Okay! At the end of this letter we’ve got a special alert - and please do hold out and read it. It’s very important to us, it’s all about next year, about how much we want to continue supporting and nurturing new talent - and how we need your help to do it.
More Francis, more love
But, before we get to that alert, and still on the subject of our lovely friend Francis, let’s have a look at how he’s been doing. Did you catch the wonderful Backlisted Podcast where he featured**? It was delightful to hear him praised with such generosity by the great Andy Miller. And also to be reminded how much people enjoy reading about Francis’ misadventures.
On that note, thank you so much to everyone who has written to let us know how much you've liked the book. Here are just a few of the kind words we've received in the last few weeks: ‘I loved the latest Mr Plug misadventures. So funny. (You feature quite a bit!)’; ‘I loved Francis - balm for our crazy times and especially wonderful as I work on a campus not too dissimilar…’; ‘What a great read!’; ‘Five stars from me.’ ‘Plug received, read - and LOVED!’; ‘I loved the book by the way. My days are spent persuading others to buy it.’; ‘Brilliant.’; ‘Francis Plug: undoubtedly my literary hero.’
He’s my hero too. And one of the great things about my job is that I get to correspond with him. The other day he wrote to tell me about an event he gave at the renowned Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace. He even sent a picture of his speech:
He said that he hand-wrote the speech directly into the book like this so that, when Paul Ewen read it to the audience on his behalf, holding his book up in the process, it would be, in his words, ‘like a really long TV advert for my book’.
Paul was reading it, by the way, because Francis said he found the ‘pedestrian crossing peeping noise on Westow Street unconducive to literary events’. Paul told me that Francis made the usual farfetched claims about everyone loving books ‘about buses that are actually whales and putrid stinking tyres’ and, I’m told, there was was a very surreal scene at the end, which went on for ages, about him wanting to build an arching grassed bridge over Westow Street, so as to avoid the peeping pedestrian crossing noise. ... But the arching part got mixed up with Jeffrey Archer, the arching arched villain.
Sounds like fun. And now you can share in it. Paul has assured me that Francis himself will be do a live web chat with us on 7th December 2018, 1-2pm. So: now is the chance to ask Francis the questions you've always wanted to - just email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to us at @galleybeggars. ... It’s going to be good! (And hopefully won’t result in us getting banned from Twitter.)
The Bookblast event I told you about last month in Norwich Waterstones was mighty fine. There’s an audio recording here. Should literary historians want to know Paul Stanbridge, Paul Ewen and Alex Pheby’s thoughts about modernism in 2018, they’ll have a field day with this one. I felt honoured to be sitting with them. (Catullus fans! The poem I reference is here. Modernism was also big in the first century BCE...)
Okay! Onwards to the new year. Or, almost onwards. Remember, this is going to be among your last chances to say that you bought Lucia in the year of publication. So. Go buy it! (Just as an extra inducement, look at this review that came out recently in The Herald. Sample quote: ‘It deals not just in emotional terms, but in what is really here, what we actually have to work with during our lives. Pheby achieves this not by stuffing the book full of things, but in doing quite the opposite: he takes a small number of carefully chosen objects—you might call them fetishes—and constructs a universe every bit as frightening as the real thing.’ Oh yes! But please click on that link and read the whole thing.)
So that’s 2018. It was a year, huh? But we've also got a lot to look forward to in 2019. Not least among them, these books:
DUCKS, NEWBURYPORT, BY LUCY ELLMANN
This is one BIG book. It’s vast, it’s sprawling, it’s got all of America in in it. The whole world. And it’s all filtered through the anxious mind of an Ohio housewife and - my god. It’s beautiful, it’s heartbreaking, it’s completely immersive. It’s 900 pages long and you're going to love every single one of those pages. Here’s what we had to say about it over at The Bookseller (‘an exquisitely accessible modernist masterpiece’, oh yes) - and here’s the blurb:
Latticing one cherry pie after another, an Ohio housewife tries to bridge the gaps between reality and the torrent of meaningless info that is the United States of America. She worries about her children, her dead parents, African elephants, the bedroom rituals of “happy couples”, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and how to hatch an abandoned wood pigeon egg. Is there some trick to surviving survivalists? School shootings? Medical debts? Franks ’n’ beans?
A scorching indictment of America’s barbarity, past and present, and a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster, Ducks, Newburyport is a heresy, a wonder—and a revolution in the novel. It’s also very, very funny.
We'll be bringing Ducks, Newburyport out on July 4th next year - American Independence Day - and, alongside our two other 2019 titles, are opening up pre-orders for the limited edition. There are only 500 of these, almost half of these are already vouched for by subscribers and other people - and, honestly, you really will kick yourself, if you don’t get your hands on one of the special copies of this book. Because if I can tell you anything, it’s that this one’s a keeper.
