We’ve released some brilliant books this summer, but few have been so enthusiastically reviewed as Marco Malvaldi’s culinary mystery, The Art of Killing Well (translated by Howard Curtis).
Set in 19th Century Tuscany, the murder of a butler in a stately home full of eccentric aristocrats leaves the local constabulary baffled. Only Pellegrino Artusi, the legendary father of Italian cuisine, can halt the dastardly killer.
The tale delighted the Telegraph‘s Jake Kerridge, who described Malvaldi as “Camilleri’s heir apparent”, who praised the novel’s “distinctive flavour [which] lingers on your literary palate”.
More food puns came in from Jon Wise in the Weekend Sport, who called it a “tasty Michelin Three-Star book . . . Malvaldi has cooked up a gentle, atmospheric Agatha Christie-esque number with plenty of tongue in cheek wit and period detail in a mystery that finishes with a cute and clever twist”.
The book also drew bounteous praise from Ireland. Eileen Battersby in the Irish Times was one fan: “A very stylish book, ironic and fast-moving, a novel with which to have fun. Anyone seeking the definitive summer read . . . needs look no farther”.
Her enthusiasm was matched by Alannah Hopkin of the Irish Examiner. “This is ideal holiday reading, funny, compelling, unpredictable and immensely satisfying, the sort of book that you immediately want to recommend to half a dozen friends.”
And finally reviewer Nick Rennison loved the book so much he reviewed it twice! In the Sunday Times he called it an “engaging . . . tongue-in-cheek mystery” and reckoned none of Malvaldi’s previous works match this one “for wit and charm”. Meanwhile for BBC History his enthusiasm only deepened: “With its tongue-in-cheek wit and lively characterisation, Malvaldi’s novel is a delight to read”.
Convinced? You can buy it here (from us) or here (from Amazon) or here (from Waterstones), or here, to support your local independent bookshop
August is here, school’s out for summer, and we have two of our favourite books of the year, both publishing today!
As usual we’re running a competition to let you get your hands on a copy of both books – all you have to do is tell us on Twitter or Facebook which one you’re most excited about. And to be honest, it’s a difficult choice.
The competition will close on Wednesday night at 11.59pm, so get picking!
In the literary heavyweight corner, we have Juan Marsé with The Calligraphy of Dreams. Marsé has been awarded the Cervantes Prize, given to honour the lifetime achievement of an outstanding writer in the Spanish language, and worth €125,000 – no less a source than Wikipedia describes it as “the Spanish-language equivalent” to the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The Calligraphy of Dreams (translated by Nick Caistor) is his first novel since the award, and is rather stunning, if we say so ourselves. It tells the story of Ringo, a teenager in Franco’s Spain, who becomes inveigled as a go-between into an adult passion beyond his understanding. Beautifully written, and with a brilliant eye for both the confusion and delight of youth, this is not to be missed.
But then there’s Irène. Those of you who read Alex last year will need no introduction to either author Pierre Lemaitre or his diminutive detective hero, Camille Verhoeven. Both Alex and Irène have won endless plaudits – Irène was described by The Times as “gripping, frightening, intelligent and brilliant”, and by the Daily Mail as “crime fiction of the highest class”.
In the novel (translated by Frank Wynne), Verhoeven faces a particularly brutal serial killer. There seem to be no leads, until Verhoeven spots a connection – each killing is based on a murder in a famous crime novel. He takes the decision to contact the killer via an advertisement in a crime fiction magazine, but this is riskier than he knows: the media-christened “novelist” is not one for happy endings . . .
So there you have it. Tweet us or Facebook us your favourite, or comment below; we’ve copies of both books to give away!
A novel written nearly half century ago by Michael Holroyd finally sees the light of day in Britain. Its original American publisher, Tom Wallace, now an agent, recounts its story.
The following article first appeared on BookBrunch on July 10th, 2014.
Good news. Michael Holroyd’s first and only novel, A Dog’s Life, is now published in Britain by the MacLehose Press, 45 years after the appearance of an American edition. And therein lies a tale.
If all happy families are indeed happy alike, as Tolstoy has it, and therefore indistinguishable one from another, than one might maintain that dysfunctional families are identifiable by their uniquely dissimilar and unhappy ways. A Dog’s Life is a gentle satire of an elderly upper middle class couple, the couple’s ne’er-do-well son, all three seen through the eyes of the grandson, home for the weekend from National Service. The elderly couple’s descent into the inane infirmaties, inexplicable paranoia, and growing alienation from the competitive, materialistic and money ordered post-World War II world are viewed with dismay by our young hero, who himself shows signs of Oblomovian fatalism; while his ne’er-do-well father is caught between the horns of the unrealistic illusions of business success and his more likely and inevitable business failure. Near the novel’s end, Smith, the family dog, dies.
