Category Archives: books

LESLEY LATTE BLOWS H** EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH STUART CAMPBELL

Stuart Campbell's student card. Cairo University 1973
Stuart Campbell’s student card. Cairo University 1973

I was browsing some tempting sausages at the charcuterie stall in Nouméa’s municipal market last week when to my astonishment I saw Sydney author Stuart Campbell at the coffee stand.

An appointment with the reclusive and publicity-shy Campbell is hard to get – an impromptu interview a virtual impossibility. I approached him and gave him my finely honed elevator pitch. My luck was in. Was it the sultry laid-back groove of New Caledonia? Or perhaps the large glass of Pernod on the counter?

“I’ve got ten minutes,” he said with that trademark suave elevation of the slightly grizzled but really incredibly sculpted masculine eyebrow

OM Freaking G, I thought! Two weeks out of on-line journalism school, and I’ve scored an exclusive with the author of An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity.

So tell me about your next book, I ventured.

Campbell nodded to the barman, who topped up the Pernod and brought another flask of water. Frankly, I don’t know how anybody can drink something that looks like what you spit out after you’ve cleaned your teeth, but old blokes seem to drink it all the time in France, or maybe they just look old because they drink so much of it and they’re, like, quite young really.

Anyway, I gather the new book is called Cairo Mon Amour. It’s set in Cairo in 1973 during a war, I think he said the Young Kipper? Not sure about that, but apparently he was a student in Cairo during that war and always meant to write a thriller about it. It’s coming out in July 2016.

At this point he asked me if I had an aspirin because he had an earache because he got some coral in his ears swimming and he’d gone deaf.

“Who do you say you write for?” he asked me.

“I’m an emerging social commentator and the roving correspondent for Charcuterie Monthly,” I responded.

“Didn’t you say The Guardian?”

“I might have done,” I confessed.

“Go back to your sausages,” he said.

Well, I don’t know about you, but his new book sounds like crap.

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** Lesley Latte reserves the right not to disclose h** gender

Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

The Play’s the Thing

Stuart Campbell’s covers are designed by Rachel Ainge .

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John MW Smith – a born story teller

After six months of reading and re-reading  British and American classic works*, I packed some carefully selected independent writers onto my battered Kindle for the summer break.

Englishman John MW Smith was a quirky surprise: A writer hard to categorise, he has a ripe sense of the bizarre and the storytelling knack of a barroom raconteur. He reminds me somewhat of my fellow Australian writer Robert Salisbury, whose work I describe as ‘Spike Milligan meets Don Quixote’.

My five-star  review of Smith’s An Unlawful Act in Libya can be found here. Strongly recommended.

 

*The three standouts were Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, Faulkner’s Soldier’s Pay, and Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools. I’m thinking of writing a novel that places the basic plot of Jude the Obscure in a future dystopia when western societies have largely forgotten how to do mathematics. Mad? Maybe.

And here’s a request: I saw the movie of Ship of Fools some time in the last century, around the time that Cuban heels were in fashion. Does anyone know where I can find a copy or a streaming source?

Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

The Play’s the Thing

Stuart Campbell’s covers are designed by Rachel Ainge .

“Sydney authors conned me” – editor’s final words

by Lesley Latte*

cover frontIn his final interview, the late Raymond Saucisson, editor of Charcuterie Monthly, made the shock allegation that a group of Sydney authors tricked him into writing an introduction to the book With Gusto!.

“I was informed that the book was about the joy of food,” said the former cold cut supremo. “Most of the stories depict revolting meals, some with no meat at all.”

Asked why he had provided an introduction to the book, Saucisson said, “I am a man of honour, a knight among meat lovers. I would not renege on a promise”.

It is understood that Saucisson made a similar complaint about an introduction that he agreed to write for Stuart Campbell’s On Becoming a Butcher in Paris. Campbell was not available for comment

With Gusto! is an anthology of food stories by members of the Write On! writers group in Sydney. It is available in paperback here.

The cover design is by TribeCreative.

 

*Lesley Latte reserves the right not to disclose h** gender.

Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

The Play’s the Thing

 

 

Shock passing of editor one week after book publication

cover front

By Lesley Latte*

Raymond Saucisson, the noted gourmand and long-time editor of Charcuterie Monthly, passed away unexpectedly yesterday. His close friend Stuart Campbell said that Saucisson’s death comes just a week after the publication of the anthology With Gusto!, for which the charcuterie supremo wrote an introduction. “I’m devastated,” said Campbell. “He was always at the cutting edge, as an editor and as a small goods expert; he was a man who took on life one huge slice at a time”.

