Review: The Written World by Martin Puchner

3 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Whether you are looking at your screen, a paper or an advert in the underground almost all we see around us has words in some form or other. Even the TV news has a ticker tape of other headlines now running underneath the presenter. This technology of the written word has shaped cultures through the ages as much as cultures have shaped language and the written world.

Beginning with Alexander and his pillow book, Puchner takes us from the first marks pressed into clay, the invention of vellum, paper and inks that were first made into codex’s or books as we now call them. Most importantly though was the stories, messages and words that were written on them. These words and works of literature from the epic classics to the political tracts and the religious texts, they have shaped the way people think, cause revolutions and inspired people to fight for the causes they believe in.

A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on. ― Terry Pratchett

That power of language is still with us today, as can be seen from modern day politics… This is an interesting book and Puchner has done pretty well to distil the vast magnitude of world literature and the effects that it has had around the world and bring it in between the covers of this book. It has a really helpful timeline at the beginning with locations where each chapter of our literary journey was started and the text is enhanced with images of some of the books he mentions in the text. It is an enjoyable read, the only flaw being that it cannot go into too much depth to make the book manageable, however, there is a large reference section though for those that want to discover more about our shared literary legacy.

Review: Arabia by Jonathan Raban

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

After the oil boom of the 1970’s Arabs lefts the security of their homelands and started to become more visible in the Western capitals. Seeing them around London made Raban think it would be good to travel to their home countries and see what life was like there. It was a journey that would take him from Bahrain to Qatar, Yemen to Jordon and finally to Egypt and he wanted to go there before the vast wealth from oil changed these places irreparably. He was a little late as wealth had flowed into the communities over there, sons had headed to Europe and America to learn medicine and engineering, The temperamental Range Rover had replaced the grumpy camel and the tents that had been the homes for the Bedouin for hundreds of years were stopping being used as they moved into homemade from brick and mortar.

However, the old way of life is still there if you want to go and look for it. Raban is gregarious nature means that he easily forges friendships with the people that he meets as he travels through each of the countries. Mixing with the expat community who are trying to recreate a little bit of England over there he finds interesting, but what he is there for is to walk the streets, absorbing the smells of the souks,  chew the qat sip strong coffee with men and get lost in the maze of street away from the tourist area. He speaks to fishermen on quaysides that have been almost untouched by the economic change, apart from making fish traps from wire and changing the sails on their dhows to engines. Walking through the night he hears the call of the muezzins before the first rays of dawn erupt across the sky.

This is the first Raban book that I have read, it won’t be the last either as I have been kindly sent a small pile from Eland of their republications and have bought a couple of others. He reminds me of Patrick Leigh Fermor in some ways with the way that he can engage with people from all walks of life from diplomats to the man squatting in the market with a few things to sell.  His prose is very eloquent, making it a readable travel book, but most importantly he is prepared to ask searching questions of those that he interacts with to get a better insight to the places he visits. Thoroughly enjoyable and looking forward to his next, Old Glory.

#BlogTour: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

The Blurb:

1967: Four female scientists invent a time-travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril.

2017: Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future–a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady.

2018: When Odette discovered the body, she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, flesh. But when the inquest fails to answer any of her questions, Odette is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

My review:

The year is 1967 and four women are about to achieve worldwide fame for being the first to reveal their invention to the world; a Time Machine. As the stand in front of the live television audience and demonstrate the machine, as they step out, one of the four, Barbara Hereford has a breakdown and is rushed away from the spotlight for medical attention.

Fifty-one years later and the time machines are run by the what is known as the Conclave still headed up by Margaret. The technology is now safe to use, and there have been various spin-offs, including a child’s toy called the candy box that could project the small object placed inside to a few minutes in the future. Odette is new to volunteering at the toy museum and has been asked to open up, but when she opens the door there is a strong smell of sulphur. Following the scent, she ends up in the basement and traces the smell to a locked cupboard. Unlocking it and opening it a body of a woman falls out that is bleeding profusely from gunshot wounds. More shocking is the fact that the inquest into her death fails to find any evidence or answer any of her questions.

