A Lasting Relationship

We are once again celebrating the long and intimate relationship between writers and trees, with the release of a paperback version of ‘Why Willows Weep, an anthology of contemporary fables by nineteen of Britain’s most acclaimed authors. ‘Why Willows Weep’ is inspired by, and dedicated to, Britain’s native trees – a thank you for their priceless gift of paper and books.

But writers aren’t the only ones who owe a lot to trees. Trees and woods are important for a huge range of reasons, from their vital role in the carbon cycle to supporting wildlife, improving water quality, reducing flood risks, increasing numbers of pollinators, keeping soil healthy, enhancing landscape value and improving air quality – to name a few!

Why WIllows Weep cov#63FE95.jpgBritain is one of the least wooded areas in Europe, and yet trees continue to disappear from its landscape.

Sales from the first edition of Why Willows Weep helped the Woodland Trust plant approximately 50,000 new trees, and each paperback sold will help plant another.

This increases the resilience of the land,
in turn supporting existing woods and trees, helping them bounce back from current threats such as climate change, tree pests and disease.

So spread the word about ‘Why Willows Weep’ and help The Woodland Trust protect and rebuild Britain’s woodlands.


Robin’s resignation & the Chilcot report

It’s hard to find media coverage of today’s publication of the Chilcot report that doesn’t reference Robin Cook’s memorable resignation in 2003, due to his opposition to military action in Iraq – reportedly the first speech to ever receive a standing ovation in the House of Commons.

The findings of the Chilcot Enquiry, today, 13 years on, vindicate his decision.

His speech forms the epilogue to “Robin Cook: Principles and Power”, by John Williams – who as Press Secretary was at Robin’s side during a turbulent three years as Foreign Secretary. John also reflects on what today’s politicians – and voters – can learn from Robin Cook: a man who understood the realities of power but also remained true to his principles.



Robin and the Referendum

Today’s guest blog comes from John Williams, author of ‘Robin Cook: Principles and Power’ and ‘Williams on Public Diplomacy’, and press secretary during Robin Cook’s three dramatic and turbulent years as Foreign Secretary.

Robin Cook’s early death robbed British politics of one of its most distinctive and principled stars and, ten years on, his struggle to reconcile those principles with the realities of power remains as relevant as ever. John reflects on what today’s politicians – and voters – can learn from Robin Cook: a man who believed that, despite everything, politics can still be a force for good.

The referendum would have gone the other way had the champions of Britain in Europe spoken with hope and confidence for their case, rather than with fear and no confidence in the public’s intelligence. Nobody has dared be positive about Europe for a very long time.

Imagine if the case for Europe had been put like this:

‘It is a delusion to imagine that Britain is stronger if it is isolated. The best way to project British values and British interests is by doing so in partnership with those who share our values: democracy, human rights, justice and freedom….’


‘We are at the same time patriotic and pro-European…..:The fact is that the national identities, cultures and traditions of the democratic nations of Europe are too strong to be subsumed. The EU is unique in world history. No other nations have done so much to pool their strength in the common interest while retaining the sovereignty and identity that make them distinct and diverse.’

Robin Cook used a narrative of British confidence in Europe to win an earlier argument about our place in the EU, when he was Foreign Secretary negotiating the entry of Eastern Europe into the Union in 2000. Then, as now, the debate was framed by the Eurosceptic mythology about a superstate. The difference was that then the anti-EU case was all about fear, the pro-EU case based on hope: a stronger Britain in a wider Europe. Now, in the 2016 referendum, the Remain campaign dared not put its faith in its own case. Remainers destroyed their credibility by scaremongering.

I doubt that any of them troubled to look up Robin’s speeches and articles to see how the argument can be won. George Osborne is an unlikely disciple. We can be sure that Jeremy Corbyn didn’t consult the Cook legacy.

The current Labour Party (is it post New Labour or pre-modern Labour?) is struggling to find a way of talking about immigration. How about this?

‘Legitimate immigration is the necessary and unavoidable result of economic success, which generates a demand for labour faster than can be met by the birth-rate of a modern developed country. Every country needs firm but fair immigration laws. There is no more evil business than trafficking in human beings and nothing corrodes social cohesion worse than a furtive underground of illegal migrants beyond legal protection against exploitation. But we must also create an open and inclusive society that welcomes incomers for their contribution to our growth and prosperity.’

