Thursday, 25 February 2010

March of Time - London

Another chance to see Ken Worpole talking about Alexander Baron, and Ray Banks takes his Gun to a reading more exotic than normal:

Wednesday 10 March: 8.00pm
The Classic Slum? Fiction, myth and history on Hackney's wild borders. A new edition of Alexander Baron's novel, King Dido, published by Five Leaves, brings the shocking history of the 'Old Nichol' slum in Shoreditch to life again. For the Victorians and the Edwardians this handful of streets on Hackney's borders represented everything that was evil and unredeeming in decent society. Yet were they quite as bad as they were thought to be? In this joint talk, historian Sarah Wise, author of The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum, and Ken Worpole, who has written the introductory essay to the new edition of King Dido, discuss the many ways in which journalists, social campaigners and novelists have sought to provide a definitive picture of these once notorious streets.Stoke Newington Bookshop, 159 Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 0NY
Tickets: £2 (includes a glass of wine and discount on featured books).
Info: 0207 249 2808
Fri 12 March: 7.00pm
Music from Led Bib & Get The Blessing, Dark fiction from Toby Litt, Cathi Unsworth, Courttia Newland & Ray Banks (author of Gun, published by Five Leaves). Visuals from Huzzah!! Noir
A night of criminal fiction, comic art and music of a darker hue. Enter a world where murder smells like honeysuckle and lunch is drunk from a bottle. In Toynbee Theatre’s art deco, velvet auditorium, four authors present a selection of bleeding-edge crime stories, intercut with animated chapters of online, collaborative comic strip Huzzah!! Noir.
Toynbee Theatre £10 / £12 door
Tuesday 16 March: 7.30pm
Alexander Baron - novelist of London's street life and politics. The Guardian described Alexander Baron (1917 - 1999) as 'the greatest British novelist of the last war and among the finest of the postwar period.' Jewish-born in Hackney, Baron was amongst those idealists who tried to fight in Spain, who got caught up in political and literary life in London, fought in several major wartime battles, and who, after the war became the author of a series of gripping novels about war and London life in the East End, and in Soho. Three of the most famous are From the City, from the Plough (1948), The Lowlife (1963) and King Dido (1969).This talk will be given by writer Ken Worpole, who knew Baron.
Upstairs Room, The Wheatsheaf Pub, 25 Rathbone Place, London W1.Tickets: £3.00

Monday, 22 February 2010

Ray Gosling

This is not the place to rehearse the current story about Ray Gosling, the Nottingham writer who said on television that he smothered a lover who was dying. There have been many stories locally and nationally about this. Last Friday at 6.30pm a reporter from the Mail on Sunday pitched up on my home doorstep, asking my bemused partner if I was publishing Ray's new autobiography. I was in Scotland so she simply took the Mail man's number. I was interested that the chap chose to doorstep, as that home address is not in the public domain. The Mail could easily have rung or emailed the Five Leaves' office.

Yesterday's Mail - under the heading "Police seize Gosling autobiography in 'mercy killing' hunt" said that "It is thought he is in talks with a publisher, Five Leaves, to bring out the book this year. A friend said 'Ray told me about the book. I don't know if there's a name or an account of what happened'". The article goes on to say that "Identifying the victim is a huge challenge".

Perhaps one way of meeting this huge challenge was to nip round to the publisher's house and ask him if the name was in the manuscript? Why didn't the police think of that? Only, we've never read the book, discussed it with Ray, taken part in any talks about bringing it out, or even knew of its existence until reading the article in the Mail.

We are in the throes of re-publishing Ray's book Personal Copy: a memoir of the 1960s. This book was first published by Faber in 1980 and has some wonderful chapters about Nottingham and Leicester, Centre 42 and other aspects of life in the 1960s. Perhaps the Mail is confused.

There was one part of the article concerning Five Leaves that was correct though "Five Leaves was not available for comment". Indeed.