Holroyd’s father was not amused. In fact, he felt his son’s novel would tarnish the reputation of the family, and he threatened to sue the publishing firm William Heinemann and Holroyd (the future highly acclaimed biographer of Lytton Strachey, Augustus John, George Bernard Shaw and Ellen Terry and Henry Irving) if the novel saw the light of day.
The original American cover
Henry Holt (then called Holt, Rinehart & Winston) had just published a biography of Lytton Strachey in the US. Michael called me (I was senior editor at Henry Holt) and asked me if we would be willing to risk publishing A Dog’s Life – of course, only if we liked the novel. He assumed that 3,000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean would dampen his father’s wrath. My colleagues and I on the Holt editorial board jumped at the opportunity.
The novel received a favourable press (Holroyd thinks the American reviewers were relieved to read a short book by him), and after four or five years he asked us to let the novel go out of print. He had made his point, and happily went back to the task of becoming one of England’s foremost biographers.
Now this wonderful, short novel by one of the English language’s outstanding writers is finally published in England. As I said above, I was involved in the decision to publish A Dog’s Life in the US in 1969. Full disclosure prompts me to reveal that 45 years later, I am the literary agent who has arranged for its reissue in the US, in spring 2015, and I could not be more delighted. After all, Michael Holroyd is an International Treasure. Also, last week’s TLS carried a lengthy excerpt from the postscript that Holroyd has written for the UK edition outlining the story about the belated publication of A Dog’s Life in England and the writing of biography and memoir.
Tom Wallace has been in American publishing for more than 50 years, first as an editor at Putnam, Holt, and Norton, and, since 1987, as a literary agent.
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July is here, the weather is gorgeous, and Andy Murray and the England football team have nobly made sure we have nothing to distract us from reading in the sunshine.
We have four brilliant books publishing today, and as ever we have a competition for you. Simply tell us on Facebook, Twitter or via the comments below which you’re most excited to read, and you’ll be in with a chance of winning all four!
Competition closes at 11.59pm next Wednesday 9th July, so get in touch now!
A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava
What to say about this truly magnificent novel? Perhaps you could begin by noting it was shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize, or that it won the prestigious PEN/Robert W Bingham Prize in the United States. You could point out that the Sunday Times called it “unputdownable”, The Times went with “mesmerizing”, Stuart Kelly in the Guardian wrote “It is ambitious, affecting, intelligent, plangent, comic, kooky and impassioned. I’ve read a lot of novels this year, between judging the Man Booker prize and the Granta Best of Young British Novelists, and I’ve yearned for this kind of exuberant, precise fiction.”
If you really insist on knowing what it’s about, it’s the story of Casi, a Manhattan lawyer who defends the most impoverished and desperate citizens to enter the New York justice system. It’s the story of his quest to commit the perfect crime; to rescue a mentally impaired inmate from death row; to discover a recipe for the perfect empanadas. It’s actually very good.
Buy now from MacLehose Press ¦ Amazon ¦ Waterstones
Bloodlines by Marcello Fois (translated from the Italian by Silvester Mazzarella)
Marcello Fois has fans in high places. No less a luminary of Italian literature than Andrea Camilleri commented that “it is a long time since I came across a writer with such a deep, poetic sense of nature”.
This, his second novel to be translated into English, is a rather beautiful story of one Sardinian family, and their progress through the personal and political storms of the twentieth-century. Fois is undoubtedly a very intelligent writer, but this is at heart a wonderful story, full of deeply engaging characters and heart-breaking emotional resonance
Buy now from MacLehose Press ¦ Amazon ¦ Waterstones
An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman (translated from the Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler)
Few writers had to confront so many of the last century’s mass tragedies as Vasily Grossman. He is likely to be remembered, above all, for the terrifying clarity with which he writes about the Holocaust, the Battle of Stalingrad and the Terror Famine in the Ukraine. In between those horrors he found time to write the magnificent Life and Fate which has received almost unparalleled acclaim, not least in being described as “One of the greatest masterpieces of the twentieth century” by the Times Literary Supplement.
This, though, is something rather different – light, charming and digressive. Written just as Life and Fate was being censored (“arrested”, as Grossman himself put it), these are Grossman’s observations of a short sojourn in Armenia, as he travels amongst mountains and churches, as he meets the Armenians and discovers their culture. Perhaps the last word ought to go to Ian Thomson in the Spectator described it as “a book wonderful in every way”.
