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Independent book publishing is thriving in Clerkenwell, so we've come up with our pick of the best new titles from seven local imprints. And on the next page, you can read an exclusive excerpt from a debut novel issued by yet another EC1 publisher...

The Madness of July - James Naughtie (Head of Zeus)
A familiar voice to Radio 4 listeners, Jim Naughtie has applied his journalistic antennae to a Cold War thriller set in the mid-1970s. Will Flemyng, a former spy, is a Foreign Office minister in a government that’s been plunged into a political has always gripped me as a journalist,” said Naughtie when the novel was announced. The Madness of July is a major release for Head of Zeus, which launched in 2012. “I think it could be a bestseller because he is a celebrity in his own right,” chairman Anthony Cheetham tells The Post. It’s already been given the seal of approval by fellow thriller writer Kate Mosse. 27 February – hardback and ebook

 

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The Road to Independence?: Scotland in the Balance – Murray Pittock (Reaktion Books)
Appropriately for an academic publisher that moved to London from Edinburgh in 1987, one of Reaktion’s major releases for 2014 offers a lively guide to the rise of Scottish nationalism in the run-up to the Independence referendum in September. “The Road to Independence?: Scotland in the Balance describes why Scotland is becoming increasingly detached from the UK, and why the Scots and English understand each other less and less,” the Glasgow University literature professor tells The Post. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, also has his say in a foreword. EC1 inhabitants may not be getting a vote, but you need to read this book to understand what’s at stake. 1 February - paperback

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Dark Journey - Irfan Orga (Eland Publishing)
Over the last 30 years, Eland Publishing has won admirers for its classic travel writing. The firm was set up by a team of travel writers who wanted to revive books by authors they admired, including Martha Gellhorn, Norman Lewis and Dervla Murphy. Eland sometimes publishes novels too, and their latest is by Turkish author Irfan Orga. Dark Journey, which was discovered decades after his death, is a disturbing, fast-paced story of a young Turkish woman’s descent towards moral destruction. Although Dark Journey is fiction, publisher Barnaby Rogerson tells The Post it is “pretty central to what we aim to do at Eland - understand other cultures, other experiences through writing.” 27 March – paperback

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No Book But the World – Leah Hager Cohen (Clerkenwell Press)
Two years on from the launch of Profile Books' Clerkenwell Press the imprint is making a name for itself with hits such as 1913 by Florian Illies, which captures the culture of Europe as it stands on the brink of apocalypse. The Clerkenwell Press is also strong on literary fiction, including New Yorker Leah Hager Cohen’s follow-up to the Orange Prize-listed The Grief of Others. In No Book But the World, a young boy goes missing and the accused is a loner, whose sister believes that she alone will be able to prove his innocence. Expect a tender story full of insight and moral ambiguity from this gifted American author. 27 March - hardback

 

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Au Reservoir – Guy Fraser-Sampson (Elliott & Thompson)
If you’re a fan of P.G. Wodehouse, the latest book in the revived Mapp & Lucia series will be a retro comic treat. Guy Fraser-Sampson, who discovered the original stories by E.F. Benson as a boy, believes the snobbery, bitchiness and self-delusion practiced by Emmeline Lucas (known as Lucia) and Elizabeth Mapp in the fictional village of Tilling have provided one of the most enduring series of comic fiction. It was a brave move to try and breathe new life into these much-loved characters. Fortunately, critics applauded Fraser- Sampson’s take on these formidable ladies and their ceaseless social rivalry. 27 March - paperback

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The Burden of the Desert – Justin Huggler (Short Books)
Short Books may be a lean operation but it was behind a literary phenomenon in 2013: The Fast Diet sold 500,000 copies and had everyone talking about the 5:2 Diet. The EC1 publisher has another potential bestseller with this novel from a former war correspondent for The Independent. Huggler’s written a tense, evocative story set during the US-led occupation of Iraq. His cast of characters includes a young journalist, an American officer, a grieving Iraqi and a torture victim whose lives are thrown together in a terrifying world of violence and mistrust. It’s a sign of the times that Huggler’s debut's been signed up after it was initially self-published and became a word-ofmouth hit on Amazon. 6 February – paperback

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War: What is it good for? – Ian Morris (Profile)
The World War I centenary will be marked by a raft of books about the horrors of that conflict. So this thought-provoking study about the paradoxical benefits of war over thousands of years should stir as much debate as the British historian’s breakthrough book, Why the West Rules – For Now. A professor of History, Classics and Archaeology at Stanford University, Morris draws on his inter-disciplinary insights to argue that war has ultimately created societies that are better organised and more peaceful. However, he also warns that increasingly deadly weaponry could destroy everything. Essential reading for those who tend to take the long view. 3 April - hardback

 

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