Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Turkish theme

We have received a lovely three page review of the three books by Latife Tekin - what a lot of threes. Hannah Adcock has reviewed them in the Edinburgh Review, in a round up of Turkish literature which includes many of the major authors, of which Latife Tekin is one.

Latife is a well known author in Turkey, but many in the UK have yet to discover her wonderful books which throw a window on a Turkey that the ordinary tourist can only guess at. I spent my honeymoon in Istanbul, and was so impressed with the country, the mosques, the stillness of Istanbul late at night, and the bustle of the day, that it seemed an obvious choice when it came to publishing translations. The fact that I started doing this in 1999 when Orhan Pamuk was relatively unknown was a blessing - my mother had published Berji Kristin, and next in line was Dear Shameless Death, but I was happy to then publish Elif Shafak and Maureen Freely. And I've had a great time doing so. A lot of crazy tours with all three ensued.

We've just received permission to put these lovely reviews up on this site - thank you, Hannah Adcock,and Brian McCabe, editor of the Edinburgh Review.

Et voila! (God knows what that is in Turkish - someone could let me know....)


Dear Shameless Death
Latife Tekin. Translated by Saliha Paker and Mel Kenne. Introduction by
Saliha Paker. Marion Boyars. isbn 9780714530543. £8.99

Berji Kristin: Tales from the Garbage Hills
Latife Tekin. Translated by Ruth Christie and Saliha Paker. Preface by John
Berger. Introduction by Saliha Paker. Marion Boyars. isbn 0714530115. £7.95

Swords of Ice
Latife Tekin. Translated by Saliha Paker and Mel Kenne. Marion Boyars. isbn
9780714531359. £7.99

Latife Tekin is one of Turkey’s most influential contemporary authors,
appreciated by legions of fans worldwide and distrusted by certain members
of the Turkish bureaucracy. She reputedly said, after having her microphone
turned off at a Turkish arts festival by a bullish town mayor, that ‘writers are
the consciousness of their country, their people.’
She’s obviously a determined woman with a social conscience but she’s also
an original and talented writer. Her subject-matter is the underprivileged on the
margins of Istanbul society. She manages to make these communities central to
her story, rather than depicting them as sociological case-studies or intellectual
sideshows. As John Berger writes about Berji Kristin, ‘A shanty-town becomes
the centre of the world, holding the stage and addressing the sky.’
The novels under review form a trilogy, loosely bound together by
Tekin’s attempts to find a voice to describe underprivileged migrants and
their attempts to integrate successfully into city life. Tekin started writing
Dear Shameless Death, in 1980, a few days after the military coup d’état.
She was twenty-three and wanted it to be ‘a razzle-dazzle novel, a book
full of sound and shimmering light, whichever way you looked at it.’ She
succeeded. It is expansive, full of rural superstitions, myths, fairy tales and
idiosyncratic characters. The first part, set in a small Anatolian village is
particularly fantastic, populated with djinns, a fair-haired and malevolent
witch and ‘donkey boy’, all of whom the child protagonist, Dirmit, believes
in implicitly.
Based on Tekin’s own childhood experiences, it is a fascinating mixture of
extraordinary imaginings fused with the commonplace details of village life.
The narrative gains tension when the action moves to an unidentified city,
clearly based on Istanbul. Dirmit’s family, particularly her parents, struggle
to cope with the demands of this alien place. Her mother repeatedly takes to
her death-bed as a way to ensure that the family does not fly apart. Reality
intrudes as Dirmit participates in a left-wing teachers’ protest and her father,
Huvat, is led into the thick of a violent student demonstration by a blackbearded
hoja. Dialogue is scarce, although often pithy (Dirmit’s mother
does a good line in insults), whilst Tekin develops and then drops narrative
threads with dizzying speed. The novel owes more to oral tradition than
conventional dramatic frameworks, for good reason. After Tekin announced
she was to write a book about ‘the village’, her elder brother arranged a
gathering of villagers, then migrants in Istanbul, so that they could tell their
stories and contribute to this ‘collective novel’. Dirmit provides a muchneeded
focus point. She develops from a creative, confused child to a wild,
poetic adolescent, in conflict with her family but also linked by the chains
of blood and love. Dear Shameless Death is an impressive, imaginative novel.
It is also a gift to Tekin’s family and village neighbours: a remembrance of
their lives.

Berji Kristin, the second part of the trilogy, draws on the testimony of
real-life squatters who crammed into fringe dwellings in the 1960s. Tekin
paints a fictional portrait of the community they establish on a refuse heap,
ironically named Flower Hill. They battle with authorities who demolish
their dwellings, are exploited by factory owners, get caught up in strikes
and see their makeshift homes being colonised by other neighbours keen
on ‘knocking shops’ and ‘hashish’. It is a sketch in miniature of civilisation,
glued together by rumour and always on the brink of collapse.
The novel contains a selection of personalities, often with interesting
foibles. Among them are Güllü Baba, the oldest resident, who is blind and
makes predictions, ‘so mysterious that nobody could understand them’; the
factory owner, Mr Izak, whose ‘reputation grew velvet and creamy [as] his
iron fist began to show’; and Lado, the gambler, who all his life sought the
answer to the question, ‘Who was greater, God, or the man who invented
gambling?’ Tekin draws strong, occasionally subversive, female characters
such as Fidan ‘Of Many Skills’, who teaches women to find pleasure in
lovemaking – although their husbands thwart their desires, because Flower
Hill is a male-dominated society.
The novel has sustained metaphorical depths, great if you like pondering,
but it can be hard work to read. It’s difficult to get emotionally involved when
there’s only a cool, clear authorial voice and no central protagonist. The last
few chapters featuring Lado are high-points, so it’s worth persevering.

Swords of Ice is a story about a would-be entrepreneur called Halihan
Sunteriler who saves a red Volvo from the scrap heap, imagining it to be ‘a
greeting from teknologi, the power that let him control enormous energies
with a tiny movement from his foot and guide vehicles that weighed tons
with the mere touch of a wheel.’ However, Halihan is daydreaming to think
that he can control such forces; the car is shown, ironically, as being very
much ‘in charge’. Instead of magically leading Halihan to successful moneymaking
schemes as he expects, it embroils him in disastrous extra-marital
affairs: ‘About ten nights earlier, when Halihan was on his way home, the
Volvo had suddenly turned into a side street, headed down dark alleys, and
of her own free will parked at the door of a night club called Bella.’
Halihan’s attempts to enlist the support of his friend Gogi and his
brothers Hazmi and Mesut in setting up the Teknojen company (purpose and
products unknown) prove divisive rather than lucrative. Family arguments
and suspicion rupture tentative understandings amongst this ill-assorted
group. Gogi is the most ‘cultured’ man in the neighbourhood and only turns
to business to please his friend; Hazmi has severe anger management issues,
whilst Mesut is dominated by his wife. ‘In great friendships even a hole as
tiny as an atom could spark off magnetic storms that destroy love and flatten
the soul to a silken thickness.’
The novel concludes with a scattering of poetic phrases, desperate and
beautiful. It is a perplexing book that manages to dabble with nihilism,
whilst retaining a delicate sense of humour. As Tekin aptly concludes in a
post-scriptum: ‘Writing! Faithful foe of the poor! I have used you to deepen
even more the enigma of our ragged lives.’

