Thursday, 17 November 2011

New from Five Leaves - Penny Lace

This year's Bromley House Editions' hardback - publishing important but forgotten Nottinghamshire books - is Penny Lace by Hilda Lewis. This novel of "men, machines and money" is about a factory hand, Mr Penny, who despises the bosses and his fellows, learns the trade, sets up as a master himself and brings in new types of machines, modern lace patterns and non-union labour to try to smash the old-fashioned lace manufacturing business in Nottingham. Does he succeed? Does he also marry the boss's daughter? The late Hilda Lewis is most remembered for her mainstream historical novels, but this one is different to her others and has been forgotten since first publication in 1946. The book is a neatly produced 326 page £11.99 hardback and is available post free from

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Amazon problems

Books are so much cheaper at Amazon! Order today, get them tomorrow! You need never leave the house again! With Amazon for postal goods and a Tesco on every corner the consumer is king - these colossal firms really like us! Over at Housmans ( you can find many reasons never to use Amazon. But wait... just suppose you have been tempted to buy our best seller - Maps - from Amazon (though no doubt feeling guilty about it). You might begin to think "Where's my stuff?". Out of stock is where it is. Not too great having your best seller being out of stock at Amazon for at least a couple of weeks now. Are we boycotting supplying them? Nope. Like everyone else we confess to being hypocrites - we sometimes buy second hand books via Amazon (how else can we find them?) or ABE (owned by Amazon). We encourage mail order customers from overseas to use Book Depository to save on postage (Book Depository is owned by Amazon). We buy toner from Amazon (as nobody in Nottingham stocks the toner we use). But since Amazon began the powers that be in this firm thought if we pretend that Amazon as a bookseller doesn't exist it will go away. We don't supply them direct. If Amazon wants our books it will have to use a wholesaler. Actually there are practical reasons for that - Amazon takes 60% discount for starters (so that's why books are cheap). Direct supply means keeping all our titles in Nottingham - our trade warehouse is in London - and doing a lot more packing. If you saw our tiny office you'd realise why that was not welcome. But the system is not working. Not for the first time the wholesaler Amazon uses is being very slow to supply them. There's a hold up in the wholesaler's goods-in department - could it be that Christmas has arrived unexpectedly again? At the Alliance of Radical Booksellers there was quite a debate on Amazon - with some publisher members saying that Amazon is their main shop window now. Certainly we get the impression that more and more of our books are being sold by Amazon. So, we will be moving to direct supply. We expect availability of our titles to improve markedly. In the meantime, our apologies for our best seller and other goods being out of stock at Amazon. But we do offer 20% discount on ALL our books ordered direct to us, by cheque, with the books being posted out the same day. Or support your local indie.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

New from Five Leaves - Adrift in Soho

Colin Wilson might at first sight appear to be an unlikely writer to appear on Five Leaves' roster, as he is not particularly known as being a raving lefty. But being a fully paid up member of the revolutionary classes has never been a prerequisite for being published by us. Though it probably helps. In this case though, we are pleased to republish Colin's second novel - his most autobiographical, and the third in our "Beats, bums and bohemians" series, as it is a good novel about growing up in the provinces - Leicester in fact - moving to the big city and then moving further into the drifting world of bed-sitterdom. In many ways it is a companion novel to The Furnished Room by Laura Del-Rivo and it is no secret they were close. The three books in the series were all first published in 1961 and reflect the search for something new, something Mod(ern), something less conformist, something sexual. I'm grateful to Colin Stanley of Paupers' Press who drew this book to our attention and provided an introduction to Colin and Joy Wilson, and to Pablo Behrens for allowing us to use his illustration. Pablo is trying to raise the money to film Adrift in Soho for Burning Films ( Any film funding angels reading this should beat a path to his door. Adrift in Soho will be in shops and Amazon shortly, but is available meantime from our office via

Sohemian Society

I'm grateful to the Sohemian Society ( for putting on a talk about our mysterious Roland Camberton/Henry Cohen last night for several reasons. The first reason was to finally meet Iain Sinclair who wrote the introduction to this edition, who was the speaker. Iain looks remarkably like the man on the cover of Scamp, though presciently painted by John Minton some decades ago. His talk was of great interest, particularly in referring to the cover of Rain on the Pavements where, in the original you can see a group of political demonstrators heading down towards the source of local power, the Hackney Town Hall, but during the recent riots the rioters went up that road to the phone and sports good shops. How times change. Iain also talked about the connections between, the drift from, the East End to Soho by working class Jews leaving their origins in search of something more exciting, citing Bernard Kops in The World is a Wedding and Camberton, who, unusually, returned home to Hackney for his second book. Camberton only published two books but there is evidence of a third completed novel which vanished, as did the author himself.

