Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Reasons to be happy

Penguin Children is joining the throng of publishers marking the Royal wedding, with two of its imprints publishing souvenir editions to commemorate the event. Ladybird will release a full-colour picture book, William and Kate: The Royal Wedding. It will track the relationship from when the couple met and include information on the wedding venue, and other Royal weddings. It follows the publisher's souvenir editions for Prince Charles and Diana's wedding and that of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. It also produced books to celebrate the Queen's 80th birthday, and Diana Princess of Wales to mark her death. Will and Kate's Dress-Up Dolly Book will be published by Sunbird. A cut-out-and-keep paper doll book, it will feature illustrated paper dolls of William and Kate with various paper outfits based on actual clothes worn by the pair, and will include Kate's engagement dress. Category publisher for brands and licensing Eric Huang said: "Ladybird has a huge history of publishing Royal titles, and Sunbird is a new imprint aimed at older kids, and we wanted to be part of that history, and make a more fun, kitschy, tongue-in-cheek title for older kids. This is quite unique, it's not word heavy."

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Simon Hoggart rides another hobbyhorse

Simon Hoggart writes amusing Parliamentary sketches and a rather dull weekly diary for the Guardian. The latter mostly comprises mildly amusing anecdotes about being on trains, of restaurants he's visited or events he and his circle go to. Whenever he has a new book out rest assured that the log will be rolled, and rolled again. Simon Hoggart is - rightly - very popular at book festivals as he is a witty performer and Guardian readers more than anyone love book festivals. In yesterday's paper he has a go at book festivals, complaining that they often get 500 people at an author event at £8 a time, paying the author £150 before the organiser sits back and counts the dosh. He might be right. But I do know that when he came to a book festival I have a hand in organising his fee was well north of £150. We were pleased with his attendance of 200 or so but, without giving too much away, we did not sit around counting our profits afterwards, not least as marquees have to be hired, as do PA systems and lighting. Programme printers tend to want to be paid as do the technicians making sure the author can be heard. Of course there may be authors that can fill 500 seater marquees that are available for £150. Perhaps he could let us know who they are so we can book them. And what of those who do demand high fees but attendances are not quite the number hoped? Can we ask for our money back?
There is a debate worth having about paying writers at Festivals, but Simon Hoggart is not helping.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Notes from the frozen north # 2

It will be obvious to anyone who has spent time in Scotland, particularly around Glasgow, that the country is short of names. Many men seem to be called Jimmy and many women Hen. This lack of names clearly affects Scottish writers too. Five Leaves has five Scottish writers on its list, or coming onto its list. One is J. David Simons. That is is name but if it was just David Simons the J. would have to be added to avoid confusion with the slightly better known American writer David Simons. Russel McLean became Russel D McLean to prevent confusion with someone similar. And we now have Michael Malone from Ayr joining us, his first crime novel will be out in 2012. Unfortunately there is already a crime writer called Michael Malone so he, ie our one, will become Michael J Malone. So that's 60% of our Scottish writers needing to use an initial due to this acute name shortage. Something needs to be done. Michael Malone though will have some problems as he is already a published poet sans J. So there is now Michael Malone the crime writer, Michael Malone the poet and Michael J Malone the crime writer. Surely some enterprising literature programmer should put them all on the same bill, for an evening with Michael Malones.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Never known to avoid a grudge, we'd like to remind Gilad Atzmon (see 6 November) that the second coming of Jazz Jews on radio is tonight at 10.00pm UK time, with listen again facility if he misses it. Here's the programme we are talking about: http://www.ukjazzradio.com/MikeGerber.html.
* a wonderful Yiddish word describing the situation whereby a second cousin is still upset because he wasn't invited to a wedding 23 years ago.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Notes from the frozen north # 1

God, Edinburgh is cold*. But the Scottish Poetry Library, Helena Nelson and a warm and generous audience was a great setting for the last of John Lucas' launch readings for Next Year Will Be Better. Mindful that the subtitle of his book is A memoir of England in the 1950s, he read from the only Scottish section of the book. This comprised a well observed note about visiting Dumfrieshire in the 1950s when he and an English friend were about the only people who stood for the National Anthem (then common practice in England) to find that some people shouted at them to sit down while others pelted the screen with orange peel and the like. A moment of discovery that not all Britons were royalists.
As well as launching John's book, we were launching a book published by him at Shoestring, a collection by Helena Nelson (publisher at Happenstance), Plot and Counterplot. The two readers worked very well together. I was pleased to see other Scottish publishers in the audience, as well as someone from STANZA, the St Andrews poetry festival - but then Helena has a big following in Scotland. It was nice to share some of that, and to bring her some of John Lucas' Scottish fan club.
*It got colder, wandering around later trying to find where First (the inappropriately named bus group) had moved the bus stop for travelling on to Hawick, then colder still in an unheated rattler of a bus for two and a quarter hours under blue lighting like that used in dodgy pub toilets to discourage junkies shooting up. The news from Hawick? The local football team has lost every match it has played this season, the Hawick rugby club is bottom of its league, the local Council is trying to get volunteers to cut the grass in local parks and there's a murder on the front page of the local paper. For this I paid First £6.30 to get there and £6.30 more to get to Carlisle the next day...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Zeynep's story