Monday, 15 February 2010

You've lost that loving feeling

Walking down Marchmont Street in London it was encouraging to see the Camden Council street signs saying "Love Your High Street", and offering a website for further information. And there on you will find a great promotion for Gay's the Word Bookshop. Here it is in full:
Internationally renowned, this small independent book shop and community hub has been providing textual orientation to London’s gay community for 30 years. The shelves, which are sponsored by the shop’s supporters, hold books on gay history, advice on coming out and gay and lesbian fiction.
66 Marchmont Street WC1N 1AB020 7278 7654

Fantastic. Surely this then can't be the same Camden Council that is trying to put up Gay's the Word rent by 25%, threatening its existence?

The second hand and remainder shop Marchmont Books has suggested it is unlikely to continue trading, and Camden Council is also trying to whack up the rent of Maghreb Books, a small specialist bookshop carrying books on the Maghreb, Keep reading Camden New Journal for developments.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Colin Ward

The anarchist writer Colin Ward, who died on the night of 11th February, was indirectly responsible for the existence of Five Leaves. We’d met years before, and like several people I later met, I’d been vaguely collecting Colin’s Anarchy (first series), still the best anarchist magazine produced in this country. A small group of us in Nottingham, publishing as Old Hammond Press, brought out a couple of pamphlets by Colin, one on housing, one on William Morris’s ideas of work. But in 1994 I got so fed up waiting for Faber to bring out the paperback of The Allotment: its landscape and culture that I offered to buy the rights. Colin said that as long as his co-writer, David Crouch, was in agreement he’d be pleased if Faber were to hand them over, and if it helped, the co-authors would do without royalties as they were simply pleased to have the book available in paperback.
Well, thousands of copies later Colin never regretted his generosity, and as well being the first book published by Five Leaves (though initially, for the sake of any bibliographers reading, Mushroom Bookshop), for years The Allotment kept the press afloat. We went on to publish Colin’s Arcadia for All (co-written with Dennis Hardy), Talking Anarchy (with David Goodway) and Cotters and Squatters. Colin also wrote the introduction to our edition of The London Years by Rudolf Rocker, who of course he knew. Rocker in turn knew Peter Kropotkin, whose Mutual Aid had such an influence on Colin as a political thinker. I’d hoped that we’d manage to fit in an edition of Colin’s Goodnight Campers! (on the social history of the holiday camp) while he was still with us, and his wonderful book on Chartres that was only ever published for Folio Society members. They will appear.
Five Leaves was not his only publisher by any means. Freedom Press brought out - and kept in print - his classic Anarchy in Action and other books on housing, social policy and - in advance of his time - a book on ecological transport. Housing, environment, transport, architecture, unofficial uses of the landscape, the education of children - Colin’s subjects were always full of positive examples of the way some people live now, and the way we could all live later. He had no time for what he called tittle-tattle. Colin developed a kind of Wardite politics and a close and loyal following ranging from George Mombiot to young libertarians who saw that there was more to life than permanent protest.
There will be many full obituaries, in the broadsheet, the anarchist and the housing press in particular. There are so many things that could be mentioned here, but I’ll simply say that every conversation with Colin was rewarding, educational and fun. He was the most generous of people, strengthened by his many years with Harriet, an activist and writer in her own right. We have been proud to have worked with Colin over many years and will miss him.
Ken Worpole - another Five Leaves writer (who, like Colin, has been published by several other publishers) - will be fronting communications about any events and memorials. Let us know if you would like to be kept informed. Colin's funeral will be at 2.00pm on March 1st at Ipswich Crematorium. Our condolences to Harriet and the family.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

States of Independence

A regional event
Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Oxford Road, Leicester
10.30am – 4.30pm, Saturday 20th March.
Independent presses from across the region (and some from around the country) will be on site, together with many regional writers whose work is published by large and small independent publishers. Join us for an hour or two or the whole day.
Open to all and free of charge.

