Sunday, 27 February 2011

Leeds Jewish Historical Society Essay Prize

Five Leaves is pleased to have been one of the sponsors for the essay prize inaugurated by our friends at the Leeds branch of the Jewish Historical Society. The winning entries covered: The Jews of Leeds; The Synagogues of Huddersfield; The York Massacre of 1190; and The Jewish and Yorkshire Identities of William Rothenstein. The overall winner was Dr Samuel Shaw, recently-conferred with his PhD for his essay 'An Uneasy Adherent: The Jewish and Yorkshire Identities of Sir William Rothenstein'. Four entrants will receive books from our backlist.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Liberation of Maw Broon

Years of reading American crime fiction leads me to think of the early morning flight from Glasgow to the East Midlands as being "the red-eye", when really it should be the "shiny suit and laptop case" - bunches of tired looking business people heading south to do what business people do. Save for the shiny suit I was not out of place coming back from our Glasgow book launch (see last posting). J. David Simons' The Liberation of Celia Kahn was duly launched, with 143 people being made very welcome by Debbie and her staff at Sauchiehall Street Waterstone's. Following a talk and a reading, David was interviewed by Rodge Glass before we decamped to The Tearoom at The Butterfly and Pig. Oh, and we'd had music before the launch too.
There were a fair amount of writers present, including Michael J Malone who's joining our list next year. There were also others from the industry - from Saraband, Cargo and Waverley to name three. The Waverley people told me how many copies of Maw Broon's Cookbook they'd sold in the last five years. It did make me think it was time to explore the Robin Hood Gourmet Venison Cookbook, but no - these Scottish-based publishers have a great advantage in cultural icons like the Broons known better by every Scot than they know their own family.
I was glad to see Eleanor Logan at the launch, especially as we were in Waterstone's which has just made her redundant after a long spell as Scottish manager, which followed her time as Scottish manager of Ottakars. I'd have thought with so many branches in that increasingly different country the chain would need a national manager, but what do I know. I hope she gets another job in the trade soon.
I picked up the programme for Aye Write ( which includes our Zoe Wicomb discussing her/our new book The One that Got Away with Louise Welsh. I have to say that this year's festival looks like the most interesting programme of any book festival I've seen.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Liberation of Sauchiehall Street Waterstone's

I can exclusively reveal that this blog has had 120 page views by people in South Korea since it started. Brazilians are also showing an interest in Five Leaves that can only be termed healthy. Our Scottish readers will, however, only be logged separately when independence is finally achieved. But assuming there are some, I was hoping to announce a rave review for J. David Simons' The Liberation of Celia Kahn in today's Herald, but no show. Of any review of the book, let alone a rave one. Maybe next week. On the other hand, over at Gutter magazine there's a great review, and in a recent Tribune and Edinburgh's The Skinny, and this one in the interestingly named blog Vulpes Libris where you have the rest of the evening to put your name into a draw for a free copy. Sorry about the lack of notice on that:
J. David Simons' book is about socialism, contraception, Jews and Scotland, which combination throws up some interest when plonked into google.
Anyone footloose in Glasgow on Wednesday is welcome to come to Sauchiehall Street Waterstone's at 6.30pm to hear David talking about the book.
I can also exclusively reveal that to sort out some editorial queries an embarrassed male author had to explain to an embarrassed male editor exactly how a Dutch Cap worked. How was I supposed to know that?

East Midlands Book Award shortlist announced

The shortlist has now been announced for the first East Midlands Book Award for the best book published in 2010 by an East Midlands' writer. The Trustees (in an individual capacity) comprise Ross Bradshaw from Five Leaves, Jane Streeter from Lowdham Book Festival (jointly organised by Five Leaves), fellow publisher John Lucas of Shoestring (whose two latest books are published by Five Leaves) and David Belbin (a Five Leaves' regular). Despite that, no Five Leaves books made the shortlist, and only one Nottinghamshire writer. Bloomin' judges. You tell them to act independently and then they do. What sort of world do we live in?
We are very pleased to announce that the shortlist comprises Adrian Magson with Death on the Marais (Allison & Busby), Ann Featherstone with The Newgate Jig (John Murray), Anne Zouroudi with The Lady of Sorrows (Bloomsbury), Judith Allnatt with The Poet's Wife, Maria Allen with Before the Earthquake, Mark Goodwin with Shod (Nine Arches), Rosie Garner with The Rain Diaries (Salt) and Stephen Baker with Hemispheres (Atlantic).
The shortlist will be promoted to bookshops, libraries and book groups with the winner being announced on Monday 20 June at an event at Lowdham Book Festival where the winner will receive a cheque for £1000.
This year's judges are John Holmes (BBC), Jaci Brumwell (Derbyshire Libraries) and Ian McMillan (poet and broadcaster). Nominations for 2011 will shortly open and we are pleased to announce the judges will include the modern classical composer Gavin Bryars. More information will appear on

