Flambard Press

A blog from an independent publisher in North East England

March 2013 Update

Flambard is officially closed and we are no longer publishing any books. If you have a new manuscript, I’m afraid we’re not going to be able to look at it. On the positive side, there are many great publishers out there looking for new work and one of them may be what you’ve been looking for.

Our writers are out there still and many of their fantastic books remain on sale. If you’re looking for a Flambard writer, try Inpress before other online retailers as that way you’ll be directly supporting the independent sector at a time when it needs you more than ever. You’ll also get a chance to see brilliant new books from some other publishers.

From time to time I’ll update on what Flambard writers are doing but because of other commitments (work and children mostly), these updates will be rare and sporadic, following no timetable. If you’re one of our writers and want to notify us about a new project, a review or anything else happening in your creative life, then please do get in touch.

For now, here are a few recent bits of news:

Massive congratulations to Avril Joy who was the inaugural winner of the Costa Short Story Prize for ‘Millie and Bird’. We published Avril’s debut novel The Sweet Track in 2007 and really look forward to more of her short fiction.

Another winner is poet Mary Robinson, who has just won the Mirehouse Poetry Prize, judged by Blake Morrison. Her elegant poem, ‘Beech Trees’, can be read here. Also commended in the competition was fellow Flambard poet and translator Chris Pilling. Well done to them both.

Staying with the prize winners, Kelley Swain’s verse novel Opera di Cera, inspired by the anatomical wax models at La Specola in Florence, won the Templar Poetry Iota Shots pamphlet award for 2013. This is excellent recognition for such an original project blending creativity and science.

Books published in the last year or so are still being reviewed, and there’s been more praise for Olivia Byard’s Strange Horses. Writing in the Oxford Magazine, Heather Pyrcz, comments that ‘Though clear eyed, these poems are deeply spiritual; poems that gain through layers of their profundity, but also their tenderness… Olivia Byard guides us forwards with confidence and compassion’. Olivia also has a new website devoted to her work.

It’s good to see new books by our writers being published. Courttia Newland’s new novel The Gospel According to Cane is just out and highly recommended, while Rebecca Goss’s next poetry collection, Her Birth, is part of the Carcanet programme for summer 2013.

Lastly, for now, if you were lucky enough to get to Stanza this year, you might have seen Andrew Forster, who has also recently been reading to huge audiences as part of Poetry Live. Have a look at Andrew’s website for more details of his live events.

Rowena Macdonald at the Dylan Thomas Festival

Rowena Macdonald, author of Smoked Meat, is appearing at the Dylan Thomas Festival in Swansea on Saturday, 3 November, along with  A.J. Ashworth and Zoe Lambert. The three writers, who were all shortlisted for this year’s Edge Hill Prize, will read from their work and discuss the merits of competitions. Their collections range from Montreal to Manchester, from boy soldiers to doomsday cults, from love to war to grief to brief epiphanies. More information here.

Strange Horses and Smoked Meat reviews

Reviews continue to come in for Flambard books and there are two in the latest Warwick Review.

Jackie Wills reviews Olivia Byard’s Strange Horses, where she writes that the poet’s ‘quiet meditations insist you return to them‘. The rather excellent review describes Olivia’s technique: ‘She expands inwards, unravels an emotion and lays out her own close-up view of it. Alternatively, she approaches a subject sideways or from a slight distance.’ These are poems that ‘reward multiple readings‘ where the poet ‘can turn a sideways comment into a devastating narrative.’ Olivia’s second collection is available to buy from here.

Also (mostly) positive is the writer Nicholas Royle’s review of Rowena Macdonald’s short-story collection, Smoked Meat. Royle seems slightly unsure about the concept of a linked collection and lingers on this subject for much of his piece. Still, he heaps praise on Rowena’s writing style: ‘There’s no doubt that she’s a highly skilled writer, perhaps of the type whose work seems effortless but is far from it. She is very good at describing simple actions that can be devilishly hard to describe, but she does so with enviable natural simplicity.’ He winds up comparing Rowena’s book to the work of Charles Bukowski and Cris Mazza. If you’d like to make up your own mind about linked short fiction then you can download Smoked Meat for a small fee from here or order up a printed copy.