That comes from a speech famous – at the time – for Robin describing chicken tikka masala as ‘a true British national dish’.

Open-minded, positive, internationalist, hopeful for Britain’s future, confident in our country… Not a bad strategy for our time, should Labour be looking for one.’




Cameron’s (short-lived) comeback

In all the dramatic and bewildering political goings-on of the last week we thought it was time we revisited ‘Explaining Cameron’s Comeback’ – the one thing we can be sure about at the moment after all is how we got here.

For all those whose political interest has been piqued by recent events, we are offering a 25% discount for the next month, when you buy direct from us.

‘Explaining Cameron’s Comeback’ is the fifth book in the series of definitive election studies led by Sir Robert Worcester and Roger Mortimore. It analyses hundreds of surveys and focus groups run by Ipsos MORI to make sense of the 2015 election campaign from the voter’s perspective: what they really thought of Cameron and Miliband; what made the 2015 campaign so unusual; why it made sense to go negative; and why the pundits read the polls wrong. Trend data going back six decades helps show what the 2015 election result means for the next five years of British politics, from the European Referendum to the implications for the 2020 election.

Just use code BECC25 to take advantage of this offer. And who knows, maybe now there will be another title in the series sooner than we thought!

Explaining Cameron's Comeback BLOG

What are they up to now?

Our Why Willows Weep contributors have been keeping busy, and between them they have plenty of exciting new releases for 2016.

Tracy Chevalier, Why Willows Weep’s editor, has stuck to the arboreal theme with her release of ‘At The Edge Of The Orchard’ in March, as well as contributing to ‘Reader, I Married Him’ – a new collection of short stories inspired by, and celebrating, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, on the 200th anniversary of her birth. Tracy will be discussing both ‘Why Willows Weep’ and ‘At The Edge Of The Orchard’ at a number of festivals during the summer so keep an eye on her website to see where you can find her.

Other releases include Philippa Gregory’s latest instalment to the Tudor Court Novels, ‘Three Sisters, Three Queens’; Joanne Harris’ ‘Different Class’; Catherine O’Flynn’s ‘What Was Lost’; Philip Hensher’s new short story collection ‘Tales of Persuasion’; Tahmima Anam’s ‘The Bones Of Grace’; Maggie O’Farell’s ‘This Must Be The Place’ (you can watch Maggie reading an extract here); and Ali Smith’s ‘Autumn’.

Congratulations also to William Fiennes who’s founded charity ‘First Story’ won Charity of the Year 2016 at the London Book Fair.

How do you market an Author who doesn’t exist?

Like this, we hope.

As we may have mentioned, this summer marks the release of ‘The Ballad of Curly Oswald’, a truly distinctive novel chronicling childhood in a hippie commune in the South of England.

From his hospital bed, Curly tells the story of his younger self and his extended family of drop-outs and dreamers, as they grapple with problems ranging from eco-friendly slug-control to the mischief of a power-hungry guru. It is an extraordinary chronicle of a lifestyle both alternative yet strangely viable, a microcosm of eccentricity, comedy and grotesque tragedy, told with the unflinching eye of a child and the sympathy of a narrator who sees the underlying humour of life in all its deranged glory.

We’ve really enjoyed working with this one and it’s proved to be fairly unusual from the beginning – so unusual in fact that with the publication date looming we are yet to know anything about the mysterious author, and it seems likely we never will!

Still – we think ‘The Ballad of Curly Oswald’ is good enough to speak for itself – and we hope you will agree.



Sun v Shadows

8284159440_29c504883c_oWhilst the clocks have only recently gone forward and the sun is starting to make more regular appearances, it’s not too soon to be thinking about the October release of our long-awaited title ‘Shadows on the Fens’.

Edited by Wayne Drew, ‘Shadows on the Fens’ for the first time brings together the very best stories from the ghost-ridden counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire in one volume. With lonely dunes and marshes, ruined mills and lighthouses and unmarked tracks that lead you to the unknown, it’s no wonder so many of the masters of the English ghost story chose to set their tales in East Anglia. Some of the stories in this collection are old favourites, others have been out of print for years, and three new stories show the Eastern Counties still have the ability to inspire writers to explore the darker side.

It promises to be the perfect way to celebrate the nights drawing in again…


Your guide to reading the world, and the ‘Publishers We Love’ ready to help you do it

If seeing the sun through your office window is giving you itchy feet we can help by kick-starting your world travels (in a literary sense, not literally).