States of Independence II

We are pleased to announce the second States of Independence, to be held in Leicester on March 19. States is a celebration of the work of independent presses and those who write for them. Features this year include sessions on speculative fiction, the Moomins and philosophy, sex and sensibility, as well as an agent surgery and the first public outing of the East Midlands Book Award. Six of the eight shortlisted writers are from indie presses and five will be at States. This year we'll also have some stars from the performance scene, from Word! and Short Fuse.
The whole day is free, and last year was attended by 300-500 people including editors, writers, publishers and the public. Jointly organised by Five Leaves and the Creative Writing Team at De Montfort University. Come for an hour or the whole day. See

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The song of the book of the strike of the 80s

We're really excited that the Liverpool songwriter Alun Parry has turned David Bell's The Dirty Thirty into song. The Dirty Thirty were the Leicestershire miners who struck in 84/85, out of a coalfield of 2,500. Alun successfully manages to capture the book, which in turn captured the experience of the men and their families. The first link is the song, the second is the book - which in this case can be ordered from our friends at News from Nowhere, in Liverpool. Alun's local shop. The lyrics are printed on the song link too

Monday, 14 February 2011

Simcha! with Mike Gerber

... and a few other friends of Five Leaves

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Crime Express relaunch

Here they are then, normal size (as opposed to the A6 flapped size of the earlier books, which authors loved and bookshops did not), with great covers. Each book is £4.99 and is a novella. Great covers for the relaunch by Gavin Morris. The books will be available via the trade sometime late March but can be supplied post free UK from here, now: There's more info on them there too

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Ambit then (see previous posting for reasons)

Ambit has been going a long time for a little mag, since 1959 to be exact. It may be the only literary magazine started by a paediatrician, the doc in question being Martin Bax. Over the years the editorial team has included Carol Ann Duffy, Geoff Nicholson and JG Ballard. Since its inception, or at least as long as I can remember (which is not the same thing) Ambit has carried art, poetry, reviews and short fiction. There are some lit mags which carry short fiction but you get the impression the fiction is not central, but it is central in Ambit. Five Leaves has published quite a lot of David Belbin's stories that were first seen in Ambit and I'm pleased that the current issue (203) includes a few poets we've anthologised, and one novelist we've published. The latter, Carl Tighe, is an Ambit regular but in this issue his poetry appears. In the interests of transparency the current issue also includes a review of one of our John Lucas books, but it is Jim Burns - who has been appearing in all the best little mags forever. Other favourite regulars from the little mags include Alexis Lykiard and Helena Nelson.
The other thing I like about Ambit is that it includes a reasonable selection of a writer's work, in this issue a set of Fred Voss's industrial worker poems and a sequence by Judith Kazantzis.
Also in the interests of transparency, or something, I have to say the artwork in the current issue is not to my liking. Indeed Mike Foreman, the art editor's taste is not usually mine. But what do I know about art? This posting is illustrated by a back issue cover I do like.
Conclusion - Ambit is a good, solid read, grounded in the small press movement but with links in the bigger world. It is good on short fiction, loyal to its writers and is not a dedicated follower of fashion. If I liked the artwork more I'd be keener still, but I'm not suggesting any change since the strong editorial line and consistency shows the team knows what it is doing. Individual copies cost £8, subs £28, 96 pages, quarterly.

Little mags # 1

Some time ago I posted - somewhere - an article reporting on a talk DJ Taylor gave on the history of the little magazine. He quoted sales figures of some literary magazines that are now considered to be historically of great import. Sadly google lets me down in tracing my article. From memory he referred to certain important mags as having had circulations of around 2,000-3,000. Many's the modern lit mag that would envy such heights. Few people can subscribe to more than a handful of magazines, and since the demise of Borders there is only a handful of outlets where you can buy, or browse, the current range. I mention this having had a heartfelt plea recently from a lit mag to take out a sub, and thinking, yes, well, the only way to afford another is to drop one. So instead, as a very minor promotion I'll post, shortly, some comments on the latest issue of Ambit, in the hope that someone might take the plunge. It could have been Penniless Press or Dream Catcher or The London Magazine...
The two places you can see a range of mags are the Poetry Library in London and the Scottish Poetry Library. Some are stocked by Inpress ( where you can buy individual titles as well as subscribe. I've just received their attractive new print catalogue. If you are interested in the literary indie world why not email them for a copy...