Ruby knows that her grandmother, Barbara, was a pioneer on the time machines, but after her breakdown, she has never really spoken about it and it was something that was strongly enforced by Ruby’s mother. However, when they receive a message from the future about the mysterious death of an elderly lady it is time for Barbra to open up about the past and maybe she can help solve the mystery of the murder across time.

Time travel books are notoriously difficult to get right and in the pretty accomplished debut novel from Mascarenhas, she manages it pretty well. The story zips along pretty quickly as the story is told from different perspectives by the large number of characters in the book. The narrative jumps from the past to the future as each piece of the mystery is revealed. It is a really enjoyable story and if you liked the Fifteen Lives of Harry August then you should really give this a go too.

About the Author:

Born in 1980, she is of mixed heritage (white Irish father, brown British mother) and has family in Ireland and the Republic of Seychelles.

She studied English at Oxford and Applied Psychology at Derby. Her PhD, in literary studies and psychology, was completed at Worcester.

Since 2017 Kate has been a chartered psychologist. Previously she has been an advertising copywriter, bookbinder, and doll’s house maker. She lives in the English Midlands with her partner.

Take a moment to visit the others on the tour:

 

Thank you to Blake Brooks at Head of Zeus for sending me a signed copy of the book to read. Follow the hashtag

 

Review: The Immeasurable World by William Atkins

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Atkins is the latest one to be drawn to those impenetrable places, deserts. He joins an illustrious list of explorers and people who are seeking something amongst the arid sands. The geographer definition of a desert is somewhere that has less than 250mm of rain per year, but for those that know what to look for, they can be places of riches and places where life is right at the edge, but they are not lifeless if you know where to look. Atkins is not fully sure what he is seeking though, his partner of four years had accepted a job overseas and he was not going with her. Seeking some clarity of mind he heads out to the Empty Quarter on the Arabian peninsular a place made famous by the travel writer Wilfred Thesiger. In his book Arabian Sands, he went searching for those that still carried out the age-old Bedouin life and where others saw unforgiving wilderness, Thesiger found timeless peace. Standing in the mountainous pink dunes, he is humbled by the vastness of the place and by the people who know these places so intimately that they are never lost.

The Great Victorian Desert in Australia has been Aboriginal lands for millennia. The UK government with collusion from the Aussie PM used it for numerous nuclear tests. These were on ancient Aboriginal land and the fallout caused many health problems and displaced people who had no idea of what was really going on. Even though it echoed to the most powerful blasts that we humans can make it is still a place that has spiritual significance to the people that still choose to live there. The next two deserts are in Asia; the Gobi and what is left of the Aral Sea. These utterly different places have been used as a method of defence to protect China for people trying to enter the country and the other a site of a massive environmental disaster. Stepping once again in the footsteps of travellers before him, in this case in it is the Cable sisters, where he discovers a place that is tense and edgy. Standing in the desert that once was the Aral sea is quite a surreal experience and he learns how the waters that once contained sturgeon now hold no life and how the demands for irrigation drained this once great freshwater sea.

Next place to visit is the continent of America where Atkins visits two deserts are on the list. First up is the Sonoran Desert. It is a harsh and baked environment that borders Mexico and is a focus for those wanting to cross and realise their own American Dream. Very little of it is fenced to keep people out as the desert is pretty effective at doing that, and Atkins joins those that are trying to keep people out as well as those who are there to offer some humanity to those that have made the attempt to cross. The polarised views of each camp make this a tense place, very different to his next desert, which is the Black Rock Desert and the festival that is the Burning Man where he has offered to help out. The contrast between this place with its liberal perspective on sex, nudity and drugs and the previous location is stark. These places are both very different to his final location though, St Anthony’s Monastery in the Eastern Desert of Egypt a place that revels in its isolation from the pressures of the modern world and brings Atkins full circle to the spiritual and intangible elements of the desert.

