A Witness of Waxwings longlisted, and Vanessa Gebbie’s stories reviewed

April 26th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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We were delighted to discover that A Witness of Waxwings, short stories by Alison Lock, made the longlist of the Saboteur Awards. Congratulations to Alison, and kudos to Cultured Llama.

Vanessa Gebbie’s story collection, A Short History of Synchronised Breathing is reviewed in Tears in the Fence. The review also covers a collection by Leonora Carrington. Richard Foreman writes:

In perhaps one of the most impressive stories in this collection, ‘Captain Quantum’s Universal Entertainment’, Gebbie’s central character is guided through a bizarre fairground, whilst writing a report on its performers and features for an obscure journal. Star performers,the Great Maximilian, jongleur extraordinaire, and Lucille, the Incredible Shrinking Bearded Lady are about to perform an incredible feat […] it becomes apparent that the story is a loose analogy for the operations of a Particle Accelerator. […]

I am impressed by Vanessa Gebbie’s approach to her writing – she appears to relish taking a risk and in doing so extends the form of the short story in a multitude of ways.

Buy Vanessa Gebbie’s book for £12 plus p&p here: A Short History of Synchronised Breathing

add in Alison Lock’s collection for £12, and p&p is free (for two or more books): A Witness of Waxwings

A sense of endings. There are Boats on the Orchard

April 26th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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Maria C McCarthy’s illustrated pamphlet, There are Boats on the Orchard, is reviewed by Neil Leadbetter in Write Out Loud.

This  attractively produced, pocket-sized poetry pamphlet, designed by Mark Holihan with illustrations by Sara Fletcher, chronicles seven years of living alongside the disappearing orchards of Kent […]

The title of this collection hints at displacement. What are “grass-locked vessels” doing in an orchard?  Displacement runs through the collection in a series of sightings. It is to be found in the image of the car on the footpath instead of the road, human detritus in the hedgerow, the juxtaposition of natural and manmade objects, of brambles and plastic boxes, blackberries and asbestos panels, plums and Stella cans. These ‘list’ poems bring out the best in McCarthy, they hold our attention with a surprise at every turn. In ‘Orchard Inventory,’ for example, she writes of


A horsebox spilling cushions and chicken wire;

an Olympia portable typewriter;


A ride-on mower in a hut with a broken lock;

a Black and Decker workmate; a plastic box;


asbestos panels with feathered splits; a trampoline;

a vacuum cleaner; bones; a shipping container; a swing.


It is telling that the very last entry that is mentioned in the inventory is trees.

There is also a sense of endings – of autumn, of shrivelled fruit as a metaphor for the demise of all the orchards, of trees being felled, of bulldozers, bonfires, planning notices and the burnt-out shell of a car.

This collection is a moving depiction of the changing face of our orchards, beautifully observed by a writer who cares deeply for the preservation of our natural world.

Read the full review:Write Out Loud

Maria C. McCarthy’s pamphlet is available exclusively from Cultured Llama, and costs £7 plus p&p. Order it here:There are Boats on the Orchard

Gordon Meade’s poetry looks death in the eye

April 26th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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The Year of the Crab, poetry by Gordon Meade, is reviewed in Northwords Now, alongside a collection by Graham Fulton.

Gordon Meade’s collection also tackles the taboo, but more through another uncomfortable word, describing feelings and events in a year following his diagnosis with cancer. Some poems look at aspects of the coastal scene in Fife – a dead seal washed up on rocks, a pair of woodpeckers across the park. But these take their resonance, in part, from the context of illness: the seal, for example, may be headless […]

Most are more direct meditations on his state of mind at different times through treatment, including his frustrations, fears and delight in small pleasures, such as biting into a fresh apricot […]

By looking death in the eye and not blinking, the work of both these poets enriches life.

You can read the current issue, including the review, at Northwords Now

Buy Gordon Meade’s collection for £10 plus p&p:The Year of the Crab

Dip Flash – sharply executed slivers of wit and fun

April 4th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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Our newest story collection is Dip Flash by Jonathan Pinnock.

