Home To An Empty House by Alun Richards

With a foreword by Rachel Trezise

When I first read Home to an Empty House in autumn 2005, I was living with my fiancé in a basement flat beneath his parents’ house, impatiently awaiting the renovation of our own home. It was a box; one kitchen/lounge, a hotel bathroom with a mini-tub, the plug pulled free of its chain, and a bedroom below the family kitchen. Each morning I was woken by the ceiling creaking; my soon-to-be mother-in-law pounding across it in her relentless quest to prepare a nutritional breakfast and delicately wash everyone’s clothes, and make real tea with a real teapot; a matronal domestic goddess.

Synopsis:
Home To An Empty House tells in Alun Richards’ incisive style the story of a marriage that has long since lost its sparkle. Walter, the wisecracking paranoiac and Connie, teacher of the ‘backward class’, are a couple who know a lot about sex but little about each other.

The industrial revolution is over and the South Wales valleys are slowly but surely losing their identity. Walter is forced through illness to reflect on his flaws while Connie attempts to sate her wanderlust.

“…a crackling and sizzling read, with all the verbal liveliness, the thrusting polemical athleticism of the highly articulate South Wales mind at its best … a novel, above all, full of life … of character and vitality.”

The Sunday Times

“His people are real, rounded and running over with life …”

Daily Telegraph

More information and comments:
Coming soon

Biographical notes:
Alun Morgan Richards was born in Pontypridd in 1929. He wrote six novels from 1962 to 1979 and two scintillating collections of short stories, Dai Country (1973) and The Former Miss Merthyr Tydfil (1976) .Plays for stage and radio were complemented by original screenplays and adaptations for television, including BBC’s Onedin Line. As an editor, he produced best-selling editions of Welsh short stories and tales of the sea for Penguin. His sensitive biography of his close friend, Carwyn James, appeared in 1984 and his own entrancing memoir Days of Absence in 1986. Alun Richards died in 2004.

Cwmardy & We Live by Lewis Jones

“Lewis Jones produced two novels that remain classics of international industrial fiction and testify to the oppressed but resistant and creative character of industrial South Wales.”
Stephen Knight

Synopsis:
The epic industrial novels of the 1930s, Cwmardy and We Live are published together for the first time.

In Cwmardy, Big Jim, collier and ex-Boer War soldier, and his partner Siân endure the impact of strikes, riots and war, while their son Len emerges as a sharp thinker and dynamic political organiser. Len’s tale is taken up in We Live, in which he is influenced by Mary, a teacher, and the Communist Party, which becomes central to his work both underground and in union politics, and to his decision to leave and fight in the Spanish Civil War.

Cwmardy and We Live paint a graphic portrait of the casual exploitation, tragedy and violence as well as the political hope and humanity of South Wales industrial workers from the 1900s to the 1930s.

About the author:
Born in Clydach Vale in 1897, Lewis Jones began work underground at the age of twelve. He worked for the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement, was elected a County Councillor in 1936, and died in 1939 after a day of speaking at numerous public meetings in support of the Spanish Civil War.

Short extract:
Big Jim, known to civil servants and army authorities as James Roberts, stopped abruptly and let his eyes roam over the splendour of the mountain landscape. A coat hung uncouthly from his arm and a soft breeze played on the hairy chest that showed beneath his open red-flannel shirt.
His small son, Len, stood near by wondering what had caused this sudden halt. He saw Big Jim open his mouth as if about to say something, but instead of words came a smacking sound and a large mass of tobacco-stained saliva.

Country Dance by Margiad Evans

“Margiad Evans is a unique phenomenon in border country writing, and pretty rare in any writing.”
John Powell Ward

“Written with terse incisive power… the novels of Margiad Evans glow with a dark… passionate light.”
Derek Savage

Synopsis:
At the heart of Country Dance is Ann Goodman, a young woman torn by ‘the struggle for supremacy in her mixed blood’, Welsh and English. In this story of passion and murder set in the border country, the rural way of life is no idyll but a hard battle for survival.

