Thursday, 26 April 2012

It was a bright cold day in April.

First there was Nicholas Lezard's great review in the Guardian - in print on Saturday, on line now at, and then there was the book launch last night at Bookmarks in London. 52 people crammed into the shop to hear Martin Rowson talk about political cartooning and to read from his Smokestack book The Limerickiad (volume one) and Andy Croft read from 1948. Martin had sent out an email to his friends reading "This is going to be in the form of a performance with me and Andy talking about the book, the Olympics and anything else that comes into our heads, rather than a piss-up. IT WILL INVOLVE THE READING OF POETRY OUT LOUD. This may well affect your decision. You have been warned!!!". Despite the absence of the piss-up, a whinge of cartoonists (Martin's collective noun) turned up as well as poetry fans, Orwellians, editors from Tribune, 3am and Red Pepper and a group of authors and editors from the Five Leaves stable, mostly those with forthcoming books, including Peter Vacher (his jazz book is due in the autumn), Andrew Whitehead and Cathi Unsworth (both involved in our book on London fiction) and Lesley Acton (currently writing a social history of allotments). It was also good to catch up with Peter Lawson who edited our Passionate Renewal anthology of Jewish poetry. The laughter at one of Rowson's rhymes ending in "shiksa" indicated that Peter had a lot in common with many of those in the room.
It was a good night for 1948 and there was a lot of networking too. Bookmarks flies the flag for socialist and trade union books in central London, and is well organised and friendly. I always enjoy our book launches there and the shop finds that new visitors often come back.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

New from Five Leaves, Dark Thread by Pauline Chandler

Kate is a weaver, like her mother. When her mother is killed Kate is convinced it's her fault. Tiredness, grieving and guilt come together in a visit back in time to the mill, where Kate must learn to weave the dark thread in her life into the overall picture and make sense of her life. A moving time slip story, alternating life in the 18th century and today. The setting is Cromford Mill in Derbyshire, which is still standing, part of the Derwent Mills World Heritage Site.
Pauline Chandler has published several books set in different historical periods. These include Warrior Girl, set in the France of Joan of Arc, Viking Girl and The Mark of Edain, in which Aoife (Ee-fa) a Druid princess, kidnaps a Roman war elephant. She lives in Derbyshire, the setting for Dark Thread. Pauline was one of several East Midlands young adult fiction writers who appeared in our anthology In the Frame who have ended up with a book or two on our list.

Copies are available from for £5.99/

Monday, 16 April 2012


What can you buy for 72p? A Mars bar and a bit, just over half a Guardian, a third of cup of coffee... or the ebook of Stephen Booth's novella, Claws. Claws is one of our best-sellers, now in its third printing, with a new cover. We'd not got on top of e-books when our techie author had, so we foolishly let him do his own e-book, which has been a great success for him. Good for Stephen! Amazon sells the ebook at 72p, and the author describes the book as 96 pages, a short novella. Despite this, one reviewer on Amazon commented that it was very poor value, being a "condensed" book. It isn't condensed. It may not be very good (though we beg to differ) but it is hard to imagine how anyone can think a 96 page book is poor value at 72p. What would represent good value? 37p? 17p?
I'm not here having (too much of) a go at the reviewer (and certainly not criticising Stephen!) - but thinking about the value we, collectively, now give to books. We've done a few e-books at 99p, many other publishers are doing likewise. Are we undervaluing our products? Have we now given the impression to people that all books should be so cheap, that if a full length book is 99p a novella should be cheaper than chips? And what will that buyer think about the price of the printed copy being £4.99 (or £3 something from Amazon...)?