Forty writers, mostly from the East Midlands, will be reading from their work at an events programme to accompany an equal number of independent publishers and writers' organisations staffing bookstalls and displaying their work.
Authors include nationally known figures including children's writers Berlie Doherty (twice winner of the Carnegie Award) and Chris D'Lacey, novelists Anthony Cartwright (Heartland, recently read on Book at Bedtime) and Rod Madocks (shortlisted for the ITV Crime and Thriller Awards) and poets Gregory Woods and Deborah Tyler-Bennett. We'll also be providing a Leicester launch for Maria Allen's first novel, launching the international poetry magazine Cleave and featuring talks on independent football magazines, the 1984 Miners' Strike and well known phrases and sayings.
Independent press editors taking part include Iron Press's Peter Mortimer on his “40 years before the mast” as a publisher, and Lynne Patrick from Crème de la Crime, probably the only female crime fiction publisher in the UK. Publishers, groups and magazines from the East and West Midlands and the North East in particular will be represented.
Organised by Five Leaves Publications in Nottingham and the Creative Writing Team at De Montfort Univeristy.
Printed programmes available from, 0115 9895465. Web programmes:


In the scale of things, £694.05 is not a huge sum of money. This is the amount owed to Five Leaves by Borders/Books Etc following their Xmas closure. That's what they owe us for books taken, possibly even sold. We're not likely to get any of the money, nor any of the unsold books back. The people who are first in the queue for what the administrators managed to get for the assets (our assets) goes to the administrators, then - gosh, faint with surprise - the bankers. The Borders closure cost you money as well of course since Borders could not pay the statutory minimum redundancy pay so the taxpayer had to.
The blogs and The Bookseller in December and January were awash with concerns about the business practices that caused the closure. But what can you do? We have cut the expense account of the office cat and will make what everyone seems to call efficiency savings. But what we really want to do is burgle the house of Philip Downer, CEO of Borders, and take goods to the value of £694.05 because Borders certainly mugged us, and most other publishers too.

Friday, 5 February 2010

John Rety

I am sorry to find fellow editor John Rety, of Hearing Eye, has died. John was born in Hungary in 1930, coming to this country in 1947. Though he came to the notion of anarchism when he was 13/14 ("very late") he became seriously involved in the 1960s, becoming a member of the Committe of 100, and an editor of Freedom. He was a bohemian figure, a former partner of the writer Laura del Rivo, and was the first person to publish Colin Wilson, though he moved away from Colin Wilson as Colin moved to the right politically.

Since the 80s John was one of the key people at Torriano Poets and at Hearing Eye. He had an ability to pull in important readers to this scruffy little venue, none of whom were paid, and who were happy to rub shoulders with "readers from the floor" with all that meant. His press published Dannie Abse and others, actually about 200 publications in total, keeping them all in print. One of his treasures was the posthumous Selected Poems of AC Jacobs.

To everyone's amazement, given his anarchist views, John pitched up as the poetry editor at the communist Morning Star two or three years back, running a popular weekly poetry column which was collected in his Well Versed anthology, now in its second printing. He was thrilled by this, as it ran counter to his usual despairing cry that nobody ever wants to buy poetry.

John Rety would never win any well-dressed man competition. He was never the easiest person to have in a meeting but he did good work at all the organisations he worked with. Our condolences to Susan and Emily.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

There's a world out there...

... and some parts of it are interested in what we do. So here's Dan Tunstall (Big and Clever) in Left Lion, a magazine in Nottingham for hip young people...

...and the hip late-middle-aged Mike Gerber (Jazz Jews) in Jewish News

...and the hippest owner of a bus pass in the North East, Peter Mortimer (Camp Shatila) in Tynedale Life

... just don't mention the word hip in front of the Dundee crime writer Russel McLean (The Lost Sister), reviewed on CrimeSquad, or he'll make you need a replacement