A blog from Tonto Books, featuring musings from the publishing world and some occasional special guest appearances.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Paul recommends...

We're currently putting the finishing touches to our autumn/winter catalogue and the New Novelists shortlist (more details soon) but I'm taking a break to post the first of our occasional 'recommends' features - basically Stu and I pointing out some books, CDs, and DVDs you might want to check out. It seems appropriate to start with a book...

Book: The Ice at the Bottom of the World Mark Richard

I recommended this little book of short stories during our first Tonto creative writing course, and I'm happy to do so again today. Richards is the most dynamic writer I've ever encountered - his language and description are a delight to read. He's from Louisiana, and his stories are set in balmy bayous populated with an assortment of fascinating low-lifes. Opener 'Strays' is a fantastic introduction to Richard unique, addictive style, and 'Her Favourite Story' is as good an example of a short story as you're ever likely to see. The collection was published in 1990 (it won the 1990 Ernest Hemingway Award) and is now out of print, but, at the time of writing, Amazon's Marketplace has a few second hand copies in stock for less than a fiver. We'll be linking to all of our recommended picks at Amazon to make it easy to get hold of them. Get The Ice At The Bottom Of The World here.

CD: Nashville Josh Rouse

Josh Rouse is a gem of a singer/songwriter, and Nashville, his last-but-one CD, is probably the best introduction to his talents. A melodic treat of country-tinged classic pop songs, its a CD I've still got in heavy rotation more than two years after its release. If you want to sample a track on iTunes, try It's The Nighttime. Josh regularly visits Tonto's part of the world and is well worth seeing live. And if you like Nashville, Josh's Subtitulo, 1972, and Under Cold Blue Stars are also essential purchases. Get Nashville here.

DVD: The Wire Season One

A TV show, you say? But isn't all TV rubbish? Not when it's made by HBO it isn't. The US cable channel has already brought us The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, The Larry Sanders Show, Band of Brothers, and Ricky Gervais's Extras, but I'm here to tell you that The Wire might just be the best of the lot. A dense, uncompromising crime drama, The Wire tells the story of Baltimore's drug trade through the dual viewpoints of the police and the dealers. It's brilliantly written - almost novelistic in style - and the vast cast of characters are brilliantly realised and portrayed. If the ensemble cast has any stars, they're both British - Dominic West as flawed detective Jimmy McNulty, and Idris Elba as charismatic drug lieutenant Stringer Bell. I could go on all day about how good The Wire is, but suffice to say every single episode is better than any movie I've seen in the last two or three years. You need to start with Season One, but Seasons Two and Three are even better. Amazon are currently doing Seasons One and Two for an amazing £24.97 each - that's less than two quid an episode! You can also rent it using the same link. Get The Wire Season One here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Al Reet

A week after the book launch and we are pleased that Wor Al is doing so well. The launch night proved that not only was there support for Shearer himself, but for Tonto Press. The positive feedback from contributors and readers has been very encouraging indeed. It is nice to know that there is interest in what we are doing, and as a reminder, you can keep up to date with Tonto goings on by subscribing to our newsletter. So what are you waiting for?

Monica Harris and contributor Christopher Short

Again... big thanks to Monica on the night for helping raise so much money for the NSPCC. Without her, we would have modelled the signed shirt ourselves and probably raised 7 pence in the process. Cheers to my good mate Phil Hoffmann for MCing - he's a great actor and when he's not in one of my own shoddy productions, he can be found in decent plays 'n' stuff.

Phil aka Patrick Hoffmann playing Dan in Gorgeous Avatar

More thanks to all those who Paul already mentioned, and no thanks to all those friends who said they'd come along and then stayed in because of a bit of rain.

Well. There's my first Blog. Bye for now.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wor Al launch

Despite monsoon conditions and a live England match on BBC1 (Studio pundit? A. Shearer!) a good number of folk came out to Shearer's Bar at St James's Park last night to celebrate the launch of Wor Al.

Monica Harris with some of the prizes

Among the fun and games on offer were a prize draw, a picture board quiz, a raffle, and a sweepstakes to win, among other things, a Newcastle United shirt signed by Shearer, Given, Duff and Owen, a framed England shirt signed by Shearer, the signed original Wor Al artwork, various other signed goodies, and real cash money. All proceeds from the games went to the NSPCC, as does 50p from every copy of Wor Al sold.

"Wor Al" contributor Barry Hindmarch

Once again we were amazed by the distances people had travelled specifically to attend our launch. Thanks to everyone who turned out, bought books, coughed up for the games, and helped us raise a few hundred quid for the NSPCC in the process.

Monica and contributor Stephen Miller

Big thanks to Monica Harris for doing the hostess thing (fans should check out her website www.monica-harris.com), Phil Hoffmann for acting as compere, Danny Mitchell for donating the England shirt and representing the NSPCC, Lisa and Ray for handling the book sales, Dave Lynn for organising the sweepstakes, Tony O'Donnell for donating the original artwork. Stu and I really appreciated it, ta.

*Earlier in the day I plugged the launch on BBC Radio Newcastle, and they put together a nice montage of voiced extracts from "Wor Al". Listen to it here (mp3, right click to "save as"). The full interview is on our media page.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Here are some photos from the very first Tonto Press creative writing course, held in an inspiring but somewhat spooky 200-year-old building. Thankfully there were only two reported supernatural events during the week-long course, and all attendees seemed to enjoy and get a lot out of it. We'll be running more courses in the future - check here for more details.

Stu overseeing a workshop in the library

The mysterious painting that watched us all week.

The scary painting reminded me of a feature I wrote for the Sunday Herald a couple of years ago called "Art Of Darkness", about a the famous eBay Haunted Painting. "When this painting appeared for sale on the internet, some who saw it wept in terror!" You can read it here with photos over three JPG pages: page 1 / page 2 / page 3

Off now to make final preparations for the big "Wor Al" book launch, details of which are here. We'll post pics and reports from the launch here soon.