Modern Calligraphy

Modern Calligraphy is the trend of the summer. Writing in The Times, Fiona Wilson says: ‘In the past couple of years the art of modern calligraphy has exploded in the UK, with classes appearing across London and big brands from Mulberry to McDonald’s commissioning the work of young artists. The actress Meghan Markle, the girlfriend of Prince Harry, is doing it; before her career took off, she did calligraphy for Dolce & Gabbana and the wedding of the pop star Robin Thicke. “It’s super-lucrative,” she told Esquire.’

Modern Calligraphy: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started in Script Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe is the book all of you wishing to take up modern calligraphy need.

Discover how to create your own unique script. Even though the art of calligraphy is centuries old, Molly Suber Thorpe is ready to teach anyone how to find their own unique style. All crafts, from knitting to making home decorations, have undergone a revival of popularity as they offer an escape from our increasingly digital world, as well as an opportunity to express your own creativity. Molly Suber Thorpe provides an accessible and comprehensive guide to getting started on your own calligraphic projects.

Crafts like Modern Calligraphy can sometimes be daunting, so here are some of the things users have said about the book:

‘The projects are quite nice, really inspiring and beautifully photographed and presented. I am quite pleased to have this book in my collection and believe I will come back to it when I have calligraphy projects in the future!’ – Amanda, Goodreads

‘I used this book as a guide for both the placecards and invitation envelopes at my wedding, and everything came out GORGEOUS. I was a complete novice to start, and went from never having held a calligraphy pen to very professional-looking placecards in the span of like 4 months.’ – Katie, Goodreads

‘I love this modern calligraphy trend and was so excited to find this book in which Ms. Thorpe generously tells you everything you need to know. I find myself trying it out on any little scrap of paper I can find. Nothing is safe! My organization bins are now all labeled in modern calligraphy.’ – Missy, Goodreads

Find Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe here:

Modern Calligraphy cover

Pride and 4th of July blog

It’s Independence Day in the US and there is no better reading than The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen. Ron Hansen was the first writer to approach the mythology of the West with the intent of rewriting history, to show the mixed motives and dubious intentions of heroes and outlaws alike. Drawing on contemporary records, newspapers and courtroom reports The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford creates a vivid, detailed description of the James gang and the America that created them, and builds a stunning portrait of one of the founding myths of the United States. Hansen re-creates the real West of the most famous outlaw of them all, Jesse James, and of his death at the hands of Robert Ford. Ford is drawn to Jesse, uncertain if he wants to serve or destroy him, or somehow become him.

Find The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford here:

Jesse James

It’s the Pride Parade this Saturday and to celebrate, we bring you City of Night by John Rechy. Acclaimed as one of the great novels of the twentieth-century City of Night created a new era in gay writing. Bold and inventive in its portrayal of an urban underworld of prostitution and its unflinching description of the hustling young man’s search for self-knowledge within the neon-lit world of America’s cities. Moving from El Paso to New York and New Orleans this is a classic account of life on the edge.

Find City of Night here:

City of Night cover

Extract from Uniquely Human

Autism Spectrum Disorder is now among the most commonly diagnosed developmental disabilities; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that it affects as many as one in fifty school-age children. A flood of professionals and programs has emerged to serve these children: physicians, therapists, schools, afterschool programs. There are karate classes and theatre programs for children with autism, sports camps and religious schools and yoga classes. At the same time, charlatans and opportunists with minimal or no experience – and even some with professional credentials – advertise their approaches as “breakthroughs.” Unfortunately autism treatment is a largely unregulated enterprise.

All this has made life even more challenging for parents. Which professional to trust? Who can explain your child? Which treatment will succeed? Which diet? Which therapy? Which medication? Which school? Which tutor?

Like any parents, these mothers and fathers want what’s best for their children. But, struggling with a developmental disability they don’t understand, they don’t know where to turn.

My job for four decades has been to help transform their desperation into hope, to replace anxiety with knowledge, to turn self-doubt into confidence and comfort, and to help them see as possible what they thought was impossible. I have worked with thousands of families touched by autism, helping them to reframe their experience of the condition, and in turn build healthier, fuller lives. That’s what I hope this book will help you to do, whether you are a parent, relative, a friend, or a professional working to support these children and their families.

It starts with shifting the way we understand autism. Again and again I have witnessed the same phenomenon: parents come to perceive their child as so radically different from others that the child’s behaviour seems beyond comprehension. They have come to believe that the tools and instinct they would bring to raising any other child just won’t work with a child who has autism. Influenced by some professionals, they see certain behaviors as “autistic” and undesirable and perceive their goal as eliminating these behaviors and somehow fixing the child.

I have come to believe that this is a flawed understanding – and the wrong approach. Here is my central message: The behaviour of people with autism isn’t random, deviant, or bizarre, as many professionals have called it for decades. These children don’t come from Mars. The things they say aren’t – as many professionals still maintain – meaningless or “non-functional.”

