Saturday, 28 August 2010

J. David Simons joins Five Leaves

We are pleased to announce that J. David Simons will be joining Five Leaves in 2011. His second novel The Liberation of Celia Kahn will be published in February, together with his first novel, The Credit Draper, which will move over from Two Ravens and into a new edition. David Simons got in touch after I'd reviewed The Credit Draper somewhere, which led to my attending a reading of his in London. The Credit Draper was set among the Jewish immigrant community in Glasgow, the main character become a credit draper (a tally man, or pakn treger, as they were sometimes known) in the Highlands. In the way you do we had a grown up conversation about utterly fictional people, in particular about one character, Celia Kahn, who was becoming interested in ideas outside her community, ideas of feminism and socialism getting on for a hundred years back. What happened to her? There was only one way to find out for sure, and the novel was written, and Five Leaves seemed an obvious choice of publisher. We've just finished the editing, which led to the poor writer having to give his publisher a detailed description of how a Dutch cap works to ensure one passage (no pun intended) was correct. Every day is an education.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Edwin Morgan

The first post in the Five Leaves' blog, on 27/10/09, had a long piece about Edwin Morgan and Scotland. Feel free to look it up. Most people reading this will know by now that Edwin Morgan died recently. I never met him, though he did teach my partner at Glasgow University, but his presence is around. The new Eland "Poetry of Place" Highlands and Islands, sitting in the bathroom, includes three poems by Morgan, including his witty and fairly exact "Midge", the world as seen by a Highland midgie. On the bookshelf opposite this work station (no poetic phrase that) sit cards with two of his poems. The first, "Strawberries" (There were never strawberries / like the ones we had / that sultry afternoon....), I regularly used when working with a group of older people, touring readings of poetry about love and sex. A couple of us would pretend to be in love, reading alternate lines. By the end we sometimes were. The second, my favourite poem by Edwin Morgan is "At Eighty" (Push the boat out, companeros / Push the boat out, whatever the sea...), always moving. In the next room nestling on a shelf is his "Siesta of a Hungarian Snake" (s sz sz SZ sz Sz sz ZS zs ZS zs zs z), with apologies to Carcanet for printing the poem in its entirety, it is hard to lift just an extract. Push the boat out then, companeros.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Magnolia Street

We usually sell a handful of copies of Magnolia Street by Louis Golding each month to bookshop, and a handful every second month to Manchester Jewish Museum. We're happy, and Louis is not complaining (though he's been pretty poor at returning calls the last few decades anyway) as we sold the book pretty well when we republished it a few years ago. In the last few days though we've had orders for 75 copies, mostly via the internet. The power of Radio 4 then, as he was featured with two other important Manc writers from the past, Walter Greenwood and Howard Spring. Here's more on Anyone got a copy of the recording? The orders have cleaned us out, so a quick digital reprint is on its way.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Cover versions

Well, we published the third of these, the cover being a subtle mock up of a non-existent magazine with Grahame Greene on the front. The book is about literary forgery. It is now in three foreign language editions... German, Hebrew and Italian. The Hebrew one is, um, interesting.

The Smug Bridgroom

Back in the mists of time, 2002 to be precise, Five Leaves published a book with this title by the poet Robert Hamberger, then living in the East Midlands. He moved, with his partner Keith to Brighton and we now only seem to keep in touch by email. Well, poetry books eight years old tend to - sadly - drift from memory so it was a great boost to read the long review below. At the time I particularly liked the second half of the book, a set of 21 sonnets called "The Rule of Earth" which were some of the best love poems I knew. Around the time I was reading a lot of poetry to and with older people and often used some of them, particularly "The Thought", extracted in the blog
By chance I've also just caught up with Brokeback Mountain, also mentioned in the review. Thanks then to Jason Roush at popsublime, not least for reminding me of such a good book on the Five Leaves' backlist.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Happy campers

Dennis Hardy, one of the authors of our new edition of Goodnight Campers! was interviewed for Happy Campers - the story of Britain's holiday camps, coming out on BBC Radio 2 at 10.00pm on Tuesday 31 August. If he makes the cut he'll be joining Johnny Ball, Russell Grant, Alvin Stardust and Status Quo. Our book goes back to the socialist and trade union pioneer camps, some of which directly segued into the world of Billy Butlin, Pontins and Warners. Goodnight Campers! is not officially out until later in the year, but we have copies already and they can be ordered via Hi-de-hi's all round.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Looking ahead to Cable Street

October 4 2011 will see the 75th anniversary of The Battle of Cable Street. Three Five Leaves writers took part in the battle, Bill Fishman, Bernard Kops and the late Harold Rosen. I spoke to Bernard a few days ago and he is - as always - looking forward to the next stage of his writing career with three sessions at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. Bill's health has not been great but he is hoping to return to giving talks at U3A on East End history. A couple of weeks ago he was telling me about meeting Gandhi when he was stationed in India. Bill was a supporter of the Indian independence movement. He sometimes surprises local Indians by starting chatting to them in Hindi.
Five Leaves is looking ahead to the five books we are publishing for the anniversary. We are republishing Alan Gibbons' children's book Street of Tall People; the forgotten novel October Day by Frank Griffin; the Cable Street Group's booklet on the Battle; an as yet un-named book on Jewish responses to fascism by David Rosenberg; and Everything Happens on Cable Street, about everything else that happened there. The latter will include everything from the Maltese gangs, the modern day S & M club through to the famous film, To Sir, With Love. Roger Mills, a local resident will be putting that together. Meantime, here's The Men They Could Not Hang with The Ghosts of Cable Street:

Thursday, 12 August 2010

All gone to look for America

Five Leaves' Russel McLean is up for one of the Shamus awards for his first novel, The Good Son. The Shamus awards are organised and presented by the Private Eye Writers of America, Russel's book is published by Minotaur/St. Martin's over there, the same publisher as his second book, The Lost Sister, which is also Five Leaves on this side. He is shortlisted for the best new private eye story. First Dundee, then the world. Jute, jam, journalism and crime fiction...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


It's nice to be in the younger section for a change, so a brief visit to Swanwick Writers' Summer School ( fitted that bill. Swanwick has been going since 1949 and some of the attendees have certainly clocked up quite a few of those years. There were younger people there, but not that many, and there were some quiet discussions going on about how to change the demographic. Hard to do, given Swanwick's long history and some of the features. This afternoon, for example, there was a visit to a National Trust property. As opposed to a rave? Good point, but you know what I mean. I was on a panel with an agent, a writer and a cohort from Writers' News. The hot discussion was on e-books, though one person remarked that in 18 months we won't be talking about them anymore because everything - the product, the reader, royalties - will all be sorted. I wish.
Two examples of success though. The current chair is Xanthe Wells, a friend from her Southwell days, who was originally recruited to Swanwick on a bursary for younger writers. And Daniela Norris, cutting an exotic figure being an Israeli who lives in Geneva, remarked that she owed her career to Swanwick. Daniela is the author, with Shireen Anabtawi, of Crossing Qalandiya (Reportage Press), a series of letters between these two women, one Israeli, one Palestinian. On the way back, by the way, people in Derby kept looking at my small bookstall trolley. It is a nice green trolley, but why were they looking at it? It took me a few minutes to realise that there was a big box (recycled from the stock room) with JEWS AND SEX (the title of one of our books) written on it in ENORMOUS letters facing everyone I passed.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The ones that got away

Every publisher has a short list of books they have either rejected, abandoned, ignored or disliked to find that the next publishers or the fifty-third publishers have taken the books on and done well with them. Is it really true that one publisher turned down Animal Farm because they didn't publish animal stories? No matter, we all do such things. And we all lose writers to other publishers and gain writers from other publishers. Peter Mortimer's Uninvited has popped through the post, nicely produced by newish kids on the north east block, Red Squirrel Press. Five Leaves has published more books by Mortie than any of our other writers, but, after long consideration and some editing we dumped this one, in the end thinking it was not right for our Crime Express list, which we had in mind. Pete did not go out and celebrate, particularly as he'd been writing and rewriting this novella for forty years and hoped it would come out before it reached pension age. It did, but not from us. New writers please note that some books do take forty odd years to find the right publisher. Pete and Five Leaves are still talking. Indeed, we've got a travel book by him planned further down the line. So we are pleased that Red Squirrel has published this clausterphobic story where a man comes home to find an uninvited guest sitting in his chair. He is unable to find out why the man is there, what his motives are or where he came from. It's a good little book and we hope Red Squirrel does well with it. We can add it to our list of books we'd passed over that then went on to do well. Copies are available from

Saturday, 7 August 2010

What have the Romans ever done for us?

Some years ago, by dint of a chance conversation, Five Leaves planned to publish a book called Roman Nottinghamshire. Rather outside our usual fare of Jewish culture, social history, fiction and poetry. I suppose it could be described as social history, at a push. Anyway, the book never appeared, for reasons that need not detain you. There was a lot of interest in it though. Last night I got the first draft of Roman Nottinghamshire by Mark Patterson, an entirely different text. There was so much interest the first time that I was determined to find another author I could commission. Mark Patterson is a freelance journalist whose work I knew well from his days at Nottingham Evening Post and he has a deeper interest in Roman times than is probably healthy. I have to say his draft is excellent. He uses his journalistic skills to make a potentially dry subject entertaining, and informative, and brings in the voices of academics, local historians, or odd blokes he meets in fields to add colour. Although the nearest thing to Roman Nottinghamshire in situ is one bump in a field Mark has found lots to say and lots to show. His book be out next spring, email me at if you want further information meantime as it is not yet orderable.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Not forgotten after all

Anyone reading this tempted to go to the Five Leaves/Newham Bookshop event on 21st October at the Bishopsgate Institute about "Forgotten London Writers" need to know that the writers in question - Alexander Baron, Roland Camberton, John Henry Mackay and George Gissing - are less than forgotten, as the event is sold out already. Or it might be the attractive line up of speakers, Iain Sinclair, Andrew Whitehead, Sarah Wise and Ken Worpole. Either way a sell out is a sell out and we are pleased with that. As people are still trying to book - my copy of the Bishopsgate programme only arrived this morning - we are trying to persuade the speakers to go for a rerun. We'll post information on that if it goes ahead, but meantime you might want to put your name on a list at Bishopsgate or better still get on their mailing list for their excellent programme of events,

Monday, 2 August 2010

We the people

I've never quite got the hang of the People's Book Prize ( however many emails they send me. It is a "national competition aimed at discovering new writers with no panel of judges except you, the public!". We, the public get to vote on their shortlist of submitted entries and the winners go forward to an annual award. The Prize is organised by Delancey Press, whose name does seem to crop up on the shortlist from time to time, though their presence is but nothing compared to that of Local Legend whose website ( indicates that they are a vanity publisher. Sometimes books from some of my favourite publishers crop up, including a book by one of our writers published by another publisher, so there is a mixture of sorts. Strangely, publishers seeking to enter are forbidden to submit books that are "religious, political or controversial" so tough luck if you want to enter your brand new James Joyce, DH Lawrence, Melvin Burgess or New Testament then. Translated works are also out, so hard luck Stieg Larsson. But controversial is a very loose word. One of the four overall winners for 2009 (published, um, by Delancey Press) is The 3 Plus 1 Plan, which tells you how to make lots of money on buy to let. That seems pretty controversial to me. Political even.