Saturday, 29 September 2012

Bread and Roses Award 2012, with added Ken Livingstone

Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing 2013

Nominations are now open for the 2013 Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone joins the team of judges

Bread and Roses radical bookfair planned

Nominations are now open for the second Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing, for the best radical books published in 2012. The Bread and Roses Award began last year when a team of judges, which included the writer and broadcaster Michael Rosen, awarded David Graeber £1000 for his book Debt: the first 5,000 years (Melville House).

Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London, joins the writer and academic Nina Power on the team of judges (third judge tbc), which will again be drawing up a shortlist early in 2013 followed by a presentation to the winning writer of a cheque for £1000.

In 2013 the Trustees of the Bread and Roses Award are organising a one day radical bookfair, on Saturday May 11th at Conway Hall in London, with stalls from publishers and bookshops, together with a series of author discussions and panels based on the six shortlisted books. The winning entry will be announced at the end of the Bookfair.

Mandy Vere, on behalf of the Bread and Roses Trustees said "We are delighted that Ken Livingstone will be one of our judges this year. We are also pleased that the public will be able to join discussions based on the shortlisted books. Radical books, integral to movements for social change, are meant to be discussed not simply read in private!" Nik Gorecki, from the Alliance of Radical Booksellers said "Last year seemed a good time to launch an award for radical publishing and we were pleased that nominations came from the general trade as well as from established radical publishers. The award has been welcomed by publishers, writers and booksellers and we hope that by adding a bookfair element this year more people will become involved in the Bread and Roses project."

Full details of the Award, including criteria and timetable, are on Entries are welcome from general, specialist and radical publishers worldwide but authors must live in the UK. The Award is for non-fiction books. Currently we are unable to consider fiction or poetry. Publishers may enter books now or anytime up until January 11th 2013.


The Bread and Roses Award is an independent annual award for the best radical book published each year. Shortlisted entries last year included books from Melville House, New Internationalist, Verso, Pluto, OR Books and Vintage

The aim of the award is to promote the publication of radical books, to raise the profile of radical publishing, and to reward exceptional work. There is no entry fee but shortlisted publishers will be asked for £50 per title on the shortlist as a contribution towards marketing costs.

Without being too prescriptive in defining “radical”, we expect that shortlisted books will be informed by socialist, anarchist, environmental, feminist and anti-racist concerns, and primarily will inspire, support or report on political and/or personal change. They may relate to global, national, local or specialist areas of interest.

The Trustees of the Bread and Roses Award are Nik Gorecki (Housmans Bookshop in London), Mandy Vere (News from Nowhere Bookshop in Liverpool) and Ross Bradshaw (Five Leaves Publications in Nottingham). The Award is organised and funded by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers and the literary and political publisher Five Leaves.

The name Bread and Roses is taken from the slogan attributed to textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, who, at least in the song commemorating the event, struck “for bread, and for roses too.”

Further details of the May 11 Book Fair will be announced later.

Note for publishers: Please send two copies of each nominated book to Steve Mills/Bread and Roses, UNISON Bristol Branch c/o Trinity Road Library, Trinity Road, Bristol BS2 0NW and Nik Gorecki/Bread and Roses, Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross, London N1 9DX

For further information on the Bread and Roses award please contact Nik Gorecki at the above address or 020 7837 4473,

Ross Bradshaw (Bread and Roses Trustee)

Thursday, 20 September 2012

How to sell more than 600 ebooks a day (for a short while)

Five Leaves debut crime author Michael J Malone discusses the marketing tactics that got his first novel Blood Tears into the top five on the Amazon Kindle chart... First printed on the blog of another good crime writer Damien Seaman who blogs at and is published by Blasted Heath (

