Friday 28 June 2013

Berta Freistadt memorial event

We are pleased to say that friends of Berta Freistadt, whose poetry we published, are unveiling a memorial at Mary Ward Centre in London on Monday 29th July 3.15 to 5pm. This will be just after the third anniversary of Berta's death.
The  memorial has been designed and sculptured by  Judy Veal, a Mary Ward art student who won the prize to design a memorial for Berta. Berta taught poetry at the Centre for many years, was very happy there and beloved by generations of students.
There will be drinks and nibbles.    Any offers to bring cake would be appreciated as the group has limited resources. There is a lift part of the way but you will need to climb up at least one flight of stairs to the Centre's roof garden
The Nearest tubes are Russell Square and Holborn. Queens Square is behind Southampton Row. Please RSVP to   
Berta's poems appeared in an early Five Leaves book, The Dybbuk of Delight, and we published her only pamphlet, Flood Warning, in 2004. Berta's poems explored her love of women, and her journey as a Londoner of mixed heritage to explore the Jewish world. She became a committed Jew, active in opposing Israel's occupation. Her poems were also published in magazines in the UK, Israel and the USA and on a London bus.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Slow train coming... Red Groove by Chris Searle, new from Five Leaves

Somehow Red Groove slipped from last year, and has only now appeared. It happens sometimes. Chris's book is published in association with the Morning Star, where the material collected here first appeared - reviews of records (as we used to call them) and live performances. Chris is the Star's jazz reviewer and this collection includes about 100 pieces selected from fifteen years of jazz reviews.
As you would expect, the reviews are political, but mostly they are reviews and politics comes in where relevant - but with jazz from around the world that is often the case. There is not a bad review here - that is on purpose. Chris reviews to promote the artists, the records and their music, not out of sycophancy but as a way of giving people airtime, or space in the paper. He aims to promote the best. For the regular jazz listener there is much here to remind him or her what he/she has forgotten, for the less regular jazz listener the book is a vade mecum or buying list.
It was fun editing the book because each of the article was meant to be read on the day, not conceived as sitting alongside other reviews, so we had to get rid of a lot of heartbeats and confreres and various other writing tics that only became apparent when the articles were collected.
The book is introduced by Robert Wyatt and has a great photograph of Joe McPhee on the cover. Further colour photos, of Norma Winstone, Sun Ra and the late Niels-Henning Ostred Pederson are included, as well as some black and whites.
For me, the most exciting part of the book was being able to publish something by Chris Searle. I've followed Chris's work from his days in Stepney Words (described also in our book Everything Happens in Cable Street) through to his current writing in Race and Class. People might remember him as the teacher who was sacked for publishing his school students' poetry - this led to a student strike and Chris's eventual reinstatement by the then Minister of Education, one Margaret Thatcher. I wonder what happened to her. Chris has also published books of his own poetry, books about Granada (he knew Maurice Bishop and the other leaders of the New Jewel Movement) and cricket. This is his second book of jazz writing, the first being Forward Groove, published by the jazz specialists, Northway Books.
The two chapters I liked best in Red Groove were inspired by a fellow Star supporter Chris met on a train, who suggested an artists to write about, and a chance meeting with a cleaner from one of his old schools who suggested another jazz singer to review.
Chris loves his jazz. If you are by any chance reading this in time, Chris will be appearing at Lowdham Book Festival on 22nd June. He is available for gigs elsewhere, to talk about jazz, as is our other recent jazz writer, Peter Vacher, who will be at Lowdham on June 29.

