On Wednesday 28 August, HopeRoad‘s new imprint, Small Axes, headed up by Serpent’s Tail founder Pete Ayrton, will celebrate by showcasing its launch title, The Nowhere Man, at the Nehru Centre in Mayfair. Kim Oliver, Kamala Markandaya’s daughter and literary executor, gave us an exclusive interview as a preview of the big night itself.
Where were you born, and where did you grow up? I was born in Lewisham in south London. Our family home was in Forest Hill, and that’s where I grew up – in the same house from birth through childhood and teenage years. I still see my earliest childhood friend who lived next door – we have been friends for more than sixty years! When we speak of it, and think back, we realise we were born into very much a post-war world, in the 1950s. It seems very drab, looking back. I remember the paintwork upstairs in our house being a dark-grey gloss. I love grey now for decorating, but that grey was so dark and dreary! There wasn’t the choice there is now. Continue reading Interview | Kim Oliver, Literary Executor | Small Axes
“Be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” – Nora Ephron
A strong woman is not defined by men, but is in full possession of herself and her life. She balances her masculine and feminine sides; is her own person. She has fought and survived many battles; internal and external. She works hard, gets straight back up when knocked down, speaks for herself.
Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself. My mother read novels considered important in America of her era. She wanted to be an actress, and one of my earliest memories is of hearing her perform as a singer. She had a remarkable voice. My father used to read us Civil War history at bedtime. He was not literary, but his parents’ ancestors included “the first American poet”, Anne Bradstreet.Continue reading Interview | Chip Martin, Starhaven Press | Indie Publisher of the Week
Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself. My Mum is a big reader of Crime Fiction. It helped her solve a real life crime while she was working in a Kenyan orphanage a few years ago. They were both “people of The Book,” hosting Parish Bible studies. This made them more learned than the average parents. The Church was my first exposure to people with higher education. I read a lot from a very young age, I had a box of those cassettes with ding turn the page books. I would put the headphones in myself and read for hours. I remember making a zoo out of envelopes. Each one contained a different animal.
Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start? If not, why now? No, but something I wanted to do as a Writer was understand every dimension of books. I studied Sculpture because I thought this would teach me about composition in a more general sense than doing English or Creative Writing. I went on to become a master bookbinder and printer too. I became a publisher partly because I wanted to understand, and maybe undermine, distribution and bookselling. It’s another extension to my writing. I guess that’s what it means to be a Modernist in an industrial, networked world. Why now? We were invited in by big publishers a few times to consult, using our publishing methods. We also worked on several print commissions in our studio for Independents. One title we illustrated is almost at the Million Copies mark. We realised we had an extraordinary range of expertise and there were so many good manuscripts I knew of being turned down for bad reasons. The Poets made me do it!Continue reading Interview | David Henningham, co-founder, Henningham Family Press | Indie Publisher of the Week
The second talk of the BookBlast® 10×10 tour, a nationwide celebration of independent publishing, features Kevin Duffy, founder of Bluemoose Books, based in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. Prizewinning writers include Benjamin Myers, Michael Stewart and Adrian Barnes. He will be in conversation with Dan Micklethwaite and Colette Snowden, and the talk has as its theme The Northern Influence on Culture @waterstonesNewc
“He is off his head. He has episodes when he zones out. It is not unpleasant. From time to time, he tries to reason with himself: he cannot stay here indefinitely, it has been a cold summer, he will catch another bout of flu, he needs to take care of himself, he needs to go back down into the city, find some clean clothes, do something [ . . .] Painfully, he climbs over the railings separating the communal garden from the property where he has taken to sleeping. He grips the branches and hoists his body up almost falling flat on his face on the other side. He ends up kneeling on the ground. He wishes he could feel sorry for himself, or disgust. Anything. But no, nothing. Nothing but this absurd calm.”