We recently came across this wonderful TED talk from writer Ann Morgan, recalling her experience reading a book from every single country in just one year. Morgan was inspired to set herself the challenge after noticing the almost complete dominance of English language books, from English-speaking countries, on her bookshelves.

She sourced her reading material using recommendations from locals, in some special cases it even being translated by volunteers purely for the project. Morgan said, ‘it’s incredible the breadth of perspective you get’.

This resultant guide gives details of all the 196 books—or unpublished translations where nothing else was available—she read, to allow others to follow her journey.

And luckily for us, and you, there’s a new press in town which is going to add even more amazing translations to this impressive reading list.

Titled Axis Press are, in their own words because they say it best, ‘a not-for profit press on a mission to shake up contemporary international literature. Tilted Axis publishes the books that might not otherwise make it into English, for the very reasons that make them exciting to us – artistic originality, radical vision, the sense that here is something new’.

Deborah Smith, Publisher and Editor at Titled Axis, is the talented translator that bought Han Kang’s now Man Booker International Prize shortlisted ‘The Vegetarian’ to English readers.

Deborah specialises in Korean, but we can also expect Indian, Indonesian and Uzbek translations from Tilted Axis Press in the near future. Their focus on Asian literature will nicely supplement the already brilliant work on European translations being done by Peirene Press.

Tilted_Axis_Press_540_400_235We were lucky enough to catch Deborah Smith talking about ‘The Vegetarian’ at Burley Fisher Bookshop in Haggerston (watch this space for the ‘Bookshops we love’ feature!), and have every faith that Tilted Axis is going to be something special.

A Woman’s War

Last weekend we visited the LeAnna Leska by Lee Millere Miller exhibition ‘A Woman’s War’ at the Imperial War Museum.

One photo that particularly caught our eye was this brilliant, and very Worrals-esque, shot of Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) pilot Anna Leska.

The ATA was a civilian organisation set up during the Second World War, responsible for ferrying military aircraft (new, damaged and repaired) between airfields, factories and maintenance units – much as Worrals is seen doing in the opening book of the series by Captain W.E. Johns, ‘Worrals of the W.A.A.F’. The ATA’s  role was vital to the war effort: their delivery of aircraft from the factories to the Royal Air Force freed countless numbers of combat pilots for duty in battle.

The ATA employed pilots deemed unsuitable for the Royal Air Force, through age, fitness, or notably, gender. These pilots needed to be capable of flying a large and challenging range of military aircraft in difficult conditions, and at risk from enemy attack.

‘Worrals of the A.T.A’ would have in fact been more accurate than ‘Worrals of the W.A.A.F’, as whilst members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force were not supposed to pilot planes, over one hundred women served as wartime pilots for the ATA, and Johns actually modelled the character of Worrals on ATA pilots Amy Johnson and Pauline Gower.

Experienced pilot, aviation writer and civil defence commissioner Pauline Gower proposed the establishment of a women’s branch of the ATA, and subsequently headed up this division.

Amy Johnson was a pioneering aviator, being the first female pilot to fly solo from Britain to Australia in 1930 and setting numerous other long distance records. She joined the newly formed ATA in 1940 and famously lost her life in 1941 in service during a ferry flight, after bailing out into the Thames Estuary. The exact circumstances surrounding her death are still disputed and her body was never recovered.

Their stories, and also that of Lee Miller, are as interesting as a Worrals book, and well worth looking into.

New Fiction for Summer 16!

leyendo-un-libro-en-la-playaWe have two new fiction titles to announce for the summer season. ‘The Ballad of Curly Oswald’ is the account of a boy growing up in a hippie commune in the 1970s amid his extended family of drop-outs and dreamers, as they grapple with problems ranging from eco-friendly slug-control to the mischief of a power-hungry guru. It is an extraordinary chronicle of a lifestyle both alternative yet strangely viable, a microcosm of eccentricity, comedy and grotesque tragedy, told with the unflinching eye of a child and the sympathy of a narrator who sees the underlying humour of life in all its deranged glory. And yet more bizarre is ‘Quintember’, which tells of the murderous career of Dr Felix Culpepper, a classics scholar of St Wygefortis College, Cambridge and assassin-of-choice to the British Establishment. If there is a book with more erudition, violence and wit in it, it has yet to cross our desk. Either is the perfect antidote to yet another Wilbur Smith or Katie FFFFForde style item of beach fodder.


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