Unusual Places in unusual places. Stories by Louise Tondeur

September 20th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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To mark the publication of Unusual Places, Louise Tondeur has been returning to each of the places where the stories began, and leaving a book for a stranger to find. Louise writes:

I wrote these stories on location in various places, mainly in London, including Greenwich Park, the Tate Gallery, outside the Roman Amphitheatre and in a café near the smallest house in London. I ended up with a set of intriguing characters – such as woman conceived in a marmalade factory, a girl who finds true love (and a bed for the night) over a card game called Scrummage, and a professional picnicker who finds love because of a blue plastic bag.

Follow Louise on Twitter to discover where books were left and who found them @LouiseTondeur

There are now TWO ways to read Unusual Places: in paperback or ebook. Both formats can be purchased direct from Cultured Llama or the usual suppliers.

Grandma’s stories, ‘…would always start in the place where we were,’ and so it is with Unusual Places. Human remains are concealed in the Greenwich Tunnel in a world where London is a prison; a market is the setting for sexual and sensual awakenings; a professional picnicker finds love. Louise Tondeur’s stories skip along, rich with detail and musical prose, only to trip us up with turns and surprises: the unusual lurks in the most ordinary of places.

Paperback, £12 plus p&p: Unusual Places. Ebook, £5.99 


The joy of Jessica’s poetry – Flood reviewed

July 2nd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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We are delighted with Lyn Greenwood’s review of Flood by Jessica Mookherjee, on MsLexia Max.

Pleasure begins with touch for this slim volume of poetry by Jessica Mookherjee. The matt laminate cover feels velvety and cool: the colours and design are calm and simple – a book to travel with you.

Taking advice from another reviewer quoted on the back cover, I first read Flood in one sitting, whilst turning the corners to signal a reread for each poem that intrigued me. The number of bent edges increased through the book and I had a sense of progression through a life, a wholeness which may not have appeared had I dipped in and out of the poems. But when revisited more slowly and individually these poems show more depth and meaning than at first may be apparent […]

… this is not a ‘domestic’ collection by any means: there are also gods, the Holocaust and Grenfell. Structure is important, sometimes with repeated lines urging us to look again with different eyes at what she shows us (Growing up in Nightclubs). Most of the poems fit to a page, but some are longer and one (The Thirst) is printed sideways: I’m not sure why, though it spoke to me of the power and the seduction of paranoia and shared history, the way events can appear so different and so true when seen from another’s point of view.

This is part of the joy of Jessica’s poetry: she shows you what you think you know, places you may have been, and then twists the viewpoint so you look again and see something new and strange. Her poems are windows onto scenes ranging from the UK to India and the Pleiades; from now back to the painting of the Lascaux Caves, via 1967 and Taliesin. They are both personal and universal and I hope we will hear a lot more from this strong and thoughtful poet.

Order Jessica Mookherjee’s debut poetry collection for £10 plus p&p: Flood

Fiction4 summer reading discount on short fiction

June 27th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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Four fabulous fiction collections are discounted this summer. Just apply the coupon Fiction4 at the checkout when you order one or more of these titles:

Who Killed Emil Kreisler, by Nigel Jarrett

Postcards 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.

The Lost of Syros, by Emma Timpany

In The Lost of Syros, a debut collection of stories by Emma Timpany, revelations come unexpectedly: in a shower of gold on a snow-covered volcano in Antarctica; at a graffiti-scarred Aboriginal sacred site; in a mouthful of cake. Precise and delicately written, these stories are little windows into life.

A Witness of Waxwings, by Alison Lock

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.

Only the Visible Can Vanish, by Anna Maconochie

Love, sex and dating, the daily grind of work in Future Digital, being the other woman, the other man, Beauty and the Beast retold, rabbits, rats and foxes… In Only the Visible Can Vanish, Anna Maconochie brings tales of transformation and hidden identity, revealing the superficiality and depths of life in the internet age.