 It’s a brave new world, this world of E. A world where, it is said, authors shall publish and sell. And sell. Where Kindle millionaires are verily as many as leaves on the largest of trees and if that Konrath fellow is to be believed, Amazon will rule the world. And lo, it came to pass that my publisher thought it might be wise to make Blood Tears available for the e-readers. Did it work? Depends. Everything is relative, so it depends on where you are coming from. Would Stephen King’s publishers be happy with my figures? I think not. But we at Five Leaves have more modest expectations and we were kinda chuffed. The wheeze was thusly – actually I’m getting tired of the olde worlde speak now so I’ll stop – anywho, we had a chat about what our strategy should be and we decided to give the paperback a few weeks’ run before releasing in digital format. The Olympics were coming up. Why don’t we – I suggested – make Blood Tears available for free on the first couple of days, as an alternative for the peeps who can’t be arsed with all that sport? Then put the price up to 99p for another week, and then increase gradually until we get to a price that we are comfortable with for the long haul. So, Amazon was contacted and the promo was agreed at £0 for the first 4 days of the ‘lympics and 0.99p for the next few days. Sadly, we had to agree to exclusivity to Amazon for three months. However, given that they appear to be the only game in town at the moment, that didn’t feel too much of a problem. On reflection, I feel that this is one of the methods by which Amazon is cementing their monopoly and THAT worries me.
 Early days and the numbers were goooooood. Me and my peeps tweeted and FB’d and blogged and did what we could to bring it to the attention of the great unwashed. And Blood Tears rose up the rankings. By the end of the weekend BT was number 1 in the free crime/ thriller chart and number 1 in the general book chart. The number of downloads? Over 18,000. Which is not too shabby. And in actual fact, I don’t think that even Mr King’s publishers would have been upset with that little lot. I mentioned to a non-writing friend how many downloads we’d had. His response: some people will take anything when it’s free. Git.
Then the price went on at 99p. And Blood Tears moved in with the big boys to the paid chart, and the book rose up those charts as well. We made it to no 5 in the general book chart – sandwiched in among all the porn books. In fact, I’m pretty sure that for a few hours BT was the only non-erotica book in the top 6. Which is nice. For a few days we were selling over 600 copies a day. Again, not too shabby. We peaked there and began the slow, inexorable slide down the rankings. And from a point where I was checking the chart position every 5 minutes, I stopped checking altogether. It was kinda sad to see my baby being ignored. Now, we are left with a whole load of questions... How the feck did we manage to get all those downloads? There was a knock-on effect with the paperback – I know because people let me know they had bought it – what we don’t know is how many people
went on to do so.
Why did the sales tail off like that? Had I reached my entire prospective audience? Did everyone see it that should have – given Amazon’s famous algorithms? Will the follow-up, A Simple Power (tbp May 2013) benefit from this “increased awareness”? Will people remember who the feck I am? Will Prince Harry ever get his hands on the real crown jewels? Whatever happens, it’s fair to say it was a lot of fun while it lasted. And who knows, it might receive another surge of popularity. I just need to find a royal party that’s up for some strip billiards. Lo. Verily.

Check out BLOOD TEARS by Michael J Malone in the UK: and here if you're in the US:

Beats, Bums and ebooks

Adrift in SohoBaron's Court, All ChangeThe Furnished RoomWhen I asked Laura Del-Rivo if it was OK to publish her book in an ebook format as well as the print edition she replied, with her usual enthusiasm, "Yes, of course, what are ebooks?" That is a good question, and here we are publishing them, though I've never read a book in an ebook format and perhaps never will. No self-respecting beatnik would, surely? Battered paperbacks are more the style. But anyway, here, for the non-beats out there, our whole set in an ebook format, £4.99 each, from all platforms as well as kindle.

