Tag Archives: literature

10 Facts About Welsh Author Ken Follett

Now, it isn’t often that we report on modern literature, but even we enjoy the occasional thriller and fun beach read (not that we are saying Ken Follett is a beach read). We can’t have our followers thinking that we spend all of our time flipping through Bleak House or other 1st editions of Charles Dickens now, can we? So in that vein and on this popular author’s birthday we would like to offer you ten facts about Follett that you may not have known previously!

Screen Shot 2019-06-05 at 9.38.09 AM

Also, we would like to take this time to introduce to you our latest catalogue – released just yesterday for Summer 2019, it is a wonderful representation of our inventory! With beautiful and interesting selections from each of our specialities (and some genres that perhaps you didn’t know we dabble in), it really is worth a good look. As Samm says – relax, sit back with a cup of coffee, and enjoy some of our latest and greatest catalogued items!

Now back to the blog…

10 Facts About Ken Follett

1. Ken Follett was born on June 5th, 1949 in Cardiff, Wales.

2. As a child, Follett was banned from watching television because his parents were part of a conservative, evangelical Christian movement known as Plymouth Brethren. That is how Follett developed an interest in reading at a young age!

3. Having moved to London at the age of 10, Follett applied and was admitted to University College London, where he studied philosophy and became interested in politics.

4. Upon his graduation in 1970, Follett took a 3 month post-grad course in journalism, and immediately took his new wife and son back to Cardiff to work as a trainee reporter on the South Wales Echo.

5. Though he first returned from Cardiff to work in London at the Evening News, Follett became bored of his profession and decided to try his hand at publishing, instead. After a short time in his new trade, Follett was made deputy managing director of Everest Books – a relatively small London publishing house.


6. Follett has said that his reasoning for writing his first book, Eye of the Needle, was to hopefully make some money on the side in order to fix his car. If only we all had such inclinations that casually turned out to be best sellers!

7. Eye of the Needle is, to this date, one of Follett’s most popular works. Upon its publication in 1978 it became an international best seller and sold over 10 million copies. We are assuming Follett then had enough money to fix his car. Or buy a new car. Or maybe even a plane.

8. Many of Follett’s works have also been international best sellers, with a few even adapted for the big screen. Follett’s works have sold over 160 million copies worldwide.

9. Most of Follett’s works are placed in the historical thriller genre or thriller/mystery genres of literature. He has published over 44 books throughout his life.

10. Follett is an amateur musician, playing the guitar and the bass balalaika. Here is a video of him singing and playing the guitar to “Mustang Sally”. You are welcome.

Happy Birthday, Ken Follett!

Psst… and don’t forget to check out our new catalogue!


“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” OTD in 2001, the Universe Lost … “a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher… or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 11.30.35 AM

By Margueritte Peterson

As a child, I was required to listen to many different things. Classical music, for one. Teachers getting annoyed with me for asking too many questions, for another. And… The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quotes, for a third. For that last particular factor I have my father to thank. (Though actually, now that I think about it, he seems to have had a major hand in all three of those particular life events… but I digress.)

Douglas Adams may be best remembered for his humorous saga The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a “trilogy” of five books which sold over 15 million copies during the author’s lifetime, but he was much more than a simple humorist (or was he?). He was a script writer, a lover of Doctor Who (he wrote and edited for the show on more than one occasion), and a self-proclaimed radical atheist (as in… if you asked him if he meant agnostic he may have attacked you with a wet towel). By adulthood Adams stood at 6’5″- but his stature was far from the only thing that set him apart from the crowd!

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 11.28.16 AMAdams was born in March of 1952 in Cambridge, England. Though his family only lived there a few short months after his birth, where he then moved a couple times throughout his childhood – first to East London and then, once his parents divorced, to Brentwood – a small city in Essex. By the time the young Adams reached age 12 he already stood at (nearly) his full height – his early growth spurt only rivaled by his short stories, poems & essays as for what was most interesting about him. He was a published author by the time he was 10 years old, with his earliest writing found in school publications and local boys’ comics. Adams continued to write sketches and humor throughout his time at school, though, in all other aspects, his University education was otherwise… predictable.