Buy now from MacLehose Press ¦ Amazon ¦ Waterstones
A Dog’s Life by Michael Holroyd
This book has undergone perhaps the most interesting journey of anything we’ve published – no mean feat, in a month that features one initially-self-published sensation, and one book written while on the run from the censors. Michael Holroyd wrote this novella when he was in his teens and early twenties. It was almost published way back in 1969, but publication was halted when Holroyd’s father objected so strongly to the semi-autobiographical content that he refused to allow it to be published, threatening legal action.
It is the story of young Kenneth, and his anything-but-young family. Set in the aftermath of the second world war, it is a portrait of a time that has faded from memory, of a generation scarred by two world wars, and terrified of the future. By turns witty and melancholy, it’s a quite charming book, and a wonderful addition to a celebrated literary career.
Buy now from MacLehose Press ¦ Amazon ¦ Waterstones
With the paperback publishing tomorrow, you’ll hopefully already have heard all about Sergio De La Pava’s A NAKED SINGULARITY, described variously as “Mesmerizing” (The Times), “Exuberant” (Guardian) and “Unputdownable” (Sunday Times). But if that (and being shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize, and winning the PEN/Robert W Bingham Prize . . .) aren’t enough to convince you, then read on for an introduction to the book from its first fan at Quercus/MacLehose Press, editor Katie Gordon.
A NAKED SINGULARITY by Sergio De La Pava
Often (don’t say it too loudly) in publishing we say nice things about books because it’s our job. But when asked to write something for this series, I didn’t even need to think twice. Coincidentally, I was reading a copy of A NAKED SINGULARITY after reading a piece about it on The Millions when it first came in on submission, and since then this huge, dense, extraordinary novel has become one of my favourite books, ever. It hit me right in the heart.
I was bowled over from the first page. Sergio De La Pava’s narrative voice is spectacular – the prose sparkles in every sentence; funny, tragic, mad and always wonderful. It’s easy to focus on the remarkable publication history of the book (initially self-published, it gained recognition through indie bloggers and has now won one of America’s larger literary prizes), but if any book stands on its own merits, this is it. De La Pava weaves together a completely unexpected pair of central narratives – a heist story and a death-row legal thriller – from an ocean of supporting material, ranging from recipes to pop culture dissections to boxing history, and all of it is surprising, exciting and beautifully written.
It’s been fun to see critics reach for comparisons to describe this book – “The Wire as written by Voltaire”, “somewhere between Descartes and Disneyland”, “Crime & Punishment as reimagined by the Coen Brothers”. Because in a very real sense something this ambitious, this brilliant, is not just incomparable but almost indescribable. As a huge fan of David Foster Wallace, the biggest compliment I can give is that if you like DFW, you’ll love this. I suppose that’s not very helpful. But you should read it and see what I mean.
Katie Gordon, Editor
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As you’ll hopefully know, a veritable gang of European crime authors were over last week for “More Bloody Foreigners”, an Arts Council-supported event to promote the best writing in the genre from all over the continent.
Amongst them was our very own Marco Malvaldi, author of The Art of Killing Well, a murder mystery set in nineteenth-century Italy, featuring a rather remarkable amateur detective – Pellegrino Artusi, a historical figure, and perhaps the world’s first celebrity chef. At the event Marco discussed Tuscany, Italian humour, and how he almost chose a very different – English – detective.
You can read a full report on the event here.
And if you’ve developed a thirst for continental crime, check out our picks from across the continent below!
The Art of Killing Well – Marco Malvaldi (translated by Howard Curtis)
Buy now from us ¦ From Waterstones
Only fittingly in a week where Italians have made the news for being rather too tasty (or, at least, biteable), this is a quite delicious murder mystery set in Tuscany in the late nineteenth century.
Pellegrino Artusi has just finished his culinary masterpiece, The Science of Good Food, and the Art of Eating Well. When he is invited to visit a Baronial castle for a boar hunt, he imagines it will be the perfect way to relax: exceptional food, interesting company, and some exercise for good measure. But when the butler is found murdered in the cellar, and the local constabulary are baffled by the array of aristocratic suspects, Pellegrino realises he might have to turn detective to solve the crime.
Alex – Pierre Lemaitre (translated by Frank Wynne)
Buy now from us ¦ From Waterstones
If France’s footballers have so far shown incisive attacking play to match anywhere else in the world, they still aren’t half as sharp as Pierre Lemaitre’s C.W.A. award-winning debut, Alex.