Mclean ebook editions from Five Leaves

All Russel McLean's Dundee crime novels are now available as ebooks, at £1.99 each. They are available on every ebook platform (I think), not just kindle. We have opened a jar of marmalade, bought a copy of the Beano and a pie to celebrate. Meanwhile, Russel is touring Scotland to promote the books, including his favourite joke that after The Good Son, The Lost Sister and Father Confessor, the next in the series has to be called The Mother Fucker. Or perhaps not.The Good Son (J McNee series)The Lost Sister (J McNee series)Father Confessor (J McNee series)

Monday, 17 September 2012

Fete de Humanite

I realised very quickly the difference between a working meal with a French publisher and a British publisher - the French order wild boar to eat, whereas we spend our life avoiding wild bores at publishing parties. The meal in question was with Francis Combes of Le Temps des Cerises and the Five Leaves writer, and fellow publisher Andy Croft of Smokestack Books. Francis is also a writer and his Common Cause was one of my books of the year when published by Smokestack. More on Francis here:
There were many things to be jealous of Francis - his press has the most wonderful name, four staff and a turnover four times ours for starters. His books include poetry, fiction and politics and his writers include Aragon, Rimbaud and John Berger. But the one thing to be most jealous of is that he can sell 5% of his annual turnover over a couple of days at the Fete de Humanite where we met. The Fete is like a very cheap, very political Glastonbury. 200,000 or so people pay 20 euros for a weekend of music (Patti Smith, Pete Doherty on the line up), with hundreds of meetings and debates running late into the night with stalls, cafes and full scale restaurants run by Communist Party branches. We ate at the restaurant run by the CP of La Drome, whereas we'd bought our lunch at the Iraqi cafe, but sat down in the Tunisian restaurant because the Iraqis had run out of seats. The book area itself was an entire "village" with hundreds of publishers represented, and, as far as I could tell, all doing good trade.
It was humbling to be at a Festival which, apart from the odd popular beat combo, English was irrelevant, with all the stalls and debates being either French or mother tongue. We did see an Irish tent in the distance (it is hard to imagine the scale of this event) but heard no English anywhere other than on the main music stage.
For the record, Pete Doherty's performance was rather phoned in and Patti Smith was on after our bedtime. The real musical stars were the full scale symphony orchestra on the main stage (who preceded a God-awful Tunisian rapper) and some of the smaller acts performing in impromptu stages in the marquees of the regional or national Parties. I did not see enough of the woman singer from Finistere or the neighbouring piper from Brittany, or the singer from Morocco who handed out tiny cups of tea to her audience before singing.
It's impossible, on financial and logistical grounds, but would be wonderful if Five Leaves and Smokestack could put together a British marquee next year!

Friday, 14 September 2012

The return of Beeston Poets

More on this soon, but in the meantime, tickets are on sale, there is a dedicated website, an emailing list, a facbook page and a great opening season. Sign up at, or order your tickets now from Beeston Library (the Notts one, not the Leeds one). Beeston Poets has lift off.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Ian McEwan and Swimmer in the Secret Sea

Swimmer in the Secret SeaMany years ago, in bookshop days, the shop where I worked used to sell a lot of William Kotzwinkle, this in his pre-ET days. The shop was big on cult books, so his Doctor Rat and Fata Morgana were key texts. One of the workers, now no longer with us, Keith Leonard, was a big fan. I could barely read a word of them but he suggested I read Kotzwinkle's very different Swimmer in the Secret Sea. This is a novella, set in a Maine winter during which the two characters in the book go to hospital to have a child, which is stillborn. The book was particularly important to Keith as his first child, Robin, also did not survive. Swimmer brought me to tears, not just because of the subject matter but also the book was so beautifully written, and showed just how much can be done with a novella.
This was around about 1980. The book was not a big seller in this country and largely sold to fans of the cult books, who might have been surprised by the difference.
I held on to the memory of the novella and was pleased to republish it in 2010, in a joint edition with the American publisher Godine. Given the involvement of Godine, it was a lovely publication. Save for a great review in the Times Literary Supplement the book came out here to little interest and quickly sales subsided to the occasional customer order. So it goes.
Two or three weeks ago we started to receive orders for the book again, singles, from bookshops, wholesalers and Amazon. What gives? It took a few days to find out. It turns out to have been mentioned in Ian McEwan's new novel Sweet Tooth in which the couple Serena and Tom (I've taken this from the New Statesman review) disagree about modern fiction “at every turn”... “I thought his lot were too dry,” Serena writes of their favoured authors, “he thought mine were too wet.” And she recalls: “During that time, we managed to agree on only one short novel . . . William Kotzwinkle’s Swimmer in the Secret Sea. He thought it was beautifully formed, I thought it was wise and sad.”
I've read every McEwan book, since First Love, Last Rights in the mid-seventies but had not yet read Sweet Tooth, though I will soon. It would have been more fun to have come across the quote at first hand but the minor mystery was also fun.
It would be nice if McEwan was one of the small number of readers of our edition, but also nice if he, too, had hung on to the memory of the book for thirty years before doing something with it. Either way, we are grateful for his mention as it has brought the book to the attention of some new readers.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

