Thursday, 30 September 2010

John Lucas, Easter 1944

Details of John's latest book (see last post) will follow next time, since we need to make space to mention his previous book, Things to Say, or rather point people in the direction of the Guardian on-line discussion of one poem from the collection, "Easter, 1944". At time of posting there are 105 comments added to the poem. Thanks to Carol Rumens for including it and starting off the discussion.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Next Year Will Be Batter, no, Bitter, no Better

There are few things worse in publishing than receiving a newly printed hardback book - nice paper, cover illustration has worked out well, numbers looking good for launch events, talk of reviews in the air - then someone notices a horrible mistake on the cover. The cover that has been checked 47 times. The title is wrong on the spine. And look, is that really how you spell Alan Ginsberg on the back ? (No is the answer.) Will anyone notice the latter? Maybe the odd reader. Will anyone notice the former? Everyone. And have the advance mail order copies gone, and has the printer dispatched the trade copies to the warehouse? Of course. So, John Lucas's Next Year Will Be Better (or Next Year Will Better if you believe the current spine): a memoir of England in the 1950s has a rocky start. No problem though, the printer will reprint the cover at once, the distributor will rejacket their copies, the mail orderers will be sent new covers, the office stock will be rejacketed. All for the sake of two missing letters. John is fine about it. A publisher himself, he once printed a book with nothing on the spine at all, not noticing until a bookseller pointed it out. Or there was Arc, which printed one of their Ivor Cutler books with a seven digit ISBN on the back so no bookshops knew how to re-order it ("We wondered why that one always sold less than the others"). Oh how we laugh about these things.
Next posting, something about the book itself, and details of launch events.

Crime Express relaunch

In the spring we are relaunching the Crime Express series with three new titles and a reprint of our best seller from the first series. Authors (and buyers) liked the cute A6 books with French flaps, but booksellers found them hard to handle, so from spring new titles and any reprints will come out in standard size, if rather thin reflecting the books' status as long short stories/short novellas. Around 15,000-20,000 words anyway. The earlier books can all be found on but meantime we are moderately excited about the new look. All the covers are designed by Gavin Morris, brought in to give that new look to the series. None of the books can be ordered yet. Email us on info (at) if you would like to be notified when they can be.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Not making a killing

The day I was proof-reading Ray Gosling's Personal Copy he gets arrested for allegedly bumping off an ex of his. Today our local paper is full of the - presumably - final story, where Ray is all over the front page and pages four and five, about the £45k the police spent investigating the story. Ray has been given a 90 day suspended sentence for wasting police time. His solicitor made a statement saying Ray had engaged in a fantasy that had got out of control. I can't comment, or don't want to comment on the case. Those who know Ray Gosling are shaking their heads sadly, which is a more honest response than that of rent-a-quote MPs who have never met the man, or are using the case to bash the BBC, where Ray's original statement was broadcast.
This might not be the best of days then to take delivery of stock of Personal Copy. Will this fuss lead to lots of sales, or will it be near impossible to sell the book? The book originally came out in 1980 and for the best part of thirty years I wanted to publish this terrific book about the 60s in Leicester and Nottingham, as it only appeared in an expensive hardback form at the time. Maybe my timing could have been better.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

"Behind him, the words"

Reading through Ted Hughes and Translation last night (see yesterday's posting), I was taken with one particular poem, "Out of three or four in the room" by Yehuda Amichai, translated by Ted Hughes. In the text in this book the literal, earlier translation by Stanley Burnshaw is followed line by line by the translation by Hughes and Assia Guttman. It reads like a new poem in its own right, with its strange, near echo. Maybe this could be a new poetry form. There's no room here for other than a sample:
And large stones that have been returned
And big stones put there
And remained unopened like letters that have no
And staying, closed, like letters
Address and no recipient
With no addresses; and no-one to receive them