For the first few chapters, this is a brilliantly executed kidnapping thriller: a young woman is abducted by a cold-hearted killer and left to die; a world-weary detective must struggle to find her, faced with no clues as to even the identity of the victim. Then, things change.
To say much more would be almost to give too much away, but you’re looking for breathtakingly clever plotting, outrageously brilliant characters and a final twist so unexpected you’ll read the whole thing again, look no further.
The Second Deadly Sin – Asa Larsson (translated by Laurie Thompson)
Buy now from us ¦ From Waterstones
If summer just seems a little bit too hot, you won’t be surprised to hear that Scandinavia has plenty of chills to offer. But even amongst the crowded ice field of Swedish crime fiction, this is pretty special – the Swedes saw fit to award it Crime Novel of the Year.
It all starts with an electrifying bear hunt across the sub-arctic tundra of Northern Sweden, which ends with the discovery that the bear hasn’t just been eating dogs. Next we jump to Kiruna, where a woman has been found brutally murdered in her own home, leaving behind a terrified son.
You might guess already that the two incidents are connected – but everyone apart from Rebecka Martinsson has their doubts. And when she’s thrown off the case by a malicious colleague and a lazy boss, she realises she might be the only thing that stands between the young boy and a ice-cold killer.
If you weren’t already aware, Michael Holroyd will be appearing at the Ways with Words Festival in Devon on Friday 11th July at 3.15pm, discussing his new comic novel, A Dog’s Life.
The novel has a remarkable history. It was originally written back in the 1960s, but its autobiographical elements so offended Michael’s father that he forbade the publication of the book during his own lifetime. Close to half a century later it is now finally being published for the first time.
The book contains a postscript, described by Allan Massie in The Scotsman as “fascinating”, in which Michael reflects on fiction and non-fiction, comedy and tragedy. This will provide the starting point for his discussion at the festival.
Tickets for the event cost £10; more information about the festival is below.
The Telegraph Ways With Words Festival of Words and Ideas at Dartington Hall, Devon starts on Friday 4 July and continues for 10 days. If who haven’t been to this festival before it has a stunning setting: most events take place in the fourteenth century Great Hall. There is an Oxbridge style courtyard where both visitors and speakers talk and relax in colourful deckchairs. The Waterstones bookshop, second hand bookstalls and craft stalls are in beautiful, beamed medieval rooms close by as are more festival events. Just beyond the courtyard are acres of gardens and farmland with views of rolling Devon hills; the River Dart runs close by.
With accommodation onsite it is all idyllic and a perfect place for a short break where you can enjoy stimulating events with some of the world’s finest thinkers and writers. Find out more about Ways With Words at http://www.wayswithwords.co.uk.
We’re proud to announce that the marketing campaign for Look Who’s Back has been honoured at the Book Marketing Society Awards, winning the Shoestring Campaign for January to April.
The judges praised the humour of the campaign, particular the much-loved slogan “He’s back and he’s Führious” and our rather outlandish review quotes . . .
They also commended the sensitivity with which such a difficult subject was handled, and the way in which we worked to create excitement amongst bookshops, particularly through innovative mail-outs and window displays.
We’d also love to extend our congratulations to the other winners on the night: Cornerstone for their James Patterson campaign, and Usbourne for Model Under Cover by Carina Axelsson.
Below are some images of the campaign, and we’d especially like to thank the brilliant Quercus/MacLehose marketing department – specifically Ella Pocock, Bethan Ferguson, Claire Morrison and Caroline Butler – and above all Timur Vermes and his translator Jamie Bulloch, without whom none of this would have happened.
Thanks to everyone who entered, this competition is now closed, and the winners have been announced. Do keep reading though for more information about our brilliant June books, THE ART OF KILLING WELL and SOMEDAY WE’LL TELL EACH OTHER EVERYTHING.
The sun is out, summer is here, and we have two quite brilliant titles for June. To celebrate we’re giving two winners the chance to take home both books, including one signed copy! All you have to do is tell us on Twitter or Facebook which sounds most exciting, and then for a second chance to win retweet or share the relevant post.
THE ART OF KILLING WELL (Marco Malvaldi, translated by Howard Curtis) is a quite delicious culinary murder mystery. Set in 1895, our unlikely hero is Pellegrino Artusi, gastronome and gentleman, not to mention real-life author of the landmark Italian cookbook, The Science of Good Food and the Art of Eating Well. Pellegrino is looking forward to a relaxed weekend as the guest of a Tuscan baron. But when the butler is found murdered, and the local constabulary are left stumped by the range of aristocratic suspects, Pellegrino must turn detective to unearth the culprit.
