April 12, 2016 11:00
Shall I tell you a secret? Sometimes I feel like I’ve fallen out of love with the book industry.
I mean, across the board it’s generally full of pleasant enough people who mean well but, it seems to me, are often damagingly risk-averse, hidebound by outmoded business practices (returns anyone?) and – whisper it – a general lack of ambition.
I travel a lot, so I spend a lot of time in bookshops, doing the kind of thing Managing Directors of publishing companies should do – like emailing my sales team and demanding to know why book x is not included in promotion y, and so on.
When I look at the new releases section, I’m afraid it leaves me cold. Old ideas continuously repackaged, once-winning formulas repeated to death, backlists mined until they’ve worn thin and a general nostalgia for a ‘better’ age; a pre-Amazon time of four-hour lunches, industry-sponsored jollies to foreign climes and ‘poet’s’ day* every Thursday and Friday. It’s all just so ‘meh’ – it bores me silly.
I read the trade press and all I seem to see are nicely-turned-out young men and women disguising a lack of imagination behind a barrage of buzzwords, setting out a vision of future publishing in the kind of language they think people working in proper industries might use. I’m afraid it makes me want to grab them, shake them and say, ‘It’s not just about the future, it’s about now. And above all, it’s about the books!’
And that’s what dispels my gloom. The books. When I look at our forward list, lovingly laid out in the catalogue you now hold in your hands, the clouds break and I fall in love all over again. Alastair Campbell’s astonishing new diaries, David Laws’s insider account of the coalition government, political giant Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s extraordinary, epoch-spanning memoirs, and many, many more; these are the bulwarks I set against my disenchantment. These are what I got into publishing for in the first place.
Another thing I can never understand is the time it takes our competitors to publish a book. At Biteback, a part of our success lies in our ability to pick up a book and get it to the consumer in the shortest time possible. The clue is in the category name: surely it’s called current affairs for a reason? Now obviously this brings its own challenges but we are fortunate in that our partners in an increasingly reactive book trade know that we will deliver the support, in the form of publicity, to make our books highly visible.
Finally, there are no books without the people. The authors, of course, but also the team who produce the books. At Biteback, we are a finely-honed (well, sometimes) outfit of publishing guerrilla fighters. Every now and then, one of the big boys will come and poach a team member, and in every case that individual will go on to improve their new company. Really, I’m surprised my competitors never drop me a line and thank me!
Managing Director, Biteback Publishing
*P*** Off Early Today
- - -
We proudly present our Spring/Summer 2016 catalogue! It's available to view online and download as a PDF. Alternatively, if you'd like to receive a physical copy, you can get in touch by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 06, 2016 14:00
Credible and True: The Political and Personal Memoir of K. Harvey Proctor
By K. Harvey Proctor
Credible and True – words famously used by the police to describe the allegations of Harvey Proctor’s traducer during the Operation Midland investigation – is Proctor’s revealing memoir of his life both in and out of Parliament.
From the struggles and controversy surrounding his resignation in 1987 and numerous homophobic attacks since, to that fateful morning on 4 March 2015 when his home was raided by the Metropolitan Police in connection to Operation Midland, Credible and True is a frank and candid account in which Proctor details his experience as the victim of a ‘homosexual witch-hunt’ in the post-Savile world of ‘guilty until proven innocent’.
Finding the Plot: 100 Graves to Visit Before You Die
By Ann Treneman
The award-winning Times writer, best known for her incisive parliamentary sketches, has branched out – to graveyards.
Finding the Plot is a whirlwind tour of Britain’s most fascinating graves, from the real James Bond and the famous ‘M’ to Florence Nightingale and her pet baby owl, Athena. The writers, painters, poets, rakes and rogues, and the just plain mad all provide an intriguing insight into the British way of death.
Part travelogue, part biography and part social history, Finding the Plot is essential reading for everyone who isn’t dead yet.
