'The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales' wins Polari First Book prize

Kirsty Logan's The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales has won the Polari First Book prize. The annual award selects the 'very best debut books that explore the LGBT experience', and selects an overall winner from a shortlist of five titles. Logan's The Rental Heart... is described by publisher Salt Publishing thus:

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Print vs Ebooks: confusing and irrelevant?

A confusing picture of whether 'traditional' or ebooks are winning the 'format war' is further cluttered by a report about slowing Kindle sales.The report(paywall) by the Sunday Times, revisited by theMail Online, suggests that traditional books are now on the rise as ebook sales fall. The news is backed by word of an 8.9 percent increase in paperback sales, and a fall of 7.5 percent in ebooks (in the United States).

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Conversations With McCartney - 'intimate portrait' arrives in September

Conversations with McCartney, the title inspired by Paul Du Noyer's interviews with music legend Sir Paul McCartney, will be released in September, The Bookseller  has reported. We mentioned yesterday that Johnny Marr's autobiography will be one for the music fans, and...well, this one most certainly doubles the wish-list!

Du Noyer, a respected music journalist, had the chance to interview Sir Paul in 1989 and met often in the years after - speaking on personal topics such as the former Beatle's relationship with Linda McCartney, and about tragically murdered band mate, John Lennon. It is, publisher Hodder and Stoughton suggests, an "intimate portrait"; and we expect that description will be nothing short of on point.

Conversations With McCartney is written "with the blessing" of the musician, and will undoubtedly convey thoughts and conversations providing a fascinating and honest insight into the man and the musician. It's fantastic such a book is being brought to the shelves, and Du Noyer himself is excited in sharing it:

Decades of access to Paul McCartney have been a privilege for me as a writer, and a personal thrill as a fan. I’ve now woven together our many interviews, many published for the first time, because - thanks to Paul's honesty, humour and unique perspective – I think they make for an affectionate and fully-rounded portrait of one of the great musicians of all time.

Frankly we can't wait.

Except we'll have to...until 24th September, when Conversations With McCartney is released in hardback and ebook forms.

Alexi - 'appy finding your next book?


Picking your next book is always a tricky task...unless you've just finished To Kill A Mockingbird... But anyway, could an app called Alexi - brainchild of Andrew Kidd and Ayesha Karim (former employees of literary agents Aitken Alexander) - be a true path to literary discovery?

Sure there's the excellent What Should I Read Next?, Goodreads Suggestion Shelf, and several other options. But do any of them offer a slickly designed, inspiring curator-led approach? Kidd thinks not.

Alexi's proposition is an intriguing one. It isn't simply a stylised interface hiding a mammoth collection of digitised titles. Authors and thinkers such as Ali Smith, David Mitchell, John le Carré and Sarah Hall on board. Contacted by Kidd himself to be involved as Alexi curators. They will provide suggested reading lists, and you can follow whoever you prefer.

This is Alexi at its heart. And Kidd wants people to trust that a solution for readers' next book quandary can be found in curated, smartly guided, suggestions. And not an unguided wealth of content:

Subscription is an interesting experiment in digitising content and it makes sense that people would attempt to build a Spotify for books. Book subscription services are vast digital libraries. From a reader’s point of view that is just presenting them with another problem, rather than a solution.

Ah yes, the subscription. The app, currently in beta, can be downloaded for free (devised for iPhone, with iPad and Android versions planned) and offers users a one month 'window'. During this time recommendations can be added to a reader's personal list, and can be read at no cost for as long as the reader remains a member. But there is a cost.

After the free month's use is up, users will need to pay a weekly fee which Kidd says will be "less than a Sunday newspaper or a cup of coffee". That seems fair, but is Alexi worth getting excited about? Authors and publishers seem to think so.

Authors, Kidd reports, are happy to foster engagement with great writing (good, good!). Publishers meanwhile see the app as a "fantastic way to unlock the backlist".

Hmm, we're going to say Alexi is definitely one to watch. It might not always best a bookshop browse or a friendly recommendation. But in a digital world driving instant-engagement, an app offering new book discoveries seems an excellent idea

We really hope Alexi pulls it off.

