Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Rod Madocks on Left Lion

There's a terrific, long interview with Rod Madocks and No Way to Say Goodbye on the WriteLion podcast below. Rod is interviewed by James Walker and comes in at 47.20

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Cally Road

I mentioned a blog or three back that I'd gone on the board of Housmans Bookshop on Caledonian Road in London. The Guardian has now commissioned a "sound map" by Alan Dein about Cally Road, which is now on line. Housmans comes in around number ten on the map as you get close to Kings Cross, but I was pleased to see Diana Shelley earlier on talking about the battles with developers to save the area for the people who live there and the small traders who survive there. I first met Diana and Albert Beale, interviewed in the Peace News building which hosts Housmans, back in the 70s in the British Withdrawal from Northern Ireland Campaign. I should add that some young people are also quoted during the programme.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Alan Sillitoe

Though I'd known Alan Sillitoe was pretty ill it was nevertheless a shock when his death was announced (on 25 April). He had been in touch recently, passing on material he thought would be of interest, and Ruth Fainlight - his wife - had been encouraging me to call by when next in London. Unfortunately I did not appreciate how urgent that call should be.
I would not want to exaggerate how close Alan was to Five Leaves. He contributed to our collection City of Crime, a collection of crime short stories by Nottinghamshire writers, had a couple of poems in our anthology of Nottingham poets and we called our anthology of recent Nottinghamshire writers Sunday Night and Monday Morning as an obvious homage to his rather better known Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
Alan was, however, a great supporter of our Lowdham Book Festival - indeed any local event he could support. He appeared at the very first Lowdham Festival, launched later books there, introduced his films, spoke at our winter weekend on biography - anything he could do to help. He also appeared at the pre-flight Nottinghamshire Readers and Writers Day and Southwell Poetry Festival. If he was free he would do it, and that included times when his health was not so great. Alan was reasonably careful with money but always refused a fee or expenses if it promoted literature in Nottingham. He wanted to support what others did locally, and if he could lend his name or his presence he would.
We didn't always see eye to eye over Israel. Alan was a firm supporter of Zionism, but our occasional arguments were not an issue and he happily reviewed one of our books in European Judaism.
I was pleased to initiate Nottingham City Council giving Alan the Freedom of the City, in his 80th year. John Harvey was the speaker at the big event, an event packed with local writers who owed Alan a great debt.
Alan and Ruth recently became honorary joint presidents of the local Bromley House Library. I am sure BH, Five Leaves, Lowdham Book Festival and others will want to mark Alan's passing at a suitable time. Meantime of course, we offer our condolences to Ruth, and to the others in Alan's family.

Stanley Middleton May 8

The memorial event for Stanley Middleton, being held in Nottingham on May 8th (date corrected following comment!) is now full up. A report will follow on this blog in due course.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Three dozen

Slightly advance congratulations to News from Nowhere bookshop in Liverpool , which will be 36 years old on 1st May (vegan truffles are promised). Mandy and the gals will be featured this Sunday in the Sunday Telegraph. (

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Give that man a prize

Peter Mortimer is short-listed for the Arab British Culture and Society Award for the second year running, last year for his play RIOT (playscript published by Five Leaves) and this year for his Shatila project. This involved setting up a children's theatre group in Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, with ten children coming to the north east to tour the play. We have just reprinted Mortimer's Camp Shatila: a writer's chronicle, giving us the chance to do that final edit we had to miss (when producing the first edition in three weeks) and to add a postscript covering the theatre tour.
Peter has now organised a second tour, with a new cast, coming to The Sage in Gateshead and Saville Exchange in North Shields in February. The play will also be shown for a week at a theatre in Christian East Beirut before coming here.
Peter needs to raise money to bring the children over. On July 18th a bunch of writers, actors and others will be doing a sponsored Shatila ramble through North Tyneside and in June Tyneside Cinema will be showing a film of the first tour "The Palestinians are Coming". Peter Mortimer can be contacted on 0191 253 1901 by anyone wishing to become more involved, including setting up a Shatila Trust to create closer links between the north east and Shatila. Meantime one of the camp football teams is playing in Whitley Bay FC shirts - Pete's local team, currently Wembley bound for the final of the FA Vase.
Other shortlisted projects for the Arab British award include the BBC 2 series The Frankincense Trail.