The Man Who Likes to Say No

One of the nice things about Five Leaves is that it provides endless opportunities to offer voluntary labour to partnership projects promoting books. I have this notion is that if we promote others, somehow it will lead to others buying our books and we all go home happy. This blog often mentions those projects - Lowdham Book Festival, East Midlands Book Awards, States of Independence, Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing - are the four that come to mind immediately. Unfortunately the last few months have been a bit difficult. Since November, save for two weeks, I've spent part of every week in Scotland on family business. I've managed - this is when email comes into its own - but recently I had to unexpectedly spend about ten days in Scotland. I've not minded the expensive public transport, or the long journeys, though a late-running bus caused the journey from Borders General Hospital to Nottingham to take nine hours a couple of days ago, and once I was stuck in sleet next to a dual carriageway in the middle of nowhere, unable to cross the road to catch a connecting bus. Good for proof-reading - the train parts of the journey, not the buses. But the long block of time up there forced me to make decisions... with great regret I've had to withdraw from East Midlands Book Award and Lowdham Book Festival, end my writing commitment to Southwell Folio, leave Bread and Roses to others and abandon another big project that had not even been announced. I've also refused to give advice to some local people on publishing issues, pulled out of lectures, and am turning into a social hermit. But I might catch up on outstanding Five Leaves work.
Save for the mysterious unannounced project, everything will survive without me, and I hope to be back at full strength later this year in time to plan Lowdham's winter weekend and the next States of Independence. I feel bad about Lowdham Book Festival, leaving my colleague Jane Streeter from The Bookcase to organise the Festival single-handed this year. It will be a great festival, as anyone who knows Jane would expect, though there will have to be some temporary changes. I hope she'll give me a comp or two.
Meantime, if your group would like me to talk about independent publishing, or you are offering me a free lunch, or if you have this marvellous idea... the answer is no!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Poly put the kettle on

Just catching up with the Guardian... The colour supp of a few days ago had a long article about polyamory, about those who are involved in multiple relationships. This subject appears pretty regularly in the press. I notice this because, in 1995, the book Breaking the Barriers to Desire: new approaches to multiple relationships appeared from Five Leaves. The firm grew out of the old Mushroom Bookshop Publications - the publishing imprint of the radical bookshop in Nottingham. Mushroom had a strong interest in sexual politics, so when Five Leaves took over the shop's advance publications list this, and one or two other sexual politics titles came out, before the new imprint moved away, or possibly to safer ground. Barriers - which had probably the worst cover design ever (I plead guilty) - sold reasonably, then stopped selling, and the remaining stock was eventually sold at a big discount to the American magazine Loving More. We should have held on to some copies as it is a book referenced in many articles on "polyamory, polyfidelity and non-monogamy". But the real interest is within the press. We know this because towards the end of the book's life Angela Neustatter wrote an article in a newspaper about polyamory, citing the book. I'd been away for a couple of days and returned to find my answering machine entirely full of messages from journalists wanting review copies or to interview the editors, Kevin Lano and Claire Parry, with whom I'd lost touch. Journalists continued to ring for days (admittedly, I never returned the calls from the Sun). I could not contact the editors. I had nothing to say on the subject personally as I know more about Polyfilla than polyamory, but assumed that Angela's article would see off the remaining stock. Well, we sold a couple more copies, maybe half a dozen, and gave out many more review copies than that. I think there was a subsequent big feature in the Sunday Mirror, which resulted in maybe another sale or two. For years aftewards we'd get excited calls from journalists desperate to write on this subject and in need of source material. In other words, the public in general is not that interested in polyamory, but journalists are. Including from the Guardian, obviously. Tidying my office recently, I found one forgotten copy of the book. I only need the existing file copy, so a single copy of Breaking the Barriers to Desire is available from us at, with a cover price of £5.99. If anyone buys it I'll send the £5.99 to a suitable charity - Relate maybe, or the journalists' benevolent society.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

New edition from Five Leaves, Beneath the Blue Sky

Dominic Reeve is one of the few authors we publish that I've not met. We have long phone conversations and he bashes out letters on his old fashioned typewriter, the keys clearly having seen better days. He's a self-confessed cantankerous old man, still living as he has for decades, selling compost from door to door. His Smoke in the Lanes was a classic of the old days of the horse-drawn "waggon years" and was an enormous commercial success when it came out, and is now available in a trade edition from the University of Hertfordshire Press and a mass market edition from Abacus, taking advantage of the current popular interest in Gypsies. Not that Dominic is thrilled by that, raging (correctly) about some of the Big Fat Gypsy Wedding coverage. After Smoke, Dominic wrote two or three fairly derivative books which sold less, before returning to Travelling life with his partner, the successful Romani artist Beshlie. After a forty years break he returned to publishing with Beneath the Blue Sky with Five Leaves. This covered the 1960s and onwards, the less "romantic" decades when Romanis moved from four legs to four wheels, yet tried to remain self-employed, tried to retain a Travelling lifestyle and tried to hang on to their culture in the wake of their traditional trades and stopping places vanishing.