In Dip Flash we are taken to worlds where houses disappear, a wife runs off with a porpoise, and on to Heaven, where only French is spoken. From a bull in a china shop to a scheme for releasing the equity in grannies, these stories are dark and raw, grotesque and fantastic. They are also laugh-out-loud funny.

978-0-9957381-7-1. Cultured Llama. PB. 203×127mm. 154pp. March 2018. Short Stories. £12.00

This is collection that caused our editor to snort with laughter, often in public places, whilst reading the manuscript. The collection achieves that rare combination of being laugh-out-loud funny and literary. We sometimes get a little excited at Cultured Llama HQ when the likes of Joanne Harris and David Gaffney offer endorsements for a book. Here is what they have to say about Dip Flash:

A remarkable collection – compact, witty, incisive and surreal. Loved it! – Joanne Harris

Endlessly inventive and astonishingly original, these sharply executed slivers of wit and fun are well-crafted, yet have at the same time a rawness that makes you feel that they could have sprung out from Pinnock’s mind in one single unedited bound. – David Gaffney, author of Sawn Off Tales

Buy Jonathan Pinnock’s new short story collection for £12 plus p&p here: Dip Flash

Go to Jonathan Pinnock’s blog to find out why he loves the book’s cover, designed by Mark Holihan.

Solid Mental Grace: Listening to the Music of Yes – Sunday Night at the London Palladium

April 4th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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Simon Barrow can now say that he has appeared on stage on a Sunday night at the London Palladium. No revolving stage, alas (you have to be a certain age to get that reference). Simon was launching his new book, Solid Mental Grace: Listening to the Music of Yes, at an event to celebrate 50 years of Yes. Sales were brisk, and orders have been arriving at Cultured Llama HQ from around the world. Despite one buyer’s complaint that we are not taking Euros because we are leaving the EU (not true – it’s just too complicated to add all currencies to our commerce app), we are able to deal with orders outside the UK if you send us a message via the Contact page.

Here’s more about the book:

How has the progressive rock band Yes survived 50 years of intense devotion and strong criticism? This book reconsiders the band’s musical creativity, variety and value, and highlights an artistic imagination in Yes’s finest moments that defies ready-made labels. It illustrates the capacity of honest musical appreciation to remake us, rather than simply to confirm our prejudices.

978-0-9957381-8-8. Cultured Llama. PB. 210×148mm. 232pp. March 2018. Curious Things. £12.00

Order a copy of Simon Barrow’s book for £12 plus p&p (UK orders): Solid Mental Grace: Listening to the Music of Yes

If you wish to order from outside the UK, please send an email via the Contact page.

A Witness of Waxwings, stories of transformation by Alison Lock

April 4th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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A Witness of Waxwings, a new collection of stories by Alison Lock, is reviewed by Emma Lee on her blog:

“A Witness of Waxwings” is a collection of 20 short stories, some under 1000 words, on a range of topics from the natural world, selkies, clocks, a girl with Olympic ambitions and King Knut who knows it is folly to attempt to govern the sea but is distracted by worry about his queen, returning from a sea journey. In one of the longer stories, “Blue”, an elderly Edith has failed in her search to find the baby she was forced to give up for adoption. Through the fog of dementia, she remembers through fragments and pieces together how her baby was conceived in rape. […]

Each story offers a transformation, sometimes literally, where a main character has to accept and understand their past and its effect on their future. Alison Lock brings a poet’s eye for details, offering sparingly, which enable a reader to imagine the scene whilst leaving the reader enough space to engage with the story. Each bears re-reading too. “A Witness of Waxwings” is a skillfully crafted collection of engaging short stories.

Read the full review here.

Buy Alison Lock’s book for £12 plus p&p here: A Witness of Waxwings

Buy two or more copies of our books and post and packing is free.

