s exploits are about as exciting as a Sunday school picnic, compared with the graphic sexual content of the average Harlequin romance novel. This kind of writing is often more concerned with envelope-pushing than with getting to the real meat of plot and character development. Jane Austen’s work, on the other hand, is like a “lean, mean, narrative machine,” in which extraneous fatty tissue (sexual details, minute physical descriptions) are cut to the bone. The resulting creation is so polished in its presentation that it is easy to miss the wisdom beneath the wit.

Whatever one’s views, Jane Austen provides enough “follies and nonsense” to amuse readers, infuriate critics, and inspire writers for generations to come. The struggle between heart and head will remain relevant as long as humans possess both, and the choices made by Jane’s characters are of universal interest. The ironic zest with which she handles her subject matter will always appeal to writers who prefer to “jest at scars” rather than to weep over wounds.

New general fiction titles

A Close Connection by Patricia Fawcett9780719814471

Eleanor and Henry Nightingale, and Paula and Alan Walker, are two very different couples brought together by the marriage of Nicola, the Nightingales’ daughter, to Matthew, the Walkers’ son. A holiday in Italy, intended to bring the four closer together, creates both bonds and rifts with long lasting effects. On their returning home, a health scare brings Eleanor’s life into sharp focus and she calls on Paula, who will soon experience her own struggles, to help. Meanwhile, Nicola and Matthew’s marriage is facing its own crisis point. Will these historicthree marriages survive such turmoil?

Born in Preston, Lancashire, Patricia Fawcett now lives in Devon, close to her family. She divides her time between writing, being a lively grandmother and a volunteer at a National Trust property. She is a member of the West Country Writer’s Association. Her previous novels include Best Laid Plans and A Small Fortune, both published by Robert Hale. You can find out more about Patricia at http://www.patriciafawcett.co.uk.

Buy your copy of A Close Connection here.

9780719814907A Killer Past by Maris Soule

Mary Harrington doesn’t want to revive her past. She certainly doesn’t want her son and granddaughter to know what she did forty four years ago. But when two teenagers from a local gang try to mug her, old habits are hard to forget. Sergeant Jack Rossini, Rivershore, Michigan’s lone investigative detective, initially doesn’t believe an ‘old’ woman could have put the youths in the hospital, but once he meets Mary, he becomes curious. That curiosity grows when he discovers there’s no record of her existence prior to forty four years ago. Mary and Jack’s lives continue to intersect as the gang vows to teach Mary a lesson, and a man from Mary’s past arrives in Rivershore, threatening to reveal her secrets.

Born and raised in California, Maris Soule was studying for a master’s degree at U.C. Santa Barbara when she was swept off her feet by a red-head with blue eyes. Soule now lives in Michigan, a quarter mile from Lake Michigan, with an oversized Rhodesian Ridgeback and the same red-head. Maris Soule is on Facebook, Twitter (@marisSouthHaven), and LinkedIn. She also writes a weekly blog on writing and Rhodesian Ridgebacks http://marissoule.com/blog/.

Buy your copy of A Killer Past here.

9780719814990Sherlock Holmes and the Four Corners of Hell by Séamas Duffy

The Adventure of the Soho Picture: When murders are accompanied by unmistakable symbols of ritualism, Holmes’s trail leads to a respected peer of the realm and he unearths a web of vice, deception, and intrigue beneath Victorian society’s respectable veneer.

The Adventure of the Edmonton Horror: A case which causes the wildest speculation, and seems destined to join the apocrypha in Holmes’s ‘uncommonplace book’ – a collection of the strangest and most mysterious occurrences ever recorded in the capital. Is it a matter for a detective, a clergyman, or an occultist?

The Adventure of the Rotherhithe Ship-breakers: Holmes tracks down a would-be assassin, yet no one is certain whom the bullet was meant for. The investigation leads Holmes to one of the foulest, most dangerous corners of riverside London, a criminal plague spot which even the locals call the Four Corners of Hell.

Séamas Duffy lives and works in Glasgow. He is a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of Scotland, author of Sherlock Holmes in Paris (Black Coat Press, 2013), and wrote the Foreword to The Aggravations of Minnie Ashe, by Cyril Kersh (Valancourt Books, 2014).

Buy your copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Four Corners of Hell here.

