Bookseeker Literary Agency

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Spy week comes in from the cold…

2017-04-22 11b Spy week

Paul writes: Edinburgh Spy Week is an annual event, run and hosted jointly by the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh, the National Library of Scotland, Filmhouse, and Blackwells, in conjunction with the Institute for Advanced Studies and the Centre for Security Research at the University. It really ought to be more visible, and I will certainly be keeping my eye on the ball for next year.

This year’s events included a season of John le Carré films at the Filmhouse, and a series of talks and events at the NLS, the University, and Blackwells. Presenters and participants included spy-novellist Aly Monroe, historian Niall Whelehan, intelligence expert Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, author Henry Hemming, and former MI5 officer and whistleblower Annie Machon. The final session at the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures was on the 22nd of April (despite what it said on the screen – see above), when the topic for the afternoon was ‘Spies on TV’. Joseph Oldham, Associate Fellow in Film and TV Studies at the University of Warwick, took us on a tour of the changing face of TV spy drama, from Danger Man and The Avengers via Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to The Night Manager. He even mentioned Adam Adamant – but not Callan! It was anyhow a presentation that made the audience appreciate the subtle and not-so-subtle changes that TV spy drama has undergone over the past few decades.

2017-04-22 12b Spy week Zinnie Harris

Zinnie Harris

Most enjoyable was an interview with playwright and scriptwriter Zinnie Harris, who worked on episodes of Spooks. When prompted by a short question, Zinnie launches into long answers which, notwithstanding a rapid delivery, are crystal clear. It is amazing how she can get across so cogently what the experience of writing a TV script is like, compared to creating a play from scratch, or adapting a work for the theatre.

The final hour of the afternoon was a presentation and question-and-answer session on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, with Penny Fielding, Simon Cooke, and David Sorfa from the University, joined by Joseph Oldham.

What is the future for the the genre of espionage – in literature and popular fiction, on film, and on TV? Or indeed in computer gaming, graphic novels, or any other medium? Are there any new writers out there who can think outside the box of Smiley ‘tradecraft’, Bond CGI, or the hi-tech hacking of Homeland, or use such elements to novel effect? Or is the whole genre a dead-letter-box where no one picks up the half-empty packet of Gauloises or notices the chalk mark any more? I wonder…


A conversation with Sarah Dunant

1Paul writes:

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a public conversation between Dr. Monica Azzolini and historical novelist Sarah Dunant, at the School of History, Classics & Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, and of speaking to her briefly afterwards. The event was primarily a promotion for the most recent novel in her series dealing with the Borgias – In the Name of the Family.

Sarah Dunant cut her literary teeth writing ‘thrillers’ which, she said, taught her the art of storytelling. She is a historian by education, and loves historical research. Research, when produced for academic consumption, however, tends to be published by university presses and remains within the academic sphere, with an academic readership. Fiction, on the other hand, liberates the subject to a wider readership, and while Sarah does not write instrumentalist novels, she is well aware that her readers are learning whilst enjoying an absorbing novel. So she makes sure that her research is exhaustive.

3It has often been said before when it comes to history – “Where are the women?” We have the impression, due to ‘taught’ history seeming to be a procession of great men, great battles, great events, that half the world’s population is invisible, and that this invisibility is somehow uniform throughout history. Sarah presents Renaissance women to us in her novels – in convents, as courtesans, at court – living unexpectedly rich and varied lives, even though they may be distanced from direct involvement in the ‘great events’. Lucrezia Borgia is almost invisible, except for the gossip put around by enemies of the Borgias. Pinturicchio’s depiction of St Catherine of Alexandria may be the closest we have to a portrait of her, but as a dynastic asset she was arguably as important as her father Rodrigo and her brother Cesare. Although she was only thirty-nine when she died of natural causes, she outlived them both.

Sarah Dunant, who says she is always “willing to take on the real history,” read to us a passage from her novel, describing the process of serving as a witness to the consummation of Lucrezia’s marriage at Ferrara. There was no description of the bride’s feelings and thus no kowtowing to the stereotypical idea that women writers ‘do’ feelings, but rather an account of the ‘bodily bureaucracy’ that goes with a dynastic match.

2In the Name of the Family introduces to Sarah’s readers to a young Florentine diplomat – Niccolo Machiavelli. This is a name that often strikes a chill – after all, the adjective that derives from his name is used to describe the ruthless and amoral wielding of political power – but a recent book by Erica Benner, Be Like the Fox, reveals a staunch believer in republican liberty and a scrupulous recorder of the realpolitik of Renaissance Italy. Sarah’s portrayal of him is that of a relative youngster, who has a wife back home who seems quite fond of him, and who worries about whether his attire is smart enough for his surroundings, whether his doublet is straight, and so on. He is a man who has been chosen for his diplomatic job because he shows much promise, but the wily observer has yet to emerge. Writing The Prince is many years ahead.