Post and packing is free when you order two or more titles, so why not treat yourself this summer. The offer ends on 31 August 2018. Go to the links to start your order:

Who Killed Emil Kreisler 

The Lost of Syros

A Witness of Waxwings

Only the Visible Can Vanish

If you like Black Mirror, you’ll like Dip Flash, by Jonathan Pinnock

June 20th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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Jonathan Pinnock’s is a ‘weird and wonderful world’, according to Maryom, who reviews Dip Flash for Our Book Reviews Online:

It’s a world where ventriloquist’s dummies come to life, your wife might run off with a porpoise, or morph into a cat, and if your granny’s becoming too expensive to keep, there’s a way to release her equity. But you’d better hold on tight to your memories – if they start to disappear, then so will so much more…

Jonathan Pinnock’s latest collection of stories is like a montage of strange dreams you might have after too much cheese (there’s a story about that as well!). From short, hilarious anecdotes to longer tales that will twist your mind, they’re stories to amuse, intrigue and occasionally terrify you (‘Teamwork’ was horrifically claustrophobic for me).

I’ve puzzled over how to categorise this collection, and to be honest given up. Reading them is like seeing the world reflected in the fairground Hall of Mirrors – recognisable but a little warped. Sci-fi or fantasy might apply as a label for some, but by no means all. My favourites – Adagio Assai, and The Picture of Mrs Tandogan – aren’t that at all, but stories of people like you and me, striving for something perfect in life, or stumbling through it without paying the slightest bit of attention. All in all, an interesting set of stories, thought-provoking, funny, and/or scary; good, I’d suggest for watchers of ‘Black Mirror’.

Order Jonathan Pinnock’s story collection for £12 plus p&p: Dip Flash

Buy two or more books and postage and packing is free: find more Stories

Profound in simplicity and life-affirming, The Year of the Crab

June 20th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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Gordon Meade’s ‘brave and unflinching’ poetry collection, The Year of the Crab, is reviewed by Cathy McGrath on The High Window. The poems chronicle the year following Meade’s cancer diagnosis and through his treatment. McGrath writes:

Everywhere Meade looks there are reminders of his reality. Otherwise ordinary observations become metaphors for the horror that he is facing. His initial enjoyment of watching woodpeckers in ‘The Family Name’ leads to the discovery that their family name is ‘descent’; it is obvious that everything is tainted. Meade is confronted with his own mortality and unable to escape his spiralling thoughts; it is his refusal to pretend but his decision to catalogue daily events through the lens of fear that makes this collection brave and unflinching.

The reader is spared little, and there are, as McGrath writes, ‘no saccharin happy ever afters’; however, ‘The final few poems in the collection are like breathing out after being underwater for too long.’

It is the penultimate poem though, ‘The Care Team,’ that moved me most in this collection. As Meade acknowledges the silent suffering of his family during his treatment, his wife: ‘one night, crying in the kitchen’ and his daughter ‘afraid’, we as readers are reminded that so many people are affected by cancer, not just the sufferers themselves and that it is the  ‘nurturing and non-invasive love’ alongside medical treatments that give people the oxygen they need to survive.

For his finale Meade, of course, returns to the sea, but now it has ‘turned autumnal’. He is aware that everything is ‘more threatening’, the colours no longer white but ‘grey and black’. Meade no longer reads the earthbound signs to know that he has passed his summer season, but acknowledges that it is from the unpredictable, unchained:

Sky above us, by the birds that fly
around us and, mostly, by the sea’

that we can tell ‘everything’. Life is constantly swirling, swooping and scudding by. Meade encourages us, with a warning, to embrace the elements.

Julian Colton, reviewing in The Eildon Tree, Issue 30, finds that ‘Meade pulls no punches’ in a collection ‘centred on pain and stark life and death choices’.

Having seen and heard Gordon Meade read I know he is probably a writer best appreciated at a live event where his wonderful softly spoken vocal style brings out the little nuances and inflections in the text. Though focused on the strong possibility and nature of death throughout, these poems are profound in their simplicity and immensely life-affirming.

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

Order two or more books from this website, and p&p is free. Gordon Meade has two other collections published by Cultured Llama: Sounds of the Real World and Les Animots: A Human Bestiary, with images by Doug Robertson.

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.