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Archive for the ‘Reissues’ Category

Finds has a brand new skin for its July titles, forthcoming this week and offering a refreshed range of subject matter along with a handsome redesign of the imprint’s covers (and dedicated copy for each title.) Fictional treasures amid the July selections include Stranger With a Bag, short stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner, hailed by Sarah Waters as ‘one of the most talented and well-respected British authors of the twentieth century’; Emma Tennant’s feminist gothic tales Faustine and Two Women of London; and the incredibly rare early Patrick Hamilton novel Twopence Coloured. Among the non-fiction offerings are Trevor Wilson’s timely The Downfall of the Liberal Party 1914-1935; Correlli Barnett’s The Audit of War, anatomising Britain’s decline as a world power; and Tom Wintringham’s searing Spanish Civil War memoir English Captain (on the 75th anniversary of the generals’ coup.) Pop culture also makes its presence felt on the Finds list through two seminal works of the mid-1980s: Dave Rimmer’s Like Punk Never Happened: Culture Club and the New Pop, and Fred Vermorel’s brilliantly lubricious Starlust: The Secret Fantasies of Fans. And the literary dimensions of football are represented by Gazza Agonistes, a terribly funny and deeply felt appreciation of Paul Gascoigne by the late poet and Spurs fan Ian Hamilton. The list is completed by memoirs from two of the great neglected geniuses of twentieth century English letters: Maiden Voyage by Denton Welch and Apostate by Forrest Reid. In the week ahead please do look out for more on this page for each of these brilliant titles.

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Francis King, who died on Sunday July 3 aged 88, was among the leading English novelists of our time. “In a career that extended into its seventh decade,” DJ Taylor asserted in an obituary notice for the Independent, ‘[King] wrote at least half a dozen novels that deserve a place in the late 20th-century canon.’ Finds is proud to be the publisher of no fewer than eight of King’s unfailingly excellent novels (including A Domestic Animal, which was longlisted for the retrospective 1970 Booker Prize.)
A Domestic Animal, for all its accomplishment, was a work that caused King no small measure of pain both through its inspiration and its reception, as he discussed feelingly in a contribution to the Finds website. He did not make things easy for himself; and Ion Trewin’s obituary for the Guardian reflects interestingly on why King’s achievements are perhaps not as widely known as they ought to be:
‘If, commercially, [King] failed to reach the top rung of the fiction ladder he blamed himself. “I have never wished to be identified with only one type of fiction,” he wrote in 1976. “Perhaps this has harmed me in popular esteem; the public tends to like its novelists to write the same novel over and over again.” One further explanation for his lack of commercial popularity was what King himself recognised as his “profound, if resigned, pessimism about the world”. Others identified melancholy in his work.’
King was for 25 years one of the Sunday Telegraph‘s principal book reviewers, and for 10 years its theatre critic. The Telegraph‘s obituary proposes that King was committed to giving his readers a less comfortable literary experience than the more run-of-the-mill entertainer:
‘[King’s] 28 novels show a recurring fascination with the louche and the bizarre, which he would sometimes introduce casually, but with shocking effect, in the course of an otherwise urbanely careful narrative.’
One testament to the high regard in which King was held by his friends is evinced by how many of them have made small but significant contributions to these obituaries. Jonathan Fryer adds a supplement to the Guardian obituary (and also composed an In Memoriam at his own blog.) Maureen Duffy also made an addition to the Guardian obit in respect of King’s role in lobbying for a Public Lending Right for British authors. And Julian Machin contributed a postscript to the Independent notice, relating King’s enthusiasm for E.M. Forster, and noting his posthumous awarding of the Royal Society of Literature’s Benson Medal.
On the Finds list alongside A Domestic Animal you will also find the following works by Francis King:
The Widow (1957)
The Custom House (1961)
Act of Darkness (1983)
Voices in an Empty Room (1984)
The Woman Who Was God (1988)
Punishments (1989)
The One and Only (1994)
Here at Finds we join in the sadness at Francis King’s passing, and we commend these and indeed all of his novels to any discerning reader in search of the best in fiction.

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I hope to say a little more of some of these exceptional titles in due course; but let me first say quickly that as of now all are available to order in Finds:
FICTION
Scenes of Childhood by Sylvia Townsend Warner
The Power of the Dead and The Phoenix Generation by Henry Williamson
Lucy Carmichael and The Feast by Margaret Kennedy
Mockery Gap and Innocent Birds by T.F. Powys
NON-FICTION
The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire by Alan Palmer
Marshal Pétain by Richard Griffiths
We Come Unseen: The Untold Story of Britain’s Cold War Submariners by Jim Ring
The Memsahibs: The Women of Victorian India by Pat Barr
The Great Violinists and The Great Cellists by Margaret Campbell
The Art of Happiness by John Cowper Powys

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The Guardian ran a fine and distinctive ‘Summer Reading’ feature on the weekend, for which authors were asked to cite a book that was especially dear to them and which they first encountered in a particular summer at a particular location. The whole piece is obviously worth a thorough read; I will only draw your attention to this nomination by Margaret Drabble, the title being Late Call by Angus Wilson, of which Finds has been the proud publisher since 2009:

My most memorable holiday book is Angus Wilson’s LATE CALL, which I read on holiday in Morocco, or rather on my way to Morocco, for I think I read it on the boat from Marseille to Tangier. I had discovered Wilson’s work while still at university and eagerly read each book as it was published; this novel, which came out in 1964, was as gripping as all the others had been, and very unexpected. It’s the story of a newly retired hotel manageress trying to adapt to life with her widowed headmaster son in a new town. It’s full of social comedy and human tragedy, and I remember being utterly gripped by the wholly real world Wilson created. It was a perfect companion on a trip that was at times rather unsettling. I don’t know how a sophisticated and highly educated man such as Wilson can have entered so fully into this woman’s hopes and fears, but he did. It’s also more experimental than it looks in terms of narrative technique. It was made into a TV series in which Dandy Nichols played the main role brilliantly. Many of Wilson’s books are now available through Faber Finds, including this one. I continue to associate it, quite inappropriately, with memories of Marseille, the Mediterranean and Casablanca.

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With Alan Hackney’s I’m All Right Jack newly reissued in Finds it’s obviously much, much too good a chance to miss that we sneak in a couple of choice moments from the Boulting brothers’ classic 1959 Ealing screen adaptation of the novel, starring Peter Sellers and Terry-Thomas. Sellers’ performance as Fred Kite is probably still rated as one of his finest, and thought to be a reasonably faithful portrait (however comic/sardonic) of an enduringly recognisible British workplace ‘type’. I don’t know, though – after all it’s 50 years since this film was in cinemas – does Fred Kite really remind you of anyone these days…?

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Your correspondent, being also a novelist, tends to fight shy of statements about what The Novel ought to be and what novelists ought properly to concern themselves with. My general hope (without meaning to imply a Maoist line on the matter) is that a hundred different flowers blossom in the field. But in that spirit I’m happy to own up to a particular admiration (among many) for a certain sort of novelist whose historical-cultural range and taste in subject matter is notably restless, ambitious and diverse. William Palmer is certainly one such novelist.
As David Lodge has put it, ‘Palmer’s fictions are notable for the variety of their subjects and settings, and for the consistency of their craftsmanship.’ You will find no obvious internal linkage between Palmer’s The Good Republic, Leporello, The Contract, The Pardon of Saint Anne, The India House or the story collection Four Last Things except for that craftsmanship and ‘precision’ to which Lodge pays tribute. I am pleased to say that The Good Republic, The Pardon of Saint Anne and Four Last Things are all available in Finds. And The Good Republic has a special pertinence for readers in this year that sees the twentieth anniversary of the independence of the Baltic republics Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. A review of our Finds edition published in the Economist, which hails the novel unreservedly as a ‘classic’, is worth quoting at length:

Mr Palmer’s book set a standard for an east European historical novel that has yet to be matched—an especially impressive feat for an outsider. It is mainly set during the Soviet takeover of the Baltics in 1939-40… Even more vivid than the deportations and executions are the descriptions of the swift decay of statehood and legality: the policeman trampled by pro-Soviet demonstrators, civil servants struggling to uphold the constitution, the sinister placemen issuing instructions, the president a prisoner in his palace. Then comes the Soviet retreat and the Nazi occupation—a sinister non-liberation, bringing a terrible fate to the Jewish population, and a moral abyss for those who directly or indirectly abet it.
All this comes as flashbacks, seen through the eyes of the young Jacob Balthus. At the start of the book he is a Baltic émigré in London, who has spent decades running the pointless and, by the 1980s, almost defunct “Congress of Exiles”. He returns at the invitation of the nascent pro-democracy movement in his homeland, where his father was a senior civil servant in the days of interwar independence.
The fractious and futile-seeming life of east European émigré organisations is well drawn, as is the trembling excitement of the late 1980s when once-forbidden contacts were first permitted and then flourished. But even better is the description of the (composite) pre-war Baltic country in which the young Balthus grows up, so solid from his point of view, so terrifyingly fragile for his wise, well-informed father.
Remarkably, Mr Palmer did not visit the Baltic states before writing the book; his research mainly consisted of reading transcripts of evidence given to congressional hearings by senior Baltic figures who had escaped to the West. It is a tribute to his novelist’s skills that anyone reading the book has the feeling of complete authenticity in both history and geography. Readers are left longing for a sequel.

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We’ve been away a while – busy times at Faber Towers, not least in respect of big new plans for the Finds list – and so news updates around this parish have been in short supply. But here is the roll-call of the titles just reissued this month (with another batch to follow!)
FICTION
I’m All Right Jack by Alan Hackney
The Papers of A. J. Wentworth, B.A. by H. F. Ellis
The Killing of Cinderella by Christopher Lee
Fables by T. F. Powys
It Was the Nightingale by Henry Williamson
NON-FICTION
A Curious Life for a Lady by Pat Barr
Lloyd George (Volume 4: War Leader 1916-18) by John Grigg
A Pre-Raphaelite Circle by Raleigh Trevelyan
Riviera by Jim Ring
Mr Secretary Peel by Norman Gash
Studies in Russian Music by Gerald Abraham

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