Thursday 13 June 2013

A Taste for Malice, the first review

We were very impressed with Michael J Malone's 2012 debut crime novel, Blood Tears, which introduced the highly dysfunctional protagonist (even by the standards of the genre) Detective Inspector Ray McBain. So we approached A Taste for Malice with some trepidation: would Michael J Malone be able to produce a second novel that lived up to the promise of the first?
The answer is a clear "yes": he has. He has also produced one of the more unusual detective novels we can remember reading. Most crime novels kick off with a dead body within the first few pages, and build from there. What is particularly fascinating about A Taste for Malice is that the story does not revolve around the tracking down of a killer or serial killer. Yes, there is a murder between the covers, but it's very much "off stage", and DI McBain's involvement is only peripheral (though it is also critical). But the central story, which develops in two parallel strands that steadily converge as the book moves towards its climax, deals with something altogether less wholesome.
We first encounter DI Ray McBain as he returns to work after the events in the earlier novel. The physical scars he has been left with are healing, but the mental scars still run very deep. McBain has other problems. His superiors do not wish to risk his fragile mental health by exposing him to the full rigors of the work of a Detective Inspector, so he is attached to a team led by a man who used to be his junior officer, and tasked with administrative tasks that have little interest and no challenge for him. One of the files he looks at deals with the harming of two children by a woman the family thought could be trusted to look after them. Then another similar case emerges. McBain sets out to discover whether the two cases are linked, behind the backs and against the wishes of his senior officers. Meanwhile his personal life is as chaotic as ever, and he also begins to fear that his nemesis from Blood Tears may be waiting in the shadows.
In parallel we follow the story of a family having difficulty coping with the mother's loss of memory in an accident, and their befriending by a young woman. The reader's suspicions that all is not right build steadily, and the two strands of the story come together very satisfyingly in a conclusion that offers some genuine surprises.
Courtesy of Undiscovered Scotland

Tuesday 11 June 2013

New from Five Leaves, A Taste of Malice by Michael J Malone

Here's the first of our new crime books to be shown here in their new livery, courtesy of JT Lindroos, who is something of an expert in saying "no, your idea doesn't work but if you do this, this and this..." and so we get a type of wood any self-respecting teddy bear or even teddy boy would be best advised to avoid.
The book is our second Malone book, both in the Scottish hard-boiled genre and featuring Ray McBain. The story starts with him in filing hell, where he realises two unsolved cases could be linked, but nobody wants to know. And both involve women who insinuate themselves into vulnerable families. Children get hurt and unless McBain can get someone to listen more children are at risk.
Malone's first book Blood Tears was our best selling book so far. I think this one is better. I'm not knocking the first book but one particularly critical review really helped us iron out some difficulties with Malice. Even bad reviews (and mostly they were not!) can be useful!
We also had fun again with Michael Malone's natural Scottish diction. We want the book to retain a Scottish flavour but not lose any English readers. One pre-publication reader was American, who reminded us that not only Scottish diction can lose readers, but so can English lose American readers. What do Americans call ladders on their tights? (The "on" is Scottish, by the way.) We did not have fun with mixing past and present tenses. It seemed like a good idea at the time but caused the author and me a great deal of editorial toothache.
But we have a great book and those who have read it so far agree.
Scottish Waterstones is behind this one, especially Ayr of course, as is Blackwells in Edinburgh. You won't find many copies in English bookshops - not yet anyway - but English (and American) readers really can enjoy Scottish crime novels and, like Rankin and MacBride, our Scots almost speak proper English ...sae dinna be feart.

Guest post from Mark "I am Spartacus" Patterson

Of course you've always wanted to see people marching through Nottinghamshire in sandals and togas, haven't you? Good, because later this month a merry band will be doing just that to raise money for Newark's forthcoming new museum and Civil War Centre, which is set to display many of the area's Roman and ancient treasures including the famous gold Iron Age Torc and the Roman cavalry cheekpiece that graces the cover of my Five Leaves book Roman Nottinghamshire. The team will be walking 68 miles from Lincoln to Leicester, basically following the Fosse Way. On June 20 they'll be stopping in Newark to hear a talk by me on the history of the Fosse Way (Newark Town Hall, 7.30pm, £4) and I may be joining them for the walk the day after. Newark hasn't had a decent museum for ages and consequently all the artefacts have been locked up in the town's Resource Centre. 
The Torc itself has been at the British Museum all these years as Newark didn't have facilities deemed good enough to put it on display. Now it's coming home. The best of the 100,000 artefacts found alongside the Fosse Way during the recent dualling work should also be coming to the new museum. Details of the talk can be seen at the brave walkers can be sponsored via
Note: the picture is not Mark Patterson