International reviewers have, it’s fair to say, quite enjoyed the challenge of reviewing such a book. Corriere della Sera described it as “a delicious, sophisticated dish”, Livres Hebdo called Malvaldi a “master chef of crime fiction”, while Marianne think he “earns himself a place at the table of legendary detectives” – notice a theme? If you like Agatha Christie, Midsomer Murders or delicious food (it even comes with recipes!), this is perfect for you. And, to make it even better, Marco Malvaldi is visiting next week, so our winners will get a signed copy!
Meanwhile SOMEDAY WE’LL TELL EACH OTHER EVERYTHING (Daniela Krien, translated by Jamie Bulloch) is a smouldering summer love story. Young Maria, living in a small town in East Germany in the last days before re-unification, is not unhappy with her quiet life of farming, literature and an aspirational boyfriend. However she is fascinated by her older neighbour, Henner, and his reputation for drinking and womanising. When he turns his eye on her, she finds herself in the grip of a passion that threatens to burn out of control.
A debut novel that was written, amazingly, in only two weeks, this was described in Le Monde as “a wonderful novel; a magnificent love story”, and by Brigitte as “a love story of extraordinary intensity”. We picked it as one of our Staff Picks of 2013 when it came out in hardback, and we can’t think of anything more perfect for a hot summer day.
So there you have it. Two great books: tell us your favourite for a chance to win both, and share or retweet the relevant posts for a second bite at the cherry. The competition closes at 11.59pm on Wednesday 11th June. Good luck!
Tomorrow sees the release of The Art of Killing Well by Marco Malvaldi, translated by Howard Curtis. Naturally we at the MacLehose Press think all our books are wonderful, but this one is rather unique, being as it is our first book to feature a 19th Century celebrity-chef-cum-amateur-detective. The result is quite marvellous: a deliciously piquant murder mystery that will delight fans of Agatha Christie and/or fine dining.
In addition, in case anyone doubted the culinary talents of our aforementioned hero, Pellegrino Artusi, below are some samples of his recipes, from his legendary cookbook Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. And if these whet your appetite, there are more recipes in the back of the hardback!
If anything below does inspire you let us know in the comments, or tweet us pictures of your culinary creations.
Carciofi fritti (Deep-fried artichokes)
This is such a simple dish that it seems hard to believe there are people who don’t know how to make it. In some areas they boil the artichokes before frying them; this is wrong. Elsewhere they dip the artichokes in batter; quite apart from being superfluous, this masks the flavour of the vegetable. I prefer the method they use in Tuscany. Given that the Tuscans eat huge – even excessive – quantities of vegetables, they’re better at cooking them than anyone else.
Take two artichokes, discard the tough outer leaves, trim the tips, remove the stems, and cut them in half. Even if the artichokes are not particularly large, cut each half into 4 or 5 wedges, giving you 8 to 10 pieces per artichoke. Refresh the pieces for a while in cold water (adding lemon juice will prevent the artichokes from discolouring). Then drain, but not too thoroughly, and immediately dip into the flour so it sticks to the artichoke pieces. Lightly beat the white of one egg, stir in the yolk, and salt the mixture. Shake any excess flour from the artichoke pieces, then dip them in the egg mixture and leave to sit briefly. Heat the oil, then add the artichoke pieces one by one to the pan. Remove when browned and serve with lemon wedges – as everyone knows, any deep-fried savoury dish is enhanced by a squeeze of lemon, and it brings on one’s thirst.
Pollo alla cacciatora (Hunter’s chicken)
Chop a large onion and soak in cold water for at least half an hour, then drain and fry in oil or lard. Put to one side when cooked. Joint a chicken, brown the pieces in the remaining fat, then return the fried onion to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, add a glass of Sangiovese or other good-quality red wine and the same quantity of tomato sauce. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through.
Warning: this dish is not suitable for weak stomachs.
Piccione a sorpresa (Pigeon surprise)
This isn’t much of a surprise, but it’s a wonderful dish.
If you only have one pigeon to put on the spit and you want it to serve more than one person, you can stuff it with an appropriately sized veal steak. Pound the veal to tenderise it, season with salt, pepper and a pinch of mixed spices and dot it with a few small pieces of butter. Roll it up, place inside the bird and sew the cavity shut. Adding sliced truffles to the seasoning will make the end dish even better. You can also fry the pigeon’s gizzard and liver separately in butter, pound them in a mortar and spread the resulting paste over the steak. This allows the flavours of the two types of meat to combine, improving the overall taste.
Appetite piqued? You can purchase The Art of Killing Well via the links below!
The photograph on the home page is by Stewart Butterfield, and is shared under a Creative Commons License.