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

Aspertools publication day!

When Dr Harold Reitman’s daughter, Rebecca, was diagnosed with Asperger’s in her twenties she explained it to her father by saying: “Brains are like snowflakes – no two are alike.” Dr Reitman realised, for the first time, why he had been unable to understand the landscape of Rebecca’s mind and feelings while she was growing up and resolved to write Aspertools, the book he wishes had been available to him when Rebecca was a child, to help other parents understand their autistic child.

Aspertools by Dr. Harold Reitman is published today. Aspertools is a moving account of a parent coming to fully understand his child, and beginning to see the world through his child’s eyes and voice for the first time. It provides everything needed to understand a child, partner, pupil, whose brain is “a little different”.

Aspertools offers advice from three perspectives: as well as Dr Reitman’s perspective as a parent and a doctor, there is the insight of a special needs education teacher, Pati Fizzano, as well as inspirational stories from Dr Reitman’s daughter, Rebecca, about her own experiences for understanding and managing life as an Aspie, offering practical tools and strategies from her personal experience.

Dr Harold Reitman is a former professional box, who is now an orthopaedic surgeon. He wrote and produced The Square Root of 2, a film also inspired by his daughter, and he is the founder of the neurodiversity community site,

Find the book here:


Pablo Larrain’s Neruda

Following the huge success of Jackie, Pablo Larraín’s next project is Neruda. The film is set in Santiago in 1948, at the outset of the cold war. Already renowned for his Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Neruda stood up in the senate (where he represented the Communist Party) and condemned Chile’s then-president, Gabriel González Videla, for turning against the party that had helped bring him to power and for behaving as thuggishly as Franco in Spain.

Then began what Neruda called “a year of blind rats”. For his courageous outspokenness, Neruda was deprived of his parliamentary immunity and forced into hiding, rushed from one safe house to another, sometimes in the middle of the night, to avoid being captured. Had he been, he might well have been taken to the concentration camp at Pisagua, in the northern Atacama desert (where the commandant was a certain Augusto Pinochet – 25 years before he led the military coup against president Salvador Allende). Neruda eventually escaped across the Andes on horseback into Argentina and made his way to Europe using the passport of his fellow writer, the Guatemalan novelist, Miguel Ángel Asturias. All this is also related in Neruda’s Memoirs, which we publish.

Not only was Pablo Neruda one of the twentieth century’s greatest poets but his life was an integral part of the history of the century. Pablo Neruda was born the son of a railway-worker and Memoirs opens with a lyrical evocation of his childhood in Chile, in what was still a frontier wilderness.

Neruda describes his bohemian youth in Santiago and his career as Chilean consul in Burma and Ceylon before the agony of his life during the Spanish Civil War. After the murder of his friend, Garcia Lorca, Neruda became a communist and a poet “for the people”. On his return to Chile he became a Senator before being forced into exile and he escaped from Chile, on horseback over the Andes, in 1949.

“His many books are the vast adventure story of his life, wars, travels, politics, and of course loves… The reader who knows no Spanish can be confident that, in reading Alastair Reid’s fine translations, he is reading Neruda… the memoirs are a delight; a ‘rattling good yarn’.”

‘London Magazine’

Memoirs cover

Souvenir Press has a long history with Pablo Neruda and have published his work since 1976, in 2004 we published new editions of several of his books to celebrate the centenary of his birth. Among Neruda’s work we publish Fully Empowered, one of Neruda’s own favourite collections of his poetry. The thirty-six poems vary from short, intense lyrics, characteristic Neruda odes, whimsical addresses to friends, and his magnificent mediations on the role of the poet. Within Fully Empowered are many poems among the best of Neruda’s work, including ‘The People’, his most celebrated later poem, where he stakes his claim to be the greatest voice of the common man in twentieth-century poetry.

“A passion to connect poetry to everything… There are those still who want to keep poetry esoteric and elitist and away from the quotidian. Like it or not, though, the opposite to this was Neruda’s self-appointed project, and it has a lot to do with the fact that his poetry is so enduringly popular.”