Hannah Adcock

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Any women out there who have taken a career break for children or have been creatively unemployed - have a quick think and ring up the Pensions office in Newcastle. If you need to buy a few pension years, it is apparently cheaper to do this before next April. This may sound like a boring piece of information, but I was curious as my career has taken place in small companies - both publishers and designers (one is this one so I do know that the tax & NI has been paid over the past nine years! I wrote the cheques) and although I paid stamps when self-employed, I had no idea where I was.

To my surprise I found I had 28 years of contributions and I need 30, but I cannot get the state pension until I am 65 - and that's a long way off.

Blimey - 28 years of hard labour and I hardly noticed! Sucker for punishment.


Sunday, November 16, 2008


Jet lag - it seems to be something not worth fighting over as soon I will be back in the UK. It's
7 am and the coffee machine is heating up water for my oh, so British tea.

So, it's 7am and snowing in Minneapolis and at least I have my New York snow boots with me, and plenty of layers. I met one publisher in the lift yesterday who had come from Carolina, seventy degrees, and had not thought to bring a coat. I hope she found a thrift shop....

Talking of thrift shops, in my presentation yesterday of our front list for the USA, I managed a cat walk in high heeled purple suede shoes, a purple pencil skirt and a black top, total cost for the outfit was $15 / £ 10.75. My whole outfit came from a charity shop in Southwold, where Victoria Cator is a patron and fund raiser, Break (it gives breaks to the parents of disabled children).

Last night we had the sales conference cocktail party in a bar (there are never any cocktails, but a gin and tonic makes a good substitute). I met all our wonderful sales reps, and spoke to the academic marketing manager, Heather Hart, who is in charge of the new web site for academics and course adoptions. In the demonstration, I kept seeing our titles - in these economically strange times, a backlist comes into its own.

Now, back to my proof reading of THE GOOD BODY GUIDE - only 250 pages to go....the nine hour flight was good for the first half of the book. do I sound like an American yet? My joint nationality is also useful for my sales trips, though for the first time the official really did want to know the story of my life!


Friday, November 14, 2008

A trip to the coast

Last week, after over a year of editing, production, sales, publicity and other miscellaneous work we finally got to meet Rhyll McMaster. Who is lovely. As is her daughter with whom she was travelling. So lovely in fact that we decided that they could not stay in the 'grubby london' of Rhyll's novel a moment longer than she had to and so whisked her off up the coast to Suffolk. Specifically to the Ways with Words Festival in Southwold where Rhyll was to appear alongside Sadie Jones in the curtain raising event.

Southwold, which achieved fame recently as Gordon Brown's chosen location for his summer holiday, is a pleasantly grey seaside town with beach huts, stone houses and its very own brewery. Once there we met the wonderful Kay and Steven Dunbar. They founded and still run the Ways with Words festivals with that mix of easy efficiency, intelligence and genuine warmth that characterises the very best literary events. We also met the equally marvellous Rosemary, manager of the Orwell bookshop in Southwold, who runs the festival bookshop and who will forever have a place in our hearts for declaring our show card the 'best she had ever had.'

After being treated to an amazing dinner the night before, we reconvened the next day at the Tardis-like St Edmund's Hall (the size of the theatre is not at all apparent from the outside) where Rhyll and Sadie (who is also fantastic) gave a talk ably chaired by Kay. The topics included the melancholy fifties, the writing process, feminism, the unpredictability of readers' responses, (especially Austrian ones) humour, the probability that everyone 'knows a Redmond' and much mutual admiration. The audience, which had a pleasing number of people who had read both books, seemed to enjoy it and then asked some excellent questions. And then, far too soon, it was time to go back to grubby london.

But not without asking everything to vote for Feather Man at the Spread the Word competition please, please do!


Monday, November 03, 2008

Round ups

I expect that it's true of working in most small offices that one occasionally finds themselves feeling isolated and worried that nothing they're doing is making much of a difference. I think that this is especially true on Monday mornings in small publishers, when one scours the major book reviewing publications hoping that a title with your moniker at the bottom will jump out at you. Preferably with some kind words attached.

It's nice then, at the times when nothing has appeared, to get an email like the one we received today from our American publicist, the excellent Meryl Zegarek (

Marion Boyars

Bold = New as of this report.
Feather Man by Rhyll McMaster – September 2008 (978-0-7145-3148-9)
  • September 29, 2008 – “An interesting and moving story that is reminiscent of works by Margaret Atwood and Harper Lee.”
  • Genre Go Round September 5, 2008
  • Nashville Is Talking August 15, 2008
  • Monsters and “Abuse of any kind is challenging subject to write about yet McMaster manages it with a deft touch.”
  • - “McMaster is an amazing writer. Her prose is pitch-perfect- in the whole of this book, there is not an extraneous word. This story has a very substantial feel, due primarily to McMaster's painstaking character development. From the first page, the reader is truly inside Sooky's head, and comes to know her intimately.”
  • ForeWord Magazine – “…Sooky’s unflinching eye and sense of humor imbue the book with complexity and vitality.”
  • Medieval Bookworm – “What an interesting character study…I really liked this book.”
  • Book Room Review-– “if you’re looking for a book with real substance and excellent character development, I think you’ll enjoy Feather Man.
  • IndieBound September Indie Next List
  •, and LibraryThing,
The Streets of Babylon by Carina Burman – May 2008 (978-0-7145-3138-0)
  • – Review and will post an interview with Carina Burman
  • I Love a Mystery-August/Sept. 2008- “This is a tongue-firmly-in-cheek romp through London …this is the first in a trilogy planned for translation, and I look forward the lady’s return.”
  • You Are What You Read- Sept. 9th, 2008 “…the makings of an absolutely delightful ‘who done it’…This book was seamless.”
  • The Washington Times – rave review, Sunday, August 17th “Ms. Burman offers a hilarious version of all the wrong things to do in Victorian Londonm and draws the reader into the fun with her carefully proper writing style.”
  • The Midwest Book Review- July 2008- “The Streets of Babylon is and excellent historical mystery that makes the time and place seem so alive…Carina Burman provides an exhilarating mid-nineteenth century kidnapped thriller..”
  • July/August 2008 rev.- “ There is a lot to enjoy in The Streets of Babylon, from the wonderful job Burman does of creating the physical and social atmosphere to the delight of her protagonist…I was quite pleased to discover the work of Carina Burman, with Streets of Babylon and look forward to more books with this wonderful character.”
  • Medieval - July 24, 2008 - “…A good time and pure escapism….an entertaining read.”
  • Library Journal - June review - “…first volume of an engaging new historical trilogy”
  • Genre Go Round May 20, 2008 “An excellent historical mystery that makes the time and place seem so alive.”
  • Kirkus Reviews- May 15, 2008 …packed with Victorian flavor.”
  • The Mystery Gazette- May 2008
  • Reviewing the Evidence “The descriptions of the streets and alleys of the city are so breathtaking, one seems to be there. London of 1851 lives again.”
  • Blogcritics – April 29, 2008 “The story takes us on a captivating trip back in time with interesting – and at times quirky – individuals, who quickly come to feel like friends.”
  • International Noir 9, 2008

Which makes one feel rather better about life.

