Monday, 22 February 2010


Having been laid low by illness for a couple of days, I've had cause to be especially grateful to reading as a palliative to discomfort and anxiety. The pair of novels in question are The Book of Dead Days and The Dark Flight Down, by Marcus Sedgwick. These are stories for older younger persons (I get fed up of writing teenage fiction) set in the classically gothic world of a vast, un-named, largely pre-technological city through the dark streets of which is played out a plot involving ambition, greed, explotation, love and magic. I first noticed the books in my local bookshop, was attracted by the covers and design, and eventually found them in and borrowed them from my equally local library. The thrill of being able to walk into a building and then out again, having acquired a bagful of reading without paying at the point of service, remains delightfully undiluted.

The books have left me with one question, however, namely what is the term for a pair of linked novels. I'm settling for biology, and hoping mine will rectify itself soon.


Friday, 19 February 2010


A comment on my recent blog about e-readers brought a response from Lucy, to whose charmingly entitled blog, At Night, my Little Lamp and Book, I journeyed and which I have added to the blog list here. I was pleased to discover that Lucy had compiled a top 5 of Daphe du Maurier novels that included The House on the Strand, a strange, bold novel based on a time-travel premise and with the trademark du Maurier characterisation and psychological insight, which is far less celebrated and known that it deserves.

Back to e-reading, I was very amused to read an article by Charlie Brooker (a self-confessed 'techno convert') yesterday that observed, among other points, that, whereas with conventional books, many of those around you can see, and will judge you by, what you're reading, e-books are obviously anonymous. He goes on to warn, however, that:
right now they'll judge you simply for using an e-book - because you will look like a showoff early adopter techno-nob......until at least some time circa 2012.

The debate continues; your comments welcome.


Wednesday, 17 February 2010


The Financial Times on Monday carried a very favourable review of our October 2009 title, Love in Winter, by the delightfully named Storm Jameson.

Jonathan Gibbs praised the novel as:
a substantial piece of work (that) describes the author's experiences in London after the first world war – as a struggling novelist, a mother and a committed socialist.
Mr. Gibbs went on to applaud the boldness of the Capuchin cover style in using detailed line drawings to depict characters' emotions, and tellingly notes that, in so doing, we are distinguishing ourselves from the mass of modern publishing. He quoted our cover artist - Angela Landels - as saying:
I think people are drawn in by faces.
and concluded:
Here that is particularly true.


Friday, 12 February 2010


I've been corresponding with the person who writes the lovely literary blog Desperate Reader. This collection of passionate and interesting musings on books and writers is particularly well-adorned with a range of illustrations and links that can take the reader down many fascinating digital avenues.

I particularly liked the 'Books I wish everyone would read' feature. My own such list would always be led by The Third Policeman, accompanied quietly by everything from Kurt Vonnegut, the His Dark Materials trilogy, oddities like Endland Stories and many others, but including no Thomas Hardy novels whatsoever, despite his being a passionate advocate of bicycle use.

I do love the poems, however.


Wednesday, 10 February 2010


If you're a reading group member, or are in the process of establishing such a group, we'd be glad to help with providing Capuchin titles to you at attractive discounts. The Capuchin list embraces many styles, periods and themes, making these books eminently suitable for an enjoyable read and a stimulating discussion. You might, for example, wish to look at the portrayal of school life at the beginning of the twentieth century in Hugh Walpole's Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill, or examine 1960s London through the eyes of a female Polish immigrant in A State of Change by Penelope Gilliatt.

To arrange a special offer for your group, please e-mail, with a heading of 'Reading Group', telling us the size of your group and the title or titles in which you are interested.

Monday, 8 February 2010


I had the good fortune at the end of last week to travel to Oxford on business, which gave me good cause to visit the bookshops in that city. Wandering round the Classics section in Blackwell's Broad Street flagship store, I was enthralled by the range of books, authors and editions on display, the tidiness of the shelves and tables and both the patience and expertise with which the staff dealt with sometimes very involved customer enquiries.

It was pleasing to see that this wonderful space was far from innocent of Capuchin Classics, and gratifying to see the recognition of the brand by the bookseller to whom I handed some free copies from the latest batch.

In a climate of increasing doubt about the state and future of 'traditional' bookselling, this visit was a reminder of how well it can and should be done.


Thursday, 4 February 2010


At Capuchin Classics, we're proud to have given a new life to many fine works of literature, but are always looking for more recommendations.

To this end, we invite Capuchin readers to submit suggestions for suitable titles, namely works of fiction (novels, novellas or collections of short stories) of a literary quality to justifying their designation as 'classics', and which are not widely available in paperback editions.

If your title is published by us, would be delighted to offer you a free copy of every Capuchin title published over the calendar year in which your choice appears - usually 20 books.

Please e-mail your suggestions to, with 'New Capuchin' in the heading, and note that, regrettably, we won't be able to respond to each individual submission.


Wednesday, 3 February 2010


I'm enjoying our recently released edition of Michael Arlen's These Charming People. Arlen's novel The Green Hat is our best-selling title, and he is obviously a writer whose literary resurrection has met with the approval of many readers.

The stories are beautifully written, describing powerful emotions and dramatic situations with an acute power of observation and expression, and often using repetition to add energy and impact to the narration. Here's an example of the style from When the Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (the inspiration for the song):
....she lay still on the sofa by the windows, her head deep in the hollow of a crimson cushion, her eyes thoughtfully on the ceiling, which was high enough to refuse itself to exact scrutiny in the affected light of four candles.

Arlen also excels at a bitter-sweet depiction of the relationship between the sexes, albeit from the perspective of his own times; from Introducing a Lady of no Importance and a Gentleman of even less:
....for women are sometimes like sea-birds, they sometimes worship stone images, men who are carved of the rocky stuff of life...

Short stories are not the most fashionable form of fiction, but these exemplify the potential of this form to produce small gems of great literary worth and emotional significance.


Monday, 1 February 2010


I greatly enjoyed Simon Jenkins' combative and intelligent defence of the traditional book format (that's ink on paper, for our younger readers) in The Guardian last Friday. Simon headed his piece:
Palms, Kindles, Nooks, iPads – none are as cool as Gutenberg's gadget
and unleashes a wonderful first salvo thus:
Ohmygod the book is dead – yet again. Another assassin, the iPad, wings its way across the Atlantic, sowing shock and awe and bringing angels of death to mainstream everything. Those still smearing black gunge on dead trees are portrayed as Hare Krishna nutters, banging the drum for the old religion. They are so completely yesterday. Whataboy, Jobs. Buy Apple. Gimme another freebie.
He then goes on to place the current e-books phenomenon within sensible perspectives of economics and the history of technology, and ends by proclaiming:
I am amused that each development of the e-book renders its pages more like print on paper. Its LED gets more like daylight, its page-turning more finger-friendly, its packaging more appealing. I am sure a Californian boffin will one day invent an e-book that needs no electricity and has floppy pages you can dog-ear. He might even call it a book.

It's well worth reading the whole article and the responses, across the whole spectrum of opinion, that it has provoked.