Trucks are of less interest than the old bow topped waggons, and the book was therefore less commercial but nevertheless we sold 1,000 or so. After a gap we've tidied up the book, inserted some better photographs, included some drawings by Beshlie and it is again available. There will be a mass market edition from Abacus sometime, without the illustrations and photographs, in a supermarket near you, but meantime you can buy our edition at

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

New from Five Leaves, The Oxygen Man by Joanne Limburg

The poems that make up The Oxygen Man were written in response to the death of the author’s younger brother, a brilliant chemist who took his own life in 2008. They follow Limburg as she visits the mid-Western town where her brother lived, worked and died, range back over their shared childhood, and look ahead as she tries to work out what it means to be the one who stays behind.
“Limburg’s universe appears to be constantly twisting away from perception even as she pins it down in lines of singular economy.” Poetry Book Society
Joanne Limburg is the author of two poetry collections published by Bloodaxe. Femenismo was shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection Prize; Paraphernalia was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. She has also written a memoir: The Woman Who Thought Too Much. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and son.
The Oxygen Man is the first in our new pamphlet format, 31 pages, £4, available from:

Monday, 9 April 2012

New ebook from Five Leaves

Latest Five Leaves/Crime Express novella available as an ebook - just don't ask why it is priced at £1.02 rather than 99p as planned. We have no idea what Amazon is up to on that. Maybe the new price will catch on.
Jack Kiley, a professional footballer turned private investigator, is hired to track down a solider who has gone missing while on leave from Iraq. The soldier's mind is disturbed by what he has seen and done in the war, and he is armed. There are fears both for the man himself and for the safety of his estranged wife and two young children.Kiley's search leads him to Nottingham, where he teams up with D. I. Charlie Resnick. Together they search the house where the soldier's wife and children have been living and find them gone, almost certainly taken against their will ... the only question now is, will they find them before it is too late? Trouble in Mind brings together two of John Harvey’s major characters.

The reviews on Amazon are interesting... those saying the printed book was poor value at £4.99 as the reviewers were used to paying about £4 for 400 page John Harveys. Well, they might be, but those old "french flapped" A6 paperbacks cost about £2 each to produce. But here we have the ebook at around £1 - ideal for novellas.

Malcolm Pinnegar, the leader of The Dirty Thirty

We are sorry to post that Malcolm Pinnegar, the acknowledged leader of The Dirty Thirty, has died, after a long illness. Malcolm (known as Benny) was one fo the key figures in the Five Leaves book, The Dirty Thirty by David Bell. I was unable to make the book launch and only finally met the man when he came along to last year's States of Independence when there was a session on the book. He gave an inspiring speech. Malcolm also spoke briefly at the Leicester Trades Council "Everybody's Reading" Dirty Thirty event a few months ago. I think most people in the room knew that was likely to be his last public appearance because of his illness. It was a great night, with readings from the book, music from Alun Parry, a few words from Malcolm before handing over to the youngest member of the Dirty Thirty, Darren Moore, and Jane Bruton from the Women's Support Group.

The following article is from This is Leicestershire
Tributes have been paid to the leader of The Dirty Thirty – the group of Leicestershire pitmen who stood alone in the county in support of the miners' strike during the 1980s.
Malcolm Pinnegar died on Friday, aged 67, after a two-year battle with cancer.
​Known to friends as Benny, he will be remembered as the figurehead of the group, who went more than a year without wages in 1984-85 during the national strike. They did so in defiance of the other 2,500 National Union of Mineworkers members at Leicestershire's four pits who carried on working through the bitter dispute.
Malcolm, who grew up and lived in Stoney Stanton before moving to Hinckley, was a header – forging tunnels – at Bagworth pit when the strike was called in March, 1984.
Darren Moore, 50, of Burbage, who was an apprentice at the pit and the youngest of the Thirty, said: "Benny took me under his wing and I looked up to him. When we realised we were going to be on our own, he came forward as a natural leader, he had a charisma about him. He kept our spirits up and whenever there was a problem we went to him. Like the rest of us, Benny bitterly opposed Thatcher's pit closure programme and believed it was his duty to stand up for his fellow working man. He was convinced that if we didn't then the industry would be decimated, and he took no pleasure whatsoever in being proved right. He didn't see himself as a hero, just someone doing what was right who wasn't afraid to go against the grain for what he believed. He was a proper, rank and file trade unionist but also a great bloke and family man. I'm going to miss him."
When Malcolm and the others realised picketing Leicestershire collieries would be in vain, they travelled the UK, Europe and even visited America, raising awareness and funds for the striking miners and their cause. Their nickname began as an insult but soon became a badge of honour.
Mick Richmond, 64, of Whitwick, who worked in the South Leicester Colliery, in Ellistown, near Coalville, said: "We spent all those days travelling up and down the country together. I have many wonderful memories of Benny. I feel shattered. He was such a good friend and my heart goes out to his wife, Margaret, and their daughters, Colleen and Claire."
Malcolm featured in two books written by Ashby author David Bell – Leicestershire Heroes, and The Dirty Thirty – Heroes of the Miners Strike.
David, 73, said: "For me he was a hero – a true working class hero – a man of principle who never sold out and someone I was privileged to call my friend."
Malcolm is also immortalised in a song about the Dirty Thirty by Liverpool folk singer Alun Parry, with the lyrics: "So here's to Malcolm Pinnegar, Or Benny to his friends. Who led the Dirty Thirty, 'til the strike came to an end."
Alun said: "I met Malcolm at a get-together in Leicester last year where I sang my song for him and some of the lads. When I mentioned him I gave him a little nod and got a smile back. I saw right away why the others trusted him. He was a man of substance and humanity but also humility, who continues to inspire others. His legacy will live on."