Even nicer is when one of our books is on the long list for World Book Day's Spread the Word
prize. Please, please do vote because if Feather Man isn't a book to talk about I don't know what is.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Spread the Word & Feather Man

Rhyll McMaster has just arrived here from Australia to do some publicity for Feather Man. It just happens to coincide with the long listing of her book by Spread the Word.

So, please, please go to the site, register (it only takes a minute) and vote for Feather Man so that it reaches the short list! To date a good number of people have voted for books on the list, but it could be higher - no idea how many Feather Man has had, but we do know that the people who read it rate it very highly indeed.

The first chapter is quite hard - but only quite - to read and the book rewards readers in spades - language, plot (dastardly!), characters, and outcome.

Please go to the site - note it is spread - hyphen - the -hyphen - word not Spreadtheword which belongs to someone else (how glad I am that my mother chose to spell my name a slightly different way to everyone elses - I have not yet met another Catheryn despite there being four Catherine's or Katharine's etc in every class I was in, and as for mothers at school - zillions! For late fifties children, Catherine was the Sophie or Georgia of today....

And Rhyll will be at the Ways With Words Literary Festival in Southwold on Thursday 6th November, appearing with Sadie Jones who wrote The Outcast. So it will be packed and we hope lots of Feather Man will sell to people who have read Sadie's excellent book. Rhyll is also recording an interview for the BBC World Service on Friday evening, so look out for that - I am not sure when it will be broadcast but you will all be able to listen to it online next week, for sure.

Vote! Vote! Vote! Thank you!


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A quick catch up here so you know what's going on and who will be doing it. Kit has just gone to Barcelona on a publisher mission to look for Spanish books. We already have one for 2009 - See How Much I Love You by Luis Leante - so let's see if he finds another.

Our new 2009 catalogue will be delivered on Monday, in time for Rebecca to take it to the Frankfurt Book Fair. I have had fun being her travel secretary and meeting arranger. She has a packed schedule.

Final edits on Sadomasochism for Accountants are still ongoing - it is a fast paced book so we have to make sure the devil is in the detail. Charity Shopping is taking shape, with most of the text written. Any journalists interested in an extract should call - the research for this book has been meticulously done by Lettice Wilkinson, our intrepid author who went all around the UK to find the best places.

And we had builders for the last two weeks. The front is painted outside which it needs every three years as we get the sun full on. Marion's office is now pristine - we are just organising new carpets (our stair carpets have holes in them - I once did not give a girl a chance at an editorial job as she came for her interview wearing stillettoes - I knew it would end in tears when she fell down the stairs). It will be nice and novel to conform to health and safety on this issue. But working with Virgin Classics blaring out from the builders' radio was difficult, to say the least. They were very good humoured, lovely blokes, so we let them have their music, hoping they would work faster if happy.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Weekend Reading

Always seems to be a lot of it around, doesn't there?

but you could do a lot worse than following the Barnes and Noble Book Explorers' discussion of Feather Man, which has been going on this week. A great volume of fascinating questions and answers (the latter from Rhyll, mostly, although Catheryn also contributed with a note about the cover) has amassed in a fantastically short period of time, and has led to some great insights about the book, its author, its readers and where the combination has lead thus far and might go in the future.

Imagine the kind of exchanges we might have had if the technology had been around earlier:

'Dear Herman (The internet is a strictly informal zone),

Although I very much enjoyed your recent novel, as a whale enthusiast I was rather troubled...'


There's also the first of what should be a fascinating series of blog posts on the art of translation by Daniel Hahn over at the Booktrust website.


Monday, September 29, 2008


England has been basking in sunshine, so I've snatched some hours the past couple of weekends to read in the garden. I've found my book of the year - The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa. And if you're quick, you can find the hardback overstocks on sale at Dada in Chiswick High Road, opposite the green...and there are lots of other good fiction titles there. The non fiction is definitely at the laddish end of the market - unsurprisingly our household has most of them already due to my husband's serious book buying habit. Not to mention his CD habit with 6 parcels from amazon arriving here some weeks.....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Veritable Hurricane of a Review

Today you can find a blistering review of Banquet of Lies over at Vulpes Libris, by a celebrity no less: Jay Benedict.

It's a fine example of a reader taking a book on its own terms and getting swept away, 'ask not what a book can do for you...' indeed.

There have also been reviews in The Independent and the Daily Mail for DIY: the rise of Lo-Fi Culture by Amy Spencer. The Daily Mail one doesn't seem to be on the website but it said good things like 'entertaining and informative.'

Which is exactly what we try to do.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Old long tail and new gadgets

Yesterday I printed out a submission and read it - I was really keen to see it as I have known this book was coming for over two years. Now, I could have read it on my computer screen, which is a large, matt Apple G5 screen, perfect for, well anything, like writing this blog on. However, I couldn't face two hours reading from a screen. It is just the case that screens reflect light and are tiring on the eyes.

A few days ago I read that Jan Dalley, literary editor of the Financial Times, likes the Sony Reader. She is influential, and I began to worry, a lot.

Today, I am not worrying, because I bet she has picked up and read more books since her experiment with the electronic gadget.

We are currently looking for front list - including comedy plays. But at the same time, I know front list is a huge risk. We've been lucky in so many cases - but many months, it is our backlist that pays the salaries - a sprinkling of sales over 200 titles. Some are doing well just now - Last Exit to Brooklyn is in a banned books promotion at Borders, which is a huge help, and Borders are also promoting The Concubine of Shanghai, as are Waterstone's. But lots of front list does not get picked by the large retailers, and we can work as hard as we like gaining publicity, if they think a book is not going to sell, it does not get a chance. I do feel for the buyers - they have so many books to choose from, and they have to use gut feeling, just as I do. But the thrill when publicity and sales come together, as well as loving working on books, means we do more risky things than anyone with any sense should. Sadomasochism for Accountants with your Kindle, Sir? That'll do nicely.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Attention span?

I've seen two dramas on the box recently, both with high profile, excellent actors, and both of which received damning reviews from the main TV critics. I found the first engrossing and memorable, and worth sitting still for over an hour to see to the end, and the second surprising in the reaction it produced and not as heavy or dark - a story made for a Sunday evening audience who like something to ponder while they wind down before the new week.

The first was a David Hare play with Uma Thurman and Jonathan Price. and Paddy Consadine. When I looked in The Guardian the following morning, I saw that Lucy Mangan had written a damning review, saying how bored she was. I felt like telling her to spend the rest of her life reading her beloved Enid Blyton.

The next play was on last night, with Gina McKee, Fiona's Story. This was a very clever play about a husband who has been looking at child pornography online, and is in line for a trial. When he tells his wife, she has to lie to social services in order to keep their family together, despite the fact that their sex life has been non existent for many years. Her disapproval, fear and lack of trust make the audience start rooting for the sad man who looks at the bodies of children in order to light some kind of a sexual reaction in his body, when all else has failed. His children also blame Mummy for being unkind to Daddy, and they want to stay overnight with him.

