New general fiction

9780719816253An Unholy Whiff of Death by Joyce Cato

When asked to judge the neighbouring village’s Flower Show, vicar’s wife Monica Noble is thrilled, even if she can’t tell a begonia from an azalea! This year, competition is fierce, and when her fellow judge, a well-liked vicar, is killed, Monica must wake up and smell the roses. A second murder quickly follows, this time a local scientist. Monica must help the local detective to solve the two murders and find the killer – quickly, before anyone else dies.

Joyce Cato was born in Oxford and worked as a secretary before becoming a full-time writer.

Buy your copy of An Unholy Whiff of Death here.

9780719817649Cardinal Obsession by Roy Lewis

D.C.I. Cardinal’s plans to smash the gang of his old adversary Gus Clifford are thwarted by the discovery of a dead man in Northumberland. He assigns D.S. Grout to investigate the murder while he continues to lead the hunt for Clifford. Grout’s investigation begins at Hadrian’s Wall but a second murder leads both men to the centre of an international art-smuggling organization on the Bodensee. Cardinal and Grout must uncover the identity of the killer before he strikes again, and stop the Clifford gang.

Roy Lewis is a well-established crime writer with over sixty novels to his name. A former college principal and inspector of schools, he now runs business training programs and lives in the North of England, where he sets many of his books.

Buy your copy of Cardinal Obsession here.

Inspector Abberline and the Just King by Simon Clark9780719816567

1890: A killer stalks the Isle of Faxfleet – a tiny, independent kingdom on the River Humber in Yorkshire. Faxfleet is inhabited by eccentrics, oddballs and Victorian dropouts, and is ruled by King Ludwig, a man obsessed with creating an academy of geniuses. When one of the academy members is killed by an arrow while climbing a tree, Scotland Yard despatches Inspector Abberline, the world-famous ‘Ripper Detective’, and his assistant Thomas Lloyd, to investigate. The case is as fascinating as it is perplexing, and leads to a series of decidedly peculiar crimes and a thrilling climax that plunges both men into danger.

Since selling his first ghost story to a radio station as a teenager, Simon Clark has had a prolific career as a horror writer. His previous novels include This Rage of Echoes and Midnight Bazaar – A Secret Arcade of Strange and Eerie Tales, also published by Robert Hale. Having previously worked as both a strawberry-picker and a shelf-stacker, Simon Clark now writes full-time and has won a British Fantasy Society Award for his work.

Buy your copy of Inspector Abberline and the Just King here.

9780719816079The Work of a Narrow Mind by Faith Martin

When ex-DI Hillary Greene, now working for the cold-case squad, is assigned to the tragic murder of an old woman, she’s determined to track down the killer. But with her partner pressing for an answer to his proposal of marriage, and a new boss, it won’t be easy, especially as her team’s newest addition seems to have his own agenda for being there – an agenda that’s leading him into big trouble. Luckily Hillary’s a multi-tasker – nobody is going to get away with murder on her watch.

Faith Martin was born in Oxford. She began her working life as a secretary but left to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. A Narrow Victory is the latest book in the thrilling Hillary Greene series.

Buy your copy of The Work of a Narrow Mind here.

Snail racing, perilous sleeping and close shaves to be found in Foster’s Welsh Oddities

9780719817540by Allen Foster

Did you know about the woman who accidentally swallowed a toothbrush? The dream that saved the life of a traveller in peril? The dog that accidentally shot its master? The girl who sleepwalked barefooted for four miles? The sailor who was washed overboard by a wave during a storm and washed back on board by another large wave? The woman who grew a four inch horn on her forehead? Neither did I until I started looking for remarkable Welsh oddities!

I have always had a fascination for odd facts since I became enamoured of the wonderful Ripley’s Believe It or Not television series starring Jack Palance many years ago. Since I loved to read of curious oddities I began to research and collect them. In the past few years I have written several books on the oddities and curious stories of Ireland, England, Scotland and Australia and it was only natural that I turn my gaze towards Wales – not least because my agent is a proud Welshman who encouraged me to do so! Unfortunately I never made it to Wales on a research trip. Instead I had to make do researching through old newspapers, magazines and books. This can be tiresome at times and involves a great deal of research before suitable gems are mined. It is always worth it when I find some extraordinary story and I never cease to be amazed by what I discover. Wales can certainly compete with any other country for bizarre oddities.