About the author:
Artist and writer Margiad Evans (Peggy Whistler) was born in Uxbridge in 1909. Her work includes Country Dance (1932); The Wooden Doctor (1933); Turf or Stone (1934), and Creed (1936), as well as non-fiction, short stories, autobiography and two collections of poetry, Poems from Obscurity (1947) and A Candle Ahead(1956).

Short extract:
A fellow writer once showed me a set of ten beautifully bound diaries she had discovered in a second-hand bookshop in Hayon- Wye. Written in elegant copper-plate script by a farmer’s wife during the first thirty years of the twentieth century, they were decorated with pictures of royalty, flowers and Gibson girls cut from magazines. The pages were perfumed with the scent of long dead, pressed summer flowers, which added to the seductive promise of a glimpse into a vanished world. The diaries emphasized the narrow confines of rural life in Wales during the first half of the twentieth century. Possibly the most dynamic entry was written on Saturday July 1st, 1916: Rose early, milked cows. Weather fine. Packed cart. Changed into second best dress. Took bacon, plucked chickens, butter and cheese to market. Bought new hat. Nothing, not even the Great War, existed for that woman outside of her husband’s farm and its immediate vicinity. She noted the passing of the seasons, the vagaries of weather, prices at local markets and the purchase of every garment. National and international events passed her by. For her they held no relevance.

Congratulate the Devil by Howell Davies

“Congratulate the Devil is a delightful comic novel by forgotten Welsh fantasy writer Howell Davies. Rescued from obscurity by the Library of Wales this amusing tale of mind control proves to be something of a lost gem. … the most surprising… addition to the Library of Wales series so far.”
babylonwales.com

Synopsis:
Starling knows a chemist called Roper, who knows a painter called Jourbert, who knows a man in Mexico who works for the government. Mescal has always had its routes into the world. There has been a new shipment, but not quite what anyone expected. This is a new drug. It opens the doors of perception for a man like Roper hiding away in his north London laboratory. He can make people work for him, turn his friends into fools or murderers, if only he could control his own mind…. Anita is such a beautiful woman but she could never love a man like Roper…

Power, pleasure, always corrupt…

About the author:
Howell Davies was born in 1896 on a farm at Felingwm near Carmarthen. He joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on his 18th birthday in 1914 and served throughout the First World War, being wounded twice and commissioned captain. Educated at the Sorbonne, Oxford and Aberystwyth University, he became a freelance journalist and editor for a wide variety of publications and organizations. He was editor of The South American Handbook, from 1923 until 1972. His best-known works are the three novels published by Gollancz just before the outbreak of the Second World War, most notably Minimum Man(1938), which was widely serialized. This was followed in 1939 by Three Men Make a World and Congratulate the Devil. He died in 1985.

Short extract:
‘No, no, I’m Welsh actually’ is always my riposte when accused of being English, partly to avert the cliché of being just one more Englishman living in New York, but mostly as homage to the very Welshness of my grandfather Howell Davies. This notable Welshness was not a question of mere nationality, though he was born on the hills of Felingwm, nor of language, though he indeed spoke and wrote Welsh with pride and accomplishment, but rather of character and attitude, his unique approach the whole thing of it.

‘For that was the worst of being Welsh, once you got into the spirit of a thing, and though you began by acting, in a moment, quick as anything, you were serious and inside the skin of the song, mournful as midnight and feeling a black sort of ecstasy…’

Border Country by Raymond Williams

With a foreword by Dai Smith

I first read Border Country when it appeared as a Penguin paperback in 1964. Its author was familiar to me for his pathbreaking critical studies Culture and Society (1958) and The Long Revolution (1961), but an undergraduate from the Rhondda at Oxford did not buy hardback novels, and I had only been made aware of the existence of Raymond Williams’ 1960 novel from biographical blurbs. I shelled out my five shillings and took it home. For me it crackled with the excitement of a discovery I had somehow known all along. I did not stop reading until, some time the next day, it was finished, and I have never stopped rereading that original copy since.