So, why the lack of appreciation by the Telly Critics? I think they are just young and have been seduced by the ease of obtaining entertainment. The internet is quick, and drama with only a few actors is slow and demands attention. Kathryn Flett did become engrossed in My Zinc Bed, and good for her. Michael Hann in The Guardian called Fiona's Story 'middle-class misery' and thought it was too dark to tell who Fiona had her affair with (utter bollocks, I am afraid).

The other thing that continues to perplex me, is how and where in the heavenly spheres of those who make the decisions about what gets televised and adapted for the small screen, is it decided that child pornography is suddenly OK. I have spent a good deal of this year banging my head against a brick wall trying to get people to read Feather Man. The main story in Rhyll
Mc Master's novel is about the VICTIM, Sooky, of child abuse which does not result in consumation, but is nevertheless damaging. The book is the story of her trying to stop being a victim. In Fiona's Story, we are drawn into feeling sympathy for someone who has admitted enjoying looking at naked children - surely as bad as someone who has interfered with one. Yet, one story gets broadcast to the nation with some excellent acting, and the other gets a chorus of - oh no, it's too dreadful, we cannot read on. Which leaves me completely at sea.

Maybe I should just publish Enid Blyton.....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

We have often admitted that Marion Boyars Publishers are essentially four people working out of a terraced house in Putney. Of course, our circle of creative contributors is far larger - authors, agents, sales representatives, distributors, translators are just a few, reviewers and bloggers are also vitally important. But unless we have good ideas, and find great people and authors to work with us, our books would be unlikely to see light of day elsewhere. We publish to make a living and to be able to continue this rather strange, but interesting life.

But as August ends, I will admit I have spent a good deal of the month thinking of projects for the future. The really bizarre thing is that a good many of them could become TV shows or the authors turn into TV personalities.

And if we had not worked closely with the authors this just would not have happened. Now for the reality check - we have actually been contacted by Granada TV and a new production house, Red House, about Victoria & Lucinda for a cookery programme based on their book, Victoria & Lucinda's Flavour of the Month. We continue to talk to the development team at 2waytraffic about Lawrence Potter's This May Help You Understand the World, and we are persuading Lawrence to apply for Carol Vorderman's job on Countdown (his book on maths, Mathematics Minus Fear, continues to sell really well - now in batches of 48 so some classes are obviously having to buy it in bulk). And I have just written a marketing plan for Sadomasochism for Accountants which includes Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead...) playing Alan the accountant, with Tamsin Greig as Luda the transvestite (yes, I know she should be a man but I think Tamsin would do the part wonderfully). Ever since Black Books came onto our screens I have thought there should be a TV show about a small, independent publishing house, but maybe we do not need to go on TV - we are too busy inventing it. Yes, four people in a terraced house providing ideas for the TV mega rich and powerful. Something is a little out of kilter here.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

From CBGB to the Roundhouse

We've been quiet here, mostly because it's August and although we aren't French we do publish a lot of French books.
Which doesn't really follow as we're getting busier and busier. That, come to think of it, is a far better explanation for the lack of blogging.

I, for example, having been working on a new book that's sooo much fun.

From CBGB to the Roundhouse is all about music venues across the world - concentrating on those that show popular music.... well, the blurb is on the web page.

I'm helping with research and have also just begun receiving the first few chapters from our author Tim Burrows, who's got kind of a Jarvis Cocker vibe to him. Although it may just be the glasses. Whatever it is, he's getting some fantastic material together including interviews with all sorts of people who have been, are and will be instrumental in running, playing at, cooking/bouncing/engineering/miscellaneous in and going to some incredible spots for live music. Even at this early stage, I'm boggled by the stories I'm hearing.

Just doing a bit of research has been pretty great, I've learned some glorious things. Like what a hipster is, or where the best place to listen to blues is in Austin, Texas.

The only downside is that by eleven o clock in the morning I'm currently tending to feel very much like donning tight jeans, combing my hair messy, grabbing a cold bottle of beer and jumping up and down.

Which I'm sure can't be very professional.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

A fruitful review filled day

Yes, the week continues in a flurry of photocopying, letters and emails. This is what we do when we get new publicity.

Today we saw a nice big feature in the September issue of Tatler, all about Victoria and Lucinda:

'You heard it here first: Victoria Cator and Lucinda Bruce are the new Trinny and Susannah – but their mission is to reinvent the way we entertain rather than how we dress...The real hero of the book is photographer Mark Cator whose sumptuous images bring V and L's succinct tips and recipes to life.'

(We were also called a 'dream collaborator', which is nice.)

and then found that Harper's Bazaar had recommended the book for 'Party Queens' this month.

But that's not all. We also found, thanks to our trusty press cuttings service, that last week, in The Week, Jeffrey Deaver had recommended Heinrich Böll's Billiards at Half Past Nine as, I think, one of his best books ever:

'In addition to recounting a tale of lives torn apart by war, this novel stands as a masterpiece of character. I read it years ago but still recall how each of the characters comes to life. The story, set in post-WWII Germany is both understated and wrenching - a true accomplishment.'

All setting us up nicely for the weekend.


Monday, August 04, 2008

Lovely bloggers

We've had a blogospheric start to the week, with two very fine reviews:

Firstly, Dovegreyreader posted her excellent review of Feather Man


Simon Appleby enjoyed The Flea Palace, and was even kind enough to post his review whilst on holiday. A holiday well deserved, following the bookgeeks excellent remodelling of the Faber website.

Many thanks to the both of them!


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Trumpet Blowing

A fanfare in praise of Feather Man rang out from Dovegreyreader yesterday when she hoped, like Lisa Glass, that it would make the longlist of the Booker prize:

'Marion Boyars have been urging me to read this and I kept saying 'but the first chapter is too upsetting'...'carry on, persevere' they said and assured me it would be worth the effort. I've read it this weekend and how right they were, I would love to see this book on the longlist. '

Unfortunately, the announcement later that day disappointed these hopes. Oh well.

More cheering is the copy of Country Life that's just arrived on my desk. Its review of Victoria and Lucinda's Flavour of the Month begins thus:

'This book is such a clever idea I'm amazed it hasn't been done before.'

and goes on

'The recipes are just right for a grand but unpretentious dinner party...(they are) interior designers, and their table settings show the attention to detail comes with the job.'

Also, a couple of very fine websites have been silly enough to let me sully their pages - firstly with an article on editing Banquet of Lies at Vulpes Libris and today, a piece on Julio Cortázar on Readysteadybook.

It's a privilege and an honour to have been allowed to contribute to both.


Thursday, July 24, 2008


I like to think that there is book we publish for each and every one of my artistic heroes.

And I'm very glad to be able to add Jarvis Cocker to that list. His current radio show ties in rather well with our new edition of DIY by Amy Spencer. Indeed, most of the people he interviews are featured in Amy's book.

So, zine fans are all sorted...*


*I couldn't think of a better allusion. Sorry.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And more excitement!

Yes, it's turning out, unusually for summer, to be a thoroughly eventful moment here at Marion Boyars. As well as the attention bubbling around Feather Man:

Victoria and Lucinda appear in this evening's Evening Standard, looking pretty in pink.

