Ghosts of the Silk Road

Sam Meekings

I write when an idea comes to me that is so loud, so urgent, that I cannot ignore it. When it bangs on my windows and hollers through the letterbox so loud I cannot sleep and have no choice but to grab a pencil and notepad and let it all spill out.

The idea for The Book of Crows came when I was travelling on the Silk Road. I had made my way to the far west of China, to see Xinjiang, the vast desert province that borders Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In the city of Kashgar, I saw huge yellow mosques and also giant karaoke clubs. It seemed to be a city where east and west went colliding into each other.

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Interview with book designer Jonathan Pelham

We love putting a spotlight on the publishing industry. To that end, we spoke to designer Jonathan Pelham. As both a freelancer and a senior designer with 4th Estate, Jonathan has designed covers for books by all sorts of authors, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Molly Antopol.

How did you get into designing book covers?

I started off as a cover art worker, which involved doing things like taking in corrections and preparing artwork for print. I was only supposed to be there four months to help shift a backlog of work but somehow managed to make myself indispensable and ended up staying five years and being promoted to junior designer.

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How We Read Now

The following blog is an adaptation of a talk given by our Founder and Publisher, Anna Jean Hughes, at the 2016 Schilling Conference in Copenhagen.

LOOK, it’s a cat reading:

What do you do while reading a book these days? This may seem like a bit of a facile question. You’re reading, right? But are there other things that you do? Highlight a particularly meaningful line and punctuate it with a “How Apposite” in the margins, or scrawl the words into your notebook for future reflection. Do you Google what in the hell ‘apposite’ means, then tap out the quote into Twitter (!!! #apposite) and underline the word in your marginalia for extra emphasis. OR look up the author, read their Q&A and find out that they, like you, also munch many a peanut butter jelly sandwich. Then check out a video of them reading said meaningful line on Youtube (through a mouthful of PBJ).

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’Tis the time of year when everyone gets enthusiastic about lists. And, frankly, we are no different – we love a good list. Especially when it’s a list of books. So to prep you for the ‘Best of 2016…’ season, we’ve curated our very own listicle. Here are the best places to go for your best-of book lists as the year draws to a close!


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November’s Pigeonhole Transmission

Juliet Jacques photographed at the Close-Up Film Centre, East London by Pal Hansen for the Observer New Review.

November is going to be an exciting month at The Pigeonhole as we launch our serialisation of Juliet Jacques’ Trans: A Memoir. A few weeks ago, I raced through this unflinching look at what it means to be transgender in 2016 and the innumerable physical, social and psychological barriers people in transition have to go through to reach their long-awaited destination; a destination which, as the closing words of the memoir suggest, is less a destination than a starting point, from which life can then begin: ‘I let go of the mouse, drummed my fingers on my desk and then gently reclined into my chair, letting the day go by.’

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Ferrante, celebrity culture and the literary scene


When I started reading Ferrante, I didn’t know that the writer was working under a pseudonym. I didn’t really care, either. I read some of her work, loved it, and eventually her identity piqued my interest – largely because I heard some rumour that the author was in fact male. But really, like many other readers, I didn’t care or mind who Ferrante really was – though I did hope she was a woman!

Claudio Gatti did his digging and has, apparently, discovered the identity of Ferrante, which has caused an uproar – he’s been chastised by the literary community and  across the press. Some people, however, are more concerned by the public takedown of Gatti than by his revelation of who Ferrante might really be.

Both stances are reflective of the age of celebrity that we inhabit.

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How I Write by Anna Stothard

We are delighted to be working with Salt Publishing to serialise The Museum of Cathy by Anna Stothard in a pre-publication exclusive beginning on 31 October. This is Anna Stothard’s fourth novel. Her second, The Pink Hotel, was longlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize. Here, she tells us how she writes.

I wrote much of The Museum of Cathy during a humid Berlin summer, quickly and nomadically, while tramping the city looking for places to work. The city’s natural history museum was a favourite writing spot, either sitting in a corner of the central dinosaur hall or crouched amongst embalmed snakes and bats in the air-conditioned basement. I’d balance my computer on my knees and let children trip over my trainers. I’ve never been fussy about writing in solitude or quiet. I like busy isolation. As long as nobody tries to talk to me, chaos and skeletons can reign around me.

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52 Dates for Writers competition winner!

We asked readers of our recent 52 Dates for Writers serialisation to submit a sample of work they had written after doing one of the writing dates in the book. Our favourite was by Lucy Corkhill, who was inspired by the date entitled ‘Assume an Alias’ in Stave VIII: ‘… Choose a particular time and day, and go about the day as you could reasonably expect one of your central characters to. Try to make all decisions, reactions and interactions as your character would…’

Lucy has won a literary consultancy package with 52 Dates for Writers author Claire Wingfield, during which they will discuss the outline for Unmasked, the working title of the novel the extract (featured below) is from.


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Adaptation Adaptation Adaptation

According to USA Today, the onslaught of movie adaptations is seriously boosting book sales. Well, this isn’t exactly new. We’ve seen it a million times before, especially with YA literature (hello Hunger Games, Twilight, Harry Potter, Divergent etc).

But we’ve also seen some absolute disasters in the cinema that would be enough to put you off the most perfectly poised classic.


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