Johnny Marr focused on pitch-perfect autobiography

Johnny Marr is fully focused on a high-quality autobiography. Not content to push a ghostwritten title with one eye keen on his musical output, The former The Smiths guitarist revealed to NME that he's looking to deliver a book well worthy of fans interest. Interest which (hopefully) can be met in 'autumn 2016', the period he and his publisher, Century, are working towards.

Marr wasn't drawn on details, but he has made a few interesting assertions. Talking of his full dedication to writing, Marr says, "I always knew it was going to be a matter of downing tools to get the book done."

That should mean no musical work in the interim as Marr concentrates on a style enabling him to "write the way I talk". On the content Marr is tight-lipped, but has revealed:

The important thing is that the people who like what I do still like me the same once they know everything. I take writing seriously, but I also want it to be entertaining, because I don’t want to be too self-important or pompous.

If that sounds general, Marr said the title "won't be straightforward". It sounds intriguing to say the least. One for music-lovers certainly, and perhaps one for those enjoying a candid and engaging book which is true to the traditions of fine autobiography.

One thing's for certain though. Marr has rejected out of hand a title featuring a pun on his name.

We really can't blame him. He says he's bored of such things, and it really wouldn't suit him in any case.

Joanne Harris' 10 tweets highlight book world sexism

Joanne Harris, author of the Rune series of titles, Chocolat, and a host of other works has used a #TenTweets set of posts on Twitter to highlight the sexism she's suffered in the world of books. Needless to say we applaud Harris' comments and willingness to post them; particularly as Twitter can be (ridiculously) combative for anyone rightfully speaking out on such an issue.

We hope the book world at large takes note, and anyone (still, somehow) ignorant of sexism properly consider their future interactions. With female authors, but more generally too.

The author was asked "What are interview questions that you respect?" Her response? A rather excellent, "Respectful ones".

New Man Booker International Prize - more great translations?

The Man Booker International Prize is to merge with the Foreign Fiction Prize, in what seems to be a second democratic prize-based story of the day. The merger sees the Man Booker International keep it's name, but be awarded annually rather than every other year from 2016.

Not only will this mean greater continuity for the award, but it also ensures a regular tribute to brilliant translated work, and a constant reminder of how much...just isn't translated.

The £50,000 award for the winning title is to take on the marvellous sensibilities of the Foreign Fiction Prize, being shared equally between both the author and translator. Shortlisted authors and translators will also receive £1,000 each, and to us that seems like a sensible bit of parity and a fine merging of ideals.

Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the Man Booker International Prize, has a goal in mind than simply shared monies though, telling The Bookseller, "What we are hoping is that this prize is going to encourage publishers to get more work translated and get more work published in Britain".

A mere 3% of the titles published in the UK and America on a yearly basis are translated. About that, and the merger itself, Jonathan Taylor, chair of the Man Booker Foundation, has said:

One of the persistent observations of Man Booker International Prize judges has been that a substantial body of important literary fiction has not been translated into English. We very much hope that this reconfiguration of the prize will encourage a greater interest and investment in translation.

We hope so too. Greater amounts of great fiction being read by a wider audience can only be positive. What's more, after the revelation today that Caine Prize winner Namwali Serpell wants to share her prize money, the story has left us feeling even more positive about the book industry. There seems a clear movement towards knowledge, entertainment, credit, and more books for all.

Something we certainly support.


The 2015 Man Booker International Prize was won by László Krasznahorkai.

Foyles's selection of his works is here.

Or shop locally with Hive here.

Namwali Serpell wins Caine Prize - shares sum

Congratulations to Zambian writer Namwali Serpell, who has won the Caine Prize - awarded annually to an outstanding African short story author writing in English. Serpell's story, The Sack, was selected from a shortlist of six stories as "a truly luminous winner", yet Serpell wasn't content to simply accept the award and the attached prize of £10,000 for herself.

At the Bodleian Library, Oxford, event last night, Serpell vowed to share the sum with her fellow shortlisted writers, each of whom formally receive £500.

Chair of judges Zoë Wicomb says The Sack, in which two men who live together love the same woman, "yields fresh meaning with every reading. Adding that it is, "stunning, haunting and enigmatic."

But while the praise is well-deserved, Serpell clearly feels the award should be better spread.

Speaking to the BBC, the author told that her decision to share the prize awarded was "an act of mutiny", clearly intended to highlight the community support of authors over elevation of individuals.

Something which, as Ms Serpell clearly feels in a position to do, we can only praise her for.