After University (St. John’s College, Cambridge), Adams moved to London with dreams of becoming a writer for television and radio. Amusingly enough (pun intended), his breakthrough came with his contributions to Monty Python – he not only helped write sketches for the show, but even made special appearances a couple of times… and was only one of two people who ever received writing credit for the show outside of the original cast members. Though he made this early success with the Monty Python gang, Adams then hit a wall in regards to his writing. For a time he was unable to publish any of his work (due to a lack of interest by fools) and performed odd jobs (even as a bodyguard and a chicken shed cleaner… apparently) before moving home to live with his mother in 1976. (All great adult men live with their mothers at some point… right?)

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 11.29.47 AMThis gloomy state of affairs did not last long for Adams, however, as when he and radio producer Simon Brett pitched the idea of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (an idea that came to Adams while he was lying drunk in an Austrian field…. I couldn’t make this up if I tried) to BBC Radio in 1977 it was immediately taken up by the station. The series began being broadcast on the UK’s BBC Radio 4 in March and April of 1978. The success of the initial series led to a special Christmas episode the same year and a second series broadcast in early 1980. Despite a difficulty in writing to appease deadlines (he is famously quoted with “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by”), Adams published five novels in the Hitchhiker’s series, from 1979 to 1992. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was the beginning of a cult phenomenon – comic books, computer games, spin-offs and movies have just been the start of the HHGG following!

Towards the end of his (painfully short) life, Adams authored another short series (just two books) on Dirk Gently and his life – a story Adams himself described as “a kind of ghost-horror-detective-time-travel-romantic-comedy-epic, mainly concerned with mud, music and quantum mechanics” that Adams loosely based on characters he used previously in his contributions to Doctor Who. Also later in life, Adams became an environmental activist, campaigning for the sake of various endangered species. He took his environmentalist acts extremely seriously, like in 1994 when he raised over £100,000 by traveling to and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in a rhino suit for a British charity called Save the Rhino International.

Adams died suddenly on May 11th, 2001 from a heart attack after working out at a private gym near his home in Southern California (and people ask why I don’t exercise…). However, don’t fret (at least, not on your left-handed guitar, of which Adams had a collection of 24 when he passed away) – May 25 celebrates international “Towel Day” – a day where fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy openly carry towels around with them… as “any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

… Please excuse me while I go look for mine!

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 11.26.45 AM

Don’t panic… I found it.


Happy Birthday, Lady Lazarus

By Margueritte Peterson

“I am terrified by this dark thing/ That sleeps in me; / All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.” The author of this quote, and many similar to it, was a haunted being. She struggled with depression throughout her life and eventually succumbed to the constant pain she felt and ended her life. Many think of her and immediately think “that lady put her head in an oven” (don’t lie… you did, didn’t you?). Banish it from your mind for a moment! Today, we’d rather focus on her fascinating life and haunting poetry instead. Her being, of course, Sylvia Plath.  Though you may not think that writing a blog on Sylvia Plath at Halloween-time is very… original, we are going to do it – as today would have been her 83rd birthday. Plath was an extremely influential person – not just in words, but in her struggle to have her poems heard – despite seeming to have the world against her!


A young Sylvia Plath.

Sylvia Plath was born in October of 1932 and was raised in Massachusetts. Despite her father’s sudden death shortly following her 8th birthday, Plath did not begin to show signs of her mental illness until college. As an 8 year old child Plath survived and thrived through a tumultuous year – first with her father’s death, then her family’s relocation to Wellesley, MA, and also with her first published poem in the Boston Herald’s Children’s Section. Sylvia blossomed in academic environments and in 1950 when she began to attend Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, she discovered a whole new world, finding she loved being a part of an academic community. She became editor of The Smith Review and interned, as a guest editor, at Mademoiselle magazine during the summer after her junior year – a highly sought after position. Her mental illness finally seemed to surface during this time, when Plath was distraught after not meeting poet (and one of her idols) Dylan Thomas during one of his trips to New York. She quickly spiraled into depression, and at the end of the summer she made her first documented suicide attempt by taking sleeping pills and laying down in the crawl space beneath her mother’s house – where she was found 3 days later.