To Sarah Dunant the Renaissance is an era of “red hot modernity.” She is well aware that its cruelty and beauty are not two separate aspects of the time, but are interwoven, along with all the daily banalities.

I would like to thank Sarah Dunant, Monica Azzolini, and of course the University of Edinburgh for hosting the event.


Courtesy note: Sarah Dunant is represented by Aitken Alexander Associates Ltd.

In remembrance of Iain Rossouw

Paul writes:

1I woke up this morning to find tweets and blog posts that I could not at first take in, and when I could take them in, I could scarce believe them. Iain Rossouw, who headed Honeymead Books, had tackled three intruders at his home in South Africa, and had been killed in the struggle. His wife Lyz, who heads Honeymead’s sister-house P’kaboo, writes about it here. I can only imagine what she’s going through right now.

In practical terms, for the agency, this means that we must ask your forbearance – please do not make any new enquiries about P’kaboo or Honeymead for the time being. We’ll resume normal service as soon as we can. Meanwhile we will continue to act for existing clients who have books with the two houses.

Lyz and Iain are a great couple (I can’t bring myself to say ‘were’, because they will always be a couple). Lyz is a woman of great strength of character. My thoughts are with her.

‘The Solar Wind IV’ finds a place in the heart.

solar-wind-ivReviewer Colleen Chesebro recently had the following to say about the fourth in the Solar Wind series by Lyz Russo:

Volume Four brings the pirate assassin, Federi, and his wife, the lovely genetic engineer/musician, Paean, back together at long last. When these two are apart, the Solar Wind never rides smooth on the waves beneath its bow. Something is off, though, and Federi’s gypsy intuition is pushed into overdrive to figure out what is wrong.

Suddenly, a new threat surfaces when Dana, an alien from the planet New Dome, arrives aboard the ship with an agenda all her own. The hauntingly beautiful Dana disrupts the newfound relationship between the Captain and Perdita when it is revealed that she is Rushka’s mother. Perdita is stunned and watches, filled with fury, as the Captain succumbs once again to Dana’s evil charms. Meanwhile, Rushka, pregnant with her first child remembers the cruelty she suffered at the hands of her alien mother when she was a young child.

And, if that wasn’t enough drama, mutant creatures are menacing the crew, threatening their very lives. The beings can’t be destroyed, and they regenerate themselves from a single living cell. They multiply into the thousands with only one thing on their mind – to kill. When one of the creatures attacks Federi, the team battles for his and their lives looking for solutions to save the world from certain destruction.


Lyz Russo

Perdita is the key to protecting humankind from Dana’s malevolence. If they can save Federi, there is still hope…

I have been reading the Solar Wind Series for some time now, and I must say, I enjoyed Book IV, Raider, the best! The characters have long ago found a place in my heart. Once again, it is the relationship between Paean and Federi that steer the crew into new adventures. The addition of space travel and the ability to beam to any location in an instant added another layer of mystique to the plot.

Lyz Russo has created a science fiction series that continues to entertain and invite the reader into the world of the Solar Wind, and its crew. This futuristic pirate fantasy is one of my favorites!

Read more about Solar Wind IV here.

“Snappy dialogue and excellent writing – worth trying!”


A recent reader’s opinion of Carmen Capuano’s Split Decision:

Snappy dialogue and excellent writing – worth trying! Looking at this because I like Carmen’s The Owners series. Not sure whether it’ll appeal to male readers as much as female but she can write and her dialogue is spot on – she makes her conversations sound real…

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Aspiring cover artist wanted!

Our client Marie Marshall is looking to recruit some new artistic talent. Could that be you?

Marie Marshall

2Are you an aspiring artist? Would you like to take a punt at designing a cover illustration for my latest YA/teen vampire novel, KWIREBOY vs VAMPIRE, sequel to From My Cold, Undead Hand? I have little to offer you at this point except recognition, but in that respect I would be helping you and you would be helping me.

Your illustration does not have to be fancy. In fact if you could take a cue from Millie Ho’s excellent black-and-white cover for the first book in the series (look right) you’ll see the kind of aesthetic we’re looking for.

If you would like to offer your services, please get in touch with the publisher direct.

Thank you,


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