Friday, 19 November 2010

Looking back

With rumours that publishers are currently less willing than they used to be to take a risk on new writers, it is perhaps no coincidence that the new year will see the reissue of the works of 2 formerly best-selling historical authors.

Jean M Auel's
The Clan of the Cave Bear was first published in the UK in 1980. Her story, set before the Ice Age, speculates on the possibility of interaction between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon people. The story opens with an earthquake which orphans a 5 year old child who is found and cared for by the eponymous Neanderthal clan.

4 other titles have followed in the Earth's Children series , which will all be reissued early in 2011, heralding the publication of the 6th and final new volume The Land of Painted Caves in March.
This will conclude the story of Ayla, her mate Jondalar, and their little daughter, Jonayla.

Jean M. Auel's books are reputed to be tremendously well researched and have a loyal fanbase. The series so far has sold tens of millions copies world wide and the 3rd title in the series The Mammoth Hunters (1985) was the first hardcover title ever to achieve a 1st printing of more than a million. I wonder how many are planned for no 6?

Plans have also reached me of a reprint of Mary Stewart's backlist, coming from Hodder. Mary Stewart, now well into her nineties isn't publishing a new title, but her backlist definitely deserves to reach new readers. Her Merlin and Arthurian series, as well as those set in 15th Century Scotland certainly enthused me to read historical fiction more than many another writer.

Friday, 5 November 2010

No Redemption- remembering the miners' strike

I helped with an event last night which took place at the Working Class History Library in Salford. That's a very interesting venue if you haven't been there already. Just ring the doorbell and someone will let you in (during their opening hours). Currently has a special Michael Foot exhibition on.

Last night's event was to promote a book of photos taken during the Miners' Strike in 1984/5 in Easington (Co.Durham) by Keith Pattison. He thought it would be good if they could be published to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the strike, as many hadn't been seen before. His publisher suggested David Peace, author of GB 84, a novel about the strike, would be an appropriate person to write the introduction. David was keen to be involved and suggested a return trip to Easington on Election Day (May 2010) where they carried out interviews with people who had been directly involved in the strike.

The resulting book, No Redemption (Flambard Press 2010) is impressive, as was last night's presentation which included a short film and readings by David Peace along with actress Maxine Peake.

David spoke passionately about his motivations for writing GB 84, as well as for getting involved in No Redemption. Keith and David both seemed pleased that the publication of No Redemption was providing opportunities for remembering such a key period in our relatively recent past, at a time when communities and life as we know it seem once more to be politically threatened.

The annexe of the Library was packed for the event which had been sponsored and organised by Unison as part of their "In Touch with Roots" campaign. This campaign is remembering key campaigns in Trade Union history and fits well with our own library "Pages Ago " promotion. Frank Hunt, the regional secretary of Unison spoke with conviction about the continuing value of Trade Unions and singled out libraries as a service which must be fought for.

Sweetens bookshop from Bolton sold lots of copies of No Redemption as well as a range of titles by David Peace, and both signed copies and chatted for some time after the formal talking was done.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Tatton Park- family book day

Tatton Park's Tenants' Hall was the venue for a day of family activities last weekend. The whole day offered opportunities to have a go at writing and drawing history- historical characters and stories.

That Poetry Bloke, Craig Bradley warmed up the audience and got them thinking about words; illustrator Matt Buckingham described the processes involved in illustrating childrens' history books as well as doing a Rolf Harris act and creating some instant characters; storyteller Amy Douglas mesmerised with her tellings of traditional folk tales; author Jim Eldridge got the audience to create an instant history story- this one a wartime story about the only bomb to fall on Stockport in WW2. Alongside all this children could draw, make badges and find out about how people wrote through the centuries with the help of Janet Bradshaw.

Comments on the day included: Great event! Something for all the children. We loved the storytelling & the badge-making. We’ve gone home with lots of great ideas. I loved the drawing & the story was really good and Really enjoyable for adults & kids