Even though deserts are some of the lest populated places in the world, this is still a series of stories about the people that inhabit them, however, scarce they might be. I particularly liked the chapter on the Australian Great Victoria Desert, a place that was taken from its rightful inhabitants and is slowly being returned having been contaminated. It makes for painful reading. It is as much about Atkins though, he is using the vastness of the desert to clarify his mind and as a support for the pain that he went through at the end of a relationship. Whilst this is a travel book, there is history, poetry and philosophy in amongst the drifting sands. His prose is lucid with hints of melancholy and this book contains some of the best maps I have seen in a travel book yet. Well worth reading for a modern take on deserts.

 

Review: The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

3 out of 5 stars

Roz, Charis, and Tony meet once a month for lunch and to catch up on all the gossip. This month though is different as they are stunned having all seen Zenia, someone they thought was dead. They had even all gone to the funeral to be certain. She was someone who they knew from university, and who had had affairs with their other halves stolen money and who they were collectively glad to see the back of. This common dislike of a woman, now seemingly back from the dead brings them closer together but also brings back the memories of what she did to them and the pain that she caused.

As they confront her separately to understand what was going on, Zenia begins to spin her web of half-truths and outright lies as she explains what was going on to the three friends. Her presence has caused much pain before and it looks like she is aiming to cause havoc with their lives once again.

Atwood is a talented author, and this is a very cleverly created story of how one woman can cause so much suffering to people who just want to get on with their lives. Whilst Zenia was a captivating character, the other three were slightly shallow and occasionally annoying. The story took ages to build up, so much so that the first 250 odd pages dragged somewhat. I am not keen on novels that jump back and forwards in time, as it takes a page or so to re-orientate myself to again to the story, and this was another small flaw in here. The final third of the book was the best part as the threads begun in the first half were pulled tight. Really liked the dramatic ending and was as enigmatic as Zenia herself.

Monthly Muse: July

How is it August already?? Is time getting faster or is it just me? Settling into the new job well, hopefully, I will be able to make a difference there. The fantastic weather that we have been having broke this month on the only weekend we had booked to go camping! Such is life, but I did get to go to a few bookshops in Bridport and might have just acquired a few more books. Anyway onto what I read last month. Seemed to be a busy month, so didn’t get as many read as I have been doing in previous months, in the end, I read 15.

Began the month with In Search of Ancient North Africa: A History in Six Lives by the bundle of energy that is Barnaby Rogerson. He is the owner of Eland books, the people who are bringing back many travel classics into print and who are generous to me. This book is a combined travelogue and history books about six people who have had a significant impact on the history of this landscape. Fascinating stuff, I wish it had a little more on his travels in the modern world.

 

Next up was a small pile of books on how we as people respond to the natural world. First was Sarah Ivens book, Forest Therapy about how we can spend more time in the natural world and the positive benefits that it can bring us. Worth reading, but the next book Into Nature by the people involved with the mindfulness project, Alexandra Frey & Autumn Totton didn’t really do it for me. The aim of the book is the same enabling people to get out into the wild and discover things about themselves and where they are, but it was a little too thin on content for my liking. Next up was How To Survive in the Wild by Sam Martin & Christian Casucci which gives concise plans for those wishing to go off grid and build their own shelters and fires, hunt for their own food and if they feel so inclined, build a log cabin. Best of this little bunch was The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. Taking the same themes as Forest Therapy and Into nature, William has gone all over the world to look at the latest research on the impact of spending time outdoors. Fantastic read and I really hope that there is still some left to venture into.

To say that the natural world is under threat in the UK would be an understatement and in this devastating critique, Mark Cocker lays out the harsh cold facts as he sees them. It does not make for comfortable reading, and he is prepared to show the work that is having an impact and openly talk about those organisations that he feels are failing. It is a book that should be read by many people, especially those that are in positions of power to do something about this mess.

My book of the month, and when you read it in conjunction with the Nature Fix and learn how we need that for our well being then you’ll see why too.

