Literary Wonderlands proved to be a great success for publishers Modern Books and Black Dog & Leventhal, which means that a follow-up is coming out this autumn. Edited by Professor John Sutherland (Lives of the Novelists), the new book is called Literary Landscapes, and I was delighted to be asked to contribute to it. Consequently I have written the chapters on Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The latter especially was a real privilege; Mary Shelley is buried not four miles from my office, so it’s perhaps inevitable I’ve long been a fan. So much so that in 2011 I organised a screening of the 1931 film Frankenstein, together with Ken Russell’s Gothic (a wild drama about the events in 1816 which led to the writing of the novel), as a special closing night crossover between the Poole Literary Festival and the Purbeck Film Festival. Before the screening I was part of an on-stage discussion about the legacy of Mary Shelley with author Christine Aziz (The Olive Reader) and John Foster, Screenwriter-in-Residence at Bournemouth University. And it all took place on Halloween! Afterwards I went with my wife to St. Peter’s Church in Bournemouth, where Mary Shelley is buried along with the remains of her husband Percy’s heart, to pay our respects. When Shelley Manor in Boscombe was renovated and the old Shelley theatre opened for the first time in nearly a century we were there on the first night for a performance, by candlelight, of the play A Summer Without Sun, again about the events resulting in the writing of Mary’s most famous novel. So yes, a long time fan. And when Sir Christopher Frayling came to St. Peter’s Church this February and gave a most informative lecture about the history of the novel I was there. So it was wonderful in this 200th anniversary year of the novel to be able to pen a chapter about the application of landscape in Frankenstein. Having studied geography at university, I found several of my lifelong interests converging in this project. In the end I’m just thrilled to have written the chapters on the work of the two most important female writers of all time for Literary Landscapes. I just hope I’ve done Mary and Jane justice. Literary Landscapes now has a page on Amazon, and is out on October 16. Literary Wonderlands is available here. Update: Since writing the post above I have found from the publisher that my chapter on Frankenstein, commissioned for Literary Landscapes, will now appear in the third volume in the series, Literary Journeys.
Just published is Just Be Yourself, a slim but very useful little volume by Ellen M J Deaville, a book on which I did some developmental editing a year or so ago. The author writes based on her experiences as a careers advisor to thousands of teenagers, and the result is, as Professor David Putwain says, ‘Invaluable reading for anyone who wishes to get the best out of young people.’ Ellen has kindly said of my work for her: ‘Gary’s advice was so valuable in shaping my first book and turning it into a professional piece of work. Full of essential points, Gary’s feedback was thorough and sensitively put – offering suggestions for change but being positive and encouraging.’ You can buy Just Be Yourself through Amazon in print here and for Kindle here.
One of my clients, Ben Graff, has his first book, Find Another Place, coming out on March 28. I worked with Ben helping him find the structure for the book, which as it says on the cover is: An autobiographical meditation on family, focusing on childhood, parenting, the passage of time, loss, love, faith and memory. I encouraged Ben to dig deeper into himself, writing additional chapters and finding the essence of material, a complex tapestry of autobiography and family history. I’m very proud of the resulting volume, and I know Ben is too. Find Another Place (Amazon link) will be published by Troubadour, priced £11.99. Here is the text from the back cover: “Families are their stories,” said my grandfather Martin that late autumn day in 2001, as he placed a clear plastic folder containing his journal into my hands. Part historical meditation on people now gone, part detective story and journey of discovery, the book speaks to how we remember and re-assess what has gone before and how we make sense both of our here and now and the future. My grandfather had always wanted to be a writer and he gave me his journal shortly before his death. After many endings, paper often remains. Letters from my parents written in the 1970s before they were married, together with a handful of poems, extracts from diaries and other materials all form part of this reflection. It is possible to get to know people better, even after they are gone. A family’s interactions with the Isle of Wight, in war and peace, happy times and sad, run through the narrative. As does a relationship with literature, the desire to write and a passion for the game of chess. Anyone who has ever lost a parent; had a child or reflected on the fragility and beauty inherent in everyday life will enjoy this book.
The UK edition of Literary Wonderlands is now out, published by Modern Books. Here you can see the UK edition, the beginning of my chapter about Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by J.M. Barrie, and the US edition playing spot the difference. I also wrote the chapters on I, Robot (Isaac Asimov), Invisible Cities (Italo Calvino) and Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson). I will be taking two copies to Sledge Lit 3 at the Quad in Derby on Saturday (25 November), where they will be joining many other fine books as prizes in the raffle.