The second reason is that the Sohemians meet in the Wheatsheaf pub on Rathbone Place, the "Corney Arms" of Scamp where "Angus Sternforth Simms" (in reality the writer Julian MacLaren Ross) held forth and "Panjitawarelam" (in reality the poet and publisher Tambimuttu) looked mystical. Both characters from Scamp were wonderfully brought to life by the actor Terence Frisch, who gave a reading from the book. The Sohemians have a very good lecture programme, and I was keen to meet their organiser David Fogarty and the others. There are further Five Leaves/New London Editions events planned there.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

New from Five Leaves: The Furnished Room

The second of our "Beats, bums and bohemians" series is now in our office - though not yet in shops or Amazon. It can be ordered for immediate supply though on Laura Del-Rivo's classic bed-sitter novel was first published 50 years ago - as were the others in the series, see the post below and wait patiently for a posting about Colin Wilson's Adrift in Soho. This was turned into the film West 11 by, um, Michael Winner starring Alfred Lynch as the main male character Joe and Kathleen Breck as the good-time girl Isla. The cast also included Dianna Dors. I imagine this is the only Five Leaves connection we'll ever have to Dors or Winner! The Joe in question lives in the wasteland between Notting Hill and Earl's Court, when not hanging around all-night cafes and other seedy joints. While doing so he stumbles across the opportunity to commit a murder.

Laura Del-Rivo has worked the markets at Portobello Road for decades now and, like Terry Taylor - mentioned below - had a portrait in the recent Ida Kar exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

New from Five Leaves: Baron's Court, All Change

We're publishing a set of Soho/Boho novels that first came out in 1961 - the first is now in our office and can be ordered here: It's not yet in the shops or Amazon, but will be very soon. This is Terry Taylor's only published novel. We've mentioned him before - the young lover of Ida Kar, the inspiration for a character in Absolute Beginners... This is a novel about being a young person in and around the drug scene - indeed this was the first UK novel to mention LSD, a subject Terry knew quite a lot about. You can find out a lot more about the book on Indeed, Stewart Home has written the introduction to the book. We're grateful to Pablo Behrens for the cover image, which does reflect the book very well. Terry is alive, fit and well, living in Rhyll as he has been for some decades now, slightly bemused that after fifty years his days in the early Beat scene have resurfaced. Actually Terry had the most interesting life, hanging round in Tangiers with William Burroughs, as you do. My guess is that this will be the best-selling book we publish this year, once word gets round, as it has only been available online, and rarely that, for a few hundred pounds. The holy grail of Beatnik literature.

Next Year Will Be Better - now in paperback

"Only a dedicated sourpuss could fail to be swept along by Lucas's zest and intelligence" said John de Falbe in the Spectator, so here's an opportunity for dedicated sourpusses everywhere to have another go at remaining static. Next Year Will Be Better featured in Blake Morrison's Guardian Books of the Year last year because it "recalls in astonishing and celebratory details the sounds, tastes and smells of England in the 1950s, with particular attention paid to poetry and jazz." Andy, by the way, to being kissed by Allen Ginsberg, Soho, Eel Pie Island and hearing Louis Armstrong. The paperback edition weighs in at 417 pages, a bargain at £9.99, from

Inside Outsider

Planning to attend the Sohemians tomorrow night (Iain Sinclair is talking about Roland Camberton, whose books we publish), reading Tony Gould's Inside Outsider: the life and times of Colin MacInnes is useful for getting into the mood. Faber Finds re-issued the book in 2009 - pity, I would have liked that one - but I picked up a library sale version on Saturday for the bargain price of £1. MacInnes' life is well known. He was a man related to Kipling and Stanley Baldwin and the son of the novelist Angela Thirkell (making him, as Bernard Kops said, "one of the inner Thirkells") yet who lived his life on the edge. Gay, broke, attracted to the rough and tough black culture (and rough and tough black men), yet turning in copy for middle-class magazines and some essential novels. Reading the book was a bit of a wander through Five Leaves' own list of authors. Tony Gould was the books editor of New Society (edited by Paul Barker, who edited a selection of New Society essays for us; designed by Richard Hollis, who runs an autonomous imprint within Five Leaves). The book is dedicated to Ray Gosling, who also appears regularly in the text - Ray's Personal Copy slumbers on our backlist. Bernard and Erica Kops put in regular appearances, not least because they became "Mannie and Miriam Katz" in MacInnes' Absolute Beginners. We publish a couple of Kops' books. Terry Taylor, author of Baron's Court, All Change, is quoted - though he deserved more space as he was the inspiration for one of the characters in Absolute Beginners. The photographer Terry Taylor's then interests being "jazz, soft drugs and hustling" were shared with MacInnes so it is hardly surprising their paths crossed. Terry's book has just arrived in our office, and we'll return to him soon. Even Colin Ward puts in a cameo appearance. Mind you, I imagine any publisher with books out concerning Soho, London in the 1950s or early black culture in Britain could post a similar blog, as MacInnes knew everyone.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Nigel Pickard