The four people reading Where the Wild Things Are comprise Zeynep, Fatih and Kebire Hasbudak and Brian Simons. The year is 1985 and the picture is from Zeynep: that really happened to me, published by the All London Teachers against Racism and Fascism (those were the days). The book is a collection of drawings and photographs and the autobiographical story of Zeynep who, the next year was deported with her family to a country she had never seen before where her parents became unemployed and she had to learn a new language. Her whole school tried to stop the deportation but failed. The book was really important in her home area of Hackney and beyond in showing the child's view of being deported, a child in this case that was born and lived for ten years in London. I lost my copy of the book years ago and bought another for £1 in the second hand section at Housmans last week.
25 years on Zeynep and Fatih both live in Britain again; Brian is now Boruch and has changed his jeans and sweater for Chassidic garb. We've just brought out a new edition of The Golem of Old Prague, illustrated by Boruch and written by Michael Rosen, one of those thanked in Zeynep's book.
The Home Office minister responsible for deporting Zeynep and her family was David Waddington, later Governor of Bermuda, and last seen on the political stage inserting a supposedly free speech clause in the section of the Public Order Act outlawing acts of homophobic hatred. He has been a member of the Conservative Party since he was at Oxford University.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Lack of money doesn't talk, it swears

Five Leaves receives some money from the Arts Council through the Grants for the Arts scheme. Not a lot but enough to publish books that are not very commercial, not a lot but enough to publish some material in translation, not a lot but enough to take on some new writers from time to time. Not a lot but enough to be able to employ 1.4 people; to be the biggest account for a small printer which in these times may need that account to ensure that five workers are kept in employment; to be the second biggest account for a small typesetting firm that would struggle to survive without our account. Though our distributor would survive without us, our sales year after year do contribute to their success. Our involvement with Lowdham Book Festival has helped the local bookshop to grow from being a hobby bookshop to one employing five or six women. I can't do the sums but every public pound invested pays off in the private sector. This is elementary economics but is lost on our current Government, whose hostility to the public sector will have a huge impact on the private sector.
Five Leaves' support from the Arts Council is not at risk, as far as I know, as it is lottery funded but Government cuts have ensured that many of the previous "Regularly Funded Organisations", including publishers, will close over the next few years. They will generally be much bigger organisations than Five Leaves, with a resulting much bigger knock on effect on the private sector.
These arguments have been rehearsed time and time again so nothing I say is new but needs said again and again and again.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Eat my shorts

Good news that Nottingham's Jon McGregor has been short-listed for the BBC Short Story Award, along with David Constantine, Sarah Hall, Helen Oyeyemi and Aminatta Forna. All the stories will be read out on the Beeb over the next week with the winner being announced on Front Row on 29 November. There's £15,000 at stake, plus the kudos. Our enterprising colleagues at Comma Press are publishing an anthology of the short stories on 25th November, and you can order it at and find more details on http://www.commapress.co.uk/?section=books&page=bbcnationalshortstoryaward.
Completists might want to check out Jon's two short stories published by Five Leaves, "The First Punch" which appears in Sunday Night and Monday Morning: new fiction from Nottingham, edited by James Urquhart, and "Close", which appears in The Sea of Azov, edited by Anne Joseph. Find them via www.fiveleaves.co.uk.
Jon's Facebook announcement said "I may not be the best short story writer in the UK, but I am in the top five." If that seems familiar, think Brian Clough.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Adrift in Notting Hill

As well as the Colin Wilson film tie-in mentioned in the last posting, we will be publishing a companion volume, The Furnished Room by Laura Del-Rivo, with a new introduction by Colin Wilson. This one is already a film tie-in being made into the now seldom seen West 11 which features Alfred Lynch, Eric Portman and (how rarely she is connected to Five Leaves) Diana Dors, pictured. Laura's book was first published in 1961 and the links to Wilson's book is clear as this too is set in bedsitterdom, this time in Notting Hill and Earls Court. Laura is still running a stall at Portobello Market, which will be a great place to launch the book in due course.
I cannot find a poster for West 11, and would be pleased to hear from anyone who has come across a copy. I did toy with illustrating this posting with a picture of West 11's director, but Michael Winner versus Diana Dors...