Monday, 13 September 2010

Right, said Ted

Richard Hollis/Five Leaves has brought forward two Ted Hughes related books to have them in time for this week's conference ( with Seamus Heaney and Jonathan Bate. The latter is writing a major biography of Hughes. Our books are Ted Hughes and Translation, by Daniel Weissbort and An Essential Self: Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, by Lucas Myers. Daniel Weissbort and Ted Hughes were co-founders of Modern Poetry in Translation and Weissbort (whose own poetry appeared in Five Leaves' Passionate Renewal) also edited Ted Hughes: Selected Translations for Faber. Lucas Myers was one of Hughes' closest friends, Hughes staying with him during his courtship of Plath. This book is a memoir of that period and beyond.
Both books will be available at the conference and, for the moment, only available (at £10 each) by old fashioned cheques to Five Leaves, PO Box 8786, Nottingham NG1 9AW. They will be officially published in the New Year and copies are not yet even on our website.
Be the first one on your block.

Friday, 10 September 2010

E? Y? M... O! a. G. I C, I Z.

I was once accused of being a printist, a label I wear with pride. But times change, and, kicking and screaming, Five Leaves may also have to change. Just come back from meeting Russell Press in Nottingham, who'd set up one of our books by e-pub (I think they called it). This was a book of fiction, readable on an iPad, a Sony reader, and - if you like small screens - on an iPhone. Ned Ludd and King Canute are two of my favourite characters... but it was exciting to see a fully searchable book, where the reader can change the typeface and the font size, and click on any url's quoted (though none were in that particular book). It looked good and was easy to handle. Maybe not in the bath, but nothing is perfect. The next step is to make it suitable for Kindle, which Amazon is linked up with, and then talk money. This may be old hat to some publishers, but all new to me. I'd be interested to hear from Five Leaves readers and writers. Would anyone buy e-books of Five Leaves's titles? Would it be worth my time and money in making them available?
I had thought I'd be browsing through that great bookshop in the sky by the time Five Leaves had to do anything about any of this stuff, but the e-train is leaving and I need to decide whether to be on it.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

New Society not Big Society

The summer issue of the V&A Magazine reminds me that I've only got until the 26th September to go to the V&A exhibition of photos from New Society, of blessed memory. Paul Barker, who edited New Society from 68-86, revisits the magazine and its photographs with an essay for the V&A. If you go you can pick up a copy of his Arts in Society, a book of essays reprinted by Five Leaves a few years ago.
His article (and the book of essays) is a reminder of how important New Society was for leftish of centre people writing and reading in that era. Sadly it disappeared into the New Statesman in 1988. Even more sadly it would be hard to imagine a modern day New Society without the backing of local government and charity job ads, which must have kept the weekly afloat.
A surprising number of New Society regulars have found their way to the Five Leaves list - Richard Boston and Colin Ward, both now sadly deceased; Ray Gosling (our re-issue of his Personal Copy arrived today) and the art director Richard Hollis, now running his own imprint under the Five Leaves umbrella. Richard designed the cover for Paul Barker's book, illustrated here. We have, however, avoided Melanie Philips, however, who is busy ranting from the right in the Daily Mail and other places that should have more sense.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Let's not boycott Waterstone's!