The Concubine of Shanghai was much appreciated by Twomanyshoes.

And our translation by Leila Vennewitz of The Clown by Henrich Böll was acclaimed as one of the best literary translations of the last half century by the Society of Authors AND Maureen Freely also made the list for her translation of Snow by Orhan Pamuk.

It's getting too hot for all this, would anyone like ice with their publicity?


Tuesday, July 15, 2008


In the last few days we've had more than our fair share of excitement.

We have a Book Sense Indie Pick for our fiction title, Feather Man by Rhyll McMaster. This means it will be displayed in most independent book stores in the US with a bookseller review and 'shelf-talkers' - little displays about the book on the shelf.

As this is the book I have had the most trouble getting noticed in the UK, this is wonderful news. It just feels like, well, satisfaction, since Rhyll's book is the one that did the talking, although having the Literary Ventures Fund send out nearly 300 advance copies, and the efforts of two sterling publicists certainly helps.

Let's hope the UK picks up on the US interest in Feather Man - it is already a prize winner in Australia.

Our launch at Christie's for Victoria & Lucinda's Flavour of the Month was phenomenal with two Tatler photographers, a starry guest list including Trinny & Susannah, and Alexander Bath of Longleat, our hippy Lord. We'll endeavour to put some photos up when the press ones have appeared. Over 300 people! And lots of book sales also!


Thursday, July 10, 2008


A despatch from the Kilgarriff household, where food is being prepared for this evening's launch of Victoria and Lucinda's Flavour of the Month.



Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Rainy miscellany

Well it's horrible outside today, so time for another post.

Tomorrow is the launch for Victoria and Lucinda's Flavour of the Month and aside from host's pre-party jitters, we're very much looking forward to it.

Feather Man is getting some more press:

Here and here, and soon there will be a (very good) review of it in the fine American magazine Foreword.

You can also visit Rhyll's new website. And you should.

The joys of publishing: I have spent a significant portion of my time today researching Northern Soul and now my head resounds with half remembered and slightly imagined great soul tracks (It strikes me that up until now, we haven't explained exactly why I'd be doing that. I'm afraid that that'll be another postergated explanation, I've got to get the web page up.) I was, however, slightly perturbed by the high percentage of seventies soul venues in the north of England that seem to have burned down. A pyromaniacal conspiracy? Possibly involving irate folk singers? Who knows.

I've also been pondering (whilst updating our new onix message creating system, see posts passim) whether the possession of an intimate knowledge of the entire backlist of a small but prestigious independent publisher will ever be regarded as an Important Life Skill. Probably not. Sigh...


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

sporting failure, one revelation and news

I never went any further with my European Championship predictions, for which apologies to those who said that they enjoyed them, I never seemed to have enough time at the computer. It could only have gone downhill after the spectacular success of the first one anyway.

Now that the football is behind us it's worth mentioning that we have an author called Rafael Nadal. An expert on Lorca, apparently...

In other news, Rhyll McMaster had her Tuesday Top Ten put up on The Book Depository today, it being a Tuesday.


The wonderful Complete Review has done a very good review of Banquet of Lies.

It's far far too nice outside to say any more right now.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

If at first....

One of these days, I'll be able to look back on the struggle, and I mean struggle, to persuade readers, reviewers and booksellers that Feather Man is exceptional.

But today, a glimmer of light appeared from a bookseller in Massachusetts, who is recommending Feather Man for the Book Sense pick in September.

'This beautifully written and disturbing Australian coming of age novel grabbed me from the first page. Sooky struggles to overcome her difficult childhood, with a father who abandoned the family, an emotionally distant mother and abuse by the one person to whom she felt close. The effects of this childhood are powerfully portrayed as Sooky moves from relationship to relationship and from Brisbane to London. It is her growing sense of herself as an artist which balances the pain.' Nancy Felton, Broadside Books, MA

It made me return to the first page of a novel which is the most successful Marion Boyars Publishers have ever published - and I expect you would not guess unless I gave it away:

'They're out there.
Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them.
They're mopping when I come out the dorm, all three of them, sulky and hating everything, the time of day, the place they're at here, the people they got to work around. When they hate like this, better if they don't see me. '

This is the Chief on page one of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. Eat your heart out - booksellers who do not want to read past the first chapter of Feather Man because it is strong. See what the world would have missed if this ethic governed all reading.

To make Feather Man a success right now is similar to a mental image I kept in my head for over five years when I took on this down at heart (then - not now!) company. The mental image was of three figures - 0.00 - and in my mind our front window was decorated with them, triumphantly, with no other message. This was supposed to represent our financial situation - ie no debt! And when it happened (which it did), I felt triumphant in the extreme. So battles are what life is - and they are sometimes what makes it worthwhile.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Kit's LECP Mark 2

Well, I didn't expect to be quite as accurate as all that. Many thanks to Mark at RSB for flagging up the success although I should say that it was not so much boredom that drove me to do this as the realisation that, in my continuing Onix odyssey (updating the whole backlist), I was beginning to claim that we had exclusive rights for Hubert Selby titles in Gabon, (undoubtedly an important territory, but not perhaps quite as relevant as Great Britain) and that I needed some distraction.

Today, (to continue my fascination with Arno Schmidt) I found myself typing the following:

'A powerful science fiction parable set in 2008. Europe has suffered from a devastating atomic holocaust. In an effort to save their science and culture, the 8 great powers have settled their best and brightest on a jet propelled island, affectionately called 'The Egghead Republic'... The exuberant wit, humour and invention displayed by the author makes this a highly entertaining vision of the future.' The blurb to The Egghead Republic. How great does that sound? Jet propelled!

But to business:

tonight it's Turkey (about whose literature I know quite a lot) against Croatia (less so)


Elif Shafak (Striker)
Latife Tekin
Maureen Freely (Who has surely earned a residency qualification)
Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Kemal (In goal)

Now, I'm excited by this team. Not only is it dominated by Marion Boyars authors; the class of Elif Shafak, the energy of Latife Tekin and the tactical nous of Maureen Freely, it's anchored by a recent Nobel Prize winner and there's a very safe pair of hands in goal (in Turkey, they study his technique in school).


I had a lot of help in constructing this team, many thanks to my super scouts Mark and Steve.

Miroslav Krleža (captain)
Dragutin Tadijanović (In goal)
Dubravka Ugresic (striker)
Clarice Lispector (A naturalised Croatian - passport awarded hastily)
Tin Ujević (Another one of these utility players)

This is a team that I suspect would revel in the 'Dark Horse' tag. So that's what I'm going call them. The captain is author of the 'Croatian War and Peace' so we can expect him to be a supremely hard worker in addition to his undoubted talent - he's one of these players well respected by fellow professionals without achieving the renown of some. The striker is better known in the UK, and is well regarded for her passion and bravery in the challenge. Clarice Lispector brings some Brasilian flair, but is notorious for only playing really well for short periods. Again I know less about the other two writers except that they have plenty of talent and that for some reason I tend to play poets in goal.

So. With this prediction I really have to go with what I know and what clinches it for me is the understanding of the Turkish team: not only do three of the players play together at club level, but Freely should help Pamuk translate seamlessly into it ( I really didn't think that I'd find a football pun for literary translation). But I can't see Croatia not scoring...