 

 

The next theme was all on books. Scribbles in the Margins is a collection of 50 or so things that book lovers (or addicts) do, really enjoyable little book and zipped through this in no time at all. I had really enjoyed Susan Hill’s book, Howard’s End is on the Landing, so was looking forward to Jacob’s Room Is Full Of Books. It didn’t disappoint either as she recounts a whole year of reading a wide variety of books and authors and how she discovers her next read. Next was Alex Johnson’s A Book of Book Lists. A book of lists of books and full of things of wonder. So if you want to know which pop stars liked books then this is the place to start. I am a big lover of libraries and had borrowed Reading Allowed by Chris paling from my local library. They are a precious resource that is under great threat from our present government that we will miss when it does go. We don’t know the town that Paling is a librarian in, but the stories that he has to tell from his day to day life there are compelling and occasionally heartbreaking.

I am old enough to remember the Great Storm of 1987, however, I didn’t hear a thing as I slept through it. The chaos that I woke up to was unreal. In Windblown, Tamsin Treverton Jones tells the stories behind the storm, but there is a personal element too as she finds the person who made her late fathers mural design into a real object made from the wind-felled trees at Kew Gardens. It is a really touching story that I have heard her talk about too.

The next book was also weather themed, and in London Fog, Christine L. Corton tells the literary and artistic stories that were a response to the horrific fogs that London was plagued with until the 1960’s. It is a reasonable read, and the images included within are well worth looking through in particular the photos.

I had read Alastair Humphreys two books about his 46,000-mile cycle around the world and I had been in contact with the publisher about this months Publisher Profile this month and they offered to send me this and two other books. There is not a lot in here as it is a book version of those inspirational posters you see on walls. That said the photos are stunning and this book and the author are capable of inspiring people to push themselves to real the goals that they desire.

 

I have been neglecting my #WorldFromMyArmchair challenge recently (post to follow later this month on it) but The Timbuktu School for Nomads was due back to the library and I had a proof of The Immeasurable World to read which are both desert themed, so it seems to be a good place to start ( I also read Arabia by Jonathan Raban but that will appear in August). It is a well-written book about Jubbers travels around the north-west part of the African continent and the time he spends meeting the people of those countries. He is prepared to muck in and learn how they make a living as well as spending time with the nomads of the desert. William Atkins new book is really good too, (review to follow soon) is about eight short journeys on the world’s most famous deserts, following in the footsteps of some of the classic travel writers, discovering how places are changing in the modern world and helps out at the Burning Man festival in the states.

 

That was it. Have any of you read any of these? Any you like the sound of? Or any you’d like to recommend based on what I have read here?

Happy reading all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Photographs of Joan Leigh Fermor by Olivia Stewart & Ian Collins

5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

For years Joan stood in the shadow of her much more famous husband Patrick Leigh Fermor. Hus accounts of travelling around the Caribbean, his World War two exploits and his ‘great trudge’ across pre-war Europe are well known. Thankfully Joan is now getting some attention. Her biography by Simon Fenwick is well worth reading for greater insight into her own life.

One of the things that she was most famous for before the war was her photographs, most notably of the London blitz and architectural photos.  After separating from her husband, she headed out to Egypt and it was there that she met Paddy. After the war then ended up in Kardamyli, in the Mani, where they put down roots and eventually built their own home there. She never gave up the photography though, and this book drawn is from an unknown treasure trove of photos that was discovered after her death.

It is quite a special collection that Olivia Stewart & Ian Collins have drawn together. In here are photos of Paddy and the people that were in their circle of friends, but there is a much richer seam of life that she has captured from Greece. In here she has captured the buildings and people that inhabit the landscapes in a series of beautifully composed images. Even though these are a curated selection from an archive of 5000 images, she is a photography of some talent. Each of the images have some element that captures the eye, the people, the places or just the energy from the subject matter. The second part of the books is a biography of her and her work, not as comprehensive as Simon Fenwick’s book, as you’d expect, but this is about the photos and shows her mastery of the subject. This beautiful book is essential for any fan of Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Publisher Profile: Eye & Lightning Books

For me, independent publishers are the people in the industry who are prepared to take risks on new authors and books where the larger players either don’t wish to venture, or where they can’t see there being a return on. Each month in 2018 I am aiming to highlight some of my favourite independent publishers, along with some of their books that I have loved and also to have someone from the publisher answer a few questions. This month is the turn of Eye and Lightning Books

