Thanks for reading the first Handheld Press Newsletter, bringing you news about the books we’re publishing, and what else we can offer our customers.
First book, first review
The most exciting news is that our first book, Ernest Bramah’s What Might Have Been, Handheld Classic 1, got a long and detailed review in the Times Literary Supplement of 24 November 2017.
‘Smaller presses are also to be thanked for turning their attention to largely forgotten, more middlebrow authors such as Ernest Bramah, doing us all a favour in the process … the reactionary thrust of What Might Have Been does not make it devoid of interest … It also abounds in humour and wit, especially in the early chapters. Bramah’s condemnation of the power of the press to corrupt and mislead is as pertinent today as it was in 1907 … Bramah ridicules political correctness in phraseology that could have come straight from a script for W1A … The volume’s excellent introduction by Jeremy Hawthorn offers a welcome addition to the otherwise general paucity of critical material on Bramah.’
The two Handheld books in print at the moment are ideal Dad presents: books that a chap will enjoy, and books that will delight the reader keen on Edwardian political satire or 1920s adventure. If you have men in your life who have everything already, or whom you despair of pleasing with a novel that will intrigue them sufficiently, try them on Bramah’s What Might Have Been, or John Buchan’s The Runagates Club.
Our book groups offer
We are delighted to be able to offer a 10% discount and bulk delivery for book groups. Email us with the number of books you’d like to order, and where to send them, and we’ll let you know the total price, including the 10% discount on the cover price of the books. You send us the money by Paypal, we trot down to the post office with your box. Easy!
You’ll have noticed that the holiday seasons are upon us. If you’d like to order a Handheld book with gift wrapping, we have got some splendid wrapping paper in stock (smartly plain, or super-shiny, or robins and holly). The service is inexpensive, only £1 per book (so much cheaper than Amazon), and we can write your message on a nice plain coloured card as well, in lovely handwriting in a Muji pen, before posting to your recipient. Just add an extra pound in the Paypal payment, add the instruction of what kind of wrapping, where to post it and the message, and we’ll email you to confirm.
Handheld Press titles already lined up
We have four books lined up for 2018, which you can read about on the website. Handheld Classic 3 arrives in February: Una L Silberrad’s Edwardian novel of feminist aspiration and the rewards of work, Desire, with an introduction by Cornelia Wächter. Silberrad is one of the forgotten novelists who had a Edwardian heyday but then turned to the steady production of a novel a year from 1915 until the 1950s. Yet hardly anyone remembers her now. Her best novel, The Good Comrade, is available in a reprint by Twentieth Century Vox, and her curious speculative political puzzle The Affairs of John Bolsover is in print in an eye-wateringly expensive academic edition with scholarly essays. Desire will be the first Silberrad novel to be sold in British bookshops since the Second World War.
Handheld Classic 4, also in February, is Gerald O’Donovan’s novel Vocations, a blistering 1921 attack on the practice of forcing young women into convents by conditioning from birth, competition between corrupt priests and the convents’ economic demands. We’re doing a publicity push with Irish and Northern Irish booksellers for this one, since O’Donovan is a well-known literary figure from that period, a friend of Yeats and Lady Gregory, and a former priest himself.
The first Handheld Research title comes out in March; a revised edition of Peter Haring Judd’s The Akeing Heart: Letters between Sylvia Townsend Warner, Valentine Ackland and Elizabeth Wade White. In 2013 Judd self-published this excellent book on the tormented love affairs and friendships between these three women and his godmother Elizabeth’s partner Evelyn Holahan, but while it got good reviews, he didn’t have the promotional infrastructure to encourage sales. It’s been redesigned by Nadja Guggi of Messrs Dash + Dare, the Handheld designer, and it will be getting a lot of attention from the translatlantic literary and LGBT readerships, and from the Sylvia Townsend Warner scholarly community.
The Conscientious Objector’s Wife will be published in June, a hitherto unknown collection of letters between Frank Sunderland and his wife Lucy, while he was imprisoned during the First World War for his conscientious objection to military service. Lucy kept their family of three children going by taking over Frank’s insurance payments collection, keeping hens, and taking in sewing. These observations from a working-class woman on the effects of the war in Letchworth and in Devon, and on the daily lives of the civilian population, are a unique perspective, offering an alternative to London-centric Home Front accounts, and from the pacifist point of view.
We’ve been getting excited about these new titles
You might think that the publication day of a new book is the most exciting point in the whole publication process. Actually, it’s often at the other end of the process, the very first time you read a Word file sent for consideration, or the moment when you get the agreement from the literary estate to republish a book you love that has been out of print for years. We were filled with triumph when we completed the negotiations with the Estate of Sylvia Townsend Warner to republish her last short story collection, Kingdoms of Elfin. This group of sixteen short stories about the European kingdoms, politics, passions and travails of the world of faerie were first published in the New Yorker in the mid-1970s, and have been ignored ever since, except by fans of fantasy fiction. We can’t claim to be a rival to Virago Press, who hold the rights to all her other titles, but we’re proud to follow their lead by keeping Sylvia in print. Kingdoms of Elfin will be Handheld Classic 5, due out on the very suitable date of Hallowe’en 2018.
The same feeling of triumph filled the Handheld office when we finally concluded the rights negotiations — with expert advice from rights consultant Melanie Leggatt — for the first Handheld Translation, the Danish novel Ønskebarnet by Eddie Thomas Petersen (2009). It’s a taut and beautifully unfolding thriller, a murder mystery set in the artists’ town of Skagen on the northern tip of Denmark. Toby Bainton has done the translation, and this will come out in autumn 2018, with the English title of After the Death of Ellen Keldberg.
Handheld Classic 6 will be published in January 2019, the first reprint for many, many years of Zelda Fitzgerald’s Save Me the Waltz, with an introduction by her biographer Sally Cline. This was Zelda’s only novel, and was routinely snooted at by the F Scott Fitzgerald scholarly community because she only took three months to write it, compared to the six-year struggle Scott had to use the same material —their lives in Paris and the South of France in the 1920s and 1920s, and Zelda’s fierce struggle to become a ballet dancer —in his Tender is the Night. Save Me the Waltz is a magnificent woman’s story.
Much further ahead into 2019, the second Handheld Translation will come from award-winning translator David McKay. The Dutch Literary Foundation have generously made it possible for Handheld Press to commission his translation of J J Slauerhoff’s 1930s account of sailing in the South China Seas, Het leven op aarde. We’re still thinking about the English title for this one, but we’re very excited about it. David will be awarded the Vondel Prize in 2018 for his superb translation of Stefan Hertmans’ Oorlog en Turpentijn / War and Turpentine in 2016.
New distributor agreement
In news from the back office, we’re delighted to announce that we’ve signed an agreement with Combined Book Services for distribution services. To the customer this means that Handheld’s books will now be much likely to be found in your local bookshop. Many bookshops, including some of the very big names, don’t order from Gardners, our wholesaler, so we needed to plug this hole in our distribution chain, to make things a lot easier for everyone. So when you next ask your bookseller to order a Handheld book from you, they’ll be able to do it very easily.
And that’s it for 2017. Please send this newsletter to anyone you think might be interested: we’re always keen to welcome new readers. The next newsletter will be out in January 2018. Happy New Year!
Kate & David