In one sense, as a consumer, I've been boycotting Waterstone's for years. This has been less to do with the chain's policies than for fear of being kneecapped by my otherwise pacifistic friends at The Bookcase in Lowdham or Housmans in London. But now I have a moral dilemma since the Stop the War Campaign has called for people to boycott Waterstone's since they decided to host a signing by Tony Blair. I'm no fan of Blair and would not want to read his tawdry book but as I already boycott Waterstone's as a consumer I can't do more. What about as a supplier though? Surely a boycott calls for customers and suppliers to boycott the chain? Well, last month Waterstone's sold about 20% of Five Leaves' trade books, and they have just ordered 273 copies of one of our advance titles. Some months they have sold 40% of my trade books. This means any principled boycott would put Five Leaves out of business and my action would be as a gnat's bite to an elephant in the way it would affect Waterstone's. But wait, assuming the Stop the War Campaign actually mean a boycott rather than, say, not buying a book in Waterstone's next Tuesday between 10.15am and 10.30am they should be calling for Verso, Lawrence and Wishart and the other radical publishers to boycott Waterstone's. Hey, great, three months and most radical publishers will close down. Result! And Bookmarks? The publishing wing of the Socialist Workers Party - will they now say their books are no longer available through Waterstone's? Let's move on to the authors... just suppose John Berger, Noam Chomsky, Michael Rosen, Jeremy Hardy and every comedian called Mark (to name a few radical writers) said they wanted to boycott Waterstone's... well, sorry guys, since in most places Waterstone's is the only shop you can buy their books, no radical writer need bother trying to be published again.
Nope. This is not a boycott that will work, has a future, or will be followed. But it does look radical on the leaflet, and grabs a headline. And if it did catch on... will Stop the War Campaign encourage people to shop at the anti-union Amazon or that hotbed of left wing bookselling, WH Smith?
ps. Immediately after writing this I read on line that Tony Blair has cancelled his signing at Waterstone's. I will resume not shopping at Waterstone's, but now with a clear conscience.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

“Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not.”

Together with a raft of other Nottingham groups, Five Leaves is organising a day in celebration of Alan Sillitoe. Guest speakers include John Harvey, Gwen Grant, David Sillitoe, DJ Taylor, John Lucas, Nicola Monaghan and more. We have sessions on film, on poetry, on other Nottingham working class writers and the chance to sit at Alan's old desk and bash out the first line of your entry to the Arthur Seaton short story comp on his old typewriter. Watch out also for the Castle Rock ale being brewed for the occasion. All this for a fiver. Check out for the full programme for Saturday October 2nd.
Photo courtesy of Nottingham Post.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Shatila again

Peter Mortimer, Kitty Fitzgerald and the rest of the Cullercoats crew have pulled it off again and are bringing another group of Shatila children to the North East, and, this time, the North West and Scotland. Thanks to all those who have or will raise money to make the trip possible, including Creative Scotland and UNISON North-West. The children will be coming in February 2011, together with four teachers, to perform Croak the King and a Change in the Weather, written by Pete and adapted by the children. And - those who have read our Camp Shatila will understand the exciting news that the children will also be performing at the Theatre Monnot in Beirut, a theatre which hitherto had no connection to the Palestinian refugees from Shatila. The logistics of the tour are great, but so are people like Paul Irwin at Eastcoast Taxis who will be ferrying the children round the UK and the Northumbria Hotel and Language School at Whitley Bay where the children will mostly be staying. A website is promised soon, but North Easterners might want to pencil in Feb 28-March 2 for the Sage performances or March 7-9 for the Saville Exchange in North Shields. More on this one nearer the time. But one query. The Shatila events and readings are usually packed, with great sales of the book, already in its second edition, but can we get interest from the book trade? Something is out of sinc.

Anarchy again

Colin Ward keeps getting mentioned in this blog. Fans of his will know he edited the journal Anarchy for ten years. People (well, me and a handful of of others) are still collecting the back issues. Virtually all featured wrap round covers designed by Rufus Segar. For some time now Dan Poyner has also been collecting the series, with a view to something - a book, an exhibition, a website - featuring the covers of the magazines. The new American "journal of international political graphics and culture", Signal, features many of the covers and a long interview with Rufus by Dan, about the design process primarily. He was sent a postcard (oh, those innocent days) listing the articles and given a free hand to produce the cover. This is the first time I've seen so many of them together, other than on my shelves, making a good start on Dan's bigger project, which is about the art, but also the politics that made Anarchy such essential reading, even for those of us who were more interested in marbles than politics when the mag first started in 1961. Copies are available from