In 2015, Inua Ellams was poet in residence at the Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre in London. His #Afterhours project took him on a voyage of cultural translation and transposition through time and place, to the heart of the libraries archive collections, and through his own life s story as he selected poems published during each year of his life, from birth to the age of 18.
In return, Ellams opens up a captivating and potent dialogue between poems, writing a diary and intricately-crafted poems of his own in conversational response to the poems he selected from the library collections. Here, for the first time together, are the collected #Afterhours poems alongside the re-discovered poems which inspired them and the diary entries which follow this journey. In Ellams meticulous hands, this becomes an entire narrative in its own right, compelling and magnetic, drawing parallels of displacement, language and reclamation, and showing poetry’s great capacity to be a powerful amplifier of human experience.
Bowie, Cambo & All the Hype traces the extraordinary and pivotal friendship between David Bowie and drummer John Cambridge, from the time when Bowie made his first major career breakthrough in 1969 to his death from cancer in 2016. Drummer, musician and friend John ‘Cambo’ Cambridge lived with Bowie at Haddon Hall when he had his first hit record ‘Space Oddity’ and toured with him in Junior’s Eyes. He was there for him at many key moments – when Bowie lost his father, passed his driving test, played his first Glam Rock gig with Hype, even acting as best man when Bowie married Angela Barnett in 1970. And if John had not persuaded his former Rats colleague Mick Ronson to join Bowie in February 1970, there might never have been a Ziggy Stardust or the stellar career which followed. In Bowie, Cambo & All the Hype we get a backstage pass to key people and events during those crucial early years. This is a heartfelt story of a unique friendship.
As a boy, Tony Fletcher frequently felt out of place. Yet somehow he secured a ringside seat for one of the most creative periods in British cultural history.
Boy About Town tells the story of the bestselling author’s formative years in the pre- and post-punk music scenes of London, counting down, from fifty to number one: attendance at seminal gigs and encounters with musical heroes; schoolboy projects that became national success stories; the style culture of punks, mods and skinheads and the tribal violence that enveloped them; life as a latchkey kid in a single-parent household; weekends on the football terraces in a quest for street credibility; and the teenage boy’s unending obsession with losing his virginity.
Featuring a vibrant cast of supporting characters (from school friends to rock stars), and built up from notebooks, diaries, interviews, letters, and issues of his now legendary fanzine Jamming!, Boy About Town is an evocative, bittersweet, amusing and wholly original account of growing up and coming of age in the glory days of the 1970s.
The tell-all memoir from the loudest, proudest Spice Girl – and the truth behind the headlines
As one-fifth of the iconic Spice Girls and judge on X Factor and America’s Got Talent, Melanie Brown, a.k.a Scary Spice, has been an international star since her twenties. Brutally Honest is an exposé of the struggles and acute pain that lay behind the glamour and success.With deep personal insight, remarkable frankness and trademark Yorkshire humour, the book removes the mask of fame and reveals the true story behind the Spice Girls, as well as the horror of her most recent marriage and her 10 year struggle to be free.
Growing up in Liverpool in the 1960s and ’70s, when skinheads, football violence and fear of just about everything was the natural order of things, a young Will Sergeant found the emerging punk scene provided a shimmer of hope amongst a crumbling city still reeling from the destruction of the Second World War.
From school-day horrors and mud flinging fun to nights at Liverpool’s punk club, Eric’s, Sergeant was fuelled by and thrived on music. It was this devotion that led to the birth of the Bunnymen, to the days when he and Ian McCulloch would muck around with reel-to-reel recordings of song ideas in the back parlour of his parents’ council estate house, and to finding a community – friends, enemies and many in between – with those who would become post-punk royalty from the likes of Dead or Alive, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and the Teardrop Explodes to name a few.
It was an uphill struggle to carve their name in the history of Liverpool music, but Echo and the Bunnymen became iconic, with songs like ‘Lips Like Sugar,’ ‘The Cutter’ and ‘The Killing Moon’. By turns wry, explicit and profound, Bunnyman reveals what it was really like to be part of one of the most important British bands of the 1980s.
Winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize, Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of Dara McAnulty’s world, from spring to summer, autumn to winter, on his home patch, at school, in the wild and in his head. Evocative, raw and beautifully written, this very special book vividly explores the natural world from the perspective of an autistic teenager juggling homework, exams and friendships alongside his life as a conservationist and environmental activist. With a sense of awe and wonder, Dara describes in meticulous detail encounters in his garden and the wild, with blackbirds, whooper swans, red kites, hen harriers, frogs, dandelions, skylarks, bats, cuckoo flowers, Irish hares and many more species. The power and warmth of his words also draw an affectionate and moving portrait of a close-knit family making their way in the world.
Pete Haynes was the drummer and founder of the cult punk band The Lurkers. Here, he charts their rise from playing in West London pubs and clubs to appearing on Top of the Pops. Then they came down with a crash. This tell-all insider’s look at the 70s punk scene mixes brutal humour with a sharp critique of the human condition from the point of view of a working class man. Haynes share his experience with The Sex Pistols, The Clash and many more classic bands and writes about what punk was really about.