I have been on twitter for almost two years now and the contacts that I have made through there with authors, publishers and fellow readers continue to be a rich seam of bookish goodness. One of those publishers is Eye and Lightning books, a publisher that I had not come across, or so I thought. Turns out I had. They published a pair of books by the adventurer Alastair Humphreys called Moods of Future Joys and Thunder and Sunshine of his 46,000 mile trip cycling around the world. I had picked up book two from the library, but the didn’t have the first book. Duly bought a copy and read them back in 2016. Thought it was slightly mad that they only had the second half of the journey so donated the first volume to them.  Another of those that I have met in this virtual space is Scott Pack, (@meandmybigmouth) who was doing a thread on the how hard it was for small publishers to get time with booksellers and the perils of sending review copies out. Around 90% of them never get read. I will admit that I do not always get to a book immediately and often miss the publication date, but almost always, if they have been kind enough to send me a copy, I will read and review it.

Brief correspondence was entered into, and they very kindly offered to send me Alastair Humphreys motivational book, Ten Lessons from the Road which i have read and reviewed elsewhere on the blog as well as a couple of other travel books:

Which I haven’t read yet, but will be getting to very soon. Turns out that they do a lot of travel books, and a lot of them look rather good and will fit in with my #WorldFromMyArmchair challenge that I am doing. On my radar are Riding with Ghosts and Squirting Milk at Chameleons and his follow-up book, Chasing Hornbills. Scott at Eye and Lightning was kind enough to answer the questions below:

Can you tell me a little about the history of Eye Books / Lightning Books?

Eye Books was founded twenty years ago by Dan Hiscocks. He wanted to publish extraordinary stories told by ordinary people and, in the early days, this manifested itself in a fascinating and vibrant list of travel writing. So he published books by women who had walked to the North Pole, a bloke who had cycled the world, people who had travelled to previously closed countries such as Tibet and Saudi Arabia, and all manner of amazing tales. Over the years this evolved somewhat, to include a range of genres and writers, and a few years ago he decided to venture into fiction, and that is when he set up Lightning Books.

 

How is the company organised today and how many people work for you?

So Dan is the founder and publisher. Simon looks after social media, the website and marketing. Hugh handles our sales. Clio does most of our copy editing and typesetting. Ellie manages our publicity. I am editor-at-large and acquire books for our lists. We run a virtual office, with Slack as our main communication tool, and meet up every six weeks or so in person, usually in London. None of us are full-time and we have to be creative and nimble to make everything work, but it does sort of work.

 

What is the company philosophy when it comes to selecting for your catalogue?

Because we publish across a wide range of genres; fiction, travel, memoir, biography, music, graphic novels, crime, thrillers, experimental novels, humour, business – our philosophy is pretty simple. At least one of us, ideally all of us, will love the book and believe we can help it find an audience.

 

How do you go about choosing the titles to be included in your portfolio?

They come from all directions. We receive submissions both direct from authors and from agents. On occasion, I have approached authors I know and some of our acquisitions arrive that way. I am a big fan of the wonderful writing coming out of New Zealand and Australia at the moment, much of which is ignored by UK publishers, so that is another rich source. You never know where the next book is coming from.

 

Tell me about your process after selecting a book for publication

Usually, everyone in the team will read the manuscript and offer feedback and I will collate that and consider it during my own edit if it is one of my acquisitions. I will then work with the author to make the book as good as it can be. Generally, the person who acquires the book then manages things such as cover and text design but everyone gets their chance to offer an opinion.

We also work closely together on pricing, scheduling and the publicity plans for each book, so it is very much a collaborative effort all round.

 

How much effort goes into the design of the book, for example, the cover design, font selection and so on?

I used to be head of buying for Waterstones so I know how important it is to have a strong cover, and also how often small publishers let themselves down by not creating a commercial package for their books, so we spend a lot of time making sure our titles can hold their own on the bookshop shelves.

For most of my books, I work with the designer Ifan Bates, who is incredibly versatile and can give us a hugely commercial thriller cover the same month as he delivers a cover for a literary memoir.