Another Strange Horses review

Olivia Byard’s Strange Horses has been reviewed on the Poor Rude Lines poetry blog. The in-depth and elegant review includes the lines:

This is a dark, painful collection of poems. However, there is nothing self-indulgent here. Byard muses on the lives of animals (Auden’s torturer’s horse from his Musée des Beaux Arts) and the English landscape, as well as upon our mortality. Strange Horses is a walk through a cutting breeze on a beautiful winter’s day. Your cheeks may smart by the fire afterwards but you’ll be glad that you momentarily stepped into the cold. ‘

The rest of the review is here. Please have a look at this excellent poetry blog – it’s full of fascinating writing and is strongly recommended.

Olivia’s second collection can be bought from Inpress and other retailers.

Mary Robinson’s blog

Flambard poet Mary Robinson keeps a regular blog called Wild About Poetry. Her latest entry, ‘A Symbiotic Relationship’, is strongly recommended and considers writers who write both poetry and fiction, such as Margaret Atwood, John Fowles and Thomas Hardy. 

Flambard e-books

Flambard has published a few e-books and they’re available for immediate download. Here’s a selection:

Sid Chaplin‘s novel, The Day of the Sardine, was brought back into print by us in 2004. Originally published in 1961, to great critical acclaim, the novel tells the story of Arthur Haggerston, a school-leaver from a slum-clearance area of Newcastle who must learn to navigate himself. A North East classic, called ‘an overlooked but untarnished gem‘ by the Independent. You can find the Kindle edition here.

Courttia Newland‘s novels include Snakeskin and The Scholar. The stories collected in A Book of Blues, long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Award, weave different dialects and take us to locations across continents in heartfelt tales exploring intimate moments of quiet drama. In her review in the Times, Kate Saunders wrote that Courttia is ‘a writer with a gift for expressing the ordinary in an original way.’ The book is downloadable from here.

In Smoked Meat, Rowena Macdonald draws us into an expertly re-imagined Montreal where her characters experience poignant ephihanies and secret hurts. The collection was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize, its linked stories an unusual and hugely effective way of creating a narrative that is continually surprising and often very funny. Gavin James Bower wrote in 3:AM that ‘these are stories of interlopers and of (North) Americana, as evocative of Douglas Coupland’s Generation X as they are James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’.’ Here it is for your Kindle.

As well as writing The Collector, The Magus and The French Lieutenant’s Woman (filmed by Karel Reisz, with Meryl Streep), John Fowles also wrote poetry. Our Selected Poems, painstakingly edited by the poet, novelist and translator Adam Thorpe, includes work from across Fowles’s lifetime, stretching back to the 1950s. The majority of the poems included here have never been published before. Adam’s Introduction is also a fascinating and revealling piece of writing. To download the collection to your Kindle, go here. Adam talks about putting the collection together in an interview here.

Olivia Byard reading ‘The Torturer’s Horse’

Here’s Flambard poet Olivia Byard reading ‘The Torturer’s Horse’ in Oxford. Her excellent second collection, Strange Horses, is available from Inpress and other retailers.


Clay: A poet’s poet’s novel

Gladys Mary Coles extraordinary debut novel, Clay (listed for the Wales Book of the Year), continues to attract reviews. Set during the First World War, Clay is a compelling story of the effects of war and social unrest. Set in Liverpool, France and North Wales, the novel follows an imagined war poet, William Manderson, his family and close friends.

