Scaling the Literary Heights

Just how much more literary is it possible to get? I’ve written a feature for the Granta website. About the only things I can think of with more literary kudos would be writing something for the Granta magazine or winning the Booker Prize! The artice is called ‘Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones’ and you can read it here.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

History Bro on Tour

The History Bros (in Law) temporarily split and this History Bro goes solo on Thursday 24 October at Haslemere Bookshop in, yes, Haslemere, talking Warrior and all things Anglo-Saxon. It’s the only stop on the Warrior tour in the south, so I hope you’ll be able to join me. The evening starts at 7.30pm and tickets are available direct from Haslemere Bookshop.

On The Road

Next stops on the History Bros (in Law) Warrior road tour are two book festivals this weekend in Galloway, Scotland, and Carlisle, England.

At 1.30pm on Saturday 5 October, Paul and I are appearing at the Wigtown Book Festival in, of course, Wigtown. Tickets available here.

Then at 3.30pm on Sunday 6 October we are at the Borderlines Festival in Carlisle. Tickets here.

Forum Books – Tour Day 1

The History Bros had the first stop on our Warrior book tour yesterday, at Forum Books in Corbridge, and it went better than we could have hoped. Every ticket was sold and the good people at Forum even had to get in some extra chairs to accommodate more people who turned up on the night. Forum Books itself is everything an independent bookshop should be and completely delightful – as you’ll see from the photos below. One of the audience, journalist Ian Wylie, very kindly forwarded me these photos he took of the event. Find more of his work on Twitter @ianwylie. Our next stops, on Saturday 5 October and Sunday 6 October, are the Wigtown Literary Festival in Wigtown and the Borderlines Festival in Carlisle. I hope to see you at one of these. In the meantime, here are Ian’s brilliant photos of Tour Day 1.

Watching the Presses

It’s quite something to see the book that you’ve worked on for so long rolling off the presses – but that is what I did last Thursday. I went with Granta’s publishing director, Bella Lacey, to CPI Books in Kent to visit their plant and to watch the printing of all the 5,000 hardbacks that were to be printed for the first print run of Warrior: A Life of War in Anglo-Saxon Britain.

Having heard for so many years about the death of manufacturing industry in Britain, it was great to see a factory, employing 150 people, that has gone from strength to strength. Indeed, talking to Mark, the sales director, who took us round the plant, we learned that they have had to employ more people to cope with the demand. Because of their ability to print anywhere from one to a million books, the very quick turnaround they provide from receiving the files to printing the books, and the much lower transportation costs, CPI has turned back the tide of jobs flowing to China. The presses are rolling 24 hours a day, six days a week, with the company producing between two and three million books a week!

We were taken through the whole print cycle, from the production of the print type for 32 pages of the book (which is why books are produced in multiples and factors of 32), through to printing, folding, cutting, binding and covering the books. For the last stage, we got to see Warrior itself go from a shrink wrapped pile of bound pages to the fully jacketed finished product, ready to go off to the booksellers. It was a fascinating and enlightening day: my thanks to Granta and CPI Books for making it possible. Here are some photos of the process.

Bella inspecting the photo typeset

The typeset from which the book is printed.

Pages being printed.

Printed pages running through the production line.

Pages being made ready for cutting.

Pages now cut into 32 page sections ready for binding.

All the printed sections of a book, ready for binding.

One of the huge rolls of paper used to print books.

Warrior, with its cover on, ready for it to be bound tightly.

The next pallet of Warriors, waiting to be bound.

An author with his books (the gentleman behind has seen it all before!).

Printed Warriors, ready for the final stages of binding.

Finished copy of Warrior. Now all it needs is its jacket.

Putting on the jackets.

Jacketed and bound copies of Warrior rolling off to be stacked, ready for shipping.

Notice how the hardback cover gradually settles under its own weight.

Author and the final product: a printed, bound and covered book.

8 copies of Warrior, ready to be stacked on the pallet for shipping.

All set to go!