Rachel Genn

Rising Literary Stars – a review

Thursday 28th July 2011 is a day that the shop will hold in great affection for many a day to come.

It was the second time that we had run a panel event for Rising Literary Stars and we were blessed with not only five brilliant novelists but also a passionate, informed chairperson and an audience that was thoughtful, engaged and utterly delightful.

Dan, one of the authors, has written a piece here  He, obviously, writes far more eloquently than me so I will just add a few personal thoughts from the evening.

Firstly I must mention Zool, our Events Manager, who had the original idea of hosting an event with a panel of first-time authors a couple of years back. Perhaps not a sure-fire type of event to bring in the audience and get the tills ringing. However, his vision and belief that this is the type of show that we really should put on has proved to be spot on. We, as a bookshop, recognise that there is a thirst for new voices out there and it is a responsibility for us to do our bit to give a platform to the less-tried and less-tested. On a self interested level we also hope that if we pick the authors well then we will give ourselves a chance to develop a strong connection with them as their careers blossom and that connection becomes mutually beneficial over many years (hanging on to the coat tails some might call it)

The sheer variety of the panel; their backgrounds, motivations, routes into being published, even their reading style ensured a natural rhythm to proceedings. Where there was uniformity though was in the extraordinary generosity of spirit that each of them showed – towards the other panelists, to the shop and to the audience. Take it from me, a wizened soul of too many bookshop events to keep count, that not all authors are like this…

After the readings each author was given the opportunity to proselytize about one book. Here’s what they chose:

Rachel Genn chose A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jenny Egan “nothing like it for the past 20 years”
Dan Holloway chose The Dead Beat by Cody James “most raw, honest and funny book this year”
John Butler chose City of Bohane by Kevin Barry *sorry John – I was too busy trying to remember how to spell Bohane to jot down your description of it. Oops.
Naomi Wood chose the At Last the last of the Melrose novels of Edward St Aubyn (Some Hope, On The Edge, A Clue to The Exit and Mother’s Milk being the others) “searingly brutal…absolutely fantastic”
Lee Rourke chose Vault by David Rose “critiques the heroics of the novel”
Nicholas Royle chose Ten Stories About Smoking by Stuart Evers “just brilliant stories”

But the authors were not the only stars of the evening. We sometimes get anxious about attracting big enough audiences for some of our events, but we never have a jot of anxiety about the quality of audience that Oxford always turns out. We needn’t have feared on either count for this event; an audience of over 50 people who contributed great questions but, perhaps more importantly, created an enchanting atmosphere that made the evening so special. Those who came along did us, and the authors, proud.Thank you

The lovely Michele Brenton (who came from Bridgend to be part of the evening) was inspired to pen a poem

So, an unqualified success – if you are keen to come along to future events in the shop do follow us on Twitter, like our Facebook page, keep an eye on our Online events page or look out for our posters in store to make sure that you don’t miss out on future magical evenings!

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Rising Literary Stars II – Win all the featured books!

This Thursday, 28th July at 7pm we are hosting our second panel discussion featuring some of the most exciting new literary talent around at the moment. At our previous Rising Literary Stars we had Poppy Adams (shortlisted for the Costa 1st Novel 2008 for The Behaviour of Moths), Samantha Harvey (winner of the Betty Trask Prize and AMI Literature award in 2009 for The Wilderness), James Miller (Lost Boys and Sunshine State, one of the Time Out Rising Stars of 2008) and Ali Shaw (winner of the Desmond Elliot Prize, shortlisted for Costa 1st Novel in 2009 for The Girl With the Glass Feet). It was a vibrant, interesting and fun evening.

This time we have a panel that is, perhaps, even more mouth-watering:

John Butler columnist, screenwriter and now novelist. His first novel is Tenderloin a modern take on the coming of age tale. School friends Evan and Milo who head off to San Francisco from Dublin in search of fame and fortune. Things do not necessarily turn out as planned. A wry, comic debut written with assurance and a fresh, exciting perspective.



Rachel Genn uses the story of an Irish labourer in London to explore themes of identity, loneliness and displacement in The Cure Her background as a doctor of neuroscience lends an insight to the human condition that is intriguing but not over-played.



Dan Holloway We have blogged and tweeted a lot about Dan since The Company of Fellows won the poll on this blog for Your Favourite Oxford Novel. But enough about Company, Dan is an extremely versatile writer, currently I am reading ‘Songs From the Other Side of the Wall’ which is more Murukami than Thomas Harris, and is a whirlwind of creativity as blogger, publisher and performer.


Lee Rourke is another favourite of this blog. The Canal, which won the ‘Not the Booker Prize’ in The Guardian last year and is in the process of being turned into a film. It is a book that created a huge stir in our shop and has become one of the books most recommended by our booksellers to customers. Lee is also very active online as contributing editor at 3:AM Magazine, contributor at Scarecrow as well being an essayist, reviewer and literary critic.



Naomi Wood Godless Boys is set in an alternative 1980s England where The Church rules and members of the outlawed Secular Movement are deported to The Island off the North East coast. A parallel world which allows a deft examination of faith, love and power. She is a graduate of the Creative Writing programme at UEA and has been a Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress in Washington DC.


Bringing some order and insight to proceedings will be Nicholas Royle – novelist, commissioning editor at Salt Publishing and editor of The Best British Short Stories



***STOP PRESS*** Stuart Evers was due to appear but will now be engaged at a glitzy awards ceremony. We fancy him to win and wish him well!

Massive systemic changes are taking place in publishing and bookselling, and I suspect some of these themes will be touched on during the discussion, but is writing itself changing in a similar fashion? This is a great chance to hear from and ask questions of a clutch of the most talented new wave of published authors in the country.

Reserve a place on the coat tails of five extraordinary new authors as their literary stock will undoubtedly rise and rise and rise. Come along and you will be able say that you were there for the literary equivalent of seeing The Beatles at The Cavern Club in 1961!

Every ticket holder will enter a prize draw to win a copy of each of the books featured on the night. Tickets cost £2, book your place now by popping into the shop or telephoning 01865 333623