Llamas packed with baskets of books; sublime short stories from Vanessa Gebbie

February 13th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

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Exciting times at Cultured Llama. We have moved out of the Cultured Llama’s stable of origin, and have travelled on a journey through the frozen wastes of Kent, our llamas packed with baskets of books, including a new treat for you lucky readers – A Short History of Synchronised Breathing and other stories, by Vanessa Gebbie.
Sublime short stories from Vanessa Gebbie, a master of the art. Meta-fiction, fable, satire, instruction manual, or reportage? Sometimes all in the one story. A Short History of Synchronised Breathing is funny, sexy, original, heartbreaking, and with true insights to the human condition.

978-0-9568921-2-6. Cultured Llama. PB. 203×127mm. 160pp. February 2017. Short Stories. £12.00

Charming and challenging, inventive and intelligent – a wonderful collection that is also laugh out loud funny.
Paul McVeigh, author of The Good Son

A prodigiously gifted writer.
Maggie Gee, author of Virginia Woolf in Manhattan

About The Coward’s Tale:
Gebbie is as at ease with humour as she is with poignancy. A hypnotic debut.
Leila Sanai, The Independent

About Storm Warning:
…enough good pieces in enough styles for the book to be used as an anthology demonstrating how stories should be written nowadays.
Tim Love’s Literary References

Order a copy for £12 (plus p&p); p&p is free if you buy two or more of any of our books:
A Short History of Synchronised Breathing and other stories

For more stories, Who Killed Emil Kreisler? by Nigel Jarrett is a great and varied read. Reviewed by Cath Barton for Wales Arts Review:

Jarrett is a chameleon in his use of the English language and changes his style to suit his subject. His fluency and adaptability are remarkable.

It is difficult to pigeon-hole Nigel Jarrett’s writing, and that is all to the good. Sometimes he reminds me of Somerset Maugham, a wonderful storyteller, albeit one who some now regard as old-fashioned. My favourite story in this collection is “Wish You Were Here”. I love its sense of mystery. What is the narrator’s line of work? Who sent him the postcards that had gone missing from his neighbour’s collection after her death? What is the significance of the pictures? And what about the fifth postcard? That’s the great thing about a good story like this one – it makes the reader into a collaborator and it is for each one of us to make our own sense of it. Great stuff.

Order a copy for £12 (plus p&p); p&p is free if you buy two or more of any of our books: Who Killed Emil Kreisler?

If it’s poetry you’re after, There are no Foreign Lands by Mark Holihan is a perfect choice. Reviewed on The High Window poetry website, here is what Michael Curtis has to say:

These patient, expansive poems take the time to describe what’s felt through what seen, what happens, often shot through with a wry, deadpan humour that seems characteristically Californian.

Order for £10 plus p&p: There are no Foreign Lands 

Who Killed Emil Kreisler? Stories by Nigel Jarrett

November 10th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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We are proud to announce the publication of our (drum roll) 29th publication: Who Killed Emil Kreisler?  by Nigel Jarrett. An intriguing title, and the genesis of the title story is explained by Nigel below. But first, this is what you need to know:

Nigel_Jarret-9780956892119-Perfect.inddPostcards from a dead woman; a tale told in letters, centred on a strange musical instrument; the journey of Bismarck’s helmet … In Who Killed Emil Kreisler? Nigel Jarrett takes the reader through centuries and across continents to places well beyond their comfort zone.

Jarrett’s stories take seemingly ordinary or innocent situations and gently tease out their emotional complexity.

Lesley McDowell, The Independent on Sunday

Who Killed Emil Kreisler?  costs £12 plus p&p. Order two or more books from Cultured Llama and p&p is free.

Nigel Jarrett also designed the striking cover image for the book (overall cover design by Mark Holihan). A man of many talents. Here is what he has to say about the title story of Who Killed Emil Kreisler?

Only twice have I ever been tempted to fictionalise something that really happened. On the second occasion, it resulted in the title story of my new collection, Who Killed Emil Kreisler? It was based on the bizarre (and tragic) death of the composer Anton Webern in 1945. Webern was visiting his brother-in-law, a black-marketeer, just before a curfew was to be imposed by the occupying Americans. On his way out to light a cigar, he was confronted by an US army cook, Raymond Norwood Bell, who was on guard duty after drinking, and precipitately shot the composer dead. Bell survived the war but expired in 1955, an alcoholic and full of remorse.

