Thursday, 29 October 2009


We were chuffed to learn that one of our titles has been selected for a very interesting and worthwhile book trade promotion.

From November 3rd, a number of bookshops, over a wide geographical area, will carry copies of We The Accused as part of the next Exclusively Independent monthly campaign.

Legend Press, in conjunction with the Arts Council England, launched this innovative scheme in 2008, aimed at bringing independent bookshops and independent publishers together. E.I. created the format of a shelf-size display of books from independent publishers, selected on a monthly basis by an industry panel. The other books to be featured in November are:

HEARTLAND by Anthony Cartwright (Tindal St Press)
WAKING THE WORLD by Matt Thomas (Tony Potter)
MR DARCY, VAMPYRE by Amanda Grange (Sourcebooks Inc)
MRS LINCOLN by Janis Cooke Newman (Myrmidon)
ROADS AHEAD edited by Catherine O'Flynn (Tindal Street Press)
A SON CALLED GABRIEL by Damian McNicholl (Legend Press)
OBAMA MUSIC by Bonnie Greer (Legend Press)
PASTORS AND MASTERS by Ivy Compton-Burnett (Hesperus Press)
THE GHOSTS OF EDEN by Andrew JH Sharp (Picnic Press)

It' s a treat to be partnered with such vibrant and diverse independent publishers. I hope you enjoy visiting their sites.


Tuesday, 27 October 2009


We've just released another trio of wonderful books, each one providing a different but wholly worthwhile reading experience.

A State of Change proves that Polish immigration is not a new phenomenon. In this book, a young Polish woman, Katia, offers an unusual and brilliant insight into 1960's London, and finds herself involved in a love triangle. The author, Penelope Gilliatt, led a fascinating life and wrote in many genres, including film criticism. She was married to the playwright John Osborne.

Another shamefully neglected (until we came along) female author, the delightfully named Storm Jameson, was not only remarkable for her work in helping the
escape of many writers from German-occupied Europe, but wrote 45 novels. Love in Winter deals with a torrid affair between the two central characters in the inter-war years.

Lastly, we're proud to have produced our own edition of Allan Quatermain, H Rider Haggard's African romp. The title character (who also stars in King Solomon's Mines) is largely thought to be the inspiration for Indiana Jones figure in the movie quartet.

I hope you enjoy these books.

If you'd like to air your own views on any reasonable literary topic in this blog, please send me a piece and I will be happy to consider it.


Wednesday, 21 October 2009


The recent lapse on blogging is due to the fact that I've been attending the Frankfurt Book Fair (or......this is another fine Buchmesse you've got me into). Since I get jet lag by moving between villages, let alone countries, it's taken me a few days to resettle myself.

I was delighted to discover, on my return, a wonderful - in all senses - review of Dark Flower on the blog Frisbee: a Book Journal.

Frisbee's prodigious appetite for and knowledge of books and authors makes me feel like I'm still struggling with John seeing Spot run (good dog, Spot) and s/he discusses this and related novels beautifully.

Galsworthy fans may be interested to learn that we are publishing his The Island Pharisees in July 2010.


Monday, 12 October 2009


A Capuchin reader called Howard Watson has contributed this article on Moll Cutpurse, the notorious highway robber. It's a fascinating piece, which points out many of the literary associations to this incredible character.

1611, Fortune Theatre, London: The Roaring Girl, a comedy by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker, receives its world premiere, and who is there but the ‘roaring girl’ herself, Moll Cutpurse. Middleton and Dekker described her as having “the spirit of four great parishes, and a voice that will drown all the city.” She earned her name as a cutpurse, or pickpocket, but became, as the social historian Patrick Pringle dubbed her, the Mother of Highwaymen.

Until the formation of the Bow Street Runners, founded by novelist Henry Fielding and his brother John, the blind judge, highway robbery was rife on the highways and byways of England.

Born in the reign of Elizabeth I, Mary Frith was reported to have “her fists tightly clenched” and as she grew she displayed all the hallmarks of a tomboy. An only child of a shoemaker and his wife, who lived in the Barbican, the young Mary was doted on by her parents, who ensured that she received a sound education. She had no truck with girlish pursuits, however, preferring sword and dagger to a bodkin and thimble. Young Mary soon became the Tudor equivalent of a teenage tearaway, found more in the company of boys, clad in doublet and hose and claimed to be the first female smoker!

Moll’s criminal career soon took off when, having tired of the prices offered for her ill-gotten gains, she set herself up as a fence. Such was her stock amongst the underworld that whatever was stolen, it stood a very good chance of ending up in her shop. People stopped advertising for their stolen property, instead making a beeline for Moll’s. Everyone knew that they could get a fair deal, trusted as she was by the robbers and the robbed.

In her fifteenth year, she had become a skilled thief, but exactly when she took to the road is difficult to establish. Her ability to handle firearms, her skill as a rider and her mannish appearance meant few if any of her male victims would have been able to identify her. Fear of public ridicule would have prevented from others admitting that a woman had robbed them; even if it was the legendary Moll Cutpurse!