9780719815423

The Tolpuddle Woman by E. V. White

Wesley Gillam has had little chance of romance, growing up in a strict Methodist household in the Dorset village of Tolpuddle. It’s his headstrong brother Saul who’s ignored his parents’ wishes and has turned his attention to local girl Saranna Vye. Wes first sets eyes on Saranna at Dorchester market when she warns him of vagrants plotting to steal his takings, and as he walks home at the end of the day he can’t get the image of her waif-like beauty out of his mind. But when Wes learns she’s his brother’s girl, family loyalty stands in the way of romance. Wes knows in his heart what he wants, but with tensions mounting in the West Country, as farm labourers suffer from crippling wage cuts and rickburners storm the land in protest, Wes is committed to protecting his fellow countrymen from the law’s injustice, before he has the freedom to pursue his most cherished dream.

E.V. Thompson was born in London. After a spell in the Royal Navy, and then at Rhodesia’s Department of Civil Aviation Security Section, he returned to England. His novels have won him thousands of admirers around the world. In 2011 E.V. Thompson was awarded an MBE for services to literature and to the Cornish community. Ernest died in 2012.

Buy your copy of The Tolpuddle Woman here.

New non-fiction: Charleston Saved by Anthea Arnold

Charleston Saved 1979–1989

Charleston Saved 1979–1989 tells the9780719816222 remarkable story of how the home of key members of the Bloomsbury set was brought back from ruin and lovingly restored to life.
When the painter Duncan Grant died in 1978, the house in East Sussex that he and
Vanessa Bell had rented since the First World War was in a very sorry state. Amazingly, the original designs and decor the couple had created over the years were still in place – the wall surfaces, the furniture, the wood panels, the ceramics, the fabrics, the paintings and, of course, the garden – but damp, dirt and neglect had reduced all of these to a most wretched state. The nation risked losing a house of real historical, cultural and artistic significance.

This reissue tells how Deborah Gage, a determined young woman in her twenties, set about saving this house by galvanizing support, raising money and masterminding the project. With the help of many individuals and despite setbacks, the restoration was a success. This account discusses the work in detail, giving a fascinating insight into the restoration of an historic building and gardens.

Today, Charleston is open to the public – an extraordinary achievement, carried out with passion and conviction, and truly a fitting celebration of the lives of those who lived there.

 

Anthea Arnold

Anthea Arnold has worked for Cambridge University Press, the Nuffield Foundation, and as a primary-school teacher in the London Borough of Brent. She has written two books: Briglin Pottery, published in 2002, and Eight Men in a Crate: The Ordeal of the Advance Party of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1955–1957, published in 2007. She became a Life Friend of Charleston in July 1986 and has worked there in various capacities as a volunteer. Anthea lives in Burwash, East Sussex.

New non-fiction: Gallipoli by Arthur Beecroft

9780719816543Gallipoli: A Soldier’s Story
At the start of the First World War, Arthur Beecroft was a recently qualified barrister in his twenties. Determined to enlist despite a medical condition, he volunteered for military service, first as a regular soldier, then as a despatch rider. Offered a commission in the Royal Engineers, in 1915 he saw action at Gallipoli.

Now a byword for catastrophic military disaster, the Gallipoli Campaign was the ill-conceived Allied invasion of the Dardanelles. The campaign stalled almost immediately, resulting in over half a million casualties on both sides.

Lucky to survive, several years later Beecroft wrote a detailed memoir of his experiences. Discovered by his granddaughter and now reproduced here almost exactly as it was written nearly a century ago, Beecroft’s vivid narrative takes us through those heady days of the declaration of war, enlistment, initial training, the bungled landing at Suvla Bay, and the exceptionally difficult conditions of the Gallipoli terrain. This is no mere jingoistic account. With a keen eye, Beecroft brings to life the men dogged by disease and exhaustion – ordinary soldiers who, even as they suffered the betrayal of incompetent leadership,  displayed extraordinary reserves of heroism and bravery.

Throughout this rare insight into what it was like for an ordinary ‘civilian soldier’ swept up in the fog of war, Beecroft’s authentic voice still speaks honestly to us today –  of comradeship and devotion to duty, of fear and facing death.  Now published for the first time in the centenary year of the Gallipoli Campaign, this is a soldier’s story in his own words.

Arthur Beecroft

Arthur Beecroft enlisted in 1914 and served as a Signals Officer during the Gallipoli campaign. After the First World War, he wrote several detective novels under the pen-name Arthur Salcroft, and was awarded an MBE in 1922. During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard. Arthur Beecroft died peacefully in 1974.

New fiction: Three Strange Angels by Laura Kalpakian (Buried River Press)

9781910208120Francis Carson, brilliant British novelist, renowned for his lyrical prose, his drinking, and his womanizing, was a free spirit who crashed through life. In February 1950 he was found dead in the Garden of Allah swimming pool. Diffident Quentin Castle–newly-married, a lowly junior partner in his father’s firm, Castle Literary Agency–must convey this terrible news to the widow in Oxfordshire. Claire Carson’s plight, impoverished, alone with three small children, her dignity, her desolation, her deep blue eyes awaken in Quentin wholly new emotions. In a spasm of gallantry, he promises to escort Francis’s body home to England from California.