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Jews with kilts

A Celebration of Jewish Writers in Scotland Free -All welcome! INVERNESS LIBRARY, FARRALINE PARK, INVERNESS IV1 1NH Sunday 22nd April 2012
2.15 pm -5.30 pm Meet the Authors Discussion Refreshments
Book signing
This event is part of the Scottish Government funded 'Being Jewish in Scotland' inquiry and will be followed by a discussion about the preliminary findings
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION & TO BOOK YOUR PLACE Sign up at Inverness Library 01463 236 463 Or contact SCoJec Project worker Fiona Frank Tel 07779 206522 or email
Meet the Authors: Rodge Glass, J. David Simons, Sharon Mail, Annemarie Allan Activities for young readers aged 8-13 with Annemarie Allan
Q and A session: Life as a Jewish Writer in Scotland CHAIR Ephraim Borowski Director, Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Rodge Glass is the author of the novels No Fireworks (Faber, 2005) and Hope for Newborns (Faber, 2008), as well as Alasdair Gray: A Secretary’s Biography (Bloomsbury, 2008), which received a Somerset Maugham Award. He co-authored the graphic novel Dougie’s War: A Soldier’s Story (Freight, 2010). His new novel, Bring Me the Head of Ryan Giggs, (‘A complex and moving portrayal of obsession, football and heroes with boots of clay’ – Will Self) is published in April 2012 by Tindal Street Press. Rodge was brought up in the Manchester Jewish community and now lives in Glasgow where he is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Strathclyde University.
Sharon Mail is an author and freelance writer. Her first book, We Could Possibly Comment – Ian Richardson Remembered, in tribute to the acclaimed Scottish actor, who was a friend, was published in August, 2009. Sharon began her professional writing career in 2006 when she became a full-time journalist for the Jewish Telegraph Group of Newspapers and she has been writing weekly as the JT’s Scottish correspondent on a freelance basis for the past four years. She is a a member of Strathkelvin Writers.
J. David Simons was born in Glasgow in 1953. He studied law at Glasgow University and became a partner at an Edinburgh law firm before giving up his practice in 1978 to live on a kibbutz in Israel. Since then he has lived in Australia, Japan and England working at various stages along the way as a charity administrator, cotton farmer, language teacher, university lecturer and journalist. He returned to Glasgow in 2006. His first novel, The Credit Draper was published in May 2008 by Two Ravens Press and was short-listed for The McKitterick Prize in June 2009. His second novel The Liberation of Celia Kahn was published in February 2011 by Five Leaves Publications along with a re-print of The Credit Draper. He was the recipient of a Writer’s Bursary from Creative Scotland in September 2009 and was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in April last year. Set in the early 20th century, The Credit Draper deals with the Scottish-Jewish experience of a young Russian immigrant going off to become a travelling salesman in the Highlands.
Annemarie Allan was born in Edinburgh. Her father was a French/Jewish immigrant and her mother came from the immigrant Irish community in Scotland. Her first novel, Hox, which deals with the issues of genetic engineering and animal experimentation, won the 2007 Kelpies Prize and was shortlisted for the 2008 Scottish Children’s book of the Year and Heart of Hawick book awards. Breaker, her second novel, focuses on a potential environmental catastrophe when a tanker collides with the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. Her third novel, Ushig, a fantasy based on Scottish myths and legends, was shortlisted for the 2011 Essex Children's Book Award. Her latest, as yet unpublished, children’s book is about the experiences of a young Jewish boy who finds himself adrift in a mining community in pre-war Scotland, having escaped from Danzig the morning after Kristallnacht. Annemarie will be running activities for young readers aged 8-13 during the first part of the afternoon.
Ephraim Borowski, MBE, Director of SCoJeC, is Convener of the Scottish ethnic minority umbrella, BEMIS; Chair of the Regional Deputies of the Board of Deputies of British Jews; and a lay member of the General Teaching Council. He was a member of the Scottish Government's Race Equality Forum and both the EOC and CRE Scottish committees, and a founder of the Scottish Inter-Faith Council. Before his retirement from Glasgow University, he was head of the Philosophy Department, President of the Association of University Teachers, and a member of Court. He is a regular contributor to BBC Scotland's Thought for the Day.