PATIENCE BY TOBY LITT
Toby Litt is back! And how. Patience is beautiful and lovely and tender and just... so thoroughly unlike anything else. It’s about a boy called Elliot, and it’s strange and sad and shot through with the sweetness and fun of childhood, and also the frustrations of a life confined. It’s like Samuel Beckett wrote The Great Escape - and its one of the most uplifting and poignant things I’ve ever read. It’s brave. It’s a lesson in empathy. It’s brilliant.
Here’s the blurb:
Elliott is something of a genius. He is hugely intelligent. He’s an incredible observer. He is able to memorize and categorise in astonishing detail. He has a beautiful and unusual imagination.
More than that, Elliott is an ideal friend. He is overflowing with compassion and warmth and fun. To know him is to adore him.
But few people do know Elliott, properly. Because Elliott is also stuck. He lives in a wheelchair in an orphanage. It’s 1979. Elliott is forced to spend his days in an empty corridor, either gazing out of the window at the birds in a tree or staring into a white wall – wherever the Catholic Sisters who run the ward have decided to park him.
So when Jim, blind and mute but also headstrong, arrives on the ward and begins to defy the Sisters’ restrictive rules, Elliott finally sees a chance for escape. Individually, the unloved, unvalued orphans will stay just where they are; together, they could achieve a magnificent freedom – if only for a few hours.
But how can Elliott, unable to move or speak clearly, communicate all this to Jim? How can he even get Jim to know he exists?
Patience is a remarkable story of love and friendship, courage and adventure – and finding joy in the most unlikely of settings. Elliott and Jim are going to have some fun.
We'll be bringing Patience in August and Toby has been kind enough to let us run an excerpt from his penultimate draft. You can read it here. (And, just like Ducks, Newburyport and Lucy Ellmann, you really should get your hands on a limited edition. Pre-order here.)
MORDEW BY ALEX PHEBY
Alex Pheby has written a fantasy novel. Yes he has. That’s pretty much all you need to know, isn’t it? Besides, it’s the end of the year and I’ve gone way past my annual adjective allowance. Let’s just say: OF COURSE IT’S INCREDIBLE. OH MY GOD. (And, oh yes. This is also the first book in a trilogy. So there'll be more to look forward to.)
That’s a place-holder cover. We’ll have a finished one soon. In the meantime, get a load of this blurb:
GOD LIES DEFEATED, his corpse hidden in the catacombs beneath Mordew.
On the surface, the streets of this the sea-battered city are slick with the Living Mud and the half-formed, short-lived creatures it spawns – creatures that die and are swept down from the Merchant Quarter by the brooms of the workers and relentless rains, where they rot in the slums.
There, a young boy called Nathan Treeves lives with his parents, eking out a meagre existence by picking treasures from the Living Mud - until one day his mother, desperate and starving, sells him to the mysterious Master of Mordew.
The Master derives his power from feeding on the corpse of God. But Nathan, despite his fear and lowly station, has his own strength – and it is greater than the Master has ever known. Great enough to destroy everything the Master has built. If only Nathan can discover how to use it.
So it is that the Master begins to scheme against him - and Nathan has to fight his way through the betrayals, secrets, and vendettas of the city where God was murdered, and darkness reigns...
It’s out when darkness has covered the land and winter has us in its grip and we all need something mighty to cling to. (Probably November, in other words.) But if you want to whet your appetites on the first chapter head here, and do us, Alex, and yourself a favour by getting that pre-order in here.
See! There’s much to look forward to.
HERE’S THAT ALERT WE PROMISED YOU
On the subject of next year, we’re looking to expand - a little. And we’re hoping to do it by getting more people enrolled on our Galley Buddy scheme. We’ve enjoyed remarkable success and good fortune in the six (almost seven!) years we’ve been going. We’ve launched fantastic writers, and seen them go on to find great success. We’ve been even more fortunate in that most of those writers have stuck with us and continued to write beautiful books. That’s left us with a small problem, however. A good problem, but still a problem. We’ve always intended to stay small, in order to minimise our risks. We’ve also always intended to launch new writers, as well as keep hold of the writers we love and admire so much. But we can’t quite do all these things at once... So we’re going to have to publish more books. And we need to sell more books direct, and bring on board more Buddies, to be able to do that. We have a target of £10,000 (800 books, or 200 lovely new subscribers), and we're really hoping that we can do it, with your help. It seems like a manageable target. But we do really need your help. Anyway: look out! That message is on its way. (Though if you want to get in early (please?!), please sign up or resubscribe here.)
EFFIN’ AND JEFFIN'
Okay, that’s enough from me. One last thought before we go. When Jeff Bezos was dating, he wanted to maximise the efficiency of the process. He went on a kind of hyper speed-dating mission. He called the process ‘woman flow’ and said he wanted to find someone capable of breaking him out of a ‘Third World prison’. I’m not making this stuff up. That’s what we’re up against.