I am particularly fond of stories of close shaves and was lucky enough to find several Welsh tales.

Anne Williams was crossing a wooden bridge that spanned the River Usk at Caerleon on the night of 29 October 1772 when a large surge destroyed the bridge and bore away a large piece of the bridge with her on it. The poor woman clung to the railing and screamed for help. The bridge section was later smashed to pieces against another bridge downstream, but Anne managed to straddle a beam and stay safe. When the beam was swept down the river Anne resigned herself to being swept out to sea. When she saw a flickering light in a barge she shouted for help, and the occupants heard her and chased after the poor woman in a row boat. By the time they reached and rescued Anne they were almost at the mouth of the river.

A man literally escaped by a hair’s-breadth on 13 May 1869 after a train passed over him while he lay asleep on the track. The incident happened on the track between Bala and Dolgellau. About a mile and a half from Dolgellau the train was speeding down an incline when the train driver suddenly caught sight of a man, apparently fast asleep, lying with his head on the iron rails. The driver frantically blew the whistle to warn the man and tried to slow down the train to give him time to roll away. None of the driver’s efforts made any difference. The sleeping man did not stir and it looked certain that a shocking fatality would occur. By a stroke of luck, the man turned his head slightly just as the engine wheels reached him, and the train passed over him, only severing some hair from his head. Awakened by the noise of the passing train, the man saw the terrible fate he had just escaped and fled down the track.

The bravery of individuals such as the Anglesey fishermen who tied a rope around a whale stranded near the Menai Bridge on 9 December 1883 and fastened it to a boat can only be marvelled at. They were trying to kill the creature when the tide returned and the whale took off at speed, towing the boat and the four men, who were terrified at the unexpected turn of events. The boat nearly capsized several times before the whale beached itself again. This time the whale was dragged out of the water’s reach and it died soon afterwards.

In more recent times, the bravery of Stuart Crane from Carmarthen who was impaled by a large wooden post when his car crashed in November 2000 is astonishing. The accident happened at night and Stuart calmly phoned the emergency services and guided them to his location when they could not find him in the dark. Stuart suffered enormous injuries, but four months later was allowed home.

I also love quirky characters such as Dr Richard Griffiths (1758-1826). He was a wealthy eccentric from Llanwonno, a hamlet north of Pontypridd, Glamorganshire, who once won five hundred guineas on a snail race, by an underhanded trick. He fooled his opponent, pretending to prick his snail to make it go faster. The other man followed suit and actually pricked his snail, making it curl up and come to a standstill. Griffiths had a mischievous sense of humour. He left eccentric instructions for his funeral, directing that he was to be carried by six specifically named people, who were all lame.

I have been writing books of oddities for some years now and including this Welsh volume, have had six published so far. I don’t know when I will stop, for there is always more interesting stories to be found and I have a lot of research material to delve into. I know such obscure information or where to find it I can research a book by categories of oddities. For example, there is scarcely a country that a parachutist has not survived an incredible fall from thousands of feet if their parachute has not opened up! I would love to write more oddities books, for I never get tired of finding new gems of oddities that fascinate me.

Foster’s Welsh Oddities will be published by Robert Hale on 30 September.



New fiction titles

9780719817403Avalon Castle by Rosemary Craddock

Avalon Castle is a disturbing place. Built by eccentric Ambrose
Blackwood, and inhabited by the rest of his extended dysfunctional
family, it holds some dark secrets. Rachel visits her half-sister in the Christmas of 1867, finding a house of family feuding, hauntings and disappearances. Ambrose and his brother Nikolas are unnerving hosts, and any chance of festivity is destroyed when a member of the household suddenly dies. Questions begin to pile up: who are the strange Blackwood family, and what skeletons are hiding in their vast Gothic house? With neighbour William Norton’s help, Rachel tries to prove her suspicions of foul play, and get out of the castle alive.

Rosemary Craddock was born in Staffordshire and has lived there
most of her life. She has been writing since childhood and has
published many novels, most of them set in the nineteenth century and
full of mystery, romance and intrigue. Her previous novel The
Lovegrove Hermit was published by Robert Hale in 2013.

Buy your copy of Avalon Castle here.