Hearth by Rose Cook – very good company

April 4th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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Hearth by Rose Cook continues to receive praise in reviews that appear in London Grip and The Frogmore Papers. Peter Ulraig Kennedy, in London Grip, says:

Hearth is a welcoming and cleverly chosen title. Closely aligned with ‘heart’, a hearth provides warmth and light. The hearth is a symbol of love and of life. And indeed Rose Cook’s collection of life-affirming poems lives up to this symbolism. […]

The poems are full of sensitivity and emotion, not to forget several outbursts of sheer humour and gaiety, as in the delightfully titled “A Situation Arising from a Complete Inability to Master Any Language but her Own”. And I am not going to give the game away on that one; you’ll have to read it for your-self.

‘Hearth’ has been portrayed by Rebecca Gethin as a “treasure trove of poems” and it would be hard to improve on that description. Recommended.

Clare Best, in The Frogmore Papers, describes the book as ‘very good company’:

Rose Cook’s fourth collection is full of vitality and generosity. The poems treat love, loss, death and ageing, home and hearth, hares and other creatures, and the poet-speaker moves easily between lyric, elegiac and narrative modes, ‘habitually holding things up to the light’ (‘What Remains’) to examine and record them in a language which is both translucent and graceful.

Order a copy of Rose Cook’s latest collection for £10 plus p&p here: Hearth

Add in a copy of Rose Cook’s Notes From a Bright Field and p&p is free.

A poignant collection – The Year of the Crab reviewed

February 8th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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Peter Ualrig Kennedy’s review of The Year of the Crab, By Gordon Meade, begins:

A diagnosis of cancer must inevitably concentrate the mind … those of us who are in sound health may find it difficult to envision the depths of despair engendered by such a diagnosis, or to think about the pains and indignities of surgery and radiotherapy, or fully to appreciate the burgeoning of hope as the faint rays of recovery appear on the horizon […]

In this poignant collection, in which each poem takes the author and his readers through the various stages of his Year of the Crab, Meade employs an economic and spare poetic style to profound effect. A philosophy shines through these poems – unsurprisingly, given the backdrop of cancer, the mood flickers between darkness and light, encompassing a classic trajectory from despair through anger, resignation, and at last to hope.

The poems in The Year of the Crab take us from Meade’s diagnosis…

His illness has come on him like an overwhelming sea. The early poems brim with fear: “Why fall asleep when you will never know / whether or not you will ever wake again? / … I have decided not to sleep at all. I wonder / for just how long I will be able to keep it up.”

… through his treatment, at first in London, and then a return to Meade’s native Scotland…

He becomes more tranquil; he sees Nature more clearly. The sea in February “looks crisp, like liquid / ice, slowly rolling in, unfurling itself, / and then breaking. I have / never seen greyness look / so bright. The slopes of the waves / have the same sheen on them as / the backs of dolphins …” but all of a sudden, and dramatically, he is plunged back into the maelstrom of hospitalisation and radiotherapy.

Peter Kennedy reveals, at the end of the review, that ‘Gordon Meade is, praise be, in remission, in Fife, and in good form.’ Read the full review on London Grip.

Buy the book for £10 plus p&p: The Year of the Crab.

Gordon Meade has two other poetry collections available from Cultured Llama: Sounds of the Real World and Les Animots: A Human Bestiary, with images by Doug Robertson.

Postage and packing is free if you order two or more books.

A Witness of Waxwings, new stories from Alison Lock

January 10th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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We sneaked one last short story collection into 2017. A Witness of Waxwings by Alison Lock. Please take a moment to look at the gorgeous cover image, by our jacket designer Mark Holihan.

A Witness of Waxwings invites us into worlds of shifting time and identities, where brutal reality is often witnessed through a liminal lens. Within these stories are shifts of light, perception, slips into other realms, where people are inhabited by birds, selkies and sprites. There are ghosts in the ocean, faces in the wake. Alison Lock’s fictional world is a route map to unexplored mindscapes.

