Author: Abbie

Orchestral Manoeuvres in Stockwell Park

Farrago Books has acquired poet Isabel Rogers’ fiction debut, Life, Death and Cellos, in a two-book deal bringing the baton down on the Stockwell Park Orchestra Mystery series. The series, following the adventures of an amateur orchestra in London, is a perfect addition to Farrago’s humorous fiction list, following recent acquisitions of titles by Mandy Morton, Chris McCrudden and Jonathan Pinnock.

The opening novel, Life, Death and Cellos, finds the Stockwell Park Orchestra facing financial ruin after a guest conductor drops dead on stage, squashing and injuring their primary benefactor. In a tale marrying the insight of Sue Townsend with the farcical humour of John O’Farrell, a priceless cello is abducted, a conductor is stranded on the wrong side of the Atlantic, and Erin the cellist stumbles (eventually) on her true calling in life.

Isabel Rogers won the 2014 Cardiff International Poetry Competition and has been shortlisted twice in the Charles Causley poetry prize. She was Hampshire Poet Laureate 2016 and her debut poetry collection Don’t Ask was published by Eyewear in February 2017.

Commissioning Editor Abbie Headon says: “I’ve enjoyed reading Isabel’s pithy observations on Twitter for several years, and I was thrilled to discover that, as well as being a very serious poet, Isabel is also a hilarious storyteller. Life, Death and Cellos marries Isabel’s love of classical music with perfect comic timing and emotional depth.”

Isabel Rogers says: “I can’t always be moping about writing poetry. I spent too many rehearsals giggling to waste all that fantastic material, so Life, Death and Cellos muscled into my head and refused to leave until I wrote it down. I hope it might show readers who don’t play an instrument that just because people can master demisemiquavers doesn’t mean they are remotely civilised. Musicians want alcohol and custard creams. Anything else is a bonus.”

Life, Death and Cellos will be published in ebook, paperback and audiobook on 14 February 2019 and promoted through the book trade and direct to the Farrago mailing list of humorous fiction lovers. The second title in the series will be published later in 2019.

Listen up! Audiobooks to make you smile

Have you discovered the joy of audiobooks yet? They’re a fabulous way to enjoy great stories when you’re travelling, keeping fit, working, relaxing – in fact, almost all the time! Here’s a list of all our current titles. We hope you enjoy them, and we’d love to hear what you think!

The Miss Seeton Mystery Series, read by Phyllida Nash

Picture Miss Seeton   Amazon   iTunes   Kobo Miss Seeton Draws the Line   Amazon   iTunes   Kobo Witch Miss Seeton   Amazon   iTunes   Kobo Miss Seeton Sings   Amazon   iTunes   Kobo Miss Seeton Quilts the Village   Amazon   iTunes   Kobo

The Bandy Papers Series, read by Robin Gabrielli

Three Cheers for Me   Amazon   iTunes That’s Me in the Middle   Amazon   iTunes It’s Me Again   Amazon   iTunes Follow us here on our blog, and on Twitter and Facebook, to stay up to date with new titles. And subscribers to our newsletter (see link on homepage) will get regular updates too, of course. Happy listening!

Win a prize from The Literary Gift Company in the new Farrago newsletter

The latest Farrago newsletter has just landed, packed with news of bookish goings on at Farrago HQ. If you missed your copy, don’t worry – you can sign up for the next edition on our home page. In the newsletter, we’ve got a fab giveaway, and we wanted to share it with our blog readers too. Thanks to the Literary Gift Company, we’re offering one lucky reader a stylish mug with a message to preserve your precious reading time… For a chance to win, answer the question below: Who is the author of Miss Seeton Sings? (a) Hamilton Crane (b) Heron Carvic (c) Hampton Charles Send your answer to by Monday 12 February. Click here for terms and conditions. And for more bookish treats, do check out the Literary Gift Company website. Don’t miss out – enter today! And look out for another giveaway in next month’s newsletter, plus all the latest news about new titles and behind-the-scenes secrets from the world of books that make us smile.