Regent Films are making a movie of Carson’s best known book in sun-splashed Hollywood. As a Brit, accustomed to austere, pinched, post-war London, Quentin navigates uneasily through artifice and opulence. The top executives at Regent treat him with conventional sympathy, polite condescension, and something obscure, tinged with evasion. But these few days in California—and a weekend in Mexico—will change Quentin Castle forever.

His subsequent choices—variously brilliant, audacious and unethical—are enveloped in impenetrable layers of betrayal that will crack, crumble, and finally destroy.

Laura Kalpakian is the author of eleven novels and three prize-winning collections of original short fiction.  Her work has appeared extensively in the UK and the USA.  She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a residency at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland, and her 2006 novel, American Cookery, was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. A native Californian, Laura was educated on both the east and west coasts of the USA, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.  You can find out more about Laura at her website at www.laurakalpakian.com

Order your copy of Three Strange Angels here

New fiction: Francesca and the Mermaid by Beryl Kingston (Buried River Press)

9781910208076Unhappy in her life and relationship, Francesca is inspired by her sighting of a mermaid swimming away to freedom, to leave her lover and uproot her life. She moves to Lewes to stay with Agnes Potts, her loving, eccentric friend. Francesca begins to paint again with Agnes’s encouragement and when her painting of the mermaid is seen by Henry, a local potter, he takes her into his employment and plans to organize an exhibition of her art.

When Agnes suffers an accident, Francesca must become nurse, chef and companion to her friend. Meanwhile, her ex-lover reappears and attempts to con Henry. Preoccupied by her new duties as Agnes’s carer, Francesca is too late to stop him and suddenly everything she has worked for and built in her new life is put at risk.

Beryl Kingston was born in South London, where she lived throughout the Blitz. Having married her first love at the age of nineteen, Kingston went on to have three children and spent many years teaching English and Drama to secondary school children. Now a full-time writer, Kingston has published over 20 novels, many of which have been bestsellers. Her recent novels Girl on the Orlop Deck and Off the Rails were also published by Robert Hale. For more information, please visit: www.berylkingston.co.uk

Order your copy of Francesca and the Mermaid here

New non-fiction: I Leap Over the Wall by Monica Baldwin

I Leap Over the Wall: A Return to the World After 28 Years in a Convent

9780719816437At the age of twenty-one, Monica Baldwin – the niece of Stanley Baldwin – entered one of the oldest and most strictly enclosed contemplative orders of the Roman Catholic Church. At the age of forty-eight, and after struggling with her vocation for many years, she obtained a special rescript from Rome and left the convent. But the world Monica had known and forsaken in 1914 was very different to the world into which she emerged at the height of the Second World War ….

This is the fascinating account of one woman’s two very different lives, with revealing descriptions of the world of a novice, the duties of a nun’s day, and the spiritual aspects of convent life. Interwoven with these are the trials and tribulations of coping with a new and alien world, as the author is confronted with fashions, interventions, politics and art totally unfamiliar to her.

Written in the post-war years, this re-issue is as fresh and engaging today as it ever was. Humour, intelligence, an endearing humility and a searing honesty all characterize this remarkable classic, giving readers both a glimpse into a hidden world and a unique view on one more familiar.

Praise for I Leap Over the Wall on first publication:

‘What a wonderful book! Now that I have finished it I want to read it again … whatever you think about nuns, whatever your religious views or lack of them, I don’t see how you can fail to be enriched by this book.’ John Betjeman

‘A sympathetically written and extraordinarily interesting account of one of the strangest and most disturbing experiences a modern woman ever lived through.’  Daily Mail

‘Witty, enlightening, entertaining.’  Daily Express

‘A story brilliantly told.’ Observer

‘Witty and intensely moving.’ Sunday Times

‘Works well. Amazing.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Straightforward, quiet and sincere. Profoundly interesting.’ Spectator

‘The book describes in fascinating detail life in an enclosed order.’ Irish Times

Buy your copy of I Leap Over the Wall here

New non-fiction: Neglected Music by Neil Butterworth

Neglected Music: A Repertoire Handbook for Orchestras and Choirs

This book is a unique guide for musicians who are seeking new material to perform. Over 400 pieces of music from the seventeenth century to the present day have been selected, covering a very wide range of styles and nationalities. Under each entry details are given of numbers and types of performers required, duration of piece, publisher, and availability of material and recordings. A description is supplied for each item with an assessment of difficulty, plus other specific guidance.