In a hugely detailed and rewarding review in the Wilfred Owen Association Journal, Meg Crane writes: ‘Gladys Mary Coles is a strikingly effective narrator when she is working with landscape. Without being in any way sentimental or evasive, she chooses a very different technique from the deliberate shock-tactics of Pat Barker or Sebastian Faulks . . . Anachronism, whether of language or historical incident, is carefully avoided – so Wilfred Owen, unknown at the time, is both nowhere and everywhere in the book . . . If Owen was a proud to be “a poet’s poet”, this is a poet’s poet’s novel.’

Helena Earnshaw’s review for the Welsh Books Council is equally positive and full of praise: ‘Written by award-winning author and historian Gladys Mary Coles, Clay is an exploration of the changes that are wrought on relationships during wartime . . . Set in Liverpool, France and north Wales, with a beautifully evoked sense of place, this is a sensitive and gently evocative novel of the deep and lasting physical, mental and societal effects of war. The ending left me a little bereft and unsettled – I hope the author is working on a sequel!’ (from http://www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council)

Gladys Mary is taking part in several events over the autumn:

3 September at 7.30 p.m.: ‘An Evening with Gladys Mary Coles’ as part of Weaverwords Festival. Tickets £5 0845 557 7469

8 September: lecture at the Siegfried Sassoon Conference, Radley College, Oxford

12 September: talk to the Romantic Novelists Association about Clay

Within Ten Seconds

More favourable attention for John Fowles’ Selected Poems has come in the form of the Guardian choosing his poem ‘Within Ten Seconds’ as it’s Saturday Poem. This is one of many poems included in the highly varied stand-alone section of the collection. In his Introduction, Adam Thorpe writes of the poem: ‘Fowles’ erotic touch is reminiscent of Robert Graves: that sudden involuntary passion echoing the way Fowles first encountered Greece, falling “helplessly, overwhelmingly in love” with the wild countryside of the islands...’

The Kindle edition of the collection is on sale here and the paperback continues to sell through Inpress and other retailers.

Recent reviews and features

If you’re in London and like books then I’d recommend the inspiring Writing Britain exhibition at the British Library. There’s even a Flambard book on display – the beautiful Night Train, written by Sean O’Brien and beautifully drawn by North East artist Birtley Aris.

Writing in Poetry London (Summer 2012), Martyn Crucefix notes the ‘considerable ambition and architectonic design‘ in Sheree Mack’s Family Album, which had me reaching for my dictionary. He continues that ‘quoting art historian Martha Langford on the distinction between saga, genealogy and family album, Mack writes a hybrid form that leans imaginative genealogical explorations against more personal reminiscences.’ Family Album, Sheree’s first collection, was published last year. Sheree is the current writer in residence at the Lit and Phil in Newcastle.

Envoi have reviewed Mary Robinson’s The Art of Gardening. Gail Ashton would have liked greater editing, but she praises the poems, writing that ‘Robinson is at her best when she formally constrains her images as in, possibly my favourite, the leisurely, almost disjoint, freeze-framed couplets of ‘Reunion’ or the central ‘Poetics of Space’ sequence through which she describes ‘the art of gardening’.’ (I’m assuming that should read ‘disjointed’.) Mary will be reading with fellow Flambard poet Rebecca Goss on Thursday, 25 October at the Chester Literature Festival.

There’s also been a lot of attention for the Selected Poems of John Fowles, including a fascinating interview with the book’s editor Adam Thorpe here and a news story in the Guardian. We were out of stock for a while but the book is available to order again from Inpress, as well as the usual places.

DJ Taylor also mentioned the Fowles book of poems and its publisher in his column in the Independent on Sunday: ‘ The book I most enjoyed reading last week was Adam Thorpe’s edition of the selected poems of John Fowles. The enjoyment was somewhat compromised by news that the book will be the last produced by its sponsors, the Flambard Press. Over the 22 years of its existence, operating from an address near Hexham, Flambard has grown into one of the finest small publishers in the UK. Its novelists have ornamented Booker longlists, while its reissue programme includes the very wonderful Sid Chaplin’s Tyneside classic, The Day of the Sardine.’