I've been a customer of Housmans Bookshop, round the corner from Kings Cross in London since about 1973 or 4. The long defunct "Housmans Peace Packets" mailing being essential reading in rural Aberdeenshire all those years ago. I've spent a small fortune there over the years, and from time to time become more closely involved, including, in 1995 drawing up a report for its Board advocating closure! Nobody ever pays any attention to me, which is just as well as Housmans is still there. You can see more of the shop on, including a long interview with the rather louche-looking Malcolm Hopkins. Malcolm's own career indicates that some radical bookshops can survive in the long run - some of his previous commercial employers Fagins in London (who remembers them?) and Borders both having gone bust. The video includes a nice snippet of someone browsing through our Jazz Jews - Housmans stock most Five Leaves' books.
Yesterday I joined the Board, not as a way of securing a belated agreement on my 1995 proposal, but to be part of Housmans modest revival. The shop is again trading at a profit, there is an excellent events programme, website hits on are rocketing and the Housmans ethical alternative to Amazon is working well. The Board is spending some money shortly on new floor covering, new lighting and there are plans afoot to attract new custom from the now-thriving Kings Cross area.

What can you do to help? Buy books there, obviously. Order any book in print via their website. But also donate books - part of the regrowth of the shop has been underpinned by the £1 book box (pictured on the video) which attracts the passing stranger, recycles books economically, and brings several hundred pounds a month into Housmans.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

First cuckoo of summer

Lowdham Book Festival in Nottinghamshire - jointly organised by Five Leaves - runs from 18-26 June. We're keeping the programme under wraps for a while yet, or possibly we have no programme to unwrap yet - believe what you will. But we can announce that the Bloomsbury Reading Day on the 19th is open for business, to allow attenders time to read their chosen books. This year's line up is Barbara Trapido, whose books will be pretty well known to readers, plus debut novelists Louise Levene (the ballet correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph, since you ask) and Jane Rusbridge.
The deal is £15 a head, which brings you a glass of Pimms on arrival, group discussions, a smashing afternoon tea with the authors, a Q & A panel and the book of your choice by one of the writers. If you want all three books you can get the other two at 15% discount.
The event takes place at the nice new village hall in Hoveringham, a brisk walk or short car journey from downtown Lowdham.
More details from

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Two men on the Metro

Andy Croft and Bill Herbert are off to The Smoke, to Pushkin House, to read from their collection Three Men on the Metro, on 19th April. A free event starting at 6.00pm

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Plus ca change

...his main interest was the novel which he was writing: Failure. The drafting, writing, re-writing, typing, re-typing, submitting, putting aside, re-submitting, acceptance, further rejection, re-acceptance, setting up in type, piecemeal publication... a heartbreaking business undertaken in hopelessly unfavourable conditions... and finally the agreement: £30 down and the remote possibility of royalties; and the sale: three hundred copies; and the absence of reviews, except in the North London Gazette, the Jewish Magazine, the Madras Daily Courier, and the Saskatchewan Free Press - Failure.

from Rain on the Pavements by Roland Camberton (John Lehman, 1951, due from Five Leaves in June/July 2010)

Friday, 2 April 2010

Vote early, vote often

Our chums over at Spinetingler magazine are having a pre-election vote to decide on assorted categories of crime writer awards. We'll be rooting for Russel D McLean in the rising stars category, since we publish him. One of the most interesting categories is for jackets. No, not tweed ones (though I'd vote for that).

New this month at Five Leaves

Swimmer in the Secret Sea by William Kotzwinkle (yes, the bloke from ET) was a book I first read back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. It is a novella on stillbirth. The book stuck in my head for decades, partly because it was so well written, partly because of the skillful way it dealt with difficult subject matter. I'm pleased now to make it again available, in a joint edition with the US publisher David Godine.
40 Years in the Wilderness: inside Israel's West Bank settlements could not be more timely, and, thanks to the wonders of digital printing, up to date. Josh Berthoud Freedman and Seth Freedman travelled through the settlements interviewing people ranging from gun-toting fundamentalists through to those Israeli's simply trying to find a cheap place to live. The book includes discussion of the current settlement activity at Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in Jerusalem as well as those on the West Bank. Both books are now available mail order via or can be ordered from bookshops