The Making of a Mystery Writer

Sarah J. Mason, known to fans of the Miss Seeton Mystery series as Hamilton Crane, describes how she first caught the mystery habit…

To paraphrase Mark Twain: two or three persons having at different times intimated that if I would write an explanation they would read it when they got leisure, I yield at last to this frenzied public demand, and herewith tender a history of my first tentative steps in the crime fiction world. My father, one way and another, began it all. My mother had gone to hospital. “And when she comes home, she will bring you a baby sister! You’ll be able to play together when she is bigger, but for now you must be very kind and gentle with her because she has a hole in her head, and it will hurt her if you touch it.” My sister is three years and two months younger than me. Once she came home, a very puzzled little girl spent a long time looking for the expected neat black bullet-hole between the baby’s eyes. No splinters of bone, no blood, no mess – just a neat black bullet-hole, perplexing by its absence. The perfect cosy mystery, except that my juvenile query was not Whodunnit? so much as Where is it? (Memo to well-intentioned parents: do explain things properly!) My father died a week after my sixteenth birthday. Exams loomed at school. For light relief I picked up his copy of The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin and discovered for the first time that a detective story could be, not only well plotted, not only well written, but could also be fun; sprinkled throughout with literary allusions to enhance the enjoyment of those readers who recognised them, without in any way overwhelming those who didn’t. Many years later, when my own books were first published, I wrote to Edmund Crispin’s widow and explained that I should like to acknowledge my debt by quoting a line from The Moving Toyshop on the topic of coincidence. Would she mind? She replied, by return, that she would not. I was thrilled. That Sarah J. Mason mystery with its Crispin quotation is long out of print, but in homage to the master Hamilton Crane will from time to time sprinkle a modest literary allusion into Miss Seeton’s adventures, so much less fantastic than the “unlikely events” depicted in Edmund Crispin’s pre-war Oxford. My life might have taken a very different direction if my father had gone to Cambridge – but he didn’t. And the rest is mystery history!

Seetons, Lobelias and Brokkenbroll: the umbrellas that got away

We’re delighted to welcome to the Farrago Books blog Marion Rankine, unrivalled expert in all things umbrella-related in the literary world. Marion’s wonderful book Brolliology was published in November by Melville House.   

One of the beautiful and terrible things about your book going to print is that you can’t do anything to it any more. No more corrections, no more last-minute edits, no more fiddling about with word choice. It’s a bit like getting on a plane for a meticulously planned trip: you hope you’ve packed what you need, organised All The Things, but if you didn’t, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. A feeling of immense relief, laced with a horrible crawling anxiety. 

My book, Brolliology: A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature, was published by Melville House in November 2017. It’s an exploration of umbrellaness – the wonderfully varied meanings that umbrellas have held for us over thousands of years, and how these meanings manifest in literature. It sprung from an impulse of literary collectorship: stung by an insatiable curiosity about bookish umbrellas, I embarked on a long period of umbrella-hunting in my reading, spurred on by hints and allusions in texts, literary criticism and from fellow readers. All in all, the book features passages from over forty essays and novels.  

Despite its anthological impulse, Brolliology was never meant to be encyclopaedic, a complete catalogue of All The Umbrellas In All The Books Ever. Such an attempt would be immense, and rather contrary to the spirit of gentle inquiry I was writing in. However, I have always known that there would be some left-out brollies, some yet-to-be-discovered gems, that would haunt me after the final edits were done. And sure enough, just a few weeks before publication – and long after I could do anything about writing them into my book – they started popping up. Samuel Beckett was the first to rear his head when a colleague tipped me off to a wonderful walking stick/umbrella duality which appears in Molloy, where an umbrella’s natural function as a shelter is complicated by its extreme usefulness as a walking aid: “Was I to go on leaning on my umbrella and get drenched or was I to stop and take shelter under my open umbrella?” 