I wanted to change the structure of the prize. It is very awkward to be placed into this position of competition with other writers that you respect immensely and you feel yourself put into a sort of American idol or race-horse situation when actually, you all want to support each other."

Frankly, we say bravo, and have nothing but respect for that!

The Caine Prize powers-that-be have marvellously made The Sack available to read just here (it's a powerful 13 pages). And below you'll find details of the shortlisted runners up.



  • Segun Afolabi (Nigeria) for “The Folded Leaf” in Wasafiri (Wasafiri, London, 2014) Caine Prize winner 2005 for “Monday Morning” Read "The Folded Leaf"
  • Elnathan John (Nigeria) for “Flying” in Per Contra (Per Contra, International, 2014) Shortlisted in 2013 for “Bayan Layi”Read "Flying"
  • F. T. Kola (South Africa) for “A Party for the Colonel” in One Story (One Story, inc. Brooklyn, New York City, 2014) Read "A Party for the Colonel"
  • Masande Ntshanga (South Africa) for “Space” in Twenty in 20 (Times Media, South Africa, 2014) Read "Space".

Foyles offers Go Set A Watchman 'First Chance'

Foyles doesn't mess about when it comes to book events. And the company is staying true to form with a midnight event celebrating the arrival of Go Set A Watchman.

Harper Lee's new novel, the follow up to the classic To Kill A Mockingbird, is released on July 14th. And Deep South music, drink and joy will be on hand at Foyles' Central London Charing Cross store.

From 11pm on the 13th until 1am on the 14th, Foyles is opening up the ground floor of the store to Mockingbird fans, live music from Fumi Okiji's Old Time Jazz Band, and early purchasing of Lee's much-anticipated title!

Oh, and attendees will be entered into a draw for a £100 Foyles giftcard and a free copy of Lee's new book. Even better, the event's completely free! You'll need to reserve a place, but you can do that here.

Do you know, we're half-tempted ourselves..

The Treeclimber's Guide to London excites

News that Jack Cooke's The Treeclimber's Guide to London has been snapped up by HarperNonFiction, can be met with delight and wide-eyes. Particularly by readers fond of closer interactions with nature than book-bound day-dreams provide. Tree-clambering is definitely both a primal and a terrifically exciting act (best done sensibly, of course!).

Cooke's title, to be released in Spring next year, has reportedly cost HarperNonFiction a five-figure sum. What the it receives for the outlay is a book Harper's publishing director Jack Fogg calls "one of a kind". The Bookseller reports that Harper nicked the book in a rather active five-publisher auction, so that bodes well. And Fogg particularly seems thrilled with Harper's catch:

Jack’s book is truly one of a kind. He writes beautifully on nature and its convergence with city life, and brings an elegant, lyrical and unassuming tone to his writing which fits perfectly with the subject.

What's the book actually about? It's Cooke's "charming account of the 80 or so trees" he has climbed in/around London in the period of a year. If that sounds somewhat left-field, it's clearly delivered in a style which makes publisher's knees go a-quiver - and it's sparking a little fire of joyful abandon within us.

Cooke's accounts will also be partnered by monochrome line drawings from his wife, Jennifer. Which, honestly, sounds the perfect accompaniment to her husband's words.

Of course we'll wait to see what the finished article does for the senses. But we're half-expecting our younger book-devouring selves to be quite satiated. As much as our youthful desire for acutely realised freedom and adventure.

Henry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' wins Ackerley prize

Dr. Henry Marsh's Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery has won the 2015 PEN Ackerley prize. It's a bit of news well-received here at W&M HQ. We're big fans of the book and its frank, insightful and beautifully written stories are excellently told - especially by a man who's hands are better used to intricate surgeries, not stanzas.

Intricacy certainly isn't missing from Do No Harm, and the award is proof enough of that! Making the award announcement, judge chair Peter Parker noted:

Several widely praise and heavily garlanded autobiographies were published in 2014, but the PEN Ackerley judges felt that few of these delivered on their promise. Henry Marsh's Do No Harm was, outstandingly, one that did…beautifully written, recklessly honest and morally complex.

Marsh writes superbly about the intricacies of the human body, about the sometimes conflicting impulses of professional ambition and human need, and about the difficulty of talking honestly to patients and their families in times of medical crisis. These ‘Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery’ present a compelling argument about the moral dimension of surgical intervention and build to a touching and rueful self-portrait.