2-1 to Turkey.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

It works!!!!!

Now, Croatia against Turkey. I've got one team covered...

Kit's Literary European Championship Predictor

Everyone else seems to be having more fun then me at the moment: Catheryn is busy inviting people to the launch of Victoria and Lucinda's Flavour of the Month, and Rebecca is either reading, or researching charity shops or things music related (more on the latter another time).

But fortunately I have football to keep me going. I am thoroughly enjoying the 2008 European Championship and not solely because England aren't in it. It has now got to the quarter finals stage, and the matches are getting much more difficult to predict (not that anyone who watched the Czech Republic/Turkey game would claim that the group matches were exactly predictable). To help, I have turned, as I often (always) do, to books.

I have developed a system: literary five a side. Five 20th century (otherwise it gets too difficult) authors from each country in question are pitted against each other and then a judgement is made (by me) as to who would win. Marion Boyars authors will feature prominently of course - thank god that the French are out, that would have made for some very difficult decisions.

So tonight it's Germany vs Portugal.

Kit's teams:


Heinrich Böll
Peter Weiss (striker)
Gunter Grass(who was trained rather energetically in his youth)
Arno Schmidt (who has oddly popped into my life fairly frequently of late. Not only did a nice man called Dirk order a copy of The Egghead Republic for a student prize giving but then the next day he appeared in a completely unrelated book that I was reading. In the book he went to visit James Joyce. Joyce was rude, apparently. After such a strong coincidence, I've got to play him.)
Erich Maria Remarque (to play in goal)


José Saramag
Fernando Pessoa (who is a very useful pick because he can play in a number of different positions)
Eugenio de Andrade (in goal)
José Cardoso Pires
Mariela Gabriela Llansol

Right, so how does this pan out? They're certainly both brilliant sides, I defy any team not to score a few goals with the creative talent of Saramago and Pessoa in the team. But then, Pessoa, in spite of his versatility, has been known to be fairly anonymous for long periods... I'm not that familiar with the final three players although I'm assured that on their day they can be as good as anyone. The big question for Portugal is whether they'd simply be a collection of great players or a great team.

For Germany on the other hand, I suspect that their teamwork would be their strength. With the two Nobel Prize winners, Böll and Grass, in the engine room they would not want for energy, and Weiss and Schmidt, with their unusual playing styles, would be a handful for any defender. There might be question marks about the goalkeeper, does he have the stomach for a fight (sorry)?

Nevertheless, Kit's literary predictor says that in spite of a brace from Saramago, Germany prevail 3-2.

Tonight we shall see if I'm right...


Monday, June 16, 2008

My reaction to the petrol shortage

I usually drive the short distance from home to the office daily, since the car is also used for huge publicity mailings and supermarket shopping for our family. But as soon as the tanker drivers declared their industrial action, I felt a genuine who cares attitude descend on me. So I took to my bicycle. And I walked to the Farmer's Market.

People who wonder why this literary list suddenly has two fabulous cook books on its list, need some explanation. I am a keen cook, and find it relaxes me after a week of proof reading and managing a company. This weekend I bought asparagus, gooseberries and goat's cheese (and other things) - and cooked a broad bean and feta cheese and bean salad, a gooseberry and apple pie / crumble with cinnamon topping (I made too little pastry for a top layer and decided that a crumble of brown sugar, butter and cinnamon would work - it did), a quiche with asparagus, broccoli and goat's cheese and some spare ribs marinaded for a day, and a potato salad. All ingredients were carried home by me in a very unglamorous shopper with wheels which I also used to take our books into the London Book Fair.

At the bottom of the shopper, before going to the market, were six library books. I read The Outcast by Sadie Jones, and will hopefully read another two books in the evenings this week.

So, I hope you'll see that I practise what I preach - reading and cooking. And I managed to leave the car at home this morning too, and the bike is waiting to take me home, perhaps in a rain storm, but who cares... Catheryn

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Website!

When I said that I'd been thinking about the internet, this is what I meant. Catheryn had the idea for something white and opinionated a few weeks ago and here is the result. I shan't add much here as there are already a number of essays over there. Including one on designing the website. We plan on changing the essays at regular intervals, to keep up interest. AND we're involving everyone, even Rebecca makes an appearance.

But that's not all the news, The Streets of Babylon has been getting attention all over the place:




and I had a great exchange with Glenn at International Noir. A very fine blog.


Oh, and if anyone was interested, I was an hour late for the thing at Bethnal Green

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

summer rushes

Catheryn's just pointed out that I'm still not blogging very much at the moment. I have , however, been thinking plenty about the internet recently... but that will have to wait or else I'll be late for the thing. Just. waiting. for some files to uploooooaaaaad. There, finished (new B-format [198x129, 7.99] edition of The Concubine of Shanghai, loadsaorders)!

Anyway, much more interesting than anything I'd say is this Rhyll McMaster interview with Anthony Thwaite* .

Right, does anyone know how to get from Putney to Bethnal Green in fifteen minutes?


*I do of course mean Mark

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


In the Guardian G2 today is a long article on new names in fiction. In amongst it, is comment from book journalists and editors - Joel Rickett of the Bookseller is one and he says that literary fiction is the hardest category, as books tend to be one offs, and writers do not repeat themselves, unlike thriller writers for example.

This got me thinking. If this was really true, we would not have managed to establish a single writer from this house, since I really do find most thrillers so similar that I cannot be bothered to read them - let lone publish them. So, if Joel is right and I am wrong, then I have to re categorise our successes as a publishing house.

So here goes -

Hubert Selby Jr writes about poverty, lust, guns and self destruction - so he must be a sadistic thriller writer - a kind of hunt the morality instead of the killer book (although he does have characters kill people - quite satisfactorily sometimes - for example, using Coca Cola).

Hong Ying is definitely a historical romance writer - everyone knows that Julian Bell was a hunk. And The Concubine of Shanghai has a woman rise through the ranks using her beauty, seductive skill and of course, involvement with Triad gangs in 1930s Shanghai - perfect. Or maybe she isa Mills and Boon type romance writer. I'm in a dilemma here.

Elif Shafak - well, it is getting tricky now. Family saga does not really represent what happens in a multi occupied house in Istanbul (The Flea Palace). But it will do - and the dwarf and the large woman is The Gaze are also in a relationship so that makes is OK.

And what about Sadomasichism for Accountants by Rosy Barnes - maybe we will just have to invent a new genre - completely intoxicatingly funny but does not fit in any category novel.

One up to Joel.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Summer time!

A little while ago, we thought we would give an idea to Waterstone's - I used to be a production manager in a very large retail design company, and I remember with great fondness a trip to Munich with two Debenhams executives to pass on press their new carrier bags when the chain was re launched. We visited a Fairground after a lively session at the famous beer festival, and I went down a helter skelter on a rush mat sandwiched between these two execs. very, very fast.

We have not heard from Waterstone's about their reaction to this bag design, but if you see it around this summer, you'll know where it came from!