Synopsis:
When railway signalman Harry Price suffers a stroke his son Matthew, a lecturer in London, makes a return to the border village of Glynmawr. As Matthew and Harry struggle with their memories of social and personal change, a beautiful and moving portrait of the love between a father and son emerges.

More information and comments:
“COMPASSIONATE, IMAGINATIVE AND ACCURATE – BRILLIANTLY DONE.” – SUNDAY TIMES

“I DO NOT THINK I HAVE EVER BEEN SO MOVED BY A MODERN NOVEL… IT HAS MADE ME TAKE STOCK OF MY OWN POSITION.” : DENNIS POTTER

Biographical notes:
Raymond Williams was born in 1921 in the Welsh border village of Pandy. He taught at both Oxford and Cambridge, and in 1974 was appointed as Professor of Drama at Cambridge.

His best-known publications include Culture and Society(1958), The Long Revolution(1961), The Country and the City(1973), Keywords(1976) and Marxism and Literature(1977).

Ash on a Young Man’s Sleeve by Dannie Abse

‘Funny, Moving and Idiosyncratic.’
New Statesman
‘A loving, accurate and funny book.’
Financial Times

Synopsis:
Widely acclaimed for its warm humour, lyricism and honesty, as well as its accurate evocation of the thirties,Ash on a Young Man’s Sleeve has become a sung-after classic. In this delightful autobiographical novel, Dannie Abse skilfully interweaves public and private themes, setting the fortunes of a Jewish family in Wales against the troubled backcloth of the times- unemployment, the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, and the Spanish Civil War.

About the author:
Dannie Abse was born in Cardiff in 1923. He began his medical studies at the Welsh National School of Medicine and qualified as a doctor from Westminster Hospital, London in 1950. While still a student his first book of poems was published and his first play performed. Further poetry volumes followed over the decades, culminating in his New & Collected Poems (2003)and Running Late(2006). His first novel, Ash on a Young Man’s Sleeve appeared in 1954 and his most recent, the Booker long-listed The Strange Case of Dr Simmonds and Dr Glas in 2002. His three prize-winning plays were collected in The View from Row G (1990) and his autobiography, Goodbye, Twentieth Century, was published in 2001. He is president of the Welsh Academi and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Short extract:
One might expect a poet’s prose to be full of flowery descriptions and metaphors, but not if that writer is Dannie Abse. His modus operandi is both tougher and more human. He is a rare example of a person who has made a commitment to the wellbeing of body and spirit simultaneously through the arts and sciences. Dannie, the young protagonist of Ash on a Young Man’s Sleeve, feels attracted by two kinds of work. In conversation with his friend, Keith, he reflects on this: ‘I’ve been thinking,’ I said. ‘What?’ he asked. ‘I think I’ll become a doctor after all.’ ‘Thought you were going to be a poet and an assassin,’ Keith reminded me. ‘No,’ I said. ‘One must choose the difficult path. It’s too easy to be a poet, or to knock off a few heads of Europe. Too easy. I’ll take the difficult path. Anyway, I believe in Democracy.’ ‘What’ll you be tomorrow?’ smiled Keith. ‘Dunno,’ I said.

A Man’s Estate by Emyr Humphreys

‘The supreme interpreter of Welsh life.’
R.S Thomas

Synopsis:
Hannah Ellis is thirty-five, unmarried and still living at Y Glyn, the family farm in Wales where she has been brought up by her mother and step-father, a forbidding man with a powerful hold on the neighbourhood. Loving her country, yet resenting the egotism of her family, she yearns for the return of her long-banished brother Philip, believing that he will rescue her from this bleak existence. But Hannah little realises that Philip’s arrival is imminent, and is to herald enormous changes as he unwittingly ignites the passions and strengths of an unusually intertwined community.