Then there’s Hopscotch, by Argentinian novelist Julio Cortázar, which contains some of the most poetic writing about a failed umbrella you’re ever likely to see: “you tried to open your umbrella in the park in a proud sort of way, but your hand got all wrapped up in a catastrophe of cold lightning shafts and black clouds, strips of torn cloth falling from the ruins of unfrocked spokes…” 

There’s a section in my book about umbrella sentience (yes, it’s a thing) and it’s a shame I hadn’t yet encountered China Miéville’s YA novel Un Lun Dun, which features the treacherous Brokkenbroll – master of the broken brollies which have crossed into UnLondon from the streets of London – and the umbrellas (or rather, unbrellas) he gives out to UnLondon citizens to defend themselves against the sentient Smog preying on their world. 

However, having not previously read Molloy, Hopscotch or Un Lun Dun I couldn’t feel too guilty for overlooking them. Something I have read – and am very cross with myself for forgetting – is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, in which the odious Lobelia Sackville-Baggins is known for deploying her accessory in near-criminal ways: “[Frodo] escorted her firmly off the premises, after he had relieved her of several small (but rather valuable) articles that had somehow fallen inside her umbrella.” 

Indeed, so attached is Lobelia to her brolly that, when she is later rescued from a lengthy and unjust incarceration, she emerges from prison “still clutching her umbrella.” In so doing, she joins a long tradition of literary characters – Mary Poppins, Father Brown, Robinson Crusoe and Mrs Gamp being some of the best-known – who are almost inseparably identified with their brollies. Which brings us to one of the literary umbrellas I’m most pained to have missed out – that carried by the titular character of Heron Carvic’s Miss Seeton series (recently republished by Farrago). Miss Seeton has a habit of dispensing poetic justice to wrongdoers with her rolled umbrella – so much so that she is referred to as “The Battling Brolly” in newspapers. “That woman gets her umbrella into everything,” comments the superintendent of police, but it is well that she does: more than once, her umbrella saves her life. It certainly aids the police in their investigations, even if Miss Seeton herself is terribly ashamed of the small physical violences she inflicts on hardened criminals. It’s a source of some amusement to certain members of the local police force, but as the superintendent gravely puts it, “The Miss Seetons of this world don’t biff people; they indicate displeasure with the ferrule of an umbrella.” In fact, had the Miss Seeton books been penned a century earlier, umbrellas may well have found themselves with a new moniker: robinsons, gamps, hanways (after Jonas Hanway, a pioneer of umbrella use among the British) and chamberlains (after umbrella-toting British PM Neville Chamberlain) all entered the language by dint of association with the fictional or real-world characters who carried them. 

So, there’s just five spectacular literary umbrellas I missed. Having written this, I will no doubt encounter another in the next book I pick up. It’s one of the more endearing, exasperating qualities of umbrellas: never quite visible when you need one, and glaringly obvious – tripping you up at the top of the stairs, or slathered across a pavement, flapping feebly – when you don’t. 

Start the New Year with a chuckle!

Happy New Year from everyone at Farrago Books! We hope you had a wonderfully relaxing holiday, with plenty of time for curling up with a good book. If the thought of going back to work is making you feel blue, we’ve got the perfect titles to give you back that holiday feeling. Lovers of cosy mysteries will enjoy the Miss Seeton Mystery series, starting with Picture Miss Seeton. For crime procedurals with a darkly comic twist, take a trip to Hong Kong with the Yellowthread Street Mystery series. Begin your adventure with Yellowthread Street, and try to stay ahead of the kukri-wielding Mongolian with a grudge… Make friends with Florida’s most lovable psychopath in the Serge Storms Adventure series, starting with a thoughtfully flattened helping of Florida Roadkill. Finally, if historical comedy is more to your taste, travel back a hundred years and meet Canada’s most catastrophe-prone aviator, the disconcertingly horse-faced and ever-optimistic Bart Bandy, in The Bandy Papers. Once you’ve sampled his first adventure, Three Cheers for Me, you’ll be ready to shout ‘Chocks away!’ on the rest of the series. Whatever 2018 brings, you can be sure of a chuckle with Farrago Books. Get in touch and let us know your favourite!

Win books on the Farrago Advent Calendar!