Look who’s back . . . and sleeping rough now that sofa surfing is a thing of the past: Vernon, Mr. Superstar D.J. and former owner of cult record shop ‘Revolver’. At the end of Vernon Subutex 1 he was beaten up by a gang of neo-Nazis – along with his TV screenwriter friend, Xavier, who was trying to rescue him but ended up comatose in hospital instead.Continue reading Review | Vernon Subutex 2, Virginie Despentes | Maclehose Press
Toby Litt grew up in Bedfordshire. He has worked as a teacher, bookseller and subtitler. A graduate of Malcolm Bradbury’s Creative Writing M.A. at the University of East Anglia, Toby is a Granta Best of Young British Novelist and a regular on Radio 3’s The Verb. He edited the 13th edition of New Writing (the British Council’s annual anthology of the finest contemporary writing in fiction, non-fiction and poetry). His story ‘John and John’ won the Manchester Fiction Prize. He teaches creative writing at Birkbeck College. The author of over fifteen books, Toby Litt’s latest book, Wrestliana, is a memoir which interweaves reminiscences and an exploration of manhood.
How has Ampthill changed from when you were growing up there in the 1970s? When I was five or six, there was a dairy a few doors along from our house. It had a Mynah bird, in a side room, in a cage, which would occasionally say a word: a word that shocked my mother, if I was lucky. The diary sold milk, butter and chestnut yogurts from a refrigerated glass display cabinet. When I remember details like this, I start to believe I grew up on the peripheries of a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer.Continue reading Interview | Toby Litt | Author of the Week
Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself. No, neither. My parents are more interested in the business side of things – as in, “does it make money?” I’m running out of synonyms for “not yet”! Instead, I have an incredible English teacher to thank for my impecuniosity. He went through the entirety of Paradise Lost with me, line-by-line.
Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start? I think so, although it took me a while to realise it. I went around the houses first – journalism, academia, writing – but found that publishing was a good fit for my temperament.
Has your vision from when you started Little Island Press two years ago changed? In that we now publish fiction and essays – yes, in a big way. I started Little Island with only poetry in mind, but could not pass on some incredible projects, and our purview gradually widened. Yet, in another, more fundamental way, nothing has changed. We’re still committed to bringing together the best in literary innovation, design and production. “Real books,” as some have commented.Continue reading Interview | Andrew Latimer, co-founder, Little Island Press | Indie Publisher of the Week
An article about sparring with Hemingway and the stamina required to be a writer fell out of Gael Elton Mayo’s copy of Robert Ruark’s Something of Value while rearranging the overfilled bookshelves in the hallway this morning. Gael wrote about 1950s Spain in the 1950s in her memoir The Mad Mosaic.
The American writer Robert Ruark was a friend of hers: “He wrote not (yet) bestsellers, but sports columns, that were syndicated and appeared in twenty newspapers at once all over America. We went to see him with Dennis, in his villa near Palamos. The atmosphere was very different from our village. Friends of the Ruarks had houses with floodlit lawns, beach houses, booze and boredom. But Ruark was as hospitable as Dennis, having people to stay, offering meals, drinks, leaving all his guests for a few hours then returning, rubbing his hands together, to announce he had just had someone killed off. He was referring to the novel that he was working on, about the Mau Mau, Something of Value. He had many Tahitian primitive paintings and played Hawaiian music. He drank mainly rum with Coca Cola, and much ice and lemon. He had two boxer dogs who went swimming with him, and a wife called Ginny who looked as if it had all got beyond her long ago.”
To box with Hemingway when he was in his prime was a rather unusual experience for a reporter who had been sent to interview him. I went to cover the arrival of the Pan-American Airways Clipper across the Pacific via Manila to find Hemingway buoyant with the success of his Spanish Civil War novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls. He had just sold the film rights to Paramount for a record sum. Some months before the balloon went up at Pearl Harbour he had been sent to China to cover the Sino-Japanese war for Marshall Field’s now defunct paper, PM.