1948, from Poetry News

Lowering the Tone
Andy Croft talks to Poetry News about Pushkin sonnets, George Orwell and lowering the tone with award-winning cartoonist Martin Rowson.

It is probably fair to say that the verse-novel is a rare, not to say wilfully eccentric, form in contemporary English poetry. Fiction and poetry parted company a long time ago. Since the Romantic privatisation of feeling in the early nineteenth-century, English poetry has not often been interested in the shared, public possibilities of narrative. As a consequence, poetry has effectively conceded dialogue, action, character, plot and time to fiction.
This always seems to me to be an unnecessarily heavy price to pay for the individual ‘voice’ of the poet. At Smokestack I have published a number of verse-novels, notably by Ellen Phethean, Alan Dent, Bob Beagrie, Michael Shepler, Malcolm Povey and Alan Morrison. As a reader, I have always enjoyed the ambition and the narrative architecture of long poems like The Iliad, The Rape of the Lock, Don Juan and – above all – Pushkin’s Evgeniy Onyegin. A few years ago I tried my hand at writing a comic novel in Pushkin sonnets, Ghost Writer (2007).
If you don’t know the Pushkin sonnet, it is the verse-form invented by Pushkin when he imported the sonnet into Russian (the Russians call it Onyeginskaya strofa, or the Onyegin stanza). It consists of fourteen lines in iambic tetrameter (de-dum, de-dum, de-dum, de-dum).
The strict rhyme-scheme is ABABCCDDEFFEGG.In other words, it is three different kinds of heavily rhymed quatrains, followed by a rhyming couplet.
If this doesn’t sound hard enough, you also have to have pairs of feminine rhymes at lines 1 and 3, 5 and 6, 9 and 12. For some reason, single-syllable rhymes (eg ‘bright/white/bite’) are called ‘masculine’ rhymes, while two or three syllable rhymes (eg ‘oyster/cloister’, ‘dentist/
apprenticed’) are called ‘feminine’ rhymes.
The four beat line is unnecessarily abrupt for readers familiar with the more leisurely and spacious tradition of English pentameters. Eight syllables is a very short space in which to complete a phrase in English. And while Russian grammar permits syntactical variation, English word-order is non-negotiable.
Moreover, the feminine rhymes are completely disruptive to the musical expectations of English ears. Since the early twentieth-century, poets in Britain have more commonly used half-rhymes or consonant rhymes, or abandoned end-rhyme altogether. Feminine rhymes are unavoidably comical in English. Whether they are embarrassingly contrived or dazzlingly original, they distract the reader away from the meaning of a poem and towards its technique. In the opening quatrain, we might expect feminine rhymes at the end of lines 3 and 4, but not at the end of lines 1 and 3. Because the feminine rhymes carry the comedy, you don’t want to throw away the punch-line before the end of the quatrain. Line four is always an anti-climax. After such an unbalanced beginning, after which the rest of the sonnet is always struggling to recover its poise:
Though you may say that I’m a dreamer
It seems to me that on the whole
This idiotic rhyming schema
Requires some quality control;
Without it you get clumsy verses
Like this (than which there not much worse is).
Thalia is a funny Muse;
She gets the blues when writers choose
To use techniques she thinks insult her,
eg employing third-rate rhymes,
(Although, of course, there can be times
When rhyming badly’s difficulter),
Or making sure a sentence fits
By rearranging order its.
Although after writing Ghost Writer I vowed never to touch another Pushkin sonnet again, I have since found myself returning again and again to the form, several long sequences including a series about Moscow Metro stations in Three Men on the Metro (written with Bill Herbert and Paul Summers). The above stanza is taken from another Pushkin-sonnet novel, 1948, due out in May.
They may be killers to write, but they can be bloody funny to read. A stanza-form that demands so much full-on, in-your-face rhyming is a wonderful vehicle for literary pantomime. Somehow the Russian music of tragedy somehow becomes in English a circus soundtrack for clowning and satire, not so much Tchaikovsky as Laurel and Hardy’s Dance of the Cuckoos. It is not, I think, a coincidence that Pushkin-sonnet novels in English – notably Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate, Harry Keating’s Jack the Lady Killer, Ben Borek’s Donjong Heights and John Fuller’s The Illusionists – are all essentially comic works, the poetic equivalent of a Martin Rowson graphic-novel.