All her biographers agree that she was a highwaywoman, although they are reticent on actual details. There is but one tale of any length but it is a good one.

Moll had long been robbing of the road when, during the period of the Commonwealth, she stole two hundred and fifty Jacobuses, or gold coins struck during the reign of James I, from the Roundhead general, and friend of Cromwell, General Fairfax, upon Hounslow Heath. In years to come, the heath would become a popular haunt of many a highwayman. Fairfax had to be convinced to hand over his money, Moll wounding him with her pistol. The general’s servants were unable to pursue her, as she shot their horses from underneath them, as she rode off. The incident took place in broad daylight.

Fleeing the scene of the crime, one of her tricks was to don complete female apparel but, in this instance, there was no time. Her luck seemingly running out, as her horse failed her at Turnham Green. Unable to escape, she was surrounded and taken into custody. Newgate Gaol was normally the last port of call for most felons, but she secured her release by handing the sum of £2,000 to General Fairfax.

As historian Christopher Hibbert wrote, in his study on highwaymen: as “a highwaywoman she seems, indeed, to have been more successful than any of her eighteenth century male successors”.

Throughout her colourful life, and for a time after her death, rumours abounded that Moll was 'intersex', the modern term now used to describe what was then called a hermaphrodite. She was clearly bisexual and had many lovers of both sexes. In The Roaring Girl, the on-stage character of Moll, she is quoted: “I have no humour to marry,” she states, “for I love to lie a’ both sides a’ th’ bed… I have the head of myself and am man enough for any woman.”

Dekker and Middleton were not just writing about contemporary person, but they frequented the same Fleet Street taverns and caroused with her. When she speaks in the play, her words have a ring of authenticity. Shakespeare was a contemporary of both writers and he too made reference to her in one of his plays. Sir Toby Belch’s allusion about taking the dust “like Mistress Mall’s pictures” is obscure, but Middleton is believed to have helped the Bard with one or two of his own plays, including Macbeth.

To the first biographer of highwaymen, Captain Alexander Smith, in his seminal work, A Complete History of the Most Notorious Highwaymen (1719), she was a “lusty and sturdy wench”.

She died, rather unromantically, of the dropsy, and was interred in St Bride’s churchyard, close to her home in Fleet Street, with a fair marble stone over her grave. Ever the ardent Royalist, she left £20 for her friends and associates to drink the health of the king when once more he ruled the land. She asked to be interred with a pistol, the breach pointing skywards. Her epitaph, rather erroneously attributed to Milton, and was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, read:

Here lies under this same marble,

Dust, for Time’s last sieve to garble;

Dust, to perplex a Sadducee,

Whether it rise a he or she,

Or two in one, a single pair,

Nature’s sport and now her care;

For how she’ll clothe it at Last Day

Unless she sighs it all away;

Or where she’ll place it, none can tell,

Some middle place ‘twixt Heaven and Hell;

And well ‘tis Purgatories found

Else she must hide her underground.

These relics do deserve the doom

That cheat of Mahomet’s fine tomb;

For no communion she had

Nor sorted with the good or bad;

That when the world shall be calcined

And the mixed mass of human kind,

Shall separate by that melting fire,

She’ll stand alone and none come nigh her.

Reader, here she lies till then.

When truly you’ll see her again.

Friday, 9 October 2009


Today's Times carries a feature that reveals the results of a readers' poll to nominate the sixty 'greatest novels of the last sixty years'.

To get the trivial reaction out of the way, a quick survey around my nearest office colleagues revealed we had read 12,17, 17 and 27 of the 60. No-one has yet resigned their position through the shame.

As for the slightly less trivial reaction which these lists inevitably provoke, i.e. a criticism of the inclusions and omissions, I will restrain myself to observing with scornfully raised eyebrows that the first Harry Potter book is (a) in the list at all and (b) placed above the far superior Northern Lights, (which would be a strong contender in my book for the number 2 position) and that the best novel ever written, The Third Policeman, is entirely absent. Flann O'Brien's masterpiece, although written too early for this poll, was not published until the 1960's. I make no apology whatsoever for shamelessly promoting this book again.

I wonder how different a poll of, say, Guardian readers would be. Would they, for example, choose a higher number of women writers than the 10 represented here?


Wednesday, 7 October 2009


My apologies for the long gap between blogs, for which I must blame pressure of other work.

I've just finished an ingenious and delightful take on classic crime noir, with a very imaginative twist, called The Manual of Detection, which has its own website, to boot. Paradoxical as it may sound, I've always wished I liked Crime writing, as I can recognise (but not actually feel) the attractions, namely a continuing protagonist with whom one identifies, a puzzle to solve and clues to spot, etc... Each time I attempt another novel in this genre, however, I go away disappointed and vaguely irritated. I'm sure it's a fault in me.

I can't specify exactly how The Manual of Detection is different from other books of this kind, without revealing too much of the book's plot and themes, but suffice to say that it will appeal to any reader who likes their fiction to be at something of a slant to everyday reality.