Matthew Sweeney, ‘Poetry London’

Fully Empowered contains much of Neruda’s greatest work… Neruda specifically asked his finest translator, Alastair Reid, to translate this volume into English.”

Poetry Book Society Bulletin

You can find Fully Empowered here:

Fully Empowered cover

We also publish Isla Negra, Neruda’s poetic autobiography centred round his home. Neruda considered Isla Negra, a small village on the Pacific coast of Chile, as the centre of his world. The poems move from childhood impressions and awakenings through his early loves, travels and the dawning of his political awareness to self-scrutiny and self-definition. Among their variety Neruda embraces the apparent contradictions of his life. Through-out the poems present and past interact, and this collection becomes the most revealing of Neruda’s long career. The poems of Isla Negra display the astonishing abundance of the human imagination when mingled with memory.

“Pablo Neruda moves fast, and Reid follows alertly, ingeniously; his translations in this book are superb.”

Robert Bly, ‘New York Times’

“From these humble beginnings he went on to become possibly his country’s most famous son… as well as creator of some of the century’s most memorable and beautiful poetry.”

‘Financial Times’

You can find Isla Negra here:

Isla Negra cover

Residence on Earth is Neruda’s first great work and the expression of his mature voice, political, engaged and committed where Neruda speaks not only for the victims of repression such as his friend and fellow poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca, but for entire continents.

“Pablo Neruda was easily the most prolific and popular of all twentieth-century poets… At his best, he is among the small group of last century’s great poets.”

                                                                                                            Mark Strand


The spontaneity and directness of Neruda’s voice finds its great subject in Residence on Earth, as he became “the people’s poet” addressing the reader with poems that are realistic and refer to the ordinary, exalting the basic things of existence while speaking for a politically committed vision of a reformed world.

“If I could weep with fear in a solitary house,

if I could take out my eyes and eat them,

I would do it for your black-draped orange-tree voice

And for your poetry that comes forth shouting.”

‘Ode To Frederico Garcia Lorca’

You can read more about it here:

Residence on Earth

A House in Flanders

In the summer of 1951 when Michael Jenkins was fourteen-years old he stayed with a French family in Flanders. In A House in Flanders Michael Jenkins, British ambassador to the Netherlands from 1988 to 1993 amongst many other diplomatic duties, tells the remarkable story of spending a summer with “the aunts in Flanders”. These aunts were in fact a group of elderly women whose connection to the family was somewhat tenuous but who embraced him nonetheless. With the memories of two world wars hanging over this new home and the unravelling of the secret at the heart of this family, Michael Jenkins tells of the summer that changed his life in evocative detail. He writes:

I was fourteen when I first came to the house on the edge of the plain. Some epidemic at school had, as was not unusual in those days, closed the establishment in the early summer, and my parents took the opportunity to despatch me for several months to ‘the aunts in Flanders’, mythical creatures as far as I was concerned, who had last been visited, I believe, by my father some time in the Thirties. Despite a French ancestry on my mother’s side we were not related to the family and my parents had always been vague, deliberately I now think, about the origins of our connection with them.


A House in Flanders is a vivid record of life amongst the various personalities whose lives are scarred by memories of the war. Don’t trust us, here are some of the people who have been most affected by A House in Flanders:


“There are some books, not necessarily the longest, in which the author’s intention is so perfectly realised, a seminal experience of life so beautifully recorded that the book becomes a small icon to be treasured not only on the shelf of a personal library, but in the mind.” – P. D. James, ‘Slightly Foxed’

“Artfully adds up to a portrait of a family, a time and a place … A very charming memoir.” – Penelope Lively, ‘The New York Times’

“This is a radiant book … A Whole spectrum of colours and lights, of delights and elegances, of wistfulness and love.” – Dirk Bogarde, ‘Daily Telegraph’

Published today, you can get your copy here:

House in Flanders cover