9780719817571Dark Powers by Raymond Haigh

In freeing a young girl from a secure children’s unit, special agent Samantha Quest is taking on the most powerful men in the country. The sixteen year-old girl has filmed an incident on her mobile phone which could bring down the government. The girl is Annushka Dvoskin, daughter of a powerful Russian oligarch. Unknown to Samantha, his enemies dispatch a team of hitmen to murder her and her charge. In this novel of wealth and corruption, the great and the privileged will do anything to protect their power. As the killers race to find the girls, Samantha and Annushka must outwit them.

Raymond Haigh was born in Doncaster where he went on to work in local government design departments. He is married with four children and seven grandchildren.

Buy your copy of Dark Powers here.

9780719817410Deep Waters by Ann Cliff

Industry in Yorkshire is booming and the cities are expanding.
Which of the rural valleys is doomed to be flooded next to quench
the cities’ thirst? Rachel Garnett is determined to fight against
engineer Roger Beckwith and his plans for a reservoir that will
engulf Firby valley. Firby Hall, where Rachel works, will be demolished when the reservoir is built. She convinces the owner not to sell, but when he dies, sole heir Guy Potts looks set to ruin Rachel’s careful work. Rachel must fight on, before her home is destroyed.

Ann Cliff was born in Yorkshire and brought up in a farming family.
Despite currently living in Australia, she writes frequently about
nineteenth century Yorkshire and her previous novels, which include
Summer by the Sea, Poacher’s Moon and Raven’s Gold, are also
published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Deep Waters here.

9780719817052Moorland Mist by Gwen Kirkwood

Emma Greig has seen little of the world when she leaves school at
fourteen to become a maid at Bonnybrae Farm. The Sinclair family
in turn welcome and reject her: Maggie is kind and warm, and her
brothers Jim and William tease Emma. Mrs Sinclair, disturbed by
her children’s friendship with the maid, resolves to remind Emma of her place. When Emma and William form a close bond, unforeseen circumstances force Emma to be sent away, and William banished from the farm he loves. Will their connection be strong enough to reunite them?

Gwen Kirkwood was born, and educated, in Yorkshire but moved to
Scotland to work. After meeting her husband, a Scottish dairy farmer,
she has spent most of her adult life north of the Border. Gwen has
three children and six grandchildren. With a background in farming
she has also written many family sagas and also romantic fiction
novels. Another Home, Another Love, Darkest Before the Dawn and
Beyond Reason are also published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Moorland Mist here.

Ivory by Maggie Campbell Pedersen


Ivory has been held in the highest esteem for millennia. This comprehensive and authoritative study of this beautiful and versatile material provides a global history of ivory worldwide – from the myths and beliefs held by prehistoric man, through its utilitarian uses in the Arctic and the beautiful carvings in medieval Europe, to its links with war, the slave trade, and religion.
Covering in detail its composition and unique properties, its sources in the animal kingdom and their conservation status, the book demonstrates how ageing and the different types of ivory and its imitations can be tested for and identified with confidence.
Ivory also explores how it has been worked by craftsmen and used over the years, from carving and marquetry to the manufacture of black paint, as well as the methods employed. Sound advice and useful tips are provided on caring for ivory, with examples, covering specific areas, including stains, scratches, cracks, cleaning and repair.
Lavishly illustrated throughout with colour photographs, Ivory is an invaluable guide for collectors, antique dealers, curators, gemmologists, conservationists and frequenters of flea markets, as well as those who simply love this attractive material.

Maggie Campbell Pedersen is a qualified gemmologist specializing in organic gem materials. Her work includes identifications, teaching, writing, and constant research into all aspects of the subject.
Maggie is an accredited lecturer for NADFAS (the National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies) and a regular contributor to Gems and Jewellery, the journal of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain. She is the author of the book Gem and Ornamental Materials of Organic Origin (Robert Hale, 2004) and the editor of Organic Gems, an online reference source and information centre.
Maggie is also a qualified commercial/industrial photographer, and through her love of animals has worked in many places, assisting in conservation, studying elephants, cheetahs and a variety of other animals.

Buy your copy of Ivory here

New non-fiction: The Noble Art of Heavyweight Boxing

The Noble Art of Heavyweight Boxing by Ralph Oates

9780719817434The Noble Art of Heavyweight Boxing is a knockout trip through the history of this popular sport, from the last thrilling bareknuckle contest in 1889 between champion John L. Sullivan and challenger Jake Kilrain, right through to modern times, covering key fights and boxing greats such as Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Rocky Marciano, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, and many, many more.