Autism isn’t an illness. It’s a different way of being human. Children with autism aren’t sick; they are progressing through developmental stages as we all do. To help them, we don’t need to change them or fix them. We need to work to understand them, and then change what we do.


Extracted from ‘Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism’ by Dr Barry M. Prizant, published by Souvenir Press, £20.

Find Uniquely Human here:

Uniquely Human cover


Modesty Blaise at the Edinburgh Book Festival

On the 16th August Stef Penney will run a reading workshop on Modesty Blaise at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Stef Penney is a screenwriter and novelist. She is the creator of Modesty Blaise adaptations for Radio 4, having adapted Modesty Blaise, The Silver Mistress, and Modesty Blaise- A Taste for Death.  Buy tickets for the workshop here:

Peter O’Donnell created the character of Modesty Blaise for a strip cartoon in 1963. Since then, Modesty Blaise has gone from strength to strength. The series was eventually syndicated in over 42 countries and produced 13 novels (all published by Souvenir Press). Here are some of the great things others have said about the series:

“The continuing renaissance of the immortal heroine: thrilling, humorous and timeless adventures, the Modesty Blaise series are seminal British crime novels… a high-point of popular fiction.” – ‘Crime Time’


“Modesty Blaise was the comic-strip criminal genius, turned occasional secret service operative, who managed to combine timeless beauty and elegance with the ability to break every bone in your body… there’s never been a better time to become acquainted.” – ‘The Crack’


“Before Buffy, before Charlie’s Angels, before Purdy and Emma Peel there was Modesty Blaise. For almost 40 years, Peter O’Donnell’s iconic heroine drop-kicked her way through a swath of villains and into a unique place in popular culture.” – ‘The Observer’

Find Modesty Blaise titles by clicking on the jackets below:

Modesty-Blaise cover big    Dead Man's Handle   Dragons Claw  I Lucifer cover  Last Day in Limbo Night of the Morningstar


Sergeant Pepper is 50!

The Beatles ground-breaking album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released on the 26th May 1967 in the UK and the 1st of June in the US. We have been celebrating the fifty year anniversary all week.

It has been an exciting week for Beatles fans with the release of the fiftieth anniversary edition of Sergeant Pepper. Reviewing the fiftieth-anniversary edition of the album Alexis Petridis wrote in The Guardian that ‘Sgt Pepper often seems an album as much about rock star detachment and ennui as it is about peace and love… Rather than the grandiose, state-of-the-world address it was immediately taken as, perhaps Sgt Pepper is something less ostentatious and more personal: an album about hopes and fears.’ As well as it being the album that expressed the era in which it was made, Sergeant Pepper has a strong claim to being as relevant and necessary now as ever.

This sentiment was carried through in John Higgs’ blog ‘Sgt Pepper at 50: How the Beatles masterpiece could unite Brexit Britain’ where he claims that the greatness of Sergeant Pepper was its variety, the way in which it spoke to such a vast array of different people. It tells us a lot about what it is to be British, he claims:

‘The songs on Sgt Pepper tell us a lot about being British that we might at times forget. Fixing a Hole tells us that we can roll up our sleeves and fix things that are broken. Getting Better shows us that we can be optimistic, even when the future looks bleak. Within You Without You tells us to look inwards, and understand who we are. But this can only be achieved, the album reminds us, With a Little Help from My Friends.’

Last night Richard Bacon presented a documentary for Absolute Radio on the psychedelic story of The Beatles. He worked through the album song by song, dissecting and analysing the album. The second part is on Absolute Radio tonight 9pm.

BBC Two this Saturday are airing a further programme on The Beatles ‘Sgt Pepper’s Musical Revolution with Howard Goodall’. Here’s what they have to say about the programme:

Fifty years ago this week, on 1 June, 1967, an album was released that changed music history – The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In this film, composer Howard Goodall explores just why this album is still seen as so innovative, so revolutionary and so influential. With the help of outtakes and studio conversations between the band, never heard before outside of Abbey Road, Howard gets under the bonnet of Sgt Pepper. He takes the music apart and reassembles it, to show us how it works – and makes surprising connections with the music of the last 1,000 years to do so.

It doesn’t stop there. For anyone wanting to understand  the real significance of The Beatles and how Sergeant Pepper connected with listeners fifty years ago should look no further than Tony Barrow’s excellent book Meet the Beatles. When it was first published in 1963, Meet the Beatles introduced the Beatles, in their own words (the four Beatles wrote the introduction to the book themselves), to the world. It originally sold over a million copies and this Special Collector’s edition retains the original cover art. It is filled with rare photographs that depict a day in the life of the Beatles and charts their journey to becoming to world’s biggest band.