Before the worldwide web soaked up every fact ever known about the world and made it instantly accessible, the incident was a footnote in the history of music. But even in that fugitive state I found it incredibly moving. Its power as an inspiration for fiction lay in its extra-particular dimension: the idea of a soldier knowing that he’d killed someone famous in battle. Who was the sniper, I wondered, whose unerring bullet had done for the poet Wilfred Owen on the Sambre-Oise Canal on November 4, 1918? Did he survive the war? And did he, unlike Bell, become lost along with his victim in the uproar and clamour of war and its imminent end, never knowing specifically whom he’d shot – one of many, no doubt? I cannot get out of my mind the image circumscribed in his sights, as the poet moves inexorably, silently, into the telescope’s reticule of fine hairs, like a fly in a spider’s web. Bell, of course, would have had to account for himself.

Since I first learned of the circumstances of Webern’s death, the internet has become full of information about the story, to the extent of Bell’s family and friends defending the poor wretch against a swathe of opprobrium. The Webern family’s pain, of course, was no more and no less than that experienced by one mourning an uncelebrated and unsung relative.

I decided on a ventriloquised piece in the first person, depicting how mixed up and tormented Bell must have been. I set the semi-literate narrator down in the mid-West, maybe a prairie so vast one could sense the parameters of the world. I also researched and employed some Western terms, such as ‘freshet’, meaning a river in spate. Anyway, there it is: a short take, almost a piece of flash fiction. It seemed sufficient for portraying a man’s ineradicable anxiety. As a music critic, I was also attracted to other aspects of the Webern incident.

The first story I wrote based on fact doesn’t appear in the collection but is also set in wartime. I read a newspaper NIB (news in brief paragraph) about a concentration camp survivor who’d been known for cultivating flowers, red salvias, outside his hut, and had reached one hundred years of age. The collection’s other stories, I hope, also reflect the imaginative and geographical range of the title.

Who Killed Emil Kreisler?  costs £12 plus p&p. Order two or more books from Cultured Llama and p&p is free.

Reviews and News of Stories and Curious Things

November 10th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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Maggie Harris is interviewed by Rupert Dastur on The Short Story. Maggie is the author of two short story collections, both published by Cultured Llama, plus many poetry collections and a memoir. Read the full interview here.

Canterbury Tales on a Cockcrow Morning and In Margate by Lunchtime by Maggie Harris each cost £12 plus p&p. Buy them both and p& p is free.

9780993211997-Perfect BC EDIT 060916 Only The Visible v1 CS5.5 VOnly the Visible Can Vanish, Anna Maconochie’s debut story collection, is reviewed by The Erotic Review 

Maconochie’s London, her city, never relaxes its grip on her characters – and the pace is refreshing and brisk; white water rafting down the narrative rapids. The reader is left gawping and grinning at the scope and variety of her distinctive human landscape as it passes by. A brand new talent has emerged. Don’t miss it. It’s sharp and very funny.

Read the full review here. The books costs £12 plus p&p, and can be ordered here: Only the Visible Can Vanish

9780993211911-front-cover-SMALLThe Music of Business by Peter Cook is just one of our Curious Things: often genre-defying or hybrid works of cultural non-fiction. One of the chapters in the book is on business lessons from David Bowie, and is adapted in this article on Management Today.


If you run a creative business, you must also find your focus. Sometimes this takes years of experimentation and occasional failure. In Bowie’s case he began performing music at 13 years old, learning the saxophone and playing in a number of mod bands. All these bands released singles, which were generally ignored, yet he kept learning and adapting.

In 1967, he released the music-hall styled ‘Laughing Gnome’ to commercial success. He later formed a mime company and an experimental art group. All of this formative experimentation across disciplines developed the foundations for Bowie’s unique fusion of music and the arts. It disproves the often-held view that success in business is an overnight affair.
In addition to being the author of several books on business, music and creativity, Peter Cook runs creativity and innovation consultancies The Academy of Rock and Human Dynamics.
Order Peter Cook’s The Music of Business  for £15, and Punk Rock People Management for £10 plus p&p. Order both, and p&p is free.