And Vulpes Libris have a stonking review of FEATHER MAN, posted today by Lisa - so THANK YOU! (

Monday, May 19, 2008

Back blogging

I haven't blogged in ages, strangely enough in inverse proportion to the amount of time that I've been spending in the office. The reason for both is that I have been doing extracurricular work which Catheryn has kindly allowed me to do here. It's fair to say that it's been something of a departure for me: I now know the difference between a cinnammon and a blue teal, the varying pitfalls of black and red kites (always my favourite bird - possibly due to the proximity of our names) and the many different ways that inserting pictures into text in Indesign can throw all the page alignments out of wack. It didn't help that the late night work coincided with the best weather of the year so far. On one occasion during a particularly nice sunset, which I was missing, a member of the general public knocked on the window to insist that I stop working and come out to enjoy the summer.

But now I'm back and doing other things, like blogging. And this should begin with news - we have, as some will already be aware, contracted an exciting new book by Rosy Barnes: Sadomasochism for Accountants, which it now strikes me I should have done a web page for – I will do tomorrow. We're already enjoying working with Rosy, the whole project should be a lot of fun.

The Streets Of Babylon
has begun to get some attention in the US: in the Library Journal , Kirkus Reviews and

We've received our first actual copies of Victoria and Lucinda's Flavour of the Month and, to everyone's great relief, they look wonderful. This means that I've spent much of my time recently phoning up the major magazine conglomerates to check that I have the right names for our mailing lists - my relationship with the various receptionists at the big magazine buildings has gone from 'Sorry, what do want?' to 'Oh it's you. Which mag do you want this time?'. A great leap, I think.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I'm just back from a sales conference in New York, and found the city very up and full of energy. Not all of it good - for a country which claims to have a policy on energy reduction, you find a cinema on 42nd Street by Times Square where, to get to the auditorium (Number 20!) you go up five escalators. Each one passes by a floor of pumping rock music and a different fast food restaurant - all full on a Sunday afternoon - and all built in the expectation of many customers. The carbon footprint of that building alone would be the equal to half a high street in the UK. It's all so calm here, in comparison - OK , we are maybe a bit bland, but we have the same films (Forgetting Sarah Marshall - a good way to recover from the tension of presenting), and much of the same culture.

Bookshops - Barnes & Noble had more magazines and CD's and very little fiction backlist - they used to have rows and rows. The independents are flourishing, but the chains are cutting back on their stores. Amazon is the fastest growing customer of our distributors.

Our books - they loved Victoria & Lucinda's Flavour of the Month - our yummy mummy cookbook, with game, table design and entertaining. Thank goodness we did the conversions! Also very keen on Horribly Awkward, and I watched a little of the American version of The Office on the plane home - full of Dwight's and introversion. The American version of introversion just happens to be, well, loud....


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tessa is starting her GCSE's right now - the real things, not the mocks. First is her German oral, and she really did talk to herself in German in the kitchen for a couple of hours yesterday evening.

Her last practise included the following, when asked for her hobbies:

Ich sammle briefmarken. Ueden tag beteich.

When her teacher burst out laughing, Tessa claimed she had taught her the phrases herself, and she was bored of saying she watches Hollyoaks and likes shopping and parties (the truth). Her two phrases translated:

I collect stamps. I pray for a while each day.

I think she has kept her sense of humour and everything in perspective, but I may try to drag her to yoga tonight.....


Monday, April 28, 2008

By the grace of....

Over the weekend, I heard that the book printers Butler and Tanner had decided to close without paying the wages for their 287 employees.

We had a quote from Butler and Tanner for Victoria & Lucinda's Flavour of the Month, and it was about £7000.00 above the one we used, an overseas printer (SNP Leefung). I would have liked to use a British printer, as we do for all our paperback fiction and simple non fiction. But they were too expensive.

If I had decided to, we would I think, have lost the whole edition, as the advance copies for this book are due in a week. Our books would have been seized by the liquidators and sold to the highest bidder. Victoria Cator, Lucinda Bruce, and photographer Mark Cator, would have seen two years work vanish (although we could have printed elsewhere - the delay would have been heart breaking). Our own work would also have been put entirely at risk.

I do pity any authors who expected to see their new books from Butler and Tanner this week, and hope these projects can be allowed to leave the factory gate.... I also sympathise hugely with the workers, who have lost their jobs. They were not even well paid.


Friday, April 25, 2008

A journey into the past

Beginning with a fine review in the Independent on Sunday of The Streets of Babylon by Carina Burman.

and continuing with my onix dictated stroll through the backlist - some quotes:

'Firearms are instruments completely lacking in humour'

from Absent Without Leave by Heinrich Böll.

'I came into contact with camels on three occasions, and each occasion ended tragically'

The first lines of Voices of Marrakesh by Elias Canetti.

'In London, in a cellar, in a neighbourhood dive - the most squalid of unlikely places - Dirty was drunk. utterly so.'

Is how Blue of Noon by Georges Bataille begins.

and lastly:

'A mad animal
Man's a mad animal
I'm a thousand years old and in my time
I've helped commit a million murders...'

The first four lines of a short soliloquy performed (poorly, but with worrying relish) by myself in an amateur production of Marat Sade by Peter Weiss whilst still a fresh faced student...


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Back from the Bookfair

and what fun it was... but first:

Helen Oyeyemi has written an excellent review of Feather Man in the New Statesman. It's a thoroughly insightful view of the book and hopefully will help it into the hands of many more people.

And back to the fair, my third and by far the busiest I've been to. There are plenty who find it exhausting, and it is tiring, and plenty who find it symbolic of the less romantic side of publishing, and lots of business does get done, but it's also a gigantic building filled for three whole days with people from all across the world whose common trait is that they are very enthusiastic about books. That, for types like me, makes it a very exciting place to be. Firstly there are the people who you only ever meet once a year (or twice, if you go to the Frankfurt Book Fair, which I haven't), then the people that you meet for the first time; all they want to talk about is books. And then give them to you to read!

We had meetings with people from over a dozen different countries, heard about hundreds of books and committed to reading enough over the next few months to stock a particularly cosmopolitan library. The British Council, English PEN, the Arts Council and more did an amazing job organizing a whole bunch of events, filling gaps in the schedule nicely. And then there's the parties, where there are even more people to meet and talk about books and, of course, gossip about other people who like to talk about books but aren't there.

Although it is possible that I got overexcited; I did apparently introduce myself twice in two days to the same prominent publisher, and was constantly surprised by meetings that had been arranged a long time before.

And now comes the sifting, which is, unfortunately, a lot more solitary...


Friday, April 11, 2008

This is an entry about what writers, mainly fiction writers, do when they create the world their book takes place in.

They do not, necessarily, present the reader with the world as they already know it. They usually have some idea of the dangerous places their fiction is taking them. Not all stories are ones with happy endings.

I'm writing this since another person has told me they could not read past the beginning of Feather Man. The first one was the person who was judging the Waterstone's New Voices, which Feather Man was short listed for. In both cases, because the book opens with a young girl being persuaded into a sexual act by an older man (who does not actually go as far as he could - guys, this is blog, open to all readers, so I will not be more specific here), they stopped reading. Yes, it is unpleasant, but then books are supposed to open up worlds beyond the readers experience.