Saucisson was born into poverty in Marseilles in 1945. He learned the art of sausage making from his mother, who sold her wares in the alleyways off Le Canebière. As a child Saucisson listened to the stories of the sailors who haunted the area, and in 1960 took a job as a ship’s cook.

After ten years at sea he jumped ship at London, eventually obtaining residence papers and gaining employment as a bus conductor with London Transport. Stuart Campbell remarks on the formidable standard of his English, considering he had virtually no formal education. “During his fifteen years on the buses he read voraciously: Georgette Heyer, The Times, Charles Dickens, The Beano, Thomas Hardy. He consumed everything that was left behind on a bus seat. The 142 to Watford Junction was his university, he once told me.”

In 1985 he was offered the editorship of Charcuterie Monthly. In a recent article he reflected on the magazine’s success: “A piece of writing is like a sausage. It has form, content, texture. And in the same fashion, what turns a quotidian article into an exceptional article is that inexpressible je ne sais quoi, the literary counterpart of a bead of glistening pork fat or a perfect balance of herbs.” His nephew Gilbert Saucisson will take over Raymond’s duties at Charcuterie Monthly.

With his trademark cravat, four-day stubble and haughty stare, Raymond Saucisson will be missed around the French markets that have become de rigueur among Sunday bruncheurs (a neologism of his own invention) from Aylesbury to Auckland.

Raymond Saucisson is survived by his wife Solange, an author of vegan cookbooks. “While our dietary tastes differed, we complemented one other perfectly like ham and peas. If he was my bubble, I was his squeak,” she said yesterday.

*Lesley Latte reserves the right not to disclose h** gender.

With Gusto! by the Write On! writers group is available in paperback here.

Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

The Play’s the Thing

Sarah Bourne launches ‘Two Lives’

mini book launch
Stuart Campbell missing Sarah Bourne’s book launch

Congratulations to my good friend Sarah Bourne on the recent Sydney launch of her novel Two Lives, available here. Unfortunately I couldn’t be at the launch because at the time I was fighting off the fans as I signed copies of one of my novels in San Francisco (well I signed four books at my wife’s aunt’s house), but you can read about Sarah’s event here, and you can read my review of her book here.

Being a fan of book launches, especially the well lubricated variety, I couldn’t resist including one in my novel An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity. Here it is, narrated by my character Fiona Salmon.

My time as a widowed gym-addicted police officer hadn’t left time for anyone outside professional contacts, let alone friends or casual acquaintances. But my author’s book launch crowd were a stratum of cathedral town society I’d never known existed: Earnest students – the kind who look like Che Guevara and Janis Joplin, whichever era they are born in; elderly amateur intellectuals – the women with close cropped hair and large red framed glasses, and the men with embroidered waistcoats and brown trainers; comfy young couples in conservative wear paired together like lovebirds; assorted old lecturers and young tutors from the university, looking harassed and twitchy from marking essays into the early hours; and the old codgers and their mates on the scrounge for a plastic cup of Rioja and as many cheese cubes as they could snaffle up. My author greeted them at the door and I milled around shaking hands and topping up the plastic cups. I couldn’t remember when I’d last spent time with forty or so people who demanded nothing of me.

My author had appointed a stand-up comic – a friend who didn’t expect a fee – to MC the event and launch the book. The comic rang a small bell and stood on a shelving stool.

“Fank you ladies and gentlemen. I note that all the wine has gone so you can fuck off ‘ome,” he said, and walked out of the door and into the street, at which a couple of Che Guevaras rushed outside, captured him and stood him back on the shelving stool. And that set the tone for the rest of the evening. The wine did indeed soon run out, but I gave two Janis Joplins fifty quid, and they came back with half a dozen bottles of something exiled from the New World. My author autographed and sold fifteen copies of the novel and listened philosophically as the old codgers lectured him on using the f-word on the first page.

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Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

The Play’s the Thing

Is Moroccan the new black?

almaghrib

Groping in the shower for the plastic bottles last week I noticed that we had switched to Kazakh shampoo. Mmm, a warm spicy blend to replenish the vital oils my scalp lacks. I popped out at lunchtime to the bookshop to get some ideas for a dinner party and I was staggered at how many Kazakh cookbooks there were. ‘Chuck an ‘andful of cumin and coriander at a lump of lamb, sling a blob of yoghourt on top, whip it onto the BBQ and yer got an authentic  Kazakh feast,’ somebody called Jamie wrote in his book.

I’ve met perhaps half a dozen people who’ve been to Kazakhstan, a country of almost no economic significance to Australia, to which we exported $8m of goods in 2011-2012 and imported $23m. That’s even less than our trade figures with Peru.