Only the Visible Can Vanish launched in London

October 12th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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9780993211997-Perfect BC EDIT 060916 Only The Visible v1 CS5.5 VAnna Maconochie launched her debut short story collection, Only the Visible Can Vanish, at the end of September at Paradise by Way of Kensal Green in London. A staircase of books was laid out on the table, which had reduced to a single shallow step by the end of the evening as Anna signed copies for eager readers. The event was captured by photographer Charlie Tipper, who has kindly given us permission to share his pictures.otvcv_booklaunch1008_lr


Anna Maconochie with Cultured Llama editor Maria C. McCarthy

Anna Maconochie has also appeared as part of a panel at Cheltenham Literature Festival, alongside Mariella Frostrup and others, talking about a new anthology Desire: 100 of Literature’s Sexiest Stories, in which one of Anna’s stories appears.  Anna’s name then appeared in an article in The Times, which advocates an award for the writing of good sex in literature, rather than just the Bad Sex Award. An appearance at Cheltenham Literature Festival and mention in The Times just weeks after Anna’s debut collection has been published is no mean feat.

Only the Visible Can Vanish costs £12 plus p&p. Free postage and packing if you buy two or more books.

The Kent launch of Only the Visible Can Vanish is on 13 November 2016 in Canterbury, as the guest of Save As Writers and Cronerstone Writers. Upstairs at The Jolly Sailor, Northgate, Canterbury at 6.30 p.m. Free entry, with open mic for poets and writers.

Poetry by Rosie Jackson and John Brewster reviewed, and an interview with Emma Timpany

October 12th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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The Light Box by Rosie Jackson is reviewed by Rachel Playforth in The Frogmore Papers, 88:

9780993211973-Perfect4-FRONT COVERI love the painful, angry, sad poems in the voice of Hilda Carline, the first wife of Stanley Spencer, which get at something very real and human beyond artworks and biography. The alluring not-quite-truths of art are also dramatically captured in ‘Can You Make My Mouth Smile More?’ which would be the standout poem here if there weren’t so many equally strong contenders.

The Light Box costs £10 plus p&p. Free postage and packing if you order two or more books from this website.

Automatic Writing by John Brewster is reviewed in Poetry Salzburg Review by CAITRÍONA O’REILLY, who particularly praises Brewster’s Scots poems:

John Brewster 9780992648589-Perfect(FINAL).indd“am aa din” (7) is a brilliant and very funny little lyric that succeeds by means of its jaunty rhythms and repetitions:

am aa din

am aa din in

am aa din daein

fir am aa din in

dinnae dae this

dae dae that

am aa din daein

fir am aa din in

Brewster shows a precise and knowing grasp of both language and of the apposite, emotion-drenched detail. When playing to his strengths, he shows himself to be a poet of promise in this volume.

Congratulations are due to John Brewster for his highly commended poem in the Wigtown Scots Prize, ‘Honi the Circle-Drawer’. The poem can be read here.

Automatic Writing costs £10 plus p&p. Free postage and packing if you order two or more books from this website.

Emma Timpany, author of The Lost of Syros, is interviewed by Rupert Dastur on the The Short Story website:

Front Cover The Lost of Syros 9780993211928 Hi-ResWhat makes for a successful short story?

The great thing about short stories is that although they are made from the same general elements – character, setting, internal and external conflict, and resolution (or lack of it) – there are countless ways of approaching writing them. You can categorise and analyse them but, in the end, like all art, there is something a bit odd and magical about how a story works, some inner tension that holds a few thousand words together, a little universe that you can’t add anything more to, or take anything away from, without it collapsing.

Read more here:The Short Story

The Lost of Syros costs £12 plus p&p. Free postage and packing if you order two or more books from this website.

Special offer – Do It Yourself: A History of Music in Medway at half price

October 6th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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book cover2As part of Cultured Llama’s 5th birthday celebrations, we are offering Do It Yourself: A History of Music in Medway by Stephen H. Morris for half price with free p&p. This fabulous book is only £9 (usual price £18) until 30 November 2016, or while current stocks last.

Do It Yourself: A History of Music in Medway, by Stephen H. Morris, is the definitive and indispensable guide to Medway music. Mixing oral history with profiles of the best singles, EPs and albums to come out of the Medway Towns since the mid-1970s, Morris tells the story of how performers such as Billy Childish, The Dentists and Lupen Crook have produced music whose influence extends far beyond the reach of five small towns in the north of Kent.