So, when we publish books by Turkish writers, we expect readers to read about djinns and spirits as if they were quite normal, as they are in Turkish culture. When Hubert Selby Jr tells of the life of a prostitute, in Last Exit to Brooklyn, we do not pre judge.

So, please, please, read past page 12 of Feather Man and find out why Rhyll has won a major prize in Australia, and had the most wonderful reviews. Discover how a young girl, who men mistreat, actually manages to get her own back. And how she may or may not have achieved the impossible - managing to stand on her own two feet.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Getting ready

I'm sort of getting excited about the London Book Fair. We've done our rights guide, we've designed our posters (and printed them) for the stand, and here are three for you to admire.

We have printed most of our Autumn books, and advances will be on the stand. The major production here was Victoria & Lucinda's Flavour of the Month - 275 x 210 mm (over 10 inches tall to those who like to visualise in imperial) with full page photographs by the talented Mark Cator.

Rhyll McMaster won the prestigious Barabra Jefferis award in Australia for FEATHER MAN, and we are working very hard to get her to a festival here. We have teamed up with the Literary Ventures Fund in the USA, who pick 6 or so books from independent presses a year, and back them with increased marketing and publicity. It's a new way of working - if the book sells then we repay the investment, like venture capitalists. When they picked FEATHER MAN, I was interviewed by phone, and it was exaclty like being in the Dragon's Den - totally draining and every term depended on my immediate response.

And we've also signed our contract with 2waytraffic who develop Who Wants to be A Millionaire and You Are What You Eat for This May Help You Understand the World, so it becomes a major TV brand. We are hoping that Lawrence Potter can be the presenter, and we are tinkering with the follow up book.

The Concubine of Shanghai by Hong Ying will be in a £7.99 format by July to tie in with the Olympics, having sold so well in C format (unusual but true - ask Waterstone's!).

Our sales kits have arrived in the USA and the only way I can cope with doing them is piece meal - so over 3 or 4 weeks they gradually take shape in the office. I have the same approach to building the list - mid August is a flashing beacon in my mind, since by then I need a new American list for 2009 fully formed and contracted, with covers arrived at after many, many versions in house, so the book hits its market.

Not all is totally fabulous - we are still waiting for reviews of Spring books, and can see that some large publishers have similar problems. But I think small can be beautiful, since success here goes a long, long way.

Monday, March 31, 2008

plugs and bilingualism

Lee Rourke, whose book Everyday is published by Social Disease, has written very nice things about us on the Scarecrow blog. Which was a very nice thing to start the week with, I can only second his recommendation of Blue of Noon.

Which brings me nicely from one translation from the French to another: we are trying something new this spring. Banquet of Lies will be published in a bilingual edition, with the French alongside the English. It forms a part of our ongoing attempt to bring translation, and the issues that surround it, to the fore. We have actually done this before; Paris by Julian Green is bilingual and has done very well for us over the years. It got us to thinking: if we have a very good French text and a very good translation (by Frank Wynne) why not do it again? It's a great book to do this with; there's lots in the text that wasn't particularly easy to put into English and so many places where Frank has made the choices that are so important to the translator's art. It's been a fascinating book to work on in this way, I'm agog to see how it gets received.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On Onix and Selby

We have recently come across an exciting* new way to file and present our book information. It's called Onix and involves tags. We are being helped by a very nice man named Robin, who has been extremely patient with me as I keep sending him incomplete files along with the book admin equivalent of 'are we there yet?' messages.

Unfortunately, for a company that's been around a little while, with something of a back list, updating every single piece of info about every single book into a sophisticated new system is not a small task. But on the other hand, it does mean that one gets to delve into the backlist, which usually proves fruitful. Today was the turn of Hubert Selby to get Onixed, which turned up the following useful quotes:

From The Demon:

"There is only one source of energy for my
hate," he said, "and that's me. And there's only one ultimate destination
for my hate and that's me." which I shall use when stuck on overcrowded tube, or blocked on an escalator trying to get to said overcrowded tube.

From an excellent piece last year by Tony O'Neill:

A book that can divide people along such extremes is usually doing something right. While not comfort reading, The Room is essential reading, and a piece of art that will leave an impression on your soul. As one Amazon reviewer succinctly put it: "Literature is not meant to be safe or easy. Go buy a copy of VC Andrews if that's what you're looking for."

which last bit I shall use for finding out who VC Andrews is/was

and from a Telegraph obit by Peter McRae:

His next book, Requiem for a Dream (1978),
contained Selby's favourite opening line: "Harry locked his mother in a

which I shall use for proving in conversation that Selby had a wonderful sense of humour.


*well... perhaps not for everybody

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Desks and Stockhausen

It's been a while since I blogged, much has been going on. Two, almost three books off to press, a translation seminar, books coming in which then have to be mailed out... there are times when it seems life is little more than frames on computer screens and the imaginative use of cardboard boxes (we have recently developed a new, environmentally friendly way of sending out review copies).

Catching up:

Artforum have done an excellent tribute to Karlheinz Stockhausen

Mark Thwaite has also reviewed Stockhausen on Music. Both featuring Robin Maconie prominently.

I went to a translation seminar organized by the British and Arts Councils and many others, the first time anyone has thought to get a group of publishers and translators in a room to discuss how to edit translated manuscripts. Being big on translators we think it's a very good idea, and hope more similar events happen in the future.

With reference to earlier posts, it's a blessing that a photo of my desk was not posted for all to see. It's a disgrace and has been, wherever I have had one, for the last twenty years or so. These fantastic roomy ones just seem to give me more opportunity to make piles, creating a minature paper Gormenghast.

It was also nice of Catheryn to make clear that 'twas not me who spent the mid eighties being sold by Olivetti. My name, usually so pleasantly isolated, has been popping up everywhere recently, twice at my old employ: here and here and even in the crime pages. I'm just waiting for the London Book Fair passes to arrive, confusing my gender as usual...


Friday, March 14, 2008

A while back, Peter Stothard of the TLS wrote on his blog that we had the apostrophe in the wrong place for our Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs.

Although I replied on his blog that I thought we were right, I have had considerable self doubt on this matter of apostrophe's ever since. However, we just had our reminder to update our entry for a well known guide book to the publishing industry - and it is called (have you guessed?)

Writers' and Artists' Yearbook

So now I am pretty sure I was right.



Monday, March 10, 2008


I've wanted to blog about our desks for ages - finding the time is difficult. They came from Walker Books circa 1985. Walker Books was growing wealthy, and it was time to chuck out the Islington junk shop desks which Sebastian had found, and replace them with red metal legged Magpie designer tables, and a colour themed environment suitable for creating children's books in. As they were about to hit the skip, I said that Marion Boyars Publishers had just moved from Soho to Putney, and had nothing. My then boyfriend who worked for Olivetti, selling 'kit' (computer kit, not the Kit who valiantly works here now) borrowed a lorry from Olivetti and the desks all made the journey across town. They are still serving us well, with leather inlay table tops, interesting drawers (some of which are nothing but wood frames with no base).

We wouldn't change them for the world. And. in case you wanted to know, in the middle of the day our desks are always untidy. We're too busy to keep them pristine, but as they are huge, we can sprawl with ease.