Monday, 8 November 2010

Five Leaves goes adrift in Soho

Colin Wilson's Adrift in Soho will be published next autumn, as part of our New London Editions series, and as a film tie-in with Pablo Behrens' film of the same name. Pablo has secured funding, and is about to start casting, with the shooting beginning early next year. We'll have our first film tie-in cover, though timing is tight on that for the repping cycle to shops. Adrift in Soho first appeared in 1961, a novel of Soho and Notting Hill seediness with the main character arriving from the provinces in search of adventure. The film has a provisional website on www.adriftinsoho.com, so you can have a sense of the book and the cover. More later.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Hackney Limmud

Limmuds (or more correctly limmudim, I suppose) are something-for-everyone Jewish study days. Sessions can be academic, religious, political, controversial or about puppets (though I can't actually recall anything about puppets, but you get the picture). There is a big national one held over the Christmas break - what else are Jews supposed to do for Christmas? - and local ones all over the country now. I'm just back from Hackney, one of my favourites as the attendance tends to be a bit more alternative, a bit poorer, a bit more varied, a bit more working class and a lot more secular - though our stall was next to Lubavitch, which we and they found amusing. Our stall had the new print of the great Hackney Jewish novel Rain on the Pavements and Ken Worpole was talking again about Alexander Baron, that great Hackney novelist, so we did a bit more than cover the train fare. I've never been to a big Jewish event without seeing Janel Levin from Jewish Renaissance, who must be the hardest working magazine editor ever.
Sadly our little green "truck" - veteran of many a bookstall - is off to landfill. Overloaded as always, dropping it off a bus did not help. I blame Boris Johnson.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Our worst review ever?

Supporters of the Jewish right has for years been banging on about "the new anti-Semitism", where any small sign of concern that Israel might, on balance, from time to time, do the odd minor thing a teeny weeny bit wrong is lumped in with thousands of years of blood libels, forced conversions and pogroms as being anti-Semitic to the core. Ever vigilant, they spend their lives scanning the Guardian, the Independent and the Hamas-supporting BBC for evidence, where such evidence of anti-Semitism can always be found. If you want to find it. Over on the other side is Gilad Atzmon. Atzmon is an Israeli born anti-Zionist, whose views once managed to attract a picket by Jews Against Zionism. Atzmon is the mirror image of the right, where any sign of Jewish politics is a fig-leaf for Zionism. Thus, attacking Mike Gerber, the author of Jazz Jews and a member of the Jewish Socialists' Group, he argues that "Jewish politics is always a form of Zionism" or, because Mike plans to play Israeli musicians on his Jazz Jews radio programme he "manage[s] to endorse Zionist culture". Atzmon goes on to describe Jazz Jews as "one of the most disturbing books in the history of jazz literature". Maybe we'll use that on the cover when we get to paperback time. The good news though is that Atzmon has said it was Gerber writing the book that caused him to invent the satirical character "Artie Fishel" with his Promised Band, so we can now safely say that Jazz Jews influenced jazz history. Here's Atzmon's article (don't forget to wade through the comments): http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/10/jews-jazz-and-socialism/

Thursday, 4 November 2010

East Midlands' Rebels

David Bell, author of The Dirty Thirty - on the Leicestershire striking miners, is starting a new book for Five Leaves on East Midlands' Rebels. This will be a popular (as opposed to academic) book, and be published in 2012 or 2013 depending on how big it gets. David has drawn up an initial list of people to cover, which includes (by way of example) Brian Clough, Lord Byron, Alan Sillitoe, Eric Irons (Black activist), Elizabeth Hootton ((17th century Quaker), Daniel Holt (18th century newspaper editor and supporter of Thomas Paine), Robin Hood, Alice Wheedon (Suffragette). You get the picture. Further suggestions are welcome. The people in the book don't need to be "big names" and could be rebels in their own field. Suggestions welcome, here or to info(at)fiveleaves.co.uk.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Battle of Cable Street, diary date

If you had planned to take part in the Battle of Cable Street, you are, unfortunately, 73 years and 364 days late, as the 74th anniversary is tomorrow. However we can say that plans are already being worked up for the 75th anniversary in 2011. I posted about the books Five Leaves will be publishing earlier, on 13th August, but can now say that we'll be running a joint launch for the books on 2nd October 2011, with a panel discussion on the literature of the 1930s the previous day. Alan Gibbons, author of one of the books, will also be doing some schools' work on the 3rd October. Many of the Cable Street events will take place in and around Wilton's Music Hall in the East End. Meantime you might want to diary that weekend, and read an interview with one of the participants, Max Levitas, still active at 95 or watch another, Ubby Cowan, talking about the event:
http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/97180, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FuXR2wFHA0

Things to Say

I was going to do a posting about Monday night's launch event at Bookmarks Bookshop for John Lucas's two new books, but one of those present beat me to it. John Harvey, taking time off from his life of crime writing and listening to jazz, has posted: http://mellotone70up.wordpress.com/.