Alison Lock writes with delicacy about brutality, with the eye of truth turned equally on reality and fantasy. She glances and looks away, her retinal after-images caught on the page.

Cherry Potts, Arachne Press

Read more and order a copy for £12 plus p&p: A Witness of Waxwings

If you order two or more books from this website, postage and packing is free.

Two other Cultured Llama short story collections were reviewed last year in MsLexia. Reviewer BeeJayDee writes about A Short History of Synchronised Breathing by Vanessa Gebbie:

This collection […] ranges from empathetic through comic to anarchic. In ‘The Properties of Wax,’ ‘Parallax,’ and ‘Wei-Chi’i’, a sense of loss and loneliness is sensitively imagined. […] The final and best story, ‘Skellig’, is a brilliant evocation of a lonely man who might only exist in spirit. on the boat trip to Skellig island, he “stayed apart” from the others, “his jacket … the colour of distance”. Amongst the sounds of the seabirds, wind, waves, he explores. At the end we feel redemption. Michael “picks up a stone” and “starts to rebuild”. It’s a painting in prose worth rereading many times.

Order Vanessa Gebbie’s collection for £12 plus p&p: A Short History of Synchronised Breathing

If you order two or more books from this website, postage and packing is free.

Susan Allott had this to say about In the Wild Wood by Frances Gapper:

The first third of the book contains several stories about a woman whose mother hs Alzheimers and who is increasingly confused about and childlike. I found these moving and emotionally honest […] But then the woman’s mother dies, and this theme is dropped, which feels sad and sudden – I imagine this is intentional.

From then on the stories are more varied and quirky […] All of them are shot through which at times jars with the emotiveness of the story. Again, this feels deliberate and it gives the stories their unique and surprising edge.

Order Frances Gapper’s collection for £12 plus p&p: In the Wild Wood

If you order two or more books from this website, postage and packing is free.

Injustices and small acts of defiance: There are Boats on the Orchard

December 6th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

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Alex Josephy notices more than a “simple elegy” for the vanishing orchards of Kent in her review of There are Boats on the Orchard by Maria C. McCarthy. Josephy writes: “The poet notices both injustices and small acts of defiance in the rural context.”

In many of the poems, McCarthy turns her attention to the slow processes of abandonment and decay, and here, for me, there is a move into particularly interesting territory. She doesn’t romanticise, but invites us to enjoy a borderland between ‘natural’ and human objects, where littered beer cans are as much a part of the landscape as blackberries and ‘bletted plums’ (wonderful word for the softening of fruit that I now know thanks to the poem ‘Strange fruits’). Several poems focus on the orchard’s array of dumped vehicles and domestic machinery, gradually overtaken by natural processes as if caught in a time-lapse sequence. There’s a ‘bramble-clamped car’ (how could you better that description?), the lingering presence of ‘spectres of ponies’ around a semi-dismantled horsebox. I especially liked the small but very telling poem ‘Dry Dock’, in which McCarthy tunnels with great precision into usually unobserved moments; three catamarans become:

hour    minute    second     hands
stilled around the dead tree

and in the rain:

Each new drop arrives by stealth 
as quiet as a theft

Alex Josephy’s review appears on London Grip.

A MsLexia reviewer also notices the wider political and ecological consequences of the decline of the orchards, chronicled in the collection:

The title poem, in five sections, sees boats out of their element: “a parched prow points towards the water / butt that catches the run-off from the outhouse roof. // It’s seen the turning of the seasons twice…” The various boats are absorbed into the landscape “a speedboat … / … sat so long … / … I noticed neither its presence nor absence …” […] and section (iv) draws attention, once more, to what is lost, or what is about to be lost, in the reference to the “floods in fifty-three” where sheep “were drowned / to due loss of local knowledge ‘ left to graze on marshland …’ A “loss of local knowledge” has dire consequences for the ecology.

This reviewer describes the book as: “slim, smooth and crisply illustrated by Sara Fletcher.”

There are Boats on the Orchard is available exclusively from Cultured Llama for £7 plus p&p.