In the Blood is Andrew Motion’s beautifully written memoir of growing up in post-war England – an unforgettable evocation of family life, school life and country life. It also tells the story of how these worlds are shattered, when his mother suffers a terrible riding accident.
The tragedy shadows the book, feeding its mood of elegy as well as its celebratory vigilance. Written from a teenage child’s point of view, without the benefit of adult hindsight, Motion captures the pathos and puzzlement of childhood with great clarity of expression and freshness of memory. We encounter a strange but beguiling extended family, a profound love of the natural world, a troubled schooling, and a growing passion for books and writing.
By turns funny and elegiac, In the Blood is a wonderful picture of a vanishing England, a remarkable insight into a poet’s mind, and a deeply moving portrait of the bond between a mother and her son.
Felix White, for reasons often beyond him, has always been deeply in love with cricket. His passion for the game is at the fore on the BBC ‘s number one cricket podcast and 5Live show, Tailenders, which he co-presents with Greg James and Jimmy Anderson. It’s Always Summer Somewhere is his funny, heartbreaking and endlessly engaging love letter to the game.
Felix takes us through his life growing up in South West London and describes how his story is forever punctuated and given meaning by cricket. Through his own exploits as a slow left arm spinner of ‘lovely loopy stuff’, to the tragic illness of his mother, life with The Maccabees and his cricket redemption, Felix touches on both the comedic and the tragic in equal measure. Throughout, there’s the ever-present roller coaster of following the England cricket team. The exploits of Tufnell (another bowler of ‘lovely loopy stuff’), Atherton, Hussain et al, are given extra import through the eyes of a cricket-obsessed youth. Felix meets them at each signposted moment to find out what was really behind those moments that gave cricket fans everywhere sporting memories that would last forever, sending the book into an exploration of grief, transgenerational displacement and how the people we’ve known and things we’ve loved culminate and take expression in our lives.
It’s Always Summer Somewhere is an incredibly honest detail of a life lived with cricket. It offers a sense of genuine empathy and understanding not just with cricket fans, but sports and music fans across the world, in articulating our reasons for pouring so much meaning into something that we simply cannot control. Culminating in the heart-stopping World Cup Final in 2019, the book finally answers that question fans have so often asked… what is it about this game?
This troubadour life is only for the fiercest hearts, only for those vessels that can be broken to smithereens and still keep beating out the rhythm for a new song.
Last Chance Texaco is the first-ever no-holds-barred account of the life of two-time Grammy Award-winner Rickie Lee Jones, in her own words. It is a tale of desperate chances and impossible triumphs, an adventure story of a girl who beat the odds and grew up to become one of the most legendary artists of her time, turning adversity and hopelessness into timeless music.
With candour and lyricism, the ‘Duchess of Coolsville’ (Time) takes us on a singular journey through her nomadic childhood, to her years as a teenage runaway, through her legendary love affair with Tom Waits, and ultimately her longevity as the hardest working woman in rock and roll. Rickie Lee’s stories are rich with the infamous characters of her early songs – ‘Chuck E’s in Love,’ ‘Weasel and the White Boys Cool,’ ‘Danny’s All-Star Joint’ and ‘Easy Money’ – but long before her notoriety in show business, there was a vaudevillian cast of hitchhikers, bank robbers, jail breaks, drug mules, a pimp with a heart of gold, and tales of her fabled ancestors.
David Kay spent nearly half his life in Cottingham, attending all the appropriate schools, followed by a fourteen year career in the now dwindling travel agency business, of which almost eight years were at Thomas Cooks, including a brief two years in Bristol with Blue Star Travel.
He was then offered a bread and cake delivery business until it failed. The next eighteen years were as a taxi driver, a career that paid good money, but one that David loathed. Since then, he’s had a multitude of jobs too numerous to mention. He lives alone in a Doncaster park home and is very happy indeed with his current lifestyle… delivering pizzas!
How can we narrate grief? Can we really rationalise death? Pain cannot be told in the present, only in the past; however, Mella chooses to narrate it in the future, as if everything bad is about to happen further down the line, until something reminds him that the future actually arrived a long time ago.
During the summer of 2014, on one of the stormiest days on record to hit the coast of Uruguay, 31-year old Alejandro, lifeguard and younger brother of our protagonist, dies after being hit by lightning. Combining memoir and fiction, this novel is the urgent exploration of the brotherly bond, and the effects that death has on our inner circles. An exploration that takes the author back into his past, and right into the centre of his obsessions.
‘If I can t be free in my writing, I cannot be free anywhere else’, admits the narrator towards the end of this fascinating book that interweaves fiction with brotherhood and grief at the centre of family relations.