Islam Beyond the Violent Jihadis (Provocations)
By Ziauddin Sardar
Is Islam inherently violent and misogynistic? Why do young men and women go to join the Jihadi Caliphate? Does Islam need a reformation? Should we be frightened of Shariah? What part do Muhammad’s teachings play, or what part should they play, in our own times? Writer and critic Ziauddin Sardar seeks to answer a host of questions prominent in the discourse today.
As a practicing Muslim, Sardar is as terrified by the rise of Islamic Jihadi groups as anyone else. In this remarkable book, he urges all those who feel the same way to work together to preserve the sanity of our world.
Resistance: European Resistance to the Nazis, 1940–1945 (Dialogue Espionage Classics)
By M. R. D. Foot
This brilliant book was the first to analyse the whole field of wartime resistance to the Nazis in Europe; to explain what resisters could and could not do and to assess, in outline, whether they achieved their aims.
The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941–1942
By Nigel Hamilton
International bestselling historian Nigel Hamilton offers a definitive account of FDR’s masterful – and underappreciated – command of the Allied war effort. With the second volume – Commander in Chief: FDR’s Battle with Churchill, 1943 – coming in the summer, this intimate, sweeping look at a great president in one of history’s greatest conflicts is a must-read.
Foley: The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews (Dialogue Espionage Classics)
By Michael Smith
In this new addition to the Dialogue Espionage Classics series, bestselling author Michael Smith explores the life and work of Frank Foley, the British spy who risked arrest and worse to save over ten thousand people from the Holocaust, sheltering them in his own home and forging passports and visas for their escape.
Including the accounts of ‘living witnesses’ who had Foley to thank for their lives, Michael Smith’s work uncovered the remarkable truth that led to the recognition of Frank Foley as Righteous Among Nations, the highest honour the Jewish state can bestow upon a Gentile.
How to Be a Civil Servant
By Martin Stanley
The UK civil service employs 400,000 people across the country. Every year, over 20,000 students and graduates apply to enter the civil service through its fast stream competition alone. For those seeking a career in the profession, Martin Stanley’s comprehensive guide is a must-read, offering invaluable advice about how to most effectively carry out civil service duties, and how to respond to ethical and technical issues pertinent to the job.
How to Be a Government Whip
By Helen Jones
A frank and light-hearted insight into the mysterious engine room of Parliament, where the unseen, unsung heroes of the system bear the weight of the government on their shoulders.
From the mind-numbing tedium of debates to the dark arts of dealing with rebellious or disaffected members of their ‘flock’, former whip Helen Jones reveals how they really get business done – and what they say about their colleagues behind the closed door of the Whips’ Office.
April 04, 2016 10:00
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
30 November 1874–24 January 1965
St Martin’s Church, Bladon, Oxfordshire OX20 1RS
- - -
The thing that hits you first about Sir Winston Churchill’s grave is the size. As a man he was large; as a historical figure, a giant, and surely the man who personified the fight against Hitler. And yet his grave is not grand or particularly imposing: a raised slab, only slightly over-sized, that is shared
with his wife Clementine, surrounded by identically sized graves of his family in the quiet churchyard of St Martin’s in the village of Bladon in Oxfordshire. He could have been buried in the grounds of nearby Blenheim Palace, his family home. He could have been buried at Westminster Abbey. Or, for that matter, anywhere he wanted.
But he chose Bladon. Anyone can come see him here – and they do. Wear and tear by the constant visitors means the stone has had to be replaced twice. When I came, on a bitterly cold day, there was a small basket of white roses, sent for Clementine. ‘On this 1st April, your birthday,’ said the card, signed ‘Mary’. As a grave, this is one where history looms large, and indeed threatens to overwhelm, but the thing that surprises is this small human touch – a bouquet sent, mostly likely by their daughter, Lady Soames, so many years on (Clementine died in 1977).
He was buried on 30 January 1965. He had lain in state in the ancient stone magnificence of Westminster Hall, endless queues passing by. He had been carried through the streets by gun carriage to a monumental funeral at St Paul’s. Big Ben was silenced. The guns at the Tower boomed. Afterwards, the coffin, transferred to a barge, sailed up the Thames and as he passed the London docks, all the cranes dipped towards him, bowing to the old warrior. Then he went by train to Hanborough railway station and, finally, by hearse to Bladon.