On receiving the award, Dr Marsh told it was "very pleasing indeed to get this particular prize". Congratulations Doctor, very well-deserved indeed!


The Ackerley prize celebrates autobiography and memoir, and is named for JR Ackerley, the former literary editor of The Listener magazine. It is awarded by the (awesome) English PEN.

Harry Potter Book Night to return in 2016

If you're a fan of Harry Potter, or perhaps your friends, children, niblings or other relatives are then this is one for you. Bloomsbury Book's 'Harry Potter Book Night' is set to return next year on February 4th, bringing wordy wizardry many are fond of.

This year saw 10,500 parties and events held in the night's honour, with schools, libraries, town and community halls and bookshops all playing their part.

What is Harry Potter Book Night? A celebration of JK Rowling's Harry Potter world. A chance to meet, read, discuss and enjoy.

But more than that, it's a chance to introduce the books to new readers and - we'd hope - inspire them to read widely and willingly. After all, as great as the Harry Potter books may be, there are plenty of great authors out there for all.

Still, if JK Rowling's series is the start of a staggering book-thirst that's not exactly a bad thing.

Anyway, if you want to hear more about events going on near you - or you may want to hold one of your own - head here. Happy...potter-ing.

Jon Snow reveals I Just Stepped Out thoughts

Presenter and journalist Jon Snow has penned an honest and thought-provoking insight into the final collection of poems written by the late Felix Dennis. Dennis, the multi-millionaire, publisher and philanthropist dedicated much of his later years to poetry.

An effort enabling him to produce an impressive variety and volume of pieces, receiving critical praise to boot. His poetry tours - which occasionally offered free wine to audience members - were as popular as they were lively.

Now it's clear Dennis' passion for poetry was with him to the end; an end Snow discerns is accepted unflinching in the poems of I just Stepped Out. Snow notes the collection was right at the heart of Dennis' life leading up to his death (due to throat cancer) in June 2014. Snow recalls:

In those seven months, the people who loved him most would come in their ones, twos, and threes to eat and drink with him. But the great majority of his time and effort was left to this last poetic ambition.

Felix dealt with death as he had dealt with smashing his erstwhile addiction to crack cocaine - cold turkey. His treatment for throat cancer was palliative, he hardly expected a cure.

We here at W&M think the piece, for the Huffington Post, is commendable. Snow lifts the lid just a little on his friendship with Dennis, and provides us a precious, invaluable and sensitive context for some of the poet's final creations. Is I just Stepped Out a true addition to a conversation of works dealing with death? Absolutely, in a near and acutely present manner.

To many, Felix Dennis was a bold character, and one bold enough to address most anything put in front of him directly.

That he took death as both a matter of fact, and a matter of his poetry - right til the last - seems to us an true indication of his passion.


Felix Dennis' I just Stepped Out is published by Ebury, and available now.

Grey breaks first-week record

Previously we reported that not everyone was particularly happy with E.L James' latest addition to the Fifty Shades... series. Professional critics and readers alike had some not all too flattering things to say. But that appears to have done very little to prevent the title doing more than smashing Amazon's kindle pre-order record.

Earlier this week Cornerstone, an imprint of Random House, revealed that Grey was proving phenomenally popular and the figures prove it. Now industry sales aficionado, Nielsen, has confirmed it.

In its first three days, Grey sold 647,401 copies in all formats. That beats the previous *five-day* record, held by Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol by some 96,400 units - handing Grey the largest ever UK first-week sales for an adult book. In the US, the title has sold approximately 1.1 million copies.

Of course there have been suggestions there was little in the new title to even warrant its publication. But with new content pined for by fans (and what with it being about a second view of events) that may be somewhat missing the point. The proof, as they say, is in the industry-standard book sales statistics.

Well done E.L James.

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has now sold 125 million copies worldwide, and Grey looks as though it might continue that trend.