Hang on, did I say Kazakhstan? Actually I meant Morocco, that other trade colossus to which we exported $17m of goods and imported $51m, most of which was crude fertilizer. But at least I know a few more people who’ve actually been there than to Kazakhstan. By the way, I couldn’t find any Australian visitor numbers for Morocco, which means that they must be very low. And I think I probably know most of the Moroccans in Australia.

So why I am I picking on poor neglected Morocco? The reason is that I am astonished by the way that the word Moroccan has been appropriated by the food industry and its publishing handmaidens. Every other box of over processed dust or pulp on Sydney supermarket shelves seems to be Moroccan. Search for Moroccan in Amazon books, and the list of cookbooks goes on interminably. I came across a book by somebody with a clearly non-Moroccan name, that contained one hundred and fifty Moroccan tagine recipes! Is this Moroxploitation or what? Is the author a gastroanthropologist who spent years at the feet of peasant women in the Rif Mountains feverishly scribbling in notebooks?  The statistics just don’t work: If the basic protein variants in a tagine are chicken, lamb, fish or pulses, how do you get nearly forty variants on each? The only solution I can think of is to omit ingredients one by one, e.g.  hold the parsley! (that makes eighty four), halve the cumin! (eighty five), put the saffron away! (eighty six), etc. Before I stop let me tell you quite truthfully that I have just found in my fridge a container of Moroccan Minestrone soup! I’m sure I saw a can of Peruvian Goulash in the cupboard last week …

My real purpose for writing about Morocco is to mention that besides an appropriated cuisine, Morocco has some captivating literary associations with the non-Arab world. I was reminded of this when I was recently dipping into an excellent bilingual reader of Arabic short stories, translated and edited by Ronak Husni and Daniel L. Newman and published by the equally excellent Saqi Books. My tactic with this book is to plod through the Arabic text on the right hand side while I use short eyeball flicks to speed read the English translation on the other side.

The book fell open at a story by Mohamed Shoukri, the Moroccan ‘poet of the dispossessed’ who the editors tell us, was illiterate until his mid-twenties but went on to be one of the most celebrated writers in the Arab World. Shoukri had an important connection with Paul Bowles, the American composer and writer who spent much of his life in Tangier, where he was visited by literary figures like William Burroughs and Christopher Isherwood (who named Sally Bowles after him, for those who remember Cabaret). Now, somehow I’d missed Shoukri’s novel For Bread Alone, translated by Bowles and apparently much celebrated in the seventies; presumably I was too busy collecting arcane degrees to fit in celebrated novels. Coincidentally I happened to be in Tangier in 1971, but being ignorant of Bowles and Shoukri, may well have brushed past them in the Petit Socco.

At any rate, Bowles, despite his long residence in Morocco, did not read Standard Arabic, although he was proficient in the spoken dialect of Morocco, which is about as different from the standard language as German is from Dutch. The formerly illiterate Shoukri in the meantime had written his novel in Standard Arabic (as all Arab novelists do), so he orally translated the text into dialect so that Bowles could render it in English. Tangier was then a multilingual city where almost everyone spoke Arabic, French and Spanish, and Bowles tells us in the introduction to For Bread Alone that he and Shoukri would use French or Spanish to help work out shades of meaning.

It’s hard to find an analogy, but imagine that a Moroccan writer comes to live on a cattle station in outback Australia and learns to speak a variety of Pidgin English from the Aboriginal stockmen. One of the stockmen’s children comes back from Sydney after getting an Arts degree and writing a novel about his early life in the bush. He sits down with the Moroccan writer and retells his novel in Pidgin. The Moroccan writer translates it into Arabic and it becomes a hit in the Middle East. Weird or what?

Of course I swiftly downloaded an e-book copy of For Bread Alone and finished in just over one sitting. The verdict: This is the novel that the word gritty was invented for. It follows Shoukri’s squalid childhood and adolescence as he endures beatings, poverty,  grinding work, and a descent into a grim stew of alcohol, hashish and sordid brothels.  The colloquial style – apparently an artefact of the translation process – is elusive and fast moving. Quite a contrast from tagines and shampoo.

So this is my dinner party story gift to you, dear reader. Have a rewarding read of Mohamed Shoukri so that you can set the record straight the next time you are served Moroccan taco dipping sauce that tastes like crude fertilizer.

I originally wrote this article a part of an anthology called ‘On Becoming a Butcher in Paris’. You can download the whole collection for free under a Creative Commons Licence here.

Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

The Play’s the Thing