Nottinghamshire writer Nigel Pickard died earlier this week at the terribly young age of 45. Nigel was first published locally as a poet - his Making Sense appearing from Shoestring in 2004 (some of which would appear later in the Five Leaves' Poetry: the Nottingham collection). Nigel was also one of two poets in residence at Lowdham Book Festival one year, together with Rosie Garner. At the time he lived in Lowdham and his first novel, One, was published by Bookcase Editions from the village in 2005. One sold a surprising number of copies, many though organisations concerned with autism, a core part of the book. His second novel, Attention Deficit, was published by the Nottingham small press Weathervane, with Nigel appeared at many readings to promote the book. In his work as a local headmaster he developed his students' interest in creative writing in conjunction with First Story. His early death was a great shock to those he taught and those he knew on the local literature scene, including fellow members of Nottingham Writers' Studio. Our condolences to his family.
A fuller obituary appears on LeftLion:

Five Leaves' end of term knees up

Monday, 7 November 2011

Radical bookshops' history

Some parts of one's past keep creeping back... After seventeen years hard labour in a radical bookshop, together with a couple of years on the board of another shop, and thousands of pounds spent on the written works of utopian dreamers and other such reprobates, it is hard to get away. Dave Cope, of Left on the Shelf - the second hand specialists - and I have put together an incomplete listing of radical bookshops in history, together with a bibliography of books, and even passing mentions in fiction, of radical bookshops. You can find the current listings on We are now trying to make that list as complete as we can, so any information would be welcome.

To accompany the site, I've started work on a more narrative history of radical bookshops, which will appear as a printed booklet sometime next year. With the Five Leaves Ship of State to run this will not be the last word on radical bookselling history, but it might encourage others to write something more substantial. I'd appreciate contact with anyone who has worked in radical bookselling in the past, any sources of records, any customer tales, photographs. Anything. Please send direct to me on

The new 2011 edition of North West Labour History Journal includes an article on the history of News from Nowhere in Liverpool, written by Mandy Vere, the matriarch of the shop. Copies are available from News from Nowhere. The bookshop pictured here is Radish, in Leeds, one of the new generation of radical shops. Both News from Nowhere and Radish, by the way, have excellent sections devoted to world music, as well as books.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Nottinghamshire Readers' Day

Pippa Hennesy writes: This year's Nottinghamshire/Nottingham Libraries Readers' Day was the first to be sponsored by a publisher (Vintage), which could have been a problem but as it turned out gave the day an interesting slant. The publisher's representatives were keen to engage with readers, as was demonstrated by the two parallel sessions I attended. In the morning, we were taken through the process of designing a book cover. It's very different from the Five Leaves process - it involves editorial and design teams and sales teams and (eventually) the author... we brief a designer and comment on what they come back with, and try to involve the author at all stages, the occasional book cover even being designed by the author. Interestingly, Vintage don't consult readers as a rule. Until yesterday, that is. They showed us seven possible covers for a set of crime fiction books by one of their writers and asked our opinions. The reaction (widely varying opinions, with the majority saying 'we don't like any of them') might have discouraged them from doing so again. Still, we at Five Leaves Towers learned a lot - expect more stunning cover designs from now on.
In the afternoon I went to a session with Alison Hennessey from Random House and one of their authors about 'The Future of Publishing'. Fascinating stuff, lots of discussion and debate. The answer is, of course, 'nobody knows'. If you ask me, there is a future for both books and e-books, but they have different futures. At the moment there isn't much to tell between them - effectively they're both containers for words. I think printed books will become 'beautiful objects' in their own right, and e-books will make much more use of the possibilities of the technology... whatever those might be. Watch this space.
Apart from that, we listened to David Lodge and a trio of historical fiction authors, talked to lots of lovely people and even sold quite a few books. We sold TWO copies of Rose Fyleman's Fairy Book (hoorah!) and two of Swimmers in the Secret Sea by William Kotzwinkle - a sadly-neglected but absolutely beautiful novella which is currently our worst-selling book. It is my mission to change that status - buy it! you won't regret it!
Many thanks to the indomitable Sheelagh Gallagher and the invincible Jane Brierley, and the folks at Vintage, for a fantastic day.
Meanwhile, up in Fife, our J. David Simons was on the frontline at another Readers' Day.