Modesty Blaise at 50: A Celebration

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first publication of Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise – a series Kingsley Amis called “One of the great partnerships in fiction, bearing comparison with that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson” – we’ve compiled something very special…


50 Years of Modesty Blaise

Monday 13th May will mark exactly fifty years since the very first Modesty Blaise cartoon appeared in the Evening Standard. The hugely popular comic strip was serialised around the world, in more than 40 countries, and Modesty’s popularity spawned a series of 13 novels, all of which are published by Souvenir Press.

Modesty is the fore-runner of Charlie’s Angels and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the original hard-hitting heroine who could, you feel, have held her own alongside James Bond. Modesty is as much a cult favourite today as ever she was, and her enduring appeal was highlighted by the 2012 radio adaptation of A Taste for Death which aired on BBC Radio 4.

Discover the full list of Modesty Blaise books, or find out more on the Souvenir Press website:

Modesty Blaise | Sabre-Tooth | I, Lucifer | A Taste for Death | The Impossible Virgin | Pieces of Modesty | The Silver Mistress | Last Day in Limbo | Dragon’s Claw | The Xanadu Talisman | The Night of Morningstar | Dead Man’s Handle | Cobra Trap

This week’s review round-up

With more wonderful reviews coming in this week for a whole variety of different Souvenir Press titles, this is your chance to read extracts of them all in one place. As always, we’ve got a great mix of titles in here – just another reminder of the eclectic mix we publish here at Souvenir Press.

Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? – Jena Pincott

“A fun take on the traditional pregnancy book… with lots of unusual information… A great read… It really gives you an understanding about what’s happening to you, both physically and psychologically.” – Book of the Month, Pregnancy & Birth magazine (review not online at present)

The Book – Alan Watts

“Watts’ views are therefore now more relevant than ever … this last great taboo – the question of who or what we are – could never be more pressing.” –

Modesty Blaise – Peter O’Donnell

“A rollicking adventure that outpaces James Bond at his most lethal.” – Daily Mail

Terribly English – Rupert Besley

“What’s funny about the English? … Quite a lot… A guide book with a difference… a gem.” – Let’s Talk (review not available online)

Are you a blogger interested in reviewing any of the titles from Souvenir Press? Take a look at our blog post, ‘Calling All Bloggers’ for information on how to get in touch. I’ll be happy to send you a copy of our latest catalogue to peruse – just give me a shout.

Have you seen a review that we’ve missed? Let me know!

Souvenir Press and feminism

If you were reading our blog before Christmas, you will have no doubt seen our blog post about the radio adaptation of MODESTY BLAISE: A TASTE FOR DEATH which was adapted by Stef Penney for BBC Radio 4.

In an interview with Women’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey before the first installment aired on 17th December, Penney was asked what it was that made Modesty Blaise such a special character to her fans. Most notable in her answer was her description of Modesty as a very feminist character. In Peter O’Donnell’s MODESTY BLAISE series of novels, Modesty is, undoubtedly, in charge. She is the leader of her group, and most unusually is just as free as her male companion Willie Garvin to have relationships with whoever she wants.

A strong female character who is completely in charge of her own sexuality and relationships. Modesty Blaise is often described as ‘the female James Bond’, and as the predecessor of strong, iconic female characters such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Emma Peel, and Charlie’s Angels. In the 1960s when Peter O’Donnell was writing, this was cutting-edge feminism at its best – and written by a man! Indeed, even today there are few characters that could match Modesty Blaise as a female role model.

And if Modesty Blaise positioned Souvenir Press at the forefront of feminist publishing, THE DESCENT OF WOMAN by Elaine Morgan cemented that position. This pioneering work was the first to argue for the equal role of women in human evolution, starting with the demolition of the Biblical myth that woman was an afterthought to the creation of man.

And a little note of historical interest: at the time of publication (in the 1960s for MODESTY BLAISE and the early 1970s for THE DESCENT OF WOMAN), both books were worked on by a freelance publicist who went on to found a well-known British publishing company with a focus on women writers and feminist themes…

Let us know what you think: who is your favourite female role model in fiction? Leave us a comment below.

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas to all our readers from the whole team here at Souvenir Press!

If your Christmas goes anything like mine, by now you will have given and received all your presents, and you’ll be in that awkward space between meals, waiting for dinner to be ready. Or waiting for the Queen’s speech. Or waiting for something good to appear on TV.

Well, fear not. Some of you lucky readers will have been given book tokens. Some of you even luckier readers might have received e-readers, so now’s the perfect chance for you to work out what to buy, or what exciting books to load onto your brand new e-reader. And we’ve got some fantastic suggestions for you.