The church has produced a little booklet about the death and funeral, much of which was gleaned from letters at the time from Mrs Bishop of Beehive Cottage, which adjoins the churchyard, to her sister. Again, it was a joy to find something so personal.
On 24 January, Mrs Bishop wrote:
We have just heard that the old warrior has given up at last. What a fight he has made! Mr H. from Church Cottage ran over in tears to tell me. He is now tolling the bell – every twenty seconds or so. I expect the same is happening all over England. It is very touching on this lovely morning.
On 30 January, she recounted: ‘It is a glorious morning, bitterly cold but no wind and the sun is coming out. I have icicles 8 to 10 inches long in the garden. The village is navy blue! Never have I seen so many police, men and women (900) compressed into such a small place.’ People started to queue, she said, in the morning. By the time the (private) funeral was over and they could start to file past, it was four and a half hours from end to graveside. ‘The police have put flood lights over the grave so that the queue can carry on after dark … which they did until midnight.’
On Sunday 31 January: ‘The queues restarted at 7 a.m. and continued all day ’til long after dark. The police estimate the numbers at 70,000 during the weekend.’
More than a month later, on 10 February, she adds: ‘There is a constant stream of visitors all the time. Lorry and van drivers pull up in the main road and pop up for a moment, business men and travellers, many old folk, school parties and even one or two groups of “mods and rockers” have been in, very quiet and orderly.’
The booklet stops soon after but the visitors who come to see the grave with the word CHURCHILL on the side never have. During the funeral, a poem was read by Richard Dimbleby, his voice breaking. It is included in the booklet and I recount it here for I think it goes some way to explaining why so many of us want to visit him still:
Drop English earth on him beneath
Do our sons, and their sons bequeath his glories
And our pride and grief
For Lionheart that lies below
That feared not toil nor tears nor foe.
Let the oak stand tho tempests blow
So Churchill sleeps, yet surely wakes
Old Warrior where the morning breaks
On sunlit uplands.
But the heart aches
- - -
With ninety-nine other ‘dead interesting’ burial sites, Ann Treneman’s Finding the Plot is published 5 April and is available in paperback (£10.99) and eBook (£6.99).
March 22, 2016 14:00
As we approach the two year anniversary of same-sex marriage in the UK, Lynne Featherstone – author of Equal Ever After – reflects on the incredible progress achieved so far, and what remains to be done.
We are coming up to the second anniversary of the day that marriage became equal – 29 March 2016.
Over 15,000 same-sex couples have been married since the law was passed.
Same-sex marriage (which hopefully over the next few years will just be called ‘marriage’) is my totally happy place in politics. I was the architect and originator of the same-sex marriage law. No one knows the real story of how it came about, except me.
My story started right at the end of the journey to same-sex marriage; I stand on the shoulders of giants. My book Equal Ever After tell of how I made it happen and is dedicated to all the brave men and women who fought against the discrimination of centuries, suffering insult and injury and sometimes death. I simply had the privilege to go the last mile.
It is quite an extraordinary story – full of revelations, thrills and spills. Bet you didn’t know that I had managed to get both same-sex marriage and heterosexual civil partnerships through all governmental hoops – but David Cameron threw out straight civil partnerships. Just before I made the first public announcement that the government was going to proceed with same-sex marriage, he gave me an ultimatum: he would stop same-sex marriage from going ahead if I didn’t agree to drop straight civil partnerships! I can’t write what I thought about that – it is unprintable.
Since the publication of Equal Ever After, I have been doing readings and talks all over the country and it is a complete joy. It’s such a happy piece of legislation and I am so totally grateful to have had the opportunity to change the world a little bit for the better – the very reason I went into politics in the first place.
Lovely things have happened since the passing of the Marriage (Same-sex Couples) Act 2013. I won three awards, which was amazing, but the best thing by a mile is when a young person comes up to me after I have been giving a speech somewhere on some topic – and says ‘thank you for what you did – you changed my life’. To be honest, politics doesn’t get better than this.