About the author:
Emyr Humphreys was born at Trelawnyd in Flintshire, and attended the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, before registering as a conscientious objector at the outbreak of the Second World War. After the war he worked as a teacher, a drama lecturer at Bangor, and as a BBC producer. During his long bilingual writing career, he has published over twenty novels, which include such classics as A Toy Epic (1958), Outside the House of Baal (1965), and The Land of the Living, an epic sequence of seven novels charting the political and cultural history of twentieth-century Wales: Flesh and Blood; The Best of Friends; Salt of the Earth; An Absolute Hero; Open Secrets; National Winner, and Bonds of Attachment. He has also written plays for stage and television, short stories, The Taliesin Tradition (a cultural history of Wales), and published his Collected Poems in 1999. Among many honours, he has been awarded The Somerset Maugham Prize, The Hawthornden Prize, and the Welsh Book of the Year Award.

Short extract:
‘My dear Philip,’ he said, ‘you mustn’t get bitter.’
He was all right. These were his rooms, oak-panelling, books, sherry and all the time in the world.
‘Bitter,’ I said. ‘You’d be bitter if you were me.’

Sport by Gareth Williams

“There has long been a need for an anthology of Welsh sports writing that would reflect the best of it. Here it is.”
The Western Mail

Synopsis:
Sport is one of our consuming passions, and its literature is rich and extensive. This original and enjoyable anthology brings together for the very first time the finest writing on Welsh sport by some of our most acclaimed authors – novelists, short-story writers, journalists, historians and poets.

Its wide-ranging selection of fiction, non-fiction and verse reminds us that sport, like literature, is not only about itself but also about life, and sometimes death, and the human meaning of both.

About the author:
Featuring writing by: Richard Burton, Dylan Thomas, Dannie Abse, Richard Llewellyn, Carolyn Hitt, Leslie Thomas, Sheenagh Pugh, Alexander Cordell, Lewis Davies, Max Boyce, Jon Arlott, Eddie Butler, John Toshack, Rupert Moon, Gerald Davies and many more.

Short extract:
The Welshman has no national sport or pastime, unless it is playing dominoes, or ‘rings,’ for beer, in the pot-house. Cricket is, comparatively speaking, unknown, not a single county having a team composed of Welshmen that could hold its own anywhere outside the Principality. Golf is entirely in the hands of English or Scottish people, and most other pastimes are non-existent.

A Rope of Vines by Brenda Chamberlain

Synopsis:
A Rope of Vines- Journal from a Greek Island is a beautiful and personal account of the time spent by Brenda Chamberlain on the Greek Island of Ydra in the early 1960s.

Sea and harbour, mountain and monastery, her neighbours and friends are unforgettably pictured; these were the reality outside herself while within there was a conflict of emotion and warring desires which is also vividly brought to life. Joy and woe are woven fine in this record: the delight of a multitude of fresh experiences thronging to the senses, the suffering from which she emerges with new understanding of herself and human existence.

Both in the intensity and force of the writing and the eloquent island drawings, A Rope of Vines- Journal from a Greek Island is a distinguished achievement.

About the author:
Brenda Chamberlain was born at Bangor in 1912. In 1931 she went to train as a painter at the Royal Academy Schools in London and five years later, after marrying the artist-craftsman John Petts, settled near the village of Llanllechid, near Bethesda in Caernarfonshire. During the Second World War she worked with her husband on the production of the Caseg Broadsheets. In 1947 she went to live on Bardsey (Ynys Enlli) where she remained until 1961. After six years on the Greek island of Ydra, she returned to Bangor; it was there, depressed and with financial problems, she died from an overdose of sleeping tablets in 1971. A Rope of Vines was published in 1965.

Short extract:
I have returned to the good mothers of Efpraxia while my friend Leonidas serves sentence for manslaughter of an English tourist in the port of Ydra.
I am putting my thoughts together, for here the mind can clear itself. The nuns ask only simple questions, I have freedom to come and go as I please, no games of pretence are being played as they are every day of the week on the waterfront, I can take a siesta in a juniper tree if I feel like it.