Sunday, October 27, 2019

Cover and intro writers reveal: New Furrowed Middlebrow titles coming January 2020

Whew! We're just back from our trip to Philadelphia, Boston, and Vermont, as well as a few select literary and historical sites in between, and I hope to find time to share a bit about our adventures before long. We've just about had time to get a little rest, restock the larder (figuratively), get to the gym to work out the kinks of walking quite a lot and not stretching nearly enough, and generally attempting to ward off the inevitable malaise of having to get back to the grind tomorrow. Ugh.

I am very happy indeed to report that a good many suggestions came in as a result of my "possibly Furrowed Middlebrow" post just before we left—some in the comments to that post, and a good many more from the Dean Street Press Twitter page. I'm going to work on compiling them and will summarize them in a new post soon so they'll all be in one place. I appreciate all the responses, and if you didn't get round to replying, you can still do so by going here to read about my query and then add your suggestions either to the comments of that post, by email to me, or via the Dean Street Press Twitter page (@DeanStPress). It will take me a few days to compile everything, so you still have a bit of time!

For now, though, I have covers for you. Yay! I announced our January 2020 Furrowed Middlebrow titles several weeks ago, and now I get to share the front covers. I'm quite pleased with how they turned out—Rupert always does a wonderful job with the design, and this time we have three books featuring parts of their original covers and five utilizing new images we tracked down.

First up, our edition of Miss Read's Fresh from the Country utilizes the art from the U.S. first edition of the novel, a rather lovely and appropriate image. I should also mention something I forgot when I announced this title—that our edition will of course also feature the wonderful illustrations by J. S. Goodall, who illustrated most of Miss Read's books. I can also now tell you that our edition features a lovely new introduction from Jill Saint, daughter of Dora Saint/Miss Read!

Next, our trio of overlapping novels from the incomparable D. E. Stevenson. I confess it's always a bit of a challenge selecting cover art for DES's books. Unlike many of the authors we reprint, DES already has a solid following of devoted readers, many with definite notions of how her books should look, so I always tremble a bit when we reveal our covers. Happily, Winter and Rough Weather was a cinch, because the original cover was so wonderful in itself. There was never any doubt we would use that one. But as I didn't feel the same about the other original covers (sorry for anyone who did like them, but they certainly weren't my cup of tea), we had the challenge of finding images that fit the books but also wouldn't require rights clearance and usage fees that we simply can't afford. I hope you feel that we've succeeded?

This is also the first time that we've published one author in more than one batch of our books (having already reprinted five DES titles last year). So we had to decide what to do about an introduction. Ultimately, we chose to re-use the Alexander McCall Smith intro from the earlier books. BUT, we also have a very special introductory piece written by DES herself about this trio of novels (but not previously published with them), which I think fans will enjoy very much.

And finally, we have the four brilliant Doris Langley Moore reprints. I can tell you now that Not at Home, set immediately after the end of World War II and using the London housing shortage as a jumping-off point, was originally under consideration for our last batch of titles, related to World War II. And as soon as I saw this wonderful painting by Alfred Coe, I knew it had to be our cover. Happily, however, we decided to do four DLM novels instead of only one, so we delayed Not at Home so we could release all four at once.

For All Done by Kindness, we spent a considerable amount of time agonizing over appropriate images (an antique shop? a pile of old paintings? an evocative old house?) before realizing that the original artwork combined all the right elements better than we could ever find ourselves. The original wasn't my all-time favorite dustjacket image, but I think it works very nicely with out standard borders and banners around it/

For A Game of Snakes and Ladders, we are very much evoking the original cover, but using a different snakes and ladders board with some highly appropriate vignettes in the squares. And for My Caravaggio Style, about a young man attempting a forgery of Lord Byron's scandalous memoirs (which were famously burned by Byron's friends in the fireplace of his publisher's office, which office is also the setting of the climactic scene of Caravaggio), what better than this lovely, moody image of what might be that very fireplace viewed just a bit ominously from across the hall?

Oh, and when we were first thinking of publishing DLM, we were already in touch with Sir Roy Strong over rights to the Carola Oman novels, and it turned out that Sir Roy also knew DLM quite well, so we have an informative new introduction from Sir Roy to round out the DLM novels!

I hope you're all as pleased as I am about these. Only a bit over two months to wait now until the January 6th release!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Possibly Furrowed Middlebrow?

Two things to mention in brief.