Illustrated with contemporary photographs and packed with fascinating true details about the personalities and bouts, this book will be a winner with every sports fan and boxing enthusiast.

Ralph Oates is a former amateur boxer and a renowned boxing historian. He has acted as a boxing consultant for the Guinness World Records. Ralph has also had eight previous books on the sport published, along with articles for The British Boxing Board of Control Yearbook and his own column in the Essex Courier.

Buy your copy of The Noble Art of Heavyweight Boxing here

Echoes From The Music Room

9781910208250Not surprisingly, the idea for my novel, The Music Room came to me at a concert on a winter’s night eight years ago. Watching the young solo violinist rip majestically through Mendelssohn’s Hebrides symphony, my thoughts roamed away from the stage. I pondered the tremendous pressures on her to convey the hours, days, perhaps years of rehearsal into a thirty minute moment of performance perfection.  Then the applause. The bow.  Finito. That moment, once passed, is gone— and until the advent of recorded sound, some 125 years ago—gone forever. Performance is finite. Rehearsal goes on forever.

Is the musician’s incessant rehearsing akin to the writer’s eking out many drafts? I don’t think so. Writers write and re-write, and though the book itself passes through many hands (agent, editor, copyeditor, production people, publicist,) it emerges often without fanfare or applause. No bow. Sorry. And once published, the writer does not return to rework it. No second chance to right what was wrong, as a musician can with the next performance.

Moreover, for the most part, writers work alone. Music and drama, on the other hand, are collective undertakings. Musicians and composers and actors and dramatists actively require the input of others to bring any given work to fruition. Without the composer’s work, the cellist has nothing to play. Without the band to enrich the song, the songwriter might as well just sing in the shower. For musicians (and for actors and dramatists) each undertaking creates new professional and often personal relationships. In working together artists connect, come to recognize whom to trust.   These relationships, in turn often open up into future endeavours, broadening everyone’s horizons.

In The Music Room Gloria’s endless rehearsing involves no one but herself. In this she is more like a writer than a musician. Gloria imagines (or remembers) some joyous moment of performance, applause, public recognition for her talents, even her genius. However, in her dedication to rehearsal, to grooming, perfecting her repertoire, Gloria has lost some crucial connection to the world.  She has also lost a central element of musical life. Musicians are not meant to be alone. Even if, and as she achieves perfection, Gloria has atrophied, wizened as a human being.

Gloria Denham seems to me a splendid example of the artist as pathetic character, isolated from anything and anyone who might have given her life richness and savor. Her willful ignorance only underscores her pathos. Her gorgeous music room with its brilliant acoustics ought to have exalted the collective efforts of many musicians, and at one time it did. When that moment passed, it became a sort of cell, Gloria its prisoner in solitary confinement. Ironically, Gloria finally trades that room for the chance to perform, to play in front of an audience of sycophants who are waiting for her to die.

Thematically The Music Room asks:  what do the arts extract from people who practice them? What does the artists’ obsession, their single-minded pursuit, oblige from spouses, children, parents, the people who live with or around them? Musicians, composers, painters, actors, writers must, of necessity, carve time from everything else in life to give to their work. There will be costs and losses, just as surely as there will be moments of glory. The costs and losses in this novel are borne by two children, Marcella and Rose-Renee, detritus, in their parents’ nasty divorce, debris in their family’s egotistical pursuit of the arts.

My two sons, both musicians, have taught me a lot about music, about rehearsal and performance. When they were in high school rehearsals were always at our house. As they moved out into the world, I have attended their various gigs and concerts, recitals and recording dates. While the performances are exhilarating, my favourite part of the experience is rehearsal. I like sitting at the back of an unfilled theatre, a sparsely furnished rehearsal room,  an empty nightclub, or in the recording booth at the studio, and listening to the start-and-stop, the mis-steps, the sometimes tedious repetition leading to the “Let’s move on” moment. Then they begin the same process on the next part of the program or the piece.   I enjoy sound-check just before the show. The guy at the soundboard barks at everyone. The musicians oblige him, but hold themselves in check: every bit of psychic energy must be saved up to walk out in front of the audience. Performance.