As for the insides of the books, we are perhaps unusual in that we have an in-house typesetter with Clio. She will chat with the editor about the look and feel we want for the text and will create a few samples to consider. One thing she is a big fan of is ensuring that the cover design is echoed in some way throughout the book, often by creating chapter headers in the same style as the cover text. It is a small thing but looks great.

 

Are there any up and coming books that you are publishing soon that we need to look out for?

Actually, most of our 2018 list is already published. As a small publisher it is pointless going up against the big guns in autumn and Christmas. We rarely get the space in newspapers, magazines or bookshops at that time of year and we want to give our authors the best chance of selling. So most of our publishing takes place in the spring and summer.

We do have one book still to come, though, An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire. It is a hugely acclaimed Australian novel, shortlisted for lots of awards over there, about the impact of a murder on a small town. What I loved about it is the way it presents a crime novel in a different way, focusing on the aftermath of the crime and examining the media obsession with the murders of young women. Hugely thought provoking and I think it will prove to be very popular with UK readers. We publish it in August.

 

What debut authors are you publishing this year?

We have published two proper debuts this year.

James Hall is a journalist of many years’ standing, most recently as a music writer, but The Industry of Human Happiness is his first book. It is a novel set in the early days of recorded sound and is so rich with period detail and resonates with a real love of music.

And then making a huge jump in genre, The Participation Revolution is a business book by Neil Gibb, a consultant who has worked with Shell, Barclays, the European Space Agency and others. His take on the future of business and employment has proved to be really popular.

But then we have also published the first literary novel by a former crime writer, a memoir by a novelist, an experimental novel by an author who has only published short stories before and a second novel that was actually the first novel the author had written. So lots of exciting firsts.

 

How did you come across them?

James actually tweeted me – I had known him for years – and asked me to take a look at his book. I loved it, which was a relief as I often get sent books by people I know and they turn out not to be all that great. And Neil was, I believe, one of Dan’s contacts after years of networking and being a publisher around town.

 

What title of yours has been an unexpected success?

The Antipodeans by Greg McGee was the first book we published this year and it received no press reviews at all and very few bookshops bought copies, except for Smiths Travel who ordered loads and went on to sell loads. So many that other bookshops had to take notice and more orders started coming in. The fact that those initial sales came purely from in-store merchandising was a pleasant surprise.

 

What would you say were the undiscovered gems in your catalogue?

New Zealand author Sarah Laing’s graphic memoir, Mansfield & Me, part biography of Katherine Mansfield and part autobiography, told in comic book form, is a groundbreaking book that I thought we might be able to persuade the literary pages of the newspapers to cover, or perhaps some UK authors to shout about, as it was a subject they’d love approached in a different way, but no such luck, so we are pretty much relying on word of mouth and chance discoveries at the moment. Goodness, that was a long sentence. Anyway, we knew this one might be a slow burner and we are confident it will find a wider audience as the year goes on.

There are lots of gems in our older backlist, especially among the travel books, and there are lots I still need to read myself. I just need to get the edits for our 2019 books done first!

 

How do you use social media for promoting books and authors?

It is tricky with social media as, naturally, you need to use it to promote your books but if that is all you do then people quickly switch off. Simon manages our social media accounts and I think he offers a nice balance of promotion, discussion and the sharing of other user’s content, including that of our authors. He also makes these great little images containing quotes our books have received and they are easy to share online. I often use my personal Twitter account to talk about what is happening at Eye & Lightning. In fact, a thread I posted about the realities of life as a small publisher came to your attention and directly led to this publisher profile, so thanks for that.

 

Is working with book bloggers becoming a larger part of that process now?

It always has been a large part for us, partly because it can be hard for small publishers to get books reviewed in newspapers and on radio etc. and bloggers offer a broader and better chance of getting coverage. Having a blogger passionate about a book you have published can make a real difference to sales. However, as a former blogger myself, I know that that they receive a hell of a lot of books, many of then not remotely appropriate for them, so we find it is best to build relationships with bloggers, if possible, rather than just sending out books in the hope that they want to read them.