I have been a fan of Martin Rowson’s cartoons ever since I came across his joke about Lenin and the trained seal in the New Statesman sometime in the early 1980s. We share a taste for lowering the tone with bad puns and dodgy rhymes, for mixing Low Comedy and High Seriousness. We also share a liking for Pushkin. As Martin has written, ‘While Britain was waiting for DICKENS / We mustn't ignore the rich pickin’s / To be found off in RUSSIA! / Behold PUSHKIN usher / In RUSSIAN LIT! How the pulse quickens!’ And we share some of the same politics; Martin has a blistering cartoon every Saturday in the Morning Star, for which I write a monthly poetry column. I like to think that the fourteen lines of a Pushkin sonnet are a kind of literary equivalent to the compressed rage and restrained violence of a Martin Rowson cartoon. Martin provided a brilliant cover for Ghost Writer, based on Goya’s The Sleep of Reason. Martin’s comic literary history, The Limerickiad, is one of Smokestack’s all-time best-selling titles. When I asked Martin if he would draw a cover for 1948 he insisted on drawing cartoons for the inside of the book as well.
Set during the 1948 London Olympics, the novel offers a radically alternative history of the Cold War. The Second Front never happened, the Red Army liberated Paris, Britain has a Lab-Comm coalition government and the royal family have fled to Rhodesia. George Orwell is compiling lists of suspected American-sympathisers, TS Eliot is broadcasting on Radio Free Europe from Franco’s Spain, and the USA is about to impose an economic blockade on Britain. When DC Winston Smith is asked to investigate the black-market, the bloody clues lead him across London to Red Horizon magazine and the set of Passport to Pimlico. Then Smith finds an unpublished novel, depicting a truly horrible future:
It opens with a gruesome picture
Of Britain, 1984,
A future where the rich get richer
By stealing from the nation’s poor.
It’s like those bad B-movie features
In which a race of evil creatures
Have turned the nation’s hearts to stone;
Their leaders are an evil crone
Like Hash-a-Motep (Helen Gahagan)
The empress who must-be-obeyed,
And some old brain-dead zombie played
By ‘George the Gipper’ Ronald Reagan!
Smith lights a cig and wipes his brow.
Then carries on. He can’t stop now...
Can History be stopped? Is it an Ealing Tragedy? Or is it just a counterfactual Cold War joke in Pushkin sonnets?
1948 by Andy Croft and Martin Rowson is published by Five Leaves, price £7.99 on 1 May.
Andy Croft’s books of poetry include Nowhere Special, Just as Blue, Great North, Comrade Laughter, Ghost Writer, Sticky and Three Men on the Metro. He lives in Middlesbrough and runs Smokestack Books.
Martin Rowson’s cartoons appear regularly in The Guardian, The Independent on Sunday, The Daily Mirror and The Morning Star. His books include graphic adaptations of The Waste Land, Tristram Shandy and Gulliver's Travels. Among his other books are Snatches, The Dog Allusion, Fuck and Stuff.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Forest Bookstore, Selkirk

Back in the Scottish Borders on family business... giving a good opportunity to revisit one of my favourite bookshops, The Forest Bookstore in Selkirk. Why a favourite? If you'd been brought up in Hawick, the nearest "big" town (which has no bookshop) you would understand. The Forest Bookshop does have a good range of Scottish books, but makes no attempt to cater for the Tartan market. Thus, among the books in the window was a book by Terry Eagleton on why Marx was right. This is Selkirk! The owner is a big fan of the London Review of Books and says that Nicholas Lezard's recommendations in the Guardian do particularly well. He's also sold a few copies of our Maps, again the Guardian review...
What else does he stock... well, if I said my two purchases - on face out display - were as follows, you might want to call, so support such an enterprise, if in the area. And to stock up on the wonderful Selkirk Bannock at the bakers along the road. Anyway, my two purchases were New Finish Grammar by Diego Marani (Dedelus), as recommended by Lezard and The Road, fictions and essays by Vasily Grossman (Maclehose).
Unaccountably The Forest Bookstore does not seem to have a website, but if in Selkirk, it's in the Market Place.