New from Five Leaves, What's Your Problem? by Bali Rai

What's Your Problem?
" get used to the everyday abuse once it's been happening for long enough. It becomes part of your life. Your routine."
Jaspal's family moves from the inner city to a Midlands (Nottinghamshire, as it happens) village when his dad opens a shop. He's the only Asian kid around and this new life just isn't for him. Though he quickly makes friends at school, the insults from others begin. Jaspal's life tells him that everything will be okay, but the racism gets worse. Jaspal's life will never be the same again.
I'm really pleased to have this Bali Rai book on our list. Bali is in Leicester and our paths cross quite a lot. He's forever speaking in schools and will be appearing at our forthcoming young adult day in Derbyshire, of which more anon. He has also spoken at States of Independence. You can find out more about his many books, now in many languages, at This book is for teenagers - "reluctant readers" - and is something of a pair with David Belbin's Secret Gardens, also set in Nottinghamshire. Dave's book is about refugees, and is also for reluctant readers.
You can get the book here:

Sunday, 9 September 2012

John Rety, notebook in hand

As mentioned a couple of posts ago, some notes on John Rety's A Notebook in Hand, new and selected poems (Stonewood Press)... At Free Verse, Five Leaves shared a reading with Smokestack and Hearing Eye, the publishing house of the late John Rety. Stephen Watts, an old friend of Five Leaves, read from one of his two bilingual Hearing Eye publications telling part of the story of his nonno, his Italian grandfather, on his journey to London before channelling John Rety, his friend and former publisher. Rety's book is one of two from the new Stonewood Press. Founder Martin Parker contributes a short preface to the book, which, with a Foreword by Stephen and an afterword by John's daughter Emily Johns, is perhaps the nearest we'll get to a biography of the admirable (if not always easy) John Reti/Reti Janos. I confess I bought the collection primarily for the prose, the stories about this immigrant Hungarian/Jewish bohemian, national team chess player, publisher, organiser and anarchist who finally, and to his regret, ceased to be a "stateless person" only in 2007. It would be wonderful to think that someone would write a fuller biography of a very full life, began in Hungary, continued in Britain since 1947 and which ended in February 2010.
One particularly sad part of his life was at the end of the Hungarian part of the WWII, his grandmother went up to a Hungarian fascist to tell him the war was over. He shot her dead.
John Rety was certainly productive. Having arrived here aged seventeen, he wrote a novel in English just a few years later. A committed libertarian, he was for many years the poetry editor of the communist Morning Star, but his greatest contribution was Hearing Eye, and the linked Torriano Meeting House, hosting Sunday night poetry readings since 1982.
At the reading, among other poems, Stephen read a yearning-for-utopia poem, aptly called "Freedom", dedicated to another dead anarchist, Philip Samson. Philip, John, and others such as two Five Leaves writers, Colin Ward and Nicolas Walter were part of a generation of talented writers, propagandists and fun-loving free spirits around the journal Freedom. All greatly missed.