Here is what James Endeacott has to say about Do It Yourself: A History of Music in Medway

Stephen H. Morris brings to life a vast array of colourful characters, inspiring music and small venues – along with a passion and belief in the music of the Medway Towns. Do It Yourself: A History of Music in Medway is a detailed and thorough account of the area’s musical history from the mid-70s to the present day; it’s also a picture of a small part of the south east of England that has never lost its faith in love and music. There’s a beating heart in those towns and long may it continue.

James Endeacott

Over the last 50 years, James Endeacott has worked in a record shop, played in a band called Loop, been an A&R man for The Strokes, run a record label called 1965 Records and tried to unlock people’s minds. He looks like Mick Hucknall, supports Crystal Palace Football Club and signed The Libertines to Rough Trade Records in 2001. He has been Up The Bracket ever since.

Order now at the link, for £9 inc p&p: Do It Yourself: A History of Music in Medway

A celebration of everyday things with Mark Everard, and an interview with Bethany W. Pope

August 18th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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Everard Front CoverThe Ecology of Everyday Things by Mark Everard is reviewed in Ecosystems News, Issue 13. The review is by Rosie Walls; she finds much to celebrate, and sees the book as a good way to communicate environmental concerns to ordinary people (i.e. those that may not be subscribers to Ecosystems News!).

Each ‘everyday thing’ has its own chapter. Here, not only is the importance and use of the ‘thing’ explained, the detail of its history, story, journey and culture is also referred to. For instance, he investigates the political significance of tea and its beneficial properties; the value of rice as a sign of deep respect; and the origin of cotton. The abundance of fascinating facts about ‘everyday things’ that pepper the text may, for some, make this quick and easy read and simply a reminder of what one already knows. However, in an era of serious concerns about people being disconnected from nature, many may find it enlightening with regard to our ecological reliance. In fact ‘The Ecology of Everyday Things’ might be a good resource for anyone trying to convince others of the importance of the environment to people.

The Ecology of Everyday Things costs £13 plus p&p.

4b SMALLBethany W.Pope is interviewed by Carly Holmes in Wales Arts Review. Bethany is a prolific writer, now on her sixth published book just four years after Cultured Llama published her debut poetry collection, A Radiance. Read all about her in Wales Arts Reviewand remember that we published her first!

A Radiance costs £10 plus p&p. Buy two books or more from this website, and postage and packing is free.


The Lake reviews There Are No Foreign Lands by Mark Holihan

August 17th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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Front-MHS-ALTThe title of Mark Holihan’s first collection, There Are No Foreign Lands, is taken from Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.’ Maggie Harris reviews the collection in The Lake:

The power of these poems lie in their apparent lightness of touch, although poets will know that is no mean feat, like the illusion of ballet dancers making their bodies seem weightless; but so many phrases hold a universe of connections, like

thebroken webs of fat spiders slung with tiny, mummy-wrapped

 flies, moths and indecipherable shapes swaddled and forgotten .

I called you in Paris and I could hear the distance in your voice

as I stood waist-high in webs and thorns and memories of your childhood.

And it’s only in the morning, when I gently begin to wash the berries

that the spider emerges with deliberation and torpor, tottering on its long,

pin-thin legs stained scarlet, its mottled thorax soft as infant skin,

shuddering as it falls trying to climb the slippery sides of the enamel pail

to escape that autumn-cold heap of fragrant, bleeding fruit.


Here, in one short poem Holihan’s strengths come together, his powers of observation, love of the natural world, parental anxiety, artistry, and his awareness of time, (itself a powerful presence in these poems), knitted together as lightly, powerfully and tapestried as  a spiders web.

The Lake has also published ‘Things you can keep’ and ‘Broadstairs, UK, 11/11/08’ from There Are No Foreign LandsThe book costs £10 plus p&p, and can be purchased at the link: There Are No Foreign Lands. Buy two or more books from this website, and p&p is free.

A Blessin fir St Monans from John Brewster

August 17th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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Bio pic 1‘It’s rare to find Scots poetry published in the South East of England’, writes the anonymous reviewer of John Brewster’s Automatic Writing, on the website of the Scots Language Centre/Centre for the Scots Leid. When some of the poems came to us for consideration, the musicality in both Scots and English came through, and we were delighted to publish John Brewster’s debut collection. Assistance came from Jane Stemp with proofing the Scots poems (beyond the skills of our poetry editor), and with approving the Scots glossary, which John had thoughtfully compiled.

