After completing her internship in an independent publisher, Jodie from Book Gazing created the Small Press Fortnight. The idea is to talk about and promote the small and independent fish in the big pond of publishing.

When Jodie invited me to be a part of the project – see full schedule – I went through my to-be-read list (about 200 titles-long) and to my surprise I came up with only one (!!) book published by independents, and this includes books from five different countries. Shame on me, but I never really paid much attention to where a book comes from.

So for the Fortnight I’ve decided to write one post about each of the those publishers, with a bit about their history, profile and a set of recommendations. Today is all about Tindal Street Press from Birmingham, UK.

First of all, a big thank you to them (especially Luke and Melissa) for their quick and enthusiastic response.

Alan Mahar (Publishing Director) and
Luke Brown (Senior Editor and Publicist)

I really like Tindal Street Press’ story because it starts with a group of writers that hanged out in a bar on a no-through-road (called Tidal Street – see what they did with the logo?). The Tindal Street Fiction Group was founded in 1983 but the publishing business was only established in 1998 as a not-for-profit arts organisation.

Since then they’ve been focusing on literary fiction with a regional flavor but a “national reputation”. They’re proud to be off the publishing beaten track – London and the South East, “where nearly all of the English publishing industry is based” – and yet still have an impressive track-record when it comes to literary prizes.

The graphic design of their books immediately caught my eye for their variety and creativity. Love the artzy feel of many of them:

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So here are some Tidal Street Press recommendations (chosen by them for my categories):

A perfect summer read

That Summer in Ischia by Penny Feeny (mystery)

“In the long hot summer of 1979, best friends Helena and Liddy travel to the beautiful island of Ischia to be au pairs to the children of two wealthy Italian families: the Verduccis and the Baldinis. From the opulent hillside villas and the sun-drenched beaches the girls plan their great adventure to find romance and excitement, whatever the cost, on the sleepy island.

But when a little boy in their care goes missing the spell is broken and the girls find themselves under suspicion from the police.”

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A book with food for thought / good bookclub-material

The Game is Altered by Mez Packer

“In the near future, Lionel’s sister Lilith disappears again, leaving him alone with his sick cat in the flat above Milk Street. Down below, CCTV cameras keep watch as the hustlers scheme and glassy-eyed girls disappear into the ‘adult heath centre’. Waiting for Lilith to return, Lionel works, chew qat and slips deeper into an alternate reality, where his alter-ego Ludi begins a heroic quest. The imaginery world he enters in CoreQuest is clearer to him than his own past, where a significant part of his childhood has been wiped clean.

When Lilith reappears, as abrasive and beautiful as ever, Lionel’s memory begins to return: the cruelty of his brothers, the religious fervour of his adoptive parents. At the same time he becomes a real life hero to a vulnerable Chinese immigrant, and the favours he has done his boss drag him into the orbit of people-trafficking gangsters, freedom fighters and the police. As Lionel is pursued across the real world and the virtual, can he save himself and the people he loves before the game is altered for ever.”

A first novel with promise

Disappearing Home by Deborah Morgan

“The second floor of a Liverpool tenement block, past nosey Mrs Naylor’s and the grotty rubbish chute, is where ten-year-old Robyn calls home. From her bedroom window she watches families where love matters, as she dreams of dolls and make-up – and parents who don’t force her to steal.

But when the random cruelty at home escalates into heart-stopping violence she knows it’s time to disappear.”

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A book set in Birmingham/West Midlands

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn

“The 1980s. Kate Meaney – with her ‘Top Secret’ notebook and Mickey her toy monkey – is busy being a junior detective. She observes goings-on and follows ‘suspects’ at the newly opened Green Oaks shopping centre and in her street, where she is friends with the newsagent’s son, Adrian. But when this curious, independent-spirited young girl disappears, Adrian falls under suspicion and is hounded out of his home by the press.

Then, in 2004, Adrian’s sister Lisa – stuck in a going-nowhere relationship – is working as a deputy manager at Your Music, a cut-price record store. Every day she tears her hair out at the horribly bizarre behaviour of her customers and colleagues. But together with security guard Kurt, she becomes entranced by the little girl they keep glimpsing on the centre’s CCTV. As their after-hours friendship intensifies, they investigate how these sightings might be connected to the unsettling history of Green Oaks itself.”

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An upcoming book

After Such Kindness by Gaynor Arnold (published tomorrow!)

Inspired by the tender and troubling friendship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell: “When the writer, Oxford scholar and photographer, John Jameson, visits the home of his vicar friend, Daniel Baxter, he is entranced by his youngest daughter, Daisy. Jameson charms her with his wit and child-like imagination, teasing her with riddles and inventing humorous stories as they enjoy afternoons alone by the river and in his rooms.

The shocking impact of this unusual friendship is only brought to light when, years later, Daisy, unsettled in her marriage, rediscovers her childhood diaries hidden in an old toy chest. Will reading the secrets held in those gilt-edged pages help fill the gaps in her memory and explain why the touch of her kind, considerate husband fills her with such revulsion?”

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