Still Life, Gordon Hodgeon

Somewhere in my CD collection there's one called Classic Weepies. God knows why I, or anyone else, would choose to buy something with such a title. Though there are times... But I do have a nominal set of "classic weepies" from poetry. These include Gerda Mayer's "Make Believe", with its closing lines: "GERDA MAYER, born '27, in Karlsbad, / Czechoslovakia... write to me, father."; Jon Silkin's "Death of a Son"; Adrian Mitchel's "Victor Jara of Chile" - all of which have, not surprisingly, turned up in past Five Leaves' anthologies. Now I have to add to this list of weepies "The Leaving", by occasional Five Leaves contributor Gordon Hodgeon. "The Leaving" appears in Gordon's Smokestack book Still Life, bought yesterday at the Poetry Book Fair.
There is no easy way to describe this poem, but Gordon is now living in a rehabilitation unit in Peterlee, unable to move his hands and legs, unable to breathe without a ventilator. This collection was dictated to friends or typed with the use of Dragon voice recognition software. Gordon can no longer write directly. In this poem he describes two meetings with his wife,  Julia, one of him being taken, disastrously, to the care home she is living in, the other a visit by her to him, after which he describes the comfort of waking in the early hours, hearing her regular breathing in the night, but the breath he is hearing is that of his ventilator filling and emptying his lungs. The whole collection is not solely about his quadriplegic life, including, for example, memories of his days walking "To Long Meg" and elsewhere, but hanging over the whole collection is "This Bed" - a site far away from the current paralympics.

Free Verse: Poetry Book Fair report, now with added Brum

Going to book fairs with a stall involves a succession of targets:
1) Come back with less books than taken. This is not easy as although Five Leaves provides my living, book fairs are where you see a lot of books rarely seen in bookshops, published by colleagues and friends of yours.
2) Make enough money to pay for your stall hire and train fare. Exposure and a nice time is one thing, but the office budgie needs its seeds.
3a) Make enough money to pay for the early morning taxi to the station, the cup of coffee at the station, the sandwich bought from Pret a Manger at dinner time, the coffee and sandwich on the way home, the late night bus, the two books that got damaged over the day, the ones that now need pensioned off because after a few stalls nothing looks pristine...
If there was a 3b) it would be to pay something towards the time involved in a day long trip plus packing and unpacking, and the general overheads of the press but somehow that never happens.
4) Get some exposure and have a nice time.
A day out at yesterday's Free Verse Poetry Book Fair in London organised by CB Editions certainly achieved many of these aims. I caught up with old friends, met some new and interesting people and sold 16 books. It didn't reach the giddy heights of 3b but I'd have gone anyway and though the day is long it is hardly working down a coal mine. With 54 stalls - probably, as Charles said in the programme, the biggest gathering of poetry publishers ever there was a lot of competition for sales so I'm pretty pleased with 16 books. I know some people did worse, I know some people did better. And it was busy. There were a few readings, including Andy Croft having six minutes to represent the whole of Five Leaves output in a joint session with Smokestack and Hearing Eye (a set of poetry's left wing) but the emphasis was on books, books, books. What was hugely encouraging was the wide age range of those present, with many, many young people, diligently working their way round the stalls. Impressive.
The stalls themselves ranged from the serious and professional (think Carcanet) through to hand-crafted pamphlets in a cardboard box set ( but mostly somewhere in the middle. One stall was giving away slices of freshly cooked ham, carved off the bone, with a small glass of red, with every purchase. The smell put me off, so I never found out who they were*, but made me think that next year the veggies need to fight back. Free peanut butter sandwiches with every purchase from the Five Leaves stall? Yup that'll do it.
There was of course time for old hands to have a ritual moan about the Arts Council, it's what we do, but this was seriously undercut by the Arts Council support for the day, which enabled CB Editions to pay the fares of out of London presses. And this meant many presses that could not have afforded a train fare and stall hire were represented. So as well as being the biggest gathering of presses, this was probably the most representative, with people from Manchester, Norwich, Edinburgh, Hastings, Bristol, Bridgend - everywhere, really, including three from Nottingham. This reflected the thought that had gone into creating a great day by Charles and Chrissy at CB Editions. I am sure 54 publishers and many hundreds of people are grateful to them.
PS - returning to my first point, I rather meanly only came home with two new books - Notebook in Hand, new and selected poems by John Rety (Stonewood) and Still Life by Gordon Hodgeon (Smokestack). I'll post about them both later.
* Later - it was the Scottish publisher Happenstance, chums of ours!
PS - Charles Boyle has written his own blog about the day, on