9780719815805Emphasis has been placed on works the performance material of which can be purchased, to enable musical organizations to avoid the cost of repeatedly hiring music and allowing them to build a library for the future.

In addition to choral and orchestral works, a section on opera has been included with information on thirty works suitable for amateur and student performance. A wealth of information, this book will prove invaluable for musicians of all kinds wishing to widen their repertoire.

 

Neil Butterworth

Neil Butterworth was born in London in 1934. He studied at Nottingham University, London University and the Guildhall School of Music. From 1968 to 1987 he was Head of the Music Department at Edinburgh Napier University. For many years he was music critic for the Times Educational Supplement and the Sunday Times Scotland, and a reviewer for Classic CD. In addition he was a frequent broadcaster for BBC Radio Scotland. He also conducted the Glasgow Orchestral Society for twenty-six years.

Buy your copy of Neglected Music here

What We’re Reading in… March

psycho film psycho

Back in 1959, Robert Hale published Bloch’s psychological thriller Psycho, which was quickly snapped up by Alfred Hitchcock and made into a film the following year.


What are our favourite book-to-film stories at Robert Hale? 

 

Sarah Plows, Marketing and Publicity Manager:
My favourite is Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Trumabreakfast at tiffanys filmn Capote (Penguin Classics). The first half of the film follows the book very closely, albeit set in a different decade, and much of the early dialogue is almost word-for-word, but of course the film was given an ending much better suited to Hollywood audiences than that in the book.
TRUMAN_CAPOTE_Breakfast_at_Tiffanys_2009
The film certainly deserves its spot among the classics, but it’s a shame that the book is often overlooked. Truman Capote’s writing is so captivating, and the story is the ideal anti-fairytale for twentieth-century American life. And who doesn’t identify just a little with Holly Golightly’s desire for self-reinvention?

 

 

 

Esther, Editorial Controller:
They always say the book is better than the film, and in this case it is true. Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin (Serpent’s Tail) somehow seems far more shocking in print; Eva’s narrative in the form of letters to her estrangkevin filmed husband, post Kevin’s organised mass-shooting at his school, shows how she’s suffering as a consequence of his actions. The fact that she jumps back in time through her letters, chronicling Kevin’s sixteen year existence, suggests she’s been suffering the entire time. Straight from the letters, there are unknown truths, long-hidden secrets and twists.kevin book

The film itself, compared to the book, seemed quite tame. With books, we imagine how the action plays out but when it comes to the film, it’s often very different. While the adaptation stays relatively faithful to the book, the pace was slow, it had an eerie quietness to it and the most brutal scenes felt a bit anti-climactic. Lynne Ramsay (director) probably was right to censor most of it; after all, it is horrendous to talk about.

 

 

Gill Jackson, Managing Director:
I suppose like all avid readers, film adaptations of much loved books are often a disappointment. The adaptations of Jane Austen’s books are for the most part no exception, but one film in particular is very well done. 

Persuasion (Vintage Classics) waspersuasion-1995 produced for television in the first instance by the BBC and then put on general release. Although it differs from the book in subtle respects, the performance of Amanda Root as Anne Elliot has never been bettered, and she inhabits the character completely. I fell out with the casting of Ciaran Hinds as Wentworth but then, every Janeite has their own vision of what their heroes should look like, but he has, over time, also persuaded me of his claim to the role.

The book is my favourite Austen and read every year or so in the original edition my aunt gave me as a girl. Pride and Prejudice had me hooked from the age of nine (again as persuasiona result of a gift from my prescient aunt) but Persuasion is the ‘adult’ Austen to which I turn when in need of comfort in both book and on film.

Hale’s series on Jane Austen continues her wonderful legacy. Adding to great contributions by Maggie Lane and Hazel Jones on ageing and travel in Austen’s books, Hale are publishing a new book by Stephen Mahoney in the autumn on wealth and poverty.

 


Isobel, Marketing and Publicity Assistant:
Ifight club book think Fight Club (Vintage) is a good example Fight-ClubMovie-Still2CRof a
book-to-film success story. Both book and film hold their own, but also complement one another. While it’s a lot to do with great script and actors, I think the subject matter – of crazy insomniacs and manic addictions – helps out too.
 The story is a fragmented, schizophrenic narrative which moves all over the place and works really well in book or film setting.

half yellow sunOn the other hand, one of my favourite books, Half of a Yellow Sun by  (4th Estate), was recently adapted until a film. Even though the two leads – Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton – are very good actors and the author has endorsed the project, I’ve resisted going to see it just in case it disappoints. I think there are some books for each person where its better to preserve the characters as you imagined them when reading the story.