 

What book do you wish you had published?

I have been really lucky and published some of my all-time favourite authors – WP Kinsella, William Wharton, Otfried Preussler – as well as authors who have become real friends – Tracy Farr, Niven Govinden, Kristin Hersh – so it seems churlish to covet another. However, I would have loved to have published Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey. I would have been supremely unqualified to do so, of course, but how wonderful to be involved in such an important and long overdue publication.

 

What does the future hold for Eye Books / Lightning Books?

So next year we publish an experimental ‘found’ novel from an award-winning New Zealand author, a cosy crime debut, the third book in a legal thriller series, a gripping dystopian drama by a Hungarian-born novelist, the same short story told in 99 different styles and a novel set during the BSE crisis.


Thank you to Scott once again for taking time out of his hectic schedule to answer those questions for me. I really appreciate it. Their books are available from all good bookshops. I would urge you to buy them from an independent bookshop if you can as this support them, the publisher and of course the author with one purchase.

Previous Publisher Profiles:
 

Review: London Fog by Christine L. Corton

3 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Way back in my childhood I remember my father, who is a Londoner, talking about the Smog’s that they used to have. These ‘pea soupers’ basically rendered the capital incapacitated until they cleared. These were the result of the location of London combined with vast amounts of pollution from open fires and industry and not only did people struggle to move around in them, they were killers too. The fog held in suspension poisoned the population, provided cover for crime and other nefarious activities and caused all manner of accidents on the days that they existed. They were last seen in the 1960’s after the government of the day finally passed and enforced the Clean Air Act.

London became known as the City of Fog and this seeped into the art and literature. This book just on this weather phenomena, Corton peers through the gloom to bring us the stories from history, excerpts from writers such as T. S. Eliot, Robert Louis Stevenson and of course Charles Dickens. There are a large number of artworks, cartoon and photographs included in the book adding to the atmosphere. The photos are particularly poignant as they really show just how bad it was to live through. The research that has gone into this is extensive, as the 60 odd pages of notes attest. Occasionally the prose could be a little dry and academical, but there was normally something interesting along out of the murk to pique your interest once again.

Review: The Timbuktu School for Nomads by Nicholas Jubber

4.5 out of 5 stars

The Sahara desert is the largest hot desert in the world. The only deserts larger than it, are the polar regions. It covers the top part of Africa and is around 3.6 million square miles in area. It hasn’t always been a desert as every 41,000 years or so it changes back into grasslands before reverting to desert once again. It is harsh there too, the temperature in the hottest part of the year can reach 40 deg. C with the sand reaching 85 deg. C and the night time temperatures can drop to 13 deg. C. The surreal landscape has attracted all sorts of people of the millennia, the people who managed to survive there became nomads, travelling from waterhole to waterhole, eking a living from the shifting sands. The cities became places of legend, centres where the merchants who brought a substance more valuable than gold from the arid land, salt and it is the place where the richest man who ever lived made his fortune.

Even with the threat of jihadists, it is a place that still attracts travellers. Nicholas Jubber is one of those who is captivated by the region and is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the 16th-century traveller Leo Africanus. His journey will take him from the sands of Morocco to the markets of Mauritania and onto the city of the sands, Timbuktu. On his journey around these countries, he wants to be involved with the locals; help them, learn from them and discover the secrets of the desert. He ends up helping in a tannery, wandering the sands alone while friends that he has made keep an eye on him, ride camels and glean the ways to look for water in a landscape that surrenders very little.

By travelling with the locals he immerses himself in the culture. slowly they come to accept this man who mangles their language, shares their food and camps deep in the dunes. He absorbs the peace of the desert, understanding the people that choose to live there and why they would not swap this life for anything. Not only is he a sensitive traveller, it is really well written too, describing what he sees with the excited eyes of a child. But it is a place of danger too, the journey into Timbuktu was fraught and the stories that he heard when he arrived were horrific. Can really recommend this for those that want something a little different from regular travel books and it is about a part of our world that is rarely written about now. 4.5 stars.

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