In the months just before I went to the Mendelssohn Hebrides concert that inspired The Music Room, I had watched my eldest son Bear conduct an orchestra of some eighty musicians, and watched my youngest, Brendan give his all onstage at a rock venue.  After being part of their bright, communal musical life, to return home, to this well-known room to write, seemed suddenly very lonely. It was winter and the days were short and sunless. The Hebrides concert inspired me to create, at least on paper, the noisy lives of children who live with music lilting through their lives. I wrote for a few months, finished a full draft, but then abandoned the book. Over the course of some seven years, I returned to the novel, and then left it again. The form changed, the title changed, but the story always stayed the same.

I intended to dedicate The Music Room to Bear and Brendan McCreary.  But now I have a little grand-daughter, fittingly, for a musical family, named Sonatine. So, of course, The Music Room is for her. I expect one day to attend her rehearsals too.

The Music Room is published July 2015 by Buried River Press, an imprint of Robert Hale Ltd.


New general fiction titles

Cag9780719816994ed Angel by Anne Marie Vukelic

And so he stood now, as he had done since the first moment he had taken a room opposite her house: watching. He let the curtain fall, and on the glass remained a smear where his face had been. ‘Angela…’ he whispered the name to himself. ‘Like an angel…’

Through his journal of bloodstained poems and deranged fantasies, the frenzied consciousness of the barrister Richard Dunn is revealed, as he pursues the young heiress Angela Burdett-Coutts relentlessly through the streets of Victorian London.Driven by a fixation that binds him to her through the years, the reader shares his moments of fluctuating sanity and madness as he wrestles with his delusions.With the aid of influential figures of her time – the writer Charles Dickens, the Duke of Wellington and the scientist Charles Wheatstone – Angela seeks to deal with the pain of family secrets, while refusing to be defeated by Dunn’s obsession for her.

Anne-Marie Vukelic

Anne-Marie Vukelic was born in Codsall, South Staffordshire in 1967 and went on to attend St Peter’s School in Wolverhampton. In the 1980s, she moved to Austria but has now returned to the UK. Vukelic is a lifelong enthusiast of both Victorian history and psychology and currently works as a health and social care manager. She continues to live and work in the West Midlands. Her two previous novels, Far Above Rubies and The Butterflies are Free, were published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Caged Angel here.

Duty and Deception by Roberta Grieve9780719816987

Anna Grayson has been a dutiful, loyal and obedient daughter her whole life but her world is transformed when she meets the lively and outspoken Mitchell sisters, employees in her father’s factory, who awaken her interest in the women’s suffrage movement. Anna soon abandons her unfaltering obedience to her father to join them and attend a forbidden rally. This new world of excitement and freedom comes with risks. No longer sheltered by her father’s protection, Anna is forced to grow up quickly when tragedy strikes at a rally and her beloved new friend Lily Mitchell is knocked down by a motorcar and killed. Anna suspects it is no accident. Suddenly the world outside no longer seems so enticing. Convinced of foul play, Anna enlists the help of young doctor, Daniel Peters. At first, he is dismissive of her claim that Lily was pushed into the road – who would want to kill her? – but she persuades him to join her fight to uncover the truth and find justice for Lily.

Roberta Grieve

Roberta Grieve has always loved writing and when she took an early retirement, after working for West Sussex Library Service for over twenty years, she was determined to turn her hobby into a second career. Her first book was published in 1998 and since then she has had many stories and articles published.She is secretary of the Chichester Writers’ Circle and editor of the Chichester Literary Society’s quarterly newsletter. In her spare time she enjoys painting and walking, although writing and research always take precedence. She lives in Chichester, West Sussex.

Buy your copy of Duty and Deception here.

9780719817069The Rescuer by R. S. Hill

Bideford, Devon, April 1873: the River Torridge is in flood. Almost as soon as she sets foot in the town, Abigail March saves a young woman from drowning. Abigail, the daughter of a progressive Canadian politician, is in Bideford on official business, deputizing for her father. Accompanied by Inspector Theo Newton of Scotland Yard, she has travelled to the West Country to inspect the cache of smuggled weapons being guarded by the local borough police. That night, the woman Abigail saved is murdered and the weapons disappear. The police make an arrest, but when Abigail befriends Norman, the twelve-year-old brother of the accused man, she and Newton realize that the police have made a mistake which could have tragic consequences. At first, Newton is bewildered by Abigail. He has little experience of women and her forthrightness and ideas about women’s rights unsettle him. But, as their relationship progresses, Newton is inspired by her example. Spurred on by Abigail’s fearless determination and her sympathy for those less fortunate than herself, Newton shows bravery and strength, as they works tirelessly together to solve the case and uncover the truth.