Welcome to Biscuit Land by Jessica Thom

Welcome to Biscuit LandWithout a doubt, one of the most inspiring titles you will read this year. Jess has Tourettes Syndrome, which means that she makes sounds and movements over which she has no control. Follow a year in her life and the whole spectrum of her experiences, from the heartwarming to the heartbreaking. Witness the kindness and the cruelty of strangers. And above all, meet Jess: courageous, optimistic and inspiring.

Bum Fodder by Richard Smyth

Bum FodderDo you use toilet paper? Well, of course you do. Everybody does. It is one of the most important (but least talked about) inventions of the 1800s. Well, not inventions. It was invented long before then. But that’s when it broke through into mainstream society. But how much do you actually know about loo roll? Not much? Time to learn! A fascinating history of a product that we all take for granted, and can’t live without.

The Book by Alan Watts

The BookEveryone’s talking about it. John Lloyd on Desert Island Discs called it “the best book I’ve ever read on the nature of what actually is, what the world is about, and how you should behave.” It’s been reprinted twice in the last month. Alan Watts presents a critique of Western culture and a healing alternative. Offering spiritual answers to the problems of a materialistic lifestyle, this book may just change your life.

The Digital Diet by Daniel Sieberg

Digital DietMaybe you’re looking ahead to 2013, trying to plan your new year’s resolutions. How about this one: take a step back from the technology that is increasingly running our lives, and instead reconnect with friends and family in the real world. The Digital Diet will help you to take control back of your life, find time for real friends and most importantly, make technology work for you… not the other way around.

Modesty Blaise: A Taste for Death by Peter O’Donnell

Taste for DeathOr maybe you’re just looking for some entertainment. A Taste for Death was serialised on BBC Radio 4 in the week before Christmas, in an adaptation starring Daphne Alexander as Modesty Blaise, and written by Stef Penney. If you heard the adaptation, now is the perfect opportunity to pick up a copy of the book and see what they had to cut out. Hint: the book has a sword fight in it! And you can find out about the whole series.

Whatever you do over the festive period, we hope it is happy and peaceful, and we will see you in the new year. Happy Christmas, everyone, and best wishes from all of us at Souvenir Press.

2012 at Souvenir Press: A Recap

It’s been a busy year here at Souvenir Press, and as 2012 draws to a close it’s time to take a look at some of the highlights from this fantastic year.

First and foremost: our books. 2012 has been a great year for new titles at Souvenir Press. True to form, it’s an ecclectic mix of titles to make you laugh, make you think, to educate and inspire.

Secondly, staff changes. Yes, it’s been a busy year. In the summer we said goodbye to Amy, who had been PA to Ernest Hecht for a couple of years – she’s moved back to Australia. In October we welcomed back Nikki, receptionist/office manager who had been off on maternity leave for twelve months, which meant a new role for me (and the company): online marketing assistant. All change!

Third, and this is ongoing as we speak: we went Modesty Blaise crazy. Often described as “the female James Bond” it seems apt that with the new Bond movie out, Modesty had her chance, too. This week Radio 4 are serialising A TASTE FOR DEATH starring Daphne Alexander as Modesty Blaise. Think Bond, but better.

Our fourth highlight has to be The Book by Alan Watts. Chosen by John Lloyd on ‘Desert Island Discs’, and lauded as “the best book I’ve ever read on the nature of what actually is, what the world is about, and how you should behave”, this backlist title has to be one of our biggest sellers of 2012. So big, in fact, that we have had to reprint for the second time since November! Definitely a highlight!

Fifth: Stephen Fry. Yes, that Stephen Fry. Having worked with Jessica Thom on his TV show ‘Planet Word’, we were delighted when he provided the foreword to WELCOME TO BISCUIT LAND, and very excited when he mentioned the book to his millions of followers on Twitter on the day of publication.

And finally? All of you. All of our authors, all of our readers, who have played a part in making 2012 a very special year for us at Souvenir Press. Roll on 2013!


Modesty’s back!

The iconic 1960s heroine Modesty Blaise, subject of thirteen novels all published by Souvenir Press (as well as years’ of cartoons), has been resurrected by BBC Radio 4.  A TASTE FOR DEATH is to be serialised as a Christmas special by BBC Radio 4’s ‘Women’s Hour’, in five 15-minute slots from 17th to 21st December.

The script has been adapted by Stef Penney, author of ‘The Tenderness of Wolves’ and a well-known fan of Modesty. Daphne Alexander has been cast in the role of Modesty Blaise, alongside Alun Armstrong as Sir Gerald, and Carl Prekopp as her trusty sidekick Willie Garvin.

For more information about the radio adaptation, take a look at the Radio Times listing, or you can watch some exciting preview clips on the BBC website. You can also buy a copy of A TASTE FOR DEATH to read the full story (because of course this is radio, some things just aren’t possible), and you can find out more about the complete series of Modesty Blaise books.

Modesty Blaise: A Taste for Death starts Monday 17th December at 10:45am on BBC Radio 4.

Taste for Death