Richard Hammond is one of our most in-demand and best-loved television presenters. On September 20, 2006, he suffered a serious brain injury following a high-speed car crash, and the nation held its breath. On the Edge is his compelling account of life before and after the accident and an honest description of his year of recovery, full of drama and incident. It is also, perhaps, his explanation of why, as a married man and father of two young daughters, he was prepared to risk all by strapping himself to the front of a jet engine with the power of eleven Formula One cars.
How would you like a six-figure marketing job at the hallowed record label that signed everyone who counts in the last fifty years of pop music? Before you answer, we’ll throw in a plush office, a hip assistant and a bottomless expense account.
When Dan Kennedy is hired by a major label he thinks he has been handed a pass to the secret kingdom of rock and roll. In reality, he has walked into an episode of The Office. Whether directing a gangsta rapper’s video or battling his better judgement to create a campaign celebrating twenty-five years of Phil Collins’ love songs, he’s in way over his head. And from the looks of those around the boardroom, he’s not alone.
Cameos by aging pop stars, dinosaur music-biz kingpins, hip-hop thugs, Iggy Pop and others make up the cast of this brilliant power ballad to rock and roll, office life and all the wage slaves who’ve done their damndest to hide from Human Resources when the axe falls.
If you have ever bought a record, worked in an office, tried to get into a creative industry or suspected that some things are not all they’re cracked up to be, Rock On will make you laugh more than you thought possible.
After becoming the first man to conquer the highest peak on each of the seven continents at the first attempt, Alistair’s hardest climb was surviving a brain haemorrhage. Foreword by Sir Chris Bonington. The book is fascinating and inspiring, and contains some stunning photographs from Dr. Sutcliffe’s climbing expeditions. His wife Clare also makes personal contributions at the end of each chapter.
In his own words, the extraordinary childhood of one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.
Robert Westall grew up on Tyneside during the 1930s and 40s, the only child of remarkable parents and grandparents. He was ten when the war broke out and the terror – and excitement – of the air raids influenced his outlook ever after.
Over three decades and through two world wars, in the deserts of Libya and the woodlands of Italy, in the chalk downs of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire, he searched continually for his most beloved and elusive Orchis militaris, the military orchid. Jocelyn Brooke blends memoir, botany and satire to recall this lifelong quest.
Yearning for a life at sea from the age of 13, the author couldn’t wait to leave home and join the British Merchant Navy. But to do that was harder than he’d thought.
Profound dyslexia (undiagnosed in the 1960s) offered him little prospect of getting qualifications and in 1968 he left school at 15, just after his parents’ marriage had broken up. But perseverance in hardship, plus a chance meeting on a train, launched him on a round-the-world odyssey, sailing on many different ships out of the Royal Docks, London.
It was a real education – in more ways than you’d ever imagine.
Azar Nafisi, author of the international bestseller “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, now gives us a stunning personal story of growing up in Iran, memories of her life lived in thrall to a powerful and complex mother, against the background of a country’s political revolution. A girl’s pain over family secrets; a young woman’s discovery of the power of sensuality in literature; the price a family pays for freedom in a country beset by political upheaval – these and other threads are woven together in this beautiful memoir.
Nafisi’s intelligent and complicated mother, disappointed in her dreams of leading an important and romantic life, created mesmerising fictions about herself, her family, and her past. But her daughter soon learned that these narratives of triumph hid as much as they revealed. Nafisi’s father escaped into narratives of another kind, enchanting his children with classic tales like the “Shahnameh”, the “Persian Book of Kings”. When her father began to see other women, young Azar began to keep his secrets from her mother. Nafisi’s complicity in these childhood dramas ultimately led her to resist remaining silent about other personal – as well as political, cultural, and social – injustices.
What lunacy would cause a 55-year-old white male, neither lean nor hungry, to embroil himself in the world of New Orleans rap, not merely as an observer, but as an active participant – ideas man, talent-spotter, lyricist, and would-be producer? And why did his experience, after many tribulations, end up so profoundly joyous and fulfilling?
Nik Cohn has loved (and hated) hip-hop since its birth, thirty years ago, and loved (and hated) New Orleans for even longer. The city has haunted him from childhood, an addiction he’s never wanted to kick. But nothing prepared him for the experience of being pitched, more or less by accident, into the role of Triksta, rap impressario.
A white alien in a black world, with no funding or qualifications, and not a clue what he was doing, he had to rethink himself from scratch.Surrounded by a cast-list that included such names as Choppa and Soulja Slim, Big Ramp and Lil T, Bass Heavy, Fifth Ward Weebie, and Shorty Brown Hustle, he entered a world of tiny backstreet studios, broken-down slums and gun turfs, almost unimaginable to those who know New Orleans only as the touristic Big Easy.
Triksta is the story of a three-year odyssey that became all-consuming – a journey to the heart of rap, and New Orleans, and self-knowledge. Hilarious, tragic, startling, and exhilirating, sometimes all at once, it is Nik Cohn’s greatest book.