And the next day the indie presses of Birmingham had their second book fair. Pippa from Five Leaves was there:

"The Five Leaves Elf put on her Five Leaves T-shirt and toddled off to Birmingham yesterday, armed with three boxes of books and a float composed almost entirely of pound coins and coppers (thanks boss!)... After navigating the strange streets almost successfully, she berthed the Thunderbug in a car park which has no lifts. Oops.
Last year’s Birmingham Independent Book Fair took place in the depths of Digbeth, and didn’t attract a huge number of punters. This year, in contrast, we were in the Council House, right in the city centre. There were various Olympic celebrations going on in the square, and I think in the building itself, so there were plenty of people trickling through the lushly carpeted room packed with publishers and booksellers. At some points the room was so full I couldn’t see the stalls opposite.
There may have been related events going on throughout the day, but I didn’t get to go to any as I was flying our stall solo – the pressure! the responsibility! I sold 22 books, which Ross tells me is a good number. This included several books I hadn’t expected to sell (Cotters & Squatters, Jazz Jews, Rock'n'Roll Jews) and all four copies of Maps that I’d taken with me. Interesting... I’d thought fiction would sell better than non-fiction at such events, but I’m not sure that it did. Several people showed interest in our Palestine-related books, and I had a long chat with a young woman who’d done a Jewish Studies degree at Southampton University ‘just because she found it interesting’. As far as I could tell she wasn’t Jewish, and had no connection with the Jewish community.
All in all it was a worthwhile day for Five Leaves, and we look forward to next year’s Fair. Congratulations to Jane Commane of Nine Arches and everyone else involved for making it a success."

Friday, 7 September 2012

Five Leaves Gypsy book hits the Mail and Sun!

Here's the Mail review - an astonishingly good one - Yes, yes, I know that the Mail and Romanies are thought of in the same way as, say, the NHS and Jeremy Hunt, but it is a good review. But wait, that's not Five Leaves, that's Abacus. Indeed, we sold the mass market rights to Dominic Reeve's book to Abacus and they have done well with it, with reviews so far in the Sun and the (Glasgow) Herald and a lot of copies appearing in WH Smith. So, scratching my head here, why is it that when we first published Beneath the Blue Sky the only reviews appeared in Romani journals worldwide, for which we give thanks, but no reviews appeared in the general press? And WH Smith? Could it be because we is small?

Saturday, 1 September 2012

"the first female beatnik author"

Cathi Unsworth first reviewed the Five Leaves/New London Editions The Furnished Room in the Guardian. Here, reprinted from 3:am, she is allowed more space to talk about the author, Laura Del-Rivo - also introducing a couple of new stories by Laura in 3:am itself. Track back to them on

Laura Del-Rivo’s The Furnished Room came as a revelation to me, for many reasons. While I was researching my novel Bad Penny Blues, I was trying to track down a film called West 11, directed by Michael Winner and scripted by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, that was set bang in the middle of the era and the location I wanted to write about. But the film proved elusive and I didn’t get to see it until after the book was published. It was screened as part of Portobello’s Pop-Up Cinema in the autumn of 2010, and was introduced by the ever-entertaining Mr Winner himself. Whereupon it was revealed that the author of the book on which the film was based was someone I had actually known for over 20 years, through visiting her stall on Portobello. I loved the film, and its evocation of an era of beatnik rebels, bottle parties, art students, and a Rachmanesque Ladbroke Grove haunted by Mosley rallies and standing in the shadow of the wrecking ball was precisely the world I had been trying to conjure in my book. When Laura said that Five Leave Press would shortly be publishing her original manuscript, I was even more delighted.