The Special Collector’s edition relives the days of Beatlemania and is a unique piece of memorabilia, perfect for any Beatles fan. You can find it here:

Meet the Beatles front cover

For further reading, here are the links to the articles mentioned above:

‘The Beatles: Sgt Pepper 50th Anniversary Edition review – peace, love and rock star ennui’ –

‘Sgt Pepper at 50: How the Beatles masterpiece could unite Brexit Britain’ –

‘Sgt Pepper at 50 with Richard Bacon’ –

‘Sgt Pepper’s Musical Revolution with Howard Goodall’ –


International Jazz Day

This Sunday is International Jazz Day, the culmination of Jazz Appreciation Month, which draws public attention to jazz and its extraordinary heritage throughout April.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day to highlight jazz’s role in uniting people in all corners of the globe. On April 30 jazz is recognised for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures and diversity. Jazz has played a part in opposing discrimination, promoting freedom of expression and encouraging social change for a century.

Jazz’s role as a social catalyst is, really, the story of Really the Blues.

Mezz Mezzrow was a white Jewish boy who learnt how to play saxophone while he was in reformatory school. He was one of the first white musicians to dedicate himself to jazz (as a saxophonist, a manager for Louis Armstrong, owning his own record label and he was also one of jazz’s most famous drug dealers) and crossed the racial divide in 1920s America to make himself part of black culture. Really the Blues captures the underworld of 1920s and 30s America, from New York to Chicago and New Orleans; evoking the atmosphere of the brothels, bars and honky-tonks, as well as the oversized personalities of those musicians he played wit: from Bessie Smith and Sidney Bechet to Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong.

It is also written in the slang of the jazz underground, Mezzrow introduced the world to words such as “hipster”, “groovy” and “high”, those words that would become part of the international vocabulary of young people around the world decades later.

It is one of the great music autobiographies (and its influence has been felt for decades, Tom Waits still credits it as a major influence on his own life and work). Mezz Mezzrow was a literary pioneer for the Beats, hippies and every writer since who has written about the music that has moved their generation to rebellion or joy.

“Its hard-boiled poetry, its tales of woe and wonder, told in the racy vernacular of a hipster’s tongue. Imagine Dylan’s Chronicles, written by Damon Runyon, and you’ll get an idea of this book’s conversational intimacy… More than anything, though, this book is an extended celebration of the redemptive power of the jazz that inspired it.” Uncut

“Mind-blowing… To say that he lived in colourful times (no pun intended) is an understatement, and, written as it is in jazz slang… it bustles along with an energy that makes it hard to put down… For a slice of alternative US pre-war culture, it’s hard to beat.” fRoots

“One of the key autobiographies in popular music… A first hand account of the jazz/blues world of the day the street life, blues roadhouses, brothels, bars and the honky tonks as well as his own view of some of the great musical personalities of the day… An eye witness account of the birth of jazz/blues.” Shades of Blue

To find out more about International Jazz Day click here:

Find Really the Blues by Mezz Mezzrow here:


The Beats

It is a big year for the Beats, On the Road was published 60 years ago. To celebrate we thought we would draw your attention to The Beats: A Graphic History.

In The Beats: A Graphic History the story of the Beats is explored through the graphic art of artists as diverse as Harvey Pekar (who created American Splendor, his graphic autobiography), while Peter Kuper draws for Mad magazine and Jeffrey Lewis is the singer-songwriter behind ‘Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror’.

Beginning with a group of friends in 1940’s New York, the Beats became a diverse and geographically scattered group (from the USA to Paris, Mexico and Tangiers) and The Beats records the lives of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, as well as the San Francisco poets, including Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, plus many of the artists and the musicians who were inspired by them.

This is the history of a generation that resisted conformity and conservatism in favour of creativity and experimentation. The unique form of comic art enhances the book’s countercultural history and vividly captures the spirit of the original Beats. It is an essential introduction to the makers of On the Road, Howl and Naked Lunch.

“A book of two halves. The first half is a straight-forward triple biography of the three best-known Beat writers, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs… It’s in the second half of the book, entitled ‘Perspectives’, that the real juice is to be found… Short biographies of other (less famous) people on the Beat scene… (makes) for fresher reading, this part is lighter and more entertaining.”

‘Irish Times’


“Eagerly awaited… editor Paul Buhle was looking to broaden the scope of what constitutes a ‘Beat’ writer. Hence some intriguing inclusions… The idea of illustrating the lives of the Beats is a refreshing one that will, hopefully, introduce them to a new generation.”

‘Beat Scene’


“The Beat generation challenged mainstream culture in 1950s America, so it’s appropriate that a history of its writers should take an experimental form… An affectionate snapshot of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and the rest.”                                                                                                                                                   ‘Bizarre’


The Beats: A Graphic History is available here:

The Beats cover