The Scots Language Centre has posted ‘A Blessin for St Monans’:

Bairn o wave an sea-wind, nursed on star-milk,
cooried in wi blankets o pitch-black nicht;
we thank ye. Thank ye fir yer stany licht,
a caundle o canniness lit fir ilk
an ivery wan o us. Nae sultan’s silk
or maharajah’s satin cloot ti dicht
awa yer tears. Jist honest weave, fish-bricht;
stitched wi thraids o saut an saund an prayer whilk
rin lik a luver’s fingers throu yer hair.
St Monans, aince a holy man, a craw,
dreamin staundin-stane facin oot ti shore;
an aye a hame fir fishin fowk an lore.
But, in the beginnin, God’s bairn; a raw
cry fae Hivin: a blessin ti the puir.

If you prefer your poems in English, there is another St Monans poem by John Brewster on the Poetry Map of Scotland.

Julian Colton reviews Automatic Writing in Issue 27 of The Eildon Tree:

Real life situations are delivered in well crafted, subtle verse. Sometimes there is a preoccupation with extremes – death by suicide for example – and occasionally the narrative is lost in private meanings which are somewhat difficult to fathom. Still, Brewster writes with lyrical musicality, particularly in colloquial Fife Scots, and he comes at his subjects from unexpected angles – see Glass Eye for a glass-eyed view of a one-eyed man – that reward effort on the part of the reader in piecing it all together.


When I am not in his head

I am in the velvet box.


His head is not as forgiving

but it keeps me in place.


I have a friend beside me

who squirms at such confinement.

                    (Glass Eye)

Automatic Writing costs £10 plus p&p. Buy two or more books from this website and postage and packing is free.

Reviews: Short of Breath by Vivien Jones and Memorandum by Vanessa Gebbie

July 20th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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Vj biog Aug 2014Sometimes reviews take a long time to reach us. Lunar Poetry is back in business, after a break from publishing, and we were delighted to find a review (by Phoebe Walker) of Short of Breath by Vivien Jones in Issue 9, June 2016. Phoebe Walker begins her review:

A forensic eye is at work in this collection […] an acuity that penetrates through the various meditative, idiomatic and nostalgic tones of these poems. Jones’ knack for detail results in poetry with great sensory appeal, from the images of silver salmon boiling in shallow water, of chocolate eaten “slow as ivy”, to the sensation of an elm sucking sap “up my barley sugar ribs”. fingertips “speckled/ with black oak splinters/ sore in skin softened/ by tallow”.

The magazine costs only £5 per issue and can be ordered at Lunar Poetry

Short of Breath costs £10 plus p&p.

A copy of Memorandum: Poems for the Fallen by Vanessa Gebbie travelled to India a few months ago, and is now reviewed by RK Biswas on Open Road Review.

Vanessa GebbieGebbie’s style is taut, a distillation of everything that led to the poems. And as she walks us down the places, through the lives of the people ravaged, the deepest essence of that history rises as light as locomotive steam, or a singing kettle. Slices of life from the immediate and distant past are woven to create a sense of bustle in her poems (The Meat Porter’s Derby, for example), and allowed to be ploughed through by an incident of war pegged to the place. As Gebbie remarks through the persona in the poem (Ceramic Poppies, Tower of London), A few more days and/ they’ll be gone. Wish them good luck./ For all their bluster,/they look fragile to me. The characters in her poems are so wounded that they carry a mesh of noise with them through their lives. Even reimagine the path of a piece of artillery in reverse, until it is as distant as the flash…of energy/ on the surface/of an adolescent star (Artillery) […]

This book is not just recommended reading for lovers of poetry. Anyone who has even the remotest of interest in the immediate and long-term effects of war ought to read and see how it brings to life the minutiae of war. You cannot walk away unmarked; you cannot leave these places/ on your own. The unknowns leave with you… (Unknowns for C). Because “Memorandum poems for the fallen” is that flaming brand which tattoos its readers indelibly.

You can read the full review on Open Road Review.

Memorandum: Poems for the Fallen costs £10 plus p&p. Buy two books or more from Cultured Llama, and postage and packing is free.

Once again, we thank those reviewers who take such time and care to review our books.