The Furnished Room is a vivid evocation of a shifting world, caught between the monochrome post-War austerity and the bright new generation who would turn the Sixties Technicolor. It has one foot forward in the world that Laura came from, the Ladbroke Grove of Colins Wilson and MacInnes, Peter Blake and Pauline Boty, and one foot behind, in the Soho demi-monde of Iron foot Jack and Daniel Farson, with characters that seem to represent the crossing of the eras.
Convent educated in Surrey, Laura, like so many bright young rebels from the suburbs, couldn’t wait to leave the straitjacket of suburbia and pitched up in Rathbone Place, W1, in the early Fifties, where she entered the door of a little club and into a whole new world. It wasn’t long before she joined a house of writers, actors and painters in 24 Chepstow Villas, West 11, which included Colin Wilson, Dudley Sutton and Bill Hopkins. The celebrated photographer Ida Kar caught the image of Laura in all her austere, raven-haired beatnik beauty in a portrait that is now in the National Portrait Gallery. The Furnished Room was published in 1961, making Laura the first British female beatnik author. It is a work that still fizzles off the page, the energy of that post-War, pre-Swinging world captured every bit as vividly as the works her more celebrated contemporaries, Shelagh Delany’s A Taste of Honey and Lynne Reid Banks’.
Readers who enjoyed discovering The Furnished Room as much as I did will find plenty more to savour in the two new pieces first published here on 3:AM. ‘Dark Angel’, in particular, captures Laura’s unnerving gift for describing time and place with a cinematic verisimilitude. Beginning in the Soho of her youth, she describes the bombed-out West End and the sort of shady dives where she entered the world of the bohemians that existed on the fringes of criminality, esoteric bookshops, fake Barons and mystics, actors and spivs. Moving forward into the Eighties, she then evokes a lost Ladbroke Grove that I well remember from my own youth, when it was still seedy, snotty and alive with possibility – the first place I ever desperately wanted to live and have, like Laura, never been able to leave. The shorter ‘Krissman’ is another speciality of the author – a finely tuned portrait of a mind unravelling, that anyone with a predilection for the anti-heroes of Patrick Hamilton’s manor will savour.
In fact, anyone with a love of London, and the unsung heroes and villains who tend to have been written out of history, will read Laura’s work and wonder why she has been forgotten for so long. Here is a woman who has lived her whole life in the company of mavericks and chancers, visionaries and dreamers, who all contributed to changing the artistic landscape and created bodies of work that continue to challenge and enlighten successive generations who stumble upon them and eagerly devour. She hasn’t lost the edge that first brought her here, nor has she de-tuned herself to what goes on around her, as her remarkable ear for dialogue proves. A market trader on Portobello to this day, she really is a true writer of the streets.

Orwell and the Wonga Question

Andy Croft's 1948 is still picking up reviews. Here's the latest, in London Grip: The reviewer is generally positive, but comments that Andy too frequently steps back to comment on his work within the text. Other reviewers have also admired the work but suggested these authorial asides were best avoided. Indeed, that's about a summary of the reviews. I congratulate the author for the admiration, I blame the publisher for leaving in too many of the asides. But reviewer Thomas Ovans also says "I cannot help reflecting that Orwell’s precise writing style would surely never have found room for so graceless and ugly a word as “wonga” – even for the sake of a rhyme". Aha. Off to my Orwell... The only problem is that dipping into Orwell takes time as dipping in takes an afternoon. There's always this wonderful collection of Orwell quotes for the time-challenged (a phrase Orwell would also have found graceless) - But one good quote might answer Thomas - "A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?”
Sadly, Wonga does the trick. Just don't borrow money from them.