We're in the final preparations for heading out on our holiday, and I am happy to report that, after having my nose to the grindstone for the past several weeks, I did FINALLY manage to finish a new update of my main list (see here). This was an enormous amount of work, going on over the past several months, with in one sense very little payoff, so I'm terribly relieved that it's done and I can head off on vacay without it looming over me! 

I was making dozens and dozens of corrections or revisions that had accumulated over the past couple of years (from friends or relatives of authors emailing to provide information, or kindly folks noticing errors, or simply things I realized needed revising or updating). I added links to reviews from the past couple of years, mentioned Furrowed Middlebrow reprints where applicable, and, very sadly, had to add death dates to a number of authors (including Jane Hervey, Emma Smith, Rosamunde Pilcher, and Gillian Freeman)always a melancholy moment. I also, after several months of searching Ancestry and, was able to make edits in hundreds of entries to add more detailed life and death dates, married names, etc. On a happy note, in the process I also was able, often in coordination with the incomparable John Herrington, to identify several previously unidentified authors.

The reason I said the payoff was in one sense rather small is that I realize that for most of you, details of life and death dates and marriages and such are not of riveting interest, so the bulk of the work involved in this update won't matter much to you. Still, as I started the list not particularly focusing on those details, and relying on sources that weren't always very accurate, I felt that a thorough revisiting of many of the authors was necessary, particularly since the list now includes the only significant online information about hundreds of lesser-known authors. It had better be correct then!

On the other hand, the new version of the list does include well over a hundred new authors, some of them quite intriguing. After our return from holiday, I'll be putting together some posts to highlight those authors, and indeed I will share my experiences in reading a number of them (the update has been in-process for quite a long time, so I have lots of reading to report on here somewhere along the line). 

And before moving on to the second thing, I have to say a thousand apologies to all the people who have emailed me or commented on the blog or reviewed new Furrowed Middlebrow titles and have received a deathly silence in return. My guilt about that is the only dark cloud still hanging over our vacation, and I am really sorry to have been so out of touch. Rest assured, however, that I have read your emails/comments and enjoyed them, and I'm grateful to all of you. Now that the update is finished, I hope to begin resurfacing from my more or less subterranean existence!

In fact, believe it or not, the second thing I want to mention is actually a request for readers to get in touch with me! (Please don't let my abysmal record as an email correspondent discourage you from doing so...) 

I've always been envious of the lucky readers who have been able to attend one of Persephone's lovely "Possibly Persephone" events, whereat folks can make a case for the books they think Persephone should reprint in the future. Being so green with envy, you would think the sluggish synapses in my brain would have led me to this before now, but suddenly the other day I thought, "Why can't I do something similar?" I mean, I can't very well host a gathering and serve tea and cakes, but I can at least use the forum of this blog to make an appeal to my brilliant, eclectic, well-read followers.

So here it is: What out of print book or books do you think we should consider reprinting as Furrowed Middlebrow titles?

Please do bear in mind the overarching focus of our imprint: 

  • primarily early to mid-20th century British women writers
  • generally novels, though exceptional memoirs certainly fit
  • often humorous in tone
  • often domestic in theme, focused on ordinary people and day-to-day life
  • strong characters and great storytelling
  • often featuring World War II home front settings
  • generally aimed at adult readers, though we have flirted with the idea of some very strong titles originally marketed for teens or young adults, if adult readers today are likely to enjoy them
  • out of print in any editions in both the U.K. and U.S.

Obviously, not all of these characteristics fit everything we've published (though the last is pretty much a must), but they can serve as general guidelines. And of course, if a book is exceptional enough and likely to be enjoyed by our readers, exceptions might be made (for example, if Persephone hadn't published R. C. Sherriff's The Fortnight in September, you can bet I'd have one male author on my list by now!). 

Please leave your suggestions in the comments below if you are able to do so, or if not feel free to email them to me (address at bottom of page) and I'll share them in the comments myself. And please feel free to share this post widely with friends, bloggers, and any other book-y types who may have interesting suggestions. (Note that since I'll be on holiday, I might be checking email only once or twice per day, and since I have to moderate comments or the blog would be deluged with spam, there could be a bit of a delay between you leaving your comment and it actually appearing online—don't let that discourage you!)

This post will have pride of place here until we return (at which time I'll be previewing the covers of January's new Furrowed Middlebrow titles...).

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!
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