R. S. Hill

R. S. Hill was born and grew up in North Devon. He taught EFL in Greece, became Head of Department in comprehensive schools and later a local authority consultant. He now writes full time. He has contributed travel, local history and educational articles to various magazines and newspapers. An experienced Western writer, The Rescuer is his first foray into crime writing.

Buy your copy of The Rescuer here.

Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Batavia by Jeremy Kingston9780719816116

When Holmes and Watson are visited at Baker Street by a frightened figure in a stovepipe hat, their interest is immediately piqued. The bizarre man turns out to be the reclusive Prince Alexander, the only son of the King of the Netherlands. In despair, he relays his suspicions to them about a plot to steal the throne, a jilted marriage proposal, and an attempted poisoning. The detective and his assistant agree to help solve the case and quickly enter a dazzling world of power, inheritance and ambition. Passing between the grandeur of The Langham and Claremont House, Holmes and Watson meet an array of enchanting and mysterious characters, each with their part to play in the struggle for the throne. With stakes this high, the game is bound to get dirty. With chapter headings derived from the titles of Conan Doyle’s short stories, Kingston cleverly weaves together the explosions in London, the extinction of the male line of the Dutch royal house of Orange, and the death of Queen Victoria’s favourite and haemophiliac son, the Duke of Albany.

Jeremy Kingston

Jeremy Kingston is a playwright, novelist and poet. For many years he was also a theatre critic, reviewing plays for the magazine Punch and then as a critic on The Times. His most recent play was Making Dickie Happy where he imagined Noel Coward, Agatha Christie and Lord Louis (Dickie) Mountbatten happening to meet at the start of their careers at an island hotel off the coast of Devon. Two volumes of his poetry have been published. He was born in London, brought up in various Home Counties and now lives again in London.

Buy your copy of Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Batavia here.

9780719816765The Upton Undertakers by Kerry Tombs

March 1891. A group of mourners gather for a funeral in a small country churchyard in Worcestershire, but events do not go according to plan. An old friend invites Detective Inspector Ravenscroft to investigate, and before long the detective and his associate Constable Tom Crabb are embroiled in the dark world of the Upton Undertakers. Their long and dangerous investigation takes the duo across the country, from Temple in London, to the ancient Shropshire market of Ludlow, to a strange educational establishment near Bromyard. Ravenscroft eventually draws the case to a dramatic conclusion, only to find that fate has one last surprising trick to play. This is the seventh book in the thrilling Victorian Inspector Ravenscroft series.

Kerry Tombs

Kerry Tombs was born in Smethwick, near Birmingham. After a career teaching in both England and Australia, he moved to Malvern where he became a genealogist, lecturer and bookseller. He currently lives in Ludlow, Shropshire. There are six previous books in the Inspector Ravenscroft series, including the Tewkesbury Tomb and The Droitwich Deceivers.

Buy your copy of The Upton Undertakers here.

New Fiction (Buried River Press): The Music Room by Laura Kalpakian

The Music Room by Laura Kalpakian

9781910208250Young Marcella McNeill’s family are always rehearsing: her father is an actor, her mother Valerie an aspiring opera singer, her grandmother Gloria a renowned violinist. During the summer of 1969 – after their parents’ bitter divorce – Marcella and her little sister Rose-Renee are sent to live with their enigmatic grandmother in her decaying countryside mansion.

Instructed never to disturb the formidable woman as she endlessly rehearses in the music room, the children are left to run wild. They form a relationship with their cheerful neighbour Dorothea, who convinces their grandmother to allow the girls to be home-schooled with her sickly son, Rodney. Dorothea recognizes and nurtures the children’s gifts in ways they have never before experienced.

That autumn, their wayward aunt Linda returns home with a drawling, Arkansas boyfriend in tow. The struggles between mother and daughter – Gloria angry that Linda has abused and denied her gifts, Linda attacking her mother’s musical delusions – create a storm of clashing egos.

