Well, there were exciting happenings in the week, when my final two books in Paul Magrs’ “Phoenix Court” series arrived in the post. The full set of books includes “Marked for Life”, “Does it Show”, “Could it be Magic” and the previously unpublished “Fancy Man” and they’ve been reissued in lovely new editions by Lethe Press (more about them below), with additional material in the form of words from Paul and exclusive short stories!

Now, I read the first three of these books in the 1990s – I remember so clearly going round to Lewisham Library on the bus (the number 36 from New Cross Gate, which was still a Routemaster with the open platform at the back – sometimes I’d go round the back of the High Street, shoot straight past the library and up the High Street before I could get off, trudging back down the way I’d come with my big bag of books, because we could take either 9 or 12 books out at a time – and my golly, I did).

This wasn’t long after Paul wrote the books. I loved their North-East of England magic realism, a land of tatooed gentlemen swooping through precincts (precinct is a word I very much associate with Paul). I’d known some Birmingham regional writing and this was regional writing par excellence, taking the known and twisting it into a fun and fabulous unknown that you could get lost in.

Paul has of course gone from strength to strength, producing the much-loved Brenda and Effie novels, “Aisles”, which features Iris Murdoch as a character, and “Exchange”, which featured BookCrossing and led me to track Paul down with an email and make friends with him!

But these books I have remembered all those years, and yearned to have them. How could I resist when Lethe Press reissued them and I could subscribe (just like the old, original model of novel publishing!) and have them. And here they are.

But even more excitingly, due to a slight mix-up with my order, Lethe Press very kindly sent me MORE books. And being the generous lady I am, I thought I’d share them with you, my readers, and hopefully get Lethe a bit more well-known in the process.

Lethe Press

Lethe Press, who you can find here, publish “The strange, the eerie and the queer”. They’re big on speculative fiction and are devoted to ideas that get ignored or forgotten by the bigger, mainstream publishers. I think it’s brilliant that there are so many small presses dealing with topics that get pushed to the side – I read about so many of them on everyone’s blogs and it’s a lovely feature of today’s publishing world, I think.

The books

What fab covers, first of all!

Here are the blurbs:

“The Kissing Booth Girl” by A.C. Wise

“Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you the Kissing Booth Girl! Lips that beguile. Oh, I promise, the nearest thing to nuzzling an angel can be yours—today!—for a shiny round Seated Liberty I know you carry in your very pockets as I speak.” But to mechanically-inclined Beni, is the ethereal girl who fell from the sky a wish come true or false hope for life beyond the confines of the odd carnival called home. Her story–as well as tales of an order of deep-sea diving nuns caring for a sunken chapel and a high school boy asked to prom by the only dead kid he’s ever met–can be found in A.C. Wise’s newest collection of the fantastical, the weird, the queer and the poignant.

“The Spellbinders” by Aleardo Zanghellini

1299 AD. In the shadow of Canterbury Cathedral’s spires, a fateful encounter brings together Edward, teenage heir to the English throne, and a darkly handsome soldier from Gascony, Piers Gaveston. Youthful infatuation gives way to a bond more powerful than any attempt at keeping them apart. Edward and Piers enter a pact of sworn brotherhood. A decade later, Edward’s spirited new Queen, twelve-year-old Isabella of France, quickly becomes smitten as much with her royal consort as with his dashing lover. But the power-hungry Earls resent Gaveston’s monopoly of royal favour and his defiant self-assurance. Political intrigue mounts and the Earl of Lancaster has Gaveston murdered, leaving Edward devastated and thirsting for revenge. A debut novel, a historical epic with its foundation in the story of England’s most infamous homosexual prince, will captivate readers.

Now, I know I’ve got lots of lovely lady readers who like a jolly good mid-century forgotten women’s author, and so do I. But I like other stuff, too, and I know they do. Some have been exploring works in translation from all over the place, others live in Russia in their heads for years on end. And I’d like to bet I’ve got some adventurous readers or visitors who would just love to try one of these excellent reads.

How to win a book

To go into my marvellous prize draw, just comment below with a note of which book you’d like to try for (you can put down both!). I’ll leave it open until the end of the month then do some kind of random number generator business and post it off to you. Good luck! If you’re non-UK, I will need to send your book surface mail, but this is open to everyone. All I’d ask is that you promise to give the book a read and review it somewhere – anywhere, to help Lethe Press along, too. And do share my Tweet and Facebook post about the comp, too!