As part of the Authors for Grenfell Tower charity initiative I’m offering a critique of a short story or opening chapters of a novel up to 5000 words, raising money for the British Red Cross to go to residents affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. If you know anyone who might be interested, please pass this on. Bidding closes on 27 June. Here is a bit about this project, from the official Authors for Grenfell Tower website: This online auction is raising money for the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund, for residents affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. Around 1:00 a.m. on 14 June 2017, a fire in this residential tower block in west London spread to engulf the entire building. Despite the heroic efforts of the fire service, all 120 flats in the building have been destroyed. The death toll stands at 58 and is expected to rise. Survivors have lost their homes, lost everything, and gone through unimaginable trauma. Winning auction bids will be paid directly to the British Red Cross’s relief fund for Grenfell Tower residents and neighbours: “The charity has been asked by Kensington and Chelsea council to help co-ordinate fundraising in an appeal to support the residents and neighbours of the Grenfell Tower. Money will be given to people affected by the fire, including those who have lost everything, to buy the things they need to give themselves and their families as much normality as they can get at this extraordinarily difficult time. By donating to the London Fire Relief Fund people will be able to help those who have been injured, bereaved, left destitute or traumatised by this tragedy.” #authorsforgrenfell
In May last year Adrian Besly set out to cycle around the world. He kept a diary along the way, and when he came back he wrote a book about his amazing adventures. And then I edited it, and I’m delighted to say that Do It – Cycling Around The World For A Laugh is published this week. A print edition will follow soon. Adrian really has a way with words, and the subtitle is entirely appropriate. Throwaway lines like ‘I have a photo in my wallet of my kids where my money used to be’ regularly made me laugh, and if you find that amusing then this book is for you. It’s not all fun though. Adrian came close to death on several occasions on some of the world’s most dangerous roads and his journey ranges from the surreal to the frankly hair-raising. The Kindle version is available from 1 September in the UK (Do It) in the US (Do It), and at other Amazon sites around the world. Here is the official blurb from Amazon: ‘Don’t dream it, be it,’ they sang in The Rocky Horror Show. So Adrian Besly quit his job, bought some cycling gear from Tesco, Aldi and his local bike shop and kept pedalling west until he came home from the east nearly a year later. During this epic journey he got drunk with Aussie cowboys, ate dog and cat in Vietnam, met ‘The Only Gay in the Village’ in Andorra, did a bungee jump in New Zealand, nearly ran over a dildo in Argentina, danced with a pirate in Gibraltar, ended up on stage with drag queens in Sydney and stayed in a Brazilian brothel. Not that it was all plain sailing. He was attacked by a hornet while having a pee in Spain, outwitted muggers in Indonesia, was attacked by Hitchcock-inspired birds in Australia, and chased by dogs in nearly every country he visited. He coped with dangerous drivers, ‘Bali Belly’ and people throwing bottles at him. Worse, he had four crashes, and was admitted to hospital in Malaysia with exhaustion. These subjects don’t lend themselves to dainty language, and Adrian describes events colourfully. Against all odds he cycled over 14,000 miles, and developed possibly the world’s sorest backside. Do It – Cycling Around The World For A Laugh may be the type of travel diary that Michael Palin wants to write, but the BBC won’t publish. About the author Adrian Besly left home at 16 and has done dozens of jobs. He has worked on farms, in factories, been a driver, kitchen porter, circus worker, film extra, drug tester, printer, pest controller, door-to-door salesman, courier and most recently, a staff nurse at Southend Hospital Accident & Emergency Department. He has had two booklets published; Bash The Fash about fighting against the BNP and NF, and The Couriers Are Revolting about organising a trade union for motorcycle despatch riders. Despite being a hard worker he has the unusual distinction of having been on strike in four different industries. Apart from following QPR, his sporting passion is judo. He is a 3rd Dan black belt and still trains, coaches and competes. He has represented Great Britain. Adrian performs Britain’s most talented harmonica/comedy routine, although Simon Cowell does not agree. He has two wonderful children, Kevin and Laura, and is married to the gorgeous Sharon.
I’m delighted to see that Dead Leaves, the new book by Andrew David Barker, for which I provided a developmental edit, has been declared runner up in the This Is Horror 2015 Awards for Best Novella. The book has received great reviews from The Eloquent Page, Mark West and James Everington. Andrew was kind enough to say ‘Gary Dalkin’s work on my second book, Dead Leaves, was invaluable. He was precise, succinct, with a fine attention to detail. Dalkin guided my story to publication with fair and balanced criticisms and queries, and picked up on things I probably wouldn’t have ever noticed. In short, his sharp critical eye improved my words and my book. An excellent editor.’ Above is a photo of Boo Books beautiful limited edition, designed like a 1980s VHS tape. And here is an interview I did with Andrew last year.