Christmas is about lots of things: being together, playing games, eating too much and – best of all – presents! Here at Farrago, we got into the Christmas spirit early, with the launch of our Advent Calendar on Twitter on 1 December. We’ve been giving away a selection of wonderful prizes every day, including paperbacks, ebooks and audiobooks, and the response has been amazing – we’re delighted to have made lots of new Twitter friends. There’s still time to join in, with five more days of Farrago gift-giving still to come before Christmas. Follow us on Twitter and stay tuned for each day’s new prize – we’ll look forward to seeing you there! Happy Christmas from Team Farrago.

Miss Seeton in Audiobooks

We’re delighted to post a series of guest blogs from our author Hamilton Crane, also known as Sarah J. Mason to her friends and family. In this post, Sarah introduces us to the Miss Seeton audiobooks.

When Miss Seeton’s new publishers Farrago first raised the idea of audiobooks, I was delighted. I listen to a fair number of audiobooks, and already had some ideas on possible readers for the series. When the recording studio came up with their own suggestions there was one name on both lists: Phyllida Nash! I had first heard Phyllida reading the work of Georgette Heyer, and it was clear that she researched her text thoroughly before sitting in front of the microphone – something not every reader remembers to do, I suspect. When Farrago Books gave me the chance to discuss the characters with her she explained that, although she had already studied Picture Miss Seeton, she wanted to read it through once more before starting the recordings. She wanted to make sure she had chosen just the right voices for the characters – which I believe she did, as I hope you’ll agree. You can listen to 5-minute samples on the Audible website. Each sample comes from the start of the book, so in the Picture Miss Seeton sample you’ll hear Phyllida’s voice for Miss Seeton herself, as well as her narrator’s voice. The Witch Miss Seeton sample gives you Chief Inspector Brinton and, towards the end, Superintendent Delphick and Sergeant Ranger, while in the sample from Miss Seeton Quilts the Village you’ll hear her Lady Colveden voice, another of my particular favourites.

Click the links above to find out more about these books, available now from Audible, Amazon, iTunes and Kobo.

You can find out more about Sarah J. Mason by visiting the Hamilton Crane author page on Goodreads – see you there!  

Are you ready for a night in the lonesome October?

Here at Farrago Books our mission is to bring you fiction that will make you smile. It could be the gentle smile of a cosy mystery being unravelled in a sleepy English village, or the manic grin of a vigilante serial killer tearing down Florida’s highways in search of stolen loot – but right now it’s witching season, and the only grins we need are the terrifyingly spooky ones on our Halloween pumpkins. So for all your haunted reading needs, we have a classic fantasy novel laced with dark humour by Roger Zelazny: A Night in the Lonesome October. Imagine a novel narrated by Jack the Ripper’s faithful dog Snuff, telling the story of a mysterious Game in which the eldritch spirits of H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu realm will be let in to destroy humankind or kept out for another year. Now imagine a field of competing Players including Sherlock Holmes, Dr Frankenstein and Rasputin – and imagine that all the action is told from the point of view of their familiars: a cat, a snake, a squirrel and so on. If that’s not weird enough for you, wait till you find out that many Zelazny fans all over the world join together in reading a chapter a day for the month of October, year after year. It’s that good! And you don’t have to take my word for it. George R. R. Martin called this book “the last great novel by one of the giants of the genre”, and Neil Gaiman wrote a short story inspired by it. In fact, a few weeks ago Neil confirmed to us that he’s still a fan: As well as about a zillion blogs and Goodreads reviews, A Night in the Lonesome October has also inspired some pretty amazing fan art, like these sketches from Katie Baker and Justin DeVine. So, if you’d like a scary trip to Victorian London, in the company of body snatchers, witches and things that go bump in the night, check out Roger Zelzany’s book here.  

