Book Review: 33 East / West

Book Review: 33 East / West

Smashing idea, this: a double compendium of 33 short stories, each based on a London Borough. The collection is split across two volumes, which ignore the Thames as usual-divider and instead split the capital into East and West moieties. The result is a hotchpotch of enormously variable but highly enjoyable vignettes of London life.

The whole of London is here, from tales of struggling immigrants to champagne-quaffing Kensingtonians. Many are deliciously contemporary: an urban treasure hunt, a local campaign against Olympic heavy-handedness, the trouble with foxes… Some are simply beautiful, such as Debi Alper’s ‘How Lucky You Are’. Others, such as Jonathan Green’s entry for Richmond, which can only be described as a back-to-front instant-message ghost story, are impressively inventive.

Pedantic readers shouldn’t be put off by the book’s title, which invents an additional borough in order to include a story about the Square Mile. Less easy to forgive is the lack of copyediting throughout. One or two typos are to be expected in any book, but the number of spelling mistakes on show here is simply distracting (although sometimes amusing – author Tim Scott apparently ‘stared’ in an ITV comedy series…well, wouldn’t you?).

If you can see beyond these minor production problems, though, this twin pack of London shorts is a fine collection of fiction from a talented ensemble of authors.

33 East / West is available now from Glasshouse Books

Through The Glasshouse: A New Publisher Open To Writers

Through The Glasshouse: A New Publisher Open To Writers

I’m not sure what ‘sourced ethically’ means when you’re talking about new writing, but that’s one of the terms used by a new U.K.-based publisher called Glasshouse Books. I’m always interested in passing along potential opportunities for writers, so let’s take a closer look.

At their website they say, “We are a brand new publishing house with a focus on quality fiction and non-fiction, sourced ethically, printed to respect the environment, and delivered to cater for those who can and cannot afford books.”

They are making their books available free on the website in a non-downloadable format—presumably this is partly for people who cannot afford books. (In my view, in our society most people who don’t buy books can afford them but choose to spend their money on something else, but I digress.)

The free versions may create a demand for hard copies, which Glasshouse plans to publish when they have a minimum number of orders. “We’re not interested in best-sellers but in doing the best we can,” they say on a video on their site, and are targeting libraries first.

That makes the choice of one of their first titles surprising: “Bloody Vampires.” It’s listed as “10 Writers, 3 Artists, 1 anthology of new vampire stories.” Contributors include Paul Burston and the creator of Glasshouse, Bobby Nayyar. I would have thought we had enough vampires already but maybe there’s still a thirst (sorry) for more.

The on-screen layout of their books is very clean and you can jump to any page or leaf through page by page. One problem is that I couldn’t find the button to make the print bigger and using the “zoom in” command on Firefox didn’t have any effect. If this feature is there—and it should be—I didn’t spot it. Might be a good one to add in the next version.

Instead of taking random submissions, Glasshouse puts briefs on its website.

One up at the time of this writing is for a book to be called “50” which will contain 50 short stories, each between 3000 and 3500 words, set in a state in the United States. The payment will be $500 upon the first print edition (assuming they get enough orders to justify a print edition, which, with 50 authors all presumably wanting a few copies, should be a safe bet), with more if it goes to further print runs (it doesn’t say how big the first print run would be, but I’m sure such details are available directly from them).

They are also going to publish a one-time newspaper on free speech that will be distributed without cost in the UK before the General Election. Since there’s no money involved, it seems fair that they don’t pay anything for the material they use. However, it did surprise me that part of the contract is: “You agree:(a) to grant us royalty free and worldwide permission to publish and distribute your Submission for the legal term of copyright in the United Kingdom;” I would have thought that granting one-time or first-time use would have been more appropriate, with the writer or artist retaining copyright.

I admire anybody trying something new but there are a few elements here that, to my mind, don’t seem quite consistent. Nonetheless, worth keeping an eye on and I wish them well.

(If you want to write a book, my “Your Writing Coach” will take you from idea all the way through to publication. It’s published by Nicholas Brealey and you can get it from Amazon and other online and offline retailers.)