Monday, 7 February 2011

Derbyshire Readers Day goes indie: 11/12 March, Matlock

Derbyshire's annual Readers Day this year concentrates on authors published by independent publishers ranging from the Caribbean specialist Peepal Tree through to the famously fleet of foot Route. What is exciting is that every author reading is from the small independent world, or, in the case of Stephen Booth and Berlie Doherty, sometimes write for small presses (us, actually) but are usually within the mainstream. Our other writers include Dan Tunstall and Maxine Linnell talking about "young people - can't live with them, can't live without them" and a first outing for some of our new Crime Express series with Dabuta Reah and Charlie Williams keeping it short, but not sweet. I'll also be on a publisher panel with Peter Sansom from The Poetry Business and Ian Daley from Route, carefully chosen so we can discuss poetry, fiction and non-fiction. The day is actually 24 hours with Stephen Booth and Danuta Reah reading on the Friday evening as well, and afternoon tea with Candlestick Press.
The whole day costs £15 with a supplement for Friday of £3 or a Friday only ticket for £7. Full details on Early booking encouraged.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Library day, Beeston

So that was it then, for now. The national day of action on libraries. Down our way 400 people attended a mass borrow-in and read-out in Beeston, Nottinghamshire. Five Leaves organised the read-out with some "friends of the press", at the request of UNISON, which organises the library staff. We were very pleased with the numbers attending as we had no idea in advance how many people would turn up. Beeston Library itself has only a small cut in hours in the scheme of things, but everyone seemed to understand it was not just about Beeston, or Nottinghamshire, but about library cuts in Doncaster, the Isle of Wight and Warwickshire... and the culture in which we live. We all have to play a part. One super opener for my contribution was supplied by the Morning Star which, yesterday, had a big article about celebs coming out against library cuts, including Alan Bennett and Kate Moss. This was illustrated by a nice picture of Bennett and Moss, the latter showing a healthy amount of chest for such a cold time of year. Kate Moss, the friend of arch-tax avoider Philip Green? Libraries? Sure; the article said she had previously been involved in this. To save you trouble I can tell you that if you google Kate Moss and library you get something about the "Leather Library" and hot pants. I can assure you I did not read further. However if you add an "e" and google Kate Mosse and library you get lots and lots of entries. Mosse with an "e" is pretty well known in the book world. Thanks to the read-out gang: David Belbin, Kathy Bell, Helen Henry, Eve Makis, Deirdre O'Byrne and Sue Ward

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Remembering Colin Ward 1924-2010

Five Leaves has published a 52 page booklet celebrating the life of our friend and writer Colin Ward. The booklet comprises transcipts of the speeches at Colin's funeral and the subsequent memorial meeting. The contributors are Eileen Adams, David Downes, Dennis Hardy, Tony Fyson, Peter Hall, Roman Krznaric, Peter Marshall, John Pilgrim, Ben Ward, Harriet Ward, George West, Stuart White and Ken Worpole. Ken insisted that Harriet, Ben and I were listed as joint editors, but he is really responsible, as he was for the memorial meeting at Conway Hall last year. Our thanks to him. The contributors range from old work colleagues to some of his many joint editors. The booklet ends with a select bibliography.
Colin has been mentioned in this blog before, but for those who do not know him, he was someone who made anarchism respectable, but not too respectable (to quote from Stuart White's contribution). His anarchism was pluralist and practical. It drew inspiration from writers of the past including Kropotkin and Gustav Landauer but was firmly rooted in the present. He was the author of about thirty books, founded and edited Anarchy and the Bulletin of Environmental Education and was a contributing editor to Freedom.
Copies are being sent to the many people who contributed to the costs of the Conway Hall meeting and will shortly be for sale at Freedom, AK, Active and Housmans. Meantime Remembering Colin Ward is available for a fiver, post free, from:

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The power of one and the power of many

Sometime over the Christmas break, Five Leaves towers received an email from Alan Gibbons, children's author and organiser of the Campaign for the Book. I don't have it to hand but to precis it said, look, I know you are still munching mince pies, but what do people feel about a day of action around threatened libraries, let's say Feb 5th. We were not picked out, the email was sent to heaps of people and organisations in contact with the Campaign for the Book. And lo! (as folks say around Christmas) the people said yes. The Campaign is not something you can join, send off £20 and sleep better at night. It is not a campaign with local branches, nor is it a campaign that produces print, guidelines, or has Hon. Vice Presidents. There is an annual conference with speakers, but unless I have misunderstood, it is Alan Gibbons stirring us up and encouraging us to do what is right in our own area. On Feb 5th there is action in many parts of the UK - you can read about some of them at Alan's blog, and enter more in the Guardian's map of protest
If you are in Nottinghamshire come and join the Five Leaves' staff from 11.00am at Beeston Library in Nottinghamshire (there are also events in Sneinton and Stapleford). We'll be "reading-in" and "reading-out". Bring your library card (returns can be made at any Nottingham City or County Library) for a mass borrow or bring along something to read out. The event has the support of UNISON and will in turn support the staff, not get in their way. Do protests work? You can see on Alan's blog stories of local authorities backing off from library cuts. Not all, but some. And here the Council has put back £400,000 into its book fund and £70,000 back into staffing for 22 of the smaller libraries. The fund and the opening hours for these libraries will now only be cut by 50% not 75% - which takes us from catastrophic to bad. But it does save the jobs of many part-time low paid women and make the service viable if diminished. That those libraries will be returned to viability is the direct result of protest, including a letter signed by 100 local writers. So on Saturday we celebrate a minor victory and read in support of our local staff and library workers and users all over the country.