A happy Plath and Hughes after the birth of their daughter, Freida, in 1960.

A happy Plath and Hughes after the birth of their daughter, Freida, in 1960.

Now, I know I said that we would be focusing on her fascinating life and poetry rather than her suicide, but bear with me! The events in this particular summer were of great inspiration a decade later when Plath began and published her first and only novel, The Bell Jar. (There is a method to my madness, you can see.) But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Despite her intense summer and a stay at McLean Hospital receiving insulin and electric shock therapy in the fall, Plath recovered and graduated the following June with high honors. She received a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she continued to study poetry and was constantly published in the university paper, Varsity. The following February, Plath’s life would be turned upside down by her passionate romance with a fellow poet, Ted Hughes. The pair were married after a short four-month courtship. Hughes was described by Plath as a singer, story-teller, lion and world-wanderer with “a voice like the thunder of God” (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). Plath and Hughes moved to Massachusetts shortly after their wedding so that Plath could teach creative writing at her alma mater, Smith College. Hughes, during this time, taught at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. After spending a couple years in America, the couple moved back to London, where their first child, Freida Hughes, was born in 1960.

plath3It was at this time that Sylvia’s first large book of poetry was published by William Heinemann, named The Colossus and Other Poems. It received mixed reviews (overall better in the UK than it was received in the US), but did not gain enough enthusiasm to raise Sylvia Plath to the point of literary fame. She finished her novel The Bell Jar in 1962 (though it would not be published for another year) and the couple moved to Devon, England, to a small house in the English countryside. Later on in 1962, Plath and Hughes separated after she became aware of his affair with Assia Wevill, the beautiful woman renting their old flat in London with her husband. After moving back to the city with the children, Plath rented a small flat in a house that was once lived in by William Butler Yeats. Plath, renting the flat on a five year lease, thought this a good omen. The poet experienced a final burst of creative energy in the winter of 1962, writing many of the poems that would eventually be contained in Ariel, her posthumously published book of poetry. The Bell Jar finally hit the shelves in January of 1963, published under a pseudonym, but, like The Colossus, was not the great success Plath’s ego needed. In February of 1963, Plath ended her life.

Her work continues to be immensely popular, but many fans of the author’s brutal poetry know very little of her previous works. By the time Plath entered Smith College, she had written over 50 short stories and had them published in local papers and school publications. Also part of her poetry works were her “landscape poetry” – much of which was centered around Northern England (Yorkshire) and is not given as much credit as her later works. Much of her writing is also contained in her private diaries, which were first published in 1982, though her mother published a book of her correspondence home, letters Plath wrote between 1950 and 1963. In 2000 a new book of Plath’s journals was published, when Hughes gave the rights to publish the journals still in his possession (as executor of Plath’s estate), of which over half was new material to the public eye. Though the last of Plath’s journals were destroyed by Hughes, an act condemned often by Plath’s fans – as he said he did not ever want his children with Plath to see her desperate and depressed last months of thought.

plath5Plath’s style has been difficult for scholars to describe, as her writings ran the gamut of emotion and subject. Death and resurrection was a consistent theme throughout her writings in The Colossus, where as in Ariel her more vengeful poems focus more on the rage and despair she felt as she coped with her mental illness. Her poems are almost autobiographical in nature, as she used herself as the subject for almost all of her work. Perhaps this is why she is so popular with readers – though Plath struggled using her personal self as fodder for her poems, she continued to do so. She unabashedly offered herself as a model for her poems – a difficult undertaking for any author. On this her 83rd birthday, we honor Plath and her contribution to the world of poetry – for giving other writers (as many have since given her credit in helping shape their own work) the strength to delve into their own psyche and use it in their compositions.