The London School of Economics and Social Law named their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Moot after me. A moot is an issue that is ‘subject to debate, dispute, or uncertainty’. So the LSE-Featherstone Moot takes a difficult issue in this area and debates it. They held their first SOGI moot on 4/5 March and the brightest students from all over the country came to compete and be judged by eminent judges and advocates. The ‘moot’ issue was one very similar to the Asher Bakery row.
It will be an annual event now, and I am super honoured to have been asked to lend it my name.
However, as lovely as all this is, it is too tempting to see what is definitely a landmark piece of equality legislation as a full-stop. There is still so much to do.
A sad reminder of this was the meeting of Anglican primates convened by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in February this year. It was meant to be a real push to move the global churches’ position on homosexuality beyond that issue. That would enable more time to be spent on other matters of great import, such as climate change and religious violence.
The proposition from Justin Welby was that, given the seemingly irreconcilable differences between the various parts of the Anglican Communion, the communion should change to allow that difference more expression. It failed. It not only failed, but the actual outcome went the wrong way. Six African churches were insisting on sanctions against the US Episcopal, which had consecrated a gay priest. The hardliners won.
This summer, the July session of the synod will spend two days in private, discussing homosexuality and same-sex marriage. We can but hope…
We must keep up the pressure.
During the course of my journey, I more often than not encountered the unforgiving face of religions, couched in hideously unloving and homophobic language. I hope one day all those religions that condemn homosexuality will see the light, so that the whole world can live equal ever after.
Save 20% on Equal Ever After in Hardback and eBook when you order via our website.
March 07, 2016 14:00
5,000 Great One-Liners
By Grant Tucker
‘A good friend is worth pursuing. But why would a good friend be running away?’
Grant Tucker’s collection of cracking jokes is a celebration of the immortal art form that is the one-liner. Capable of inducing side-splitting laughter and tragic sighs in equal measure, this book collects 5,000 of the funniest one-liners ever told into one definitive volume. My personal favourite so far: ‘An autobiography without punctuation is a life sentence.’
Harold Wilson: The Unprincipled Prime Minister?
Edited by Kevin Hickson and Andrew Crines
2016 marks the centenary of Harold Wilson’s birth, and the fiftieth anniversary of his landslide general election victory in 1966. With contributions from leading experts in the fields of political study, and from Wilson’s own contemporaries, this remarkable new study offers a timely and wide-ranging reappraisal of one of the longest-serving premiers of the twentieth century.
How to Win a Marginal Seat: My Year Fighting For My Political Life
By Gavin Barwell
During the 2015 general election, the contest in Gavin Barwell’s constituency of Croydon Central was by any measure one of the most intensive constituency campaigns this country has ever seen. By the end of it, Gavin had clung on by the skin of his teeth, and had a story well worth telling. This book is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how campaigning is conducted at the coalface of British politics.
Taking It On the Chin: Memoirs of a Parliamentary Bruiser
By Tom Pendry
Surely one of the most colourful characters ever to have graced the Palace of Westminster, Tom Pendry has been a boxer, a bruiser and a scholar, whose political career as an agent, candidate, Labour MP and peer has spanned over sixty years. Full of revealing anecdotes and candid descriptions of colleagues, his memoirs throw new light on successive governments and great, epoch-making events, and are a mixture of light and shade, irreverent wit and deeply serious intent.
Coalition: The Inside Story of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government
By David Laws
Coalition is the definitive insider account of the historic Conservative–Lib Dem coalition from its birth in 2010 through to its demise in May 2015. This revealing account will be one of the most important political books of the year, shedding new light on perhaps the most fascinating political partnership since the Second World War. It will also provide an essential historical record of the issues and challenges facing all political parties.
Project Fear: How an Unlikely Alliance Left a Kingdom United but a Country Divided (second edition)
By Joe Pike
Joe Pike’s bestselling account of the Scottish referendum and its aftermath was one of the most highly acclaimed political books of 2015. This second edition – published to coincide with the anniversary of Scottish independence – is updated with brand new material, interviews and figures.