IBW 2015 Book Awards and more

Today marks the start of Independent Bookshop Week (IBW), and the IBW 2015 Book Award winners will feature in promotional and display materials. Three winners make up the list, and were selected by a panel of authors, sellers and journalists from shortlists of ten (Adult) and twelve (both Children's categories). The titles are:

- Adult category - The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa — a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants — life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

- Children's category - An Island of our Own by Sally Nicholls:

Siblings Jonathan, Holly and Davy have been struggling to survive since the death of their mother, and are determined to avoid being taken into care. When the family's wealthy but eccentric Great-Aunt Irene has a stroke, they go to visit her. Unable to speak or write, she gives Holly some photographs that might lead them to an inheritance that could solve all their problems. But they're not the only ones after the treasure...

- Children's Picture Book category - A Walk In Paris by Salvatore Rubbino:

Vive la France! Join a girl and her grandfather on a walking tour through Paris. Follow them as they climb to the top of Notre Dame — formidable! — sample tasty treats at bistros and pâtisseries — délicieux! — and take in a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower — magnifique! Young Francophiles and armchair travelers will be charmed by Salvatore Rubbino’s lively, sophisticated llustrations and fascinating trivia about this beloved city.

Which is great; nothing like some well-deserved awards to help promotion of the week long celebration of independent sellers. But really, it's nothing unless we take time out to visit those without the chain flag flying, chat, browse and enjoy.

Honestly, independent bookshops can be a home from home for passionate bibliophiles, and IBW seeks to prove just that. We'll certainly be taking a trip to our local shop, and sharing our experiences.

Should you wish to do the same and need to find your local indie, here's a tool to do just that.

Should you want to find out who was shortlisted for the awards, that can be found here.

And, finally, should you want to have your mind blown by a writer or work you've never experienced before...get out to your local indie and ask for a recommendation.

Good hunting!

Grey smashes record, faces criticism

Perhaps we have it within us to write bestsellers. And perhaps not... But even if we do, it's clear that such status doesn't guarantee undiluted affection of all works.

E.L James can certainly bear witness, having this week added to her phenomenally successful Fifty Shades... series with the release of Grey,Fifty Shades book narrated by Christian Grey.

Of course Fifty Shades was the best-selling book since records began, and its film adaptation became a hit at the box-office. The new title was expected to do well, and it seemed on course in becoming the top Kindle pre-order of 2015. However, reviews haven't exactly been gushing with praise for the title:

Jenny Colgan in The Guardian observed the crucial Anastasia-Christian love affair now seemed "...the twisted work of an utter psychopath", adding,

The first trilogy was a fantasy. This book is far more realistic – and creepy beyond belief.

Rebecca Reid, in the Telegraph, wrote that Grey suffers for uncovering that Christian Grey is:

...about a million different shades of sexist.

There is at least one positive professional view. Francesca Cookney of the Mirrorassures would-be readers that the title does progress James' characterisation and provide keener relationship insights:

We learn that his desire for her submission is less about his own control as it is wanting to be loved and trusted, and accepted. Does that make him less attractive? Hell no. In fact I think we’re all about to fall just a little bit more in love…”

Early consumers of the title aren't all convinced. Positive reviews outnumber the less enthusiastic three to one on Grey's Kindle page, but criticism includes it being a "money spinner" and a "waste of money". One reviewer, 'Jen', seems to capture a substantial portion of the mood, noting:

This is essentially FSOG but with lazy asides from Christian.

Oof. Others are more enthused, but the level of disappointment appears pertinent. So, yet-to-read Fifty Shades fans, be warned. For everyone else - for everyone really, we're inclusive - BuzzFeed's 'Can You Tell The Real “Grey” Quotes From The Fake Ones?' quiz[warning, includes some silly erotica] is a fine, fun, aside.

Amazon launches new Kindle Paperwhite

Ah a new Kindle Paperwhite.

The Kindle is without doubt the ebook market's leading e-reader. So what can Amazon do to press its advantage further, and develop the line? Target tablets and improve the specs.

With the proliferation of mobile devices, more and more of us are tempted to read on iOS or Android-powered tablets. Amazon knows this. But while tablets are really 'jacks of all', the Kindle's aim is to merely 'master of one'.

The key advantage of the Kindle line is glare-free reading. This isn't new, but Amazon has upped the screen resolution in the new model for even easier reading.

As well, the new Kindle Paperwhite work with Amazon's 'Bookerly' font, and a newly conjured typesetting engine to help address everything from character spacing and hyphenation to reading speed and eye strain.

It's a small improvement then - but easier reading can't be a bad thing. If you're in the market for a new Kindle (and can wait until June 30th) the product page can be found here.