The Music Room is a novel of arrogance and artistry, of sacrifice and negligence, of delusion and conviction, of interminable rehearsal and profound performance. It is a story of love muddied with need, expedience, and opportunism – as love always is.

Laura Kalpakian

Laura Kalpakian is the author of twelve 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 2007 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:

Buy your copy of The Music Room here

New non-fiction: Marathon Training by Nikalas Cook

Marathon Training: Get to The Start Line Strong and Injury-Free


Each year, thousands of people are inspired to don their running shoes and take on the challenge of a marathon. But on the road to the finish line many marathon hopefuls fall by the wayside, struck down by injury. Largely to blame are plans that are too running intensive or that don’t prepare the body for running and ignore correct technique.

In this book, published for the first time in paperback, Nikalas Cook adopts a cross-training approach to running. Into his plan he incorporates functional strength training, complementary activities such as cycling and swimming, and only three focused running sessions per week to deliver you to the finish line 100% prepared and injury-free. In 28 weeks, you can go from being a complete non-runner, through your first 5k, 10k or half-marathon, and finally on to success in the full 26.2 miles of the marathon.

‘I decided to do the Marathon des Sables. Nik Cook trained me, and despite a long history of late nights, smoking and drinking, I don’t think I could have been better prepared. At the start line the other competitors laughed at me, but at the finish line some were conspicuously absent. Cook has a global, holistic and highly intelligent view of fitness. I revere him and am eternally grateful. He is, ‘The Man’.’ Kate Spicer, journalist & TV presenter

‘Nik’s balanced and varied approach meant I stayed injury-free throughout all of my training…  His technical knowledge of training methods, nutrition, motivation and human physiology is truly impressive.’ Ramez Sousou (Founder and co-CEO of TowerBrook Capital Partners)

Nikalas Cook

Nikalas Cook is a writer and coach who specializes in health, fitness, endurance and adventure sports. Having studied a postgraduate degree in Health and Exercise Science, he worked as a top personal trainer in London. As well as completing marathons, triathlons, ultra-marathons and other endurance challenges, he’s successfully trained clients to achieve their own endurance goals, including four successful Marathon des Sables (150-mile race in the Moroccan Sahara) clients.

Nikalas knows what constructing and implementing a safe and effective training plan involves, the kit needed, the nitty-gritty questions that always get asked and, most importantly, how to get you to the start line fit, strong and injury-free.

Buy your copy of Marathon Training here

New non-fiction: Blue Remembered Hills by Keith Pybus

Blue Remembered Hills: The Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

9780709097891The Shropshire Hills are alive with stories, although all too few of these are known to the casual visitor or even to the interested long-term resident. But each year, a lucky few will hear these weird and wonderful tales as they accompany landscape detective Keith Pybus on his walks around this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Now, for the first time, these stories have been committed to print for all to enjoy.

Follow in the footsteps of A.E. Housman, Mary Webb, Bruce Chatwin and John Osborne to rediscover this lovely part of England. Meet three local ‘Grand Designers’ and explore the mansions they built with the fortunes they made. Find out what brought Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Lucien, to the Ludlow social scene. Read the hair-raising tale of Molly Morgan, twice sentenced to transportation. Ponder over the mysterious case of the wretched maid of Ferney Hall. Ache at the heart-wrenching stories of children banished to the New World on the Mayflower. Stories that will surprise and move you and make you want to find out more about the Shropshire Hills.

Of course, explorations are not just into the past. Every year thousands of ‘foodies’ attend the Ludlow Food Festival, and its markets and restaurants could not exist without the unique and varied produce of local farms, moors and hedgerows. Church Stretton, Shropshire’s very own spa town was once promoted as ‘Switzerland without wolves and avalanches’. And Rectory Wood was recently voted the least stressful location in England.

So join Keith Pybus on an unforgettable adventure through the Shropshire Hills in all their glory. Feel the breeze in your hair, just as you feel the history at your back…

Keith Pybus

For much of his life Keith Pybus travelled the world. He has lived in the Far East, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands. He speaks fluent French, German, Swedish and passable Dutch. In 1977 he began to explore what lay on his new doorstep, the county of Shropshire.

Keith has appeared on the BBC’s Countryfile and The House Detectives, among others, and has made numerous broadcasts for local radio. When not writing, he enjoys the Shropshire Way, which runs past his front door and where a first fingerpost beckons.

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