The very best… Female Sleuths

We fell in love with retired art teacher Miss Emily Seeton when we first read Picture Miss Seeton, and we hope you will too – and we were thrilled to publish her first new adventure in twenty years, Miss Seeton Quilts the Village, in September 2017. So, to prepare for the latest chapter in demure Miss Seeton’s surprisingly adventurous life, we decided to celebrate our favourite female crime-hunters…

Stephanie Plum

This fictional lingerie-buyer-turned-bounty-hunter is the creation of the bestselling author Janet Evanovich, whose books are loved all over the world. On losing her job, Stephanie turns to her cousin Vinnie, and ends up as a bounty hunter at Vincent Plum Bail Bonds – and twenty-four books later (plus several short stories), she’s still in business.

Lori Anderson

Another American bounty hunter (there are a lot of them about), Lori Anderson in the creation of Steph Broadribb, and stars in Steph’s recent debut novel Deep Down Dead from Orenda Books. Though she wants to play it safe from now on, when her daughter’s health hangs in the balance and the medical bills start piling up, she has no option but to take on a dangerous job that will jeopardise everything she cares about most deeply…

Miss Marple

The most famous of them all, Agatha Christie’s gentle but acutely perceptive protagonist appeared in twenty of her novels, and has been portrayed on screen by Margaret Rutherford, Joan Hickson, Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie, among others. A quiet spinster from the sleepy village of St Mary Mead, Jane Marple should never be underestimated, as a great many murderers found out over the course of her forty-year reign.

Jane Jeffry

Created by Jill Churchill, Jane Jeffry is a suburban housewife from Chicago, Illinois, who finds herself untangling crimes, such as the murder of her cleaning lady, whose neck became fatally tangled in her vacuum cleaner cord. Stay tuned to for news of Jane’s imminent arrival on our shelves – we can’t wait to share all her adventures with you.

 Miss Silver

Retired governess-turned-detective Miss Maud Silver, a close contemporary of Miss Marple – though of course the two never met – was the creation of novelist Patricia Wentworth, and first appeared in a book entitled Grey Mask, published in 1928. Her adventures have inevitably been compared with Miss Marple’s, but one key difference is that Miss Silver is a professional detective for whom each case is a job, rather than an occurrence that happens to cross her path.

Jessica Fletcher

Jessica Fletcher, the kindly mystery novelist of Cabot Cove, Maine, first appeared to us on the small screen, brought to life by the incomparable Angela Lansbury, but her adventures have also been transcribed in a number of books, so she deserves a place on our list of favourites. We just hope they were written on an old-fashioned typewriter that goes ‘ping!’ at the end of each line…

Mrs Pollifax

Created by novelist Dorothy Gilman, Mrs Emily Pollifax is a widow from New Brunswick, New Jersey. Decided that her Garden Club meetings weren’t quite enough of a highlight in her life, Mrs Pollifax decided to join the CIA, and thus began over thirty years of adventures all over the world – proving that you don’t have to wear sharp suits and quaff shaken martinis to be a successful spy. She was brought to life on screen by Rosalind Russell and (yes – again!) Angela Lansbury.

Agatha Raisin

Taking early retirement from her career as a public relations agent in London, Agatha Raisin probably expected a quiet life in the Cotswold village of Carsley, but an encounter with a poisoned quiche soon put paid to that plan. Author Marion Chesney (writing as M.C. Beaton) has been delighting readers with Agatha’s exploits since 1992, and Ashley Jensen starred as Agatha in a series broadcast on Sky TV in 2016.

Miss Seeton

We couldn’t end without praising our own local heroine, Miss Emily Seeton, retired art teacher and umbrella-wielding crime fighter of Plummergen, Kent. Created by actor Heron Carvic in the late 1960s, she has appeared in more than twenty books, and has enchanted generations of cosy crime readers. Miss Seeton is back, in a brand-new mystery entitled Miss Seeton Quilts the Village, by Hamilton Crane – the first in almost 20 years! It’s available in print and ebook editions, and also an audiobook recorded by the wonderful Phyllida Nash – and stay tuned for new of Miss Seeton’s next adventure, coming in 2018… Who’s your favourite female sleuth? Drop us a line on Twitter at @farragobooks or on Facebook at Farrago Books. And remember: keep ’em peeled!