East London-based independent publisher Inkandescent “was ‘founded by outsiders for outsiders’ to celebrate original and diverse talent and to publish voices and stories the mainstream neglects – specifically those of the working class and financially disadvantaged, ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ+ community and, crossing the Venn diagram, those with physical disabilities and mental health issues,” write Justin David and Nathan Evans in their introduction to MAINSTREAM.
A crowdfunded anthology “of stories from the edges,” it was published last lockdown year in partnership with Unbound, showcasing fifteen emerging writers alongside fifteen established writers, namely: Aisha Phoenix, Alex Hopkins, Bidisha, Chris Simpson, DJ Connell, Elizabeth Baines, Gaylene Gould, Giselle Leeb, Golnoosh Nour, Hedy Hume, Iqbal Hussain, Jonathan Kemp, Julia Bell, Juliet Jacques, Justin David, Kathy Hoyle, Keith Jarrett, Kerry Hudson, Kit de Waal, Lisa Goldman, Lui Sit, Nathan Evans, Neil Bartlett, Neil Lawrence, Neil McKenna, Ollie Charles, Padrika Tarrant, Paul McVeigh, Philip Ridley, Polis Loizou.
MAINSTREAM: An Anthology of Stories from the Edges edited by Nathan Evans, Justin David | Inkandescent 1 July 2021 | PB 272 pp ISBN 978-1912620081
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Nathan Evans is a poet, writer and filmmaker who has also performed and directed in the theatre, while Justin David is a photographer and author whose début novel, The Pharmacist, was published by Salt. The pair nailed an Arts Council England grant in 2016 to produce Threads – a book of poetry by Evans, illustrated by photographs by David.
“There were times during the making of Threads when I think we could cheerfully have throttled each other, perhaps with that rope we used for the portrait in the book. Now did that end up at his place or mine…? You see, I think the secret to our partnership’s longevity is that we don’t live together all the time: I usually spend half the week in my shed in West London and the other half with Justin in Dalston. When we’re apart, I can be as solitary — and indeed grumpy — as I want. When we’re together, I try to keep a lid on it. To somewhat mixed results. The results when we collaborate are rather more consistent, as I hope Threads will attest. It should be said that half the poems in the collection are about how much we love each other, in spite of and perhaps because of our oppositions . . .” Nathan Evans merrily admits in a conversation with Neil Bartlett.
Other highlights from Inkandescent’s list include:
Address Book: “A portmanteau novel by Neil Bartlett that ponders the gay experience through the historical lens of different eras . . . The craft and insight in these assembled tales make Address Book a treat for all readers, gay and straight alike” Sarah Birch, Hackney Citizen
It opens with Andrew finding a slip of blue paper that takes him back to 1974 when he met the man with whom he had a loving friendship for almost thirty years. “I know what day of the week this is, because my schoolboy trips up to London were always on a Saturday, even during the holidays. And if I was still fifteen, then the heat that’s making my shirt stick to my back already must be happening on the morning of the first or second Saturday of August, 1974. All of that, from one small piece of pale-blue paper. I’d actually met John two weeks earlier, in the gents toilets that used to be down a sharply turning flight of stairs opposite platform nine at Waterloo Station.”
“With most of the stories bearing the title of a London address, Address Book is a paean to a cityscape that constantly remakes itself while keeping its secrets” – Jude Cook, Literary Review
Neil Bartlett already made historic waves over thirty years ago when Serpent’s Tail published Who Was That Man? A brilliant exploration of the gay life and times of Oscar Wilde, his friends, lovers and acquaintances juxtaposed with that of a gay Londoner of the late 1980s, it came out at a time of heightened homophobia and puritanism because of the devastation of AIDS. “Bartlett has embraced what was alien and criminal or merely clinical and loved it into poignant life” – Edmund White
Address Book by Neil Bartlett | Inkandescent 4 Nov 2021 | PB £9.99 250pp ISBN 978-1912620128
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Bartholomew Bennett’s début novel, The Pale Ones, is described by Evans and David as being “Hangover Square meets Naked Lunch through the lens of an M. R. James ghost story.” The novel opens in a cavernous London hospice shop with the thirtysomething narrator looking for bargains which he can resell online. Another more experienced bookseller persuades him to buy World War II Destroyers, promising that it is a rare and saleable find. They become book buying partners and head north to find books in charity shops and split the proceeds. As the novice book dealer is led into the dark it becomes apparent that selling books is not the creepy old man’s only agenda.
“He had an air of expertise; everything about him was persuasive, high-quality antique – from the dirty grey of his peppery, oiled hair to the papery sun-worn skin around his eyes. His clothing conjured a distant suggestion of armour or carapace: wool and leather and silk, all top-end, perhaps even hand-tailored, and all lightly soiled. And his smell: a tight, high blend of cold, dead tobacco, mixed with something like turpentine, and old, desiccated sweat.”
The Pale Ones by Bartholomew Bennett | Inkandescent 18 Oct 2018 | PB £12 130 pp ISBN 978-0995534681
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AutoFellatio, A Memoir by James Maker, the songwriter and lead singer with Raymonde and RPLA (and childhood friend of Morrissey). His Polari Prize-winning autobiography is remixed to include new chapters and hitherto unpublished photographs. For anyone looking to escape the fug of Christmas, it is a hilarious read, peppered with wit and wisecracks such as “Mid-1970s London was really Moscow with John Lewis” about life on the wild other side.
It opens with a paragraph that reels you in immediately: “My first act of civic vandalism wasn’t quite like that of other boys’. I shimmied up a road sign that announced one’s arrival in Bermondsey and crayoned it with the travel advisory of Dante’s Inferno: “Lasciate Ogni Speranza.” Abandon All Hope. I had not read Dante but had eagerly swallowed Hubert Selby’s Last Exit To Brooklyn. It wasn’t a mindless act, but it was rather pointless: in Bermondsey we speak West Indian Patois, Turkish, Amharic and even a dialect of English – but Florentine is thin on the ground. The people of Bermondsey may already have suspected they were living in purgatory, and possibly need not have been reminded of the fact by an alacritous fourteen-year-old . . .”
AutoFellatio: A Memoir edited by James Maker | Inkandescent 6 July 2017 | PB £8.99
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