Monthly Archives: May 2020

Beyond Black There Is No Colour

Here’s a brilliant review of Maryam Diener’s book on the Historical
Novel Society:


Beyond Black There Is No Colour: The Story of Forough Farrokhzad

Written by Maryam DIENER
Review by Julia Stoneham

In the last century, three major women poets died in their prime. Two, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, took their own lives. Forough Farrokhzad died in a car accident after numerous suicide attempts. All three were beautiful and held in high regard by their peers. All three had passionate relationships with eminent men who loved and admired them, and this included the husbands of their children. But all three suffered from levels of depression which, from childhood and despite dizzying heights of elation, laid them low enough to overpower them.

Arguably, Forough Farrokhzad, born and raised in Tehran and consequently subject to the rigid dictates of Iranian law and religious restrictions, which inflamed her feelings of repression and lack of freedom to express herself as she wished, had more intolerance and disapproval to contend with than did either Sexton or Plath, each in her own Western environment.

Maryam Diener aptly describes her book as “a work of imaginative fiction” in which she has successfully contrived to give us her subject with precisely the right amount of sensitivity and compassion without, for one moment, descending into sentimentality. Her feeling for both time and place is relaxed and evocative, while her crystalline prose is a pleasure to read, as she moves her subject through the trajectory of her life with a rare assurance and skill.

This book will encourage readers who may be unfamiliar with Forough Farokhzad’s work to discover her for themselves and be the richer for it. This is one to relish and cherish.

Buy copies of this amazing book and defy this present financial crisis. You will not regret it. Go ahead and show us the colour of your money. Your help will be much appreciated.

‘Beyond Black There Is No Colour’ by Maryam Diener launched at Thomas Heneage Art Books



Jane Shilling has included Memories in her list of ‘Must Reads’ for the Daily Mail, out today. The review is posted below…

Memories by Naim Attallah ( Quartet £15, 278pp)

From a reluctant young apprentice in bleak postwar England to publisher, author, impresario, boulevardier and giver of parties at which his well-bred, young female employees wafted around in rubber dresses – Naim Attallah’s career has been the stuff of legend.
Now, he writes, ‘I’ve almost reached my ninth decade, and it is tough going.’
To celebrate the ‘charms and follies’ of his heyday, he’s compiled a memoir: Attallah met everyone from Dame Margot Fonteyn to Paula Yates, and has relished almost every encounter.
Alongside the fizzy social life, this memoir reminds us that as a publisher, Attallah was a fearless supporter of high-minded literature. And while his protegees may have been posh and pretty, they responded with flair to what one, the author Rebecca Fraser, remembers as his ‘wonderful ability to give responsibility to the young.’

Naim says: Buy the book now and be the first to enjoy his Memories.



Two enterprising books published by Quartet

Rebecca Wallersteiner, writer for medical publication Hippocratic Post, has been isolating with new titles. In her article, she recommends two Quartet titles for the summer ahead…

If you can’t travel abroad during your summer holidays this year, there are still small everyday pleasures to enjoy. Settle into a comfy chair, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy Waugh on Wine, this entertaining collection of former Spectator wine critic Auberon Waugh’s writings on wine which sparkles with his legendary wit. On pink champagne, (a personal favourite of mine), he writes, “there is something Barbara Cartlandlish about returning to this great Edwardian favourite. Perhaps it cannot compare, in delicacy or subtlety, to the very best white champagne, but how many of us ever drink the very best?” Pink fizz is much more “festive” to look at. Waugh recommends “hosts that skimp on their wine should be exposed, ridiculed and humiliated” and “anyone with money to spend should spend it on laying down a cellar.” A little dated, it is a must for wine lovers.

One of the most colourful personalities on London’s cultural scene, Naim Attallah has published a diverse roll call of notable literary names throughout the years, including Angela Carter, Brian Sewell and Leni Riefenstahl, to name a few. In Memories Attallah writes entertainingly about his sparkling contemporaries. These range from the violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin, politicians Tony Ben and Enoch Powell, to ballerina Margot Fonteyn, founder of Private Eye Richard Ingrams and writer Quentin Crew; to Michael Aspel and the former Chairman of Conde Nast Britain, Nicholas Coleridge. Attallah warmly relates how despite having muscular dystrophy and using a wheelchair the journalist Quentin Crewe never ceased to delight in beautiful women, travel, and partying the night away: he argued that disabled people are not very different to anyone else. Packed with quirky anecdotes, (often about sex), this very funny memoir should appeal to fans of Private Eye. I enjoyed reading it.

Waugh on Wine, by Auberon Waugh, with illustrations by William Rushton, (first published in 1987), re-published in paperback by Quartet Books, priced at £10.

Memories: The charms and follies of a lifetime’s  by Naim Attallah, published by Quartet Books, June 2020 , priced at £15.


Paul Burke, editor of NB Magazine has reviewed Memories on his blog
Booksplainer. The review will be on NB magazine in a few weeks.

To be different is Quartet’s secret weapon

In today’s upheaval because of the tragic death of so many people all over the world because of the coronavirus , and their fear of catching the disease, most people are confined to their homes where their lack of movements and boredom play havoc with their normal lives. Their only relief is to read books which recall happy times as well as tragic historical events that demanded a great deal of stamina and spiritual hopes making them survive the vicissitudes of time.

At Quartet, we know how important a book can be in these extraordinary times. For that reason, we’re publishing throughout the crisis. Whereas other publishers have halted all publications, we’re carrying on. But we’ve always been different to other publishers! That has always been our strength.

Two weeks ago, we published Pomeranski by Gerald Jacobs which you can buy here:

This week, we published a revised paperback edition of The Making of an Immigration Judge by James Hanratty:

And my new book Memories will be published in June. You can buy an advanced copy here:

And we have much more coming very soon…

If you’re looking for escapism from these strange and scary times, look no further! You will be most welcome.


There’s a good piece by Gerald in the Jewish Chronicle publicising his book:

Back when Brixton had Jews

Gerald Jacobs’ new book is set in 1960s Brixton where he grew up


Brixton market in the 1960s (Photo: Getty Images)

I can’t remember the pet shop’s exact location. I like to think it was in London’s most excitingly named street: Electric Avenue. But it could have been Atlantic Road or Brixton Station Road. It was certainly one of those three busy tributaries that flowed into the main Brixton Road well before the arrival of the Tube station in 1971.

I was with my friend Alex, who was slightly older than I was. He was also bigger, which was significant, because he was wearing a zip-up jacket capacious enough to contain the kitten that I bought for half-a-crown (12.5p).

The shop assistant made no observation regarding the tiny creature’s means of transport to my house (where she would live for about 15 years). He just took the money and handed her over the counter into my hands from where, once we were out of the shop, I placed her in Alex’s jacket.

This is one of a multitude of memories of the loud and luminous part of London where I grew up. Like Caliban’s island in The Tempest, Brixton in the 1950s and ’60s was “full of noises, sounds and sweet airs”. And in those days it had a handsome Orthodox synagogue, a kosher butcher, a Jewish deli, and a Joe Lyons’s tea shop.

Although Pomeranski, my new book, is set mainly in the days and the habitat of my growing up, it is a novel; all the principal characters are invented. But the atmosphere is not. Some scenes take place in the “Excelsior” shopping arcade, which is a lightly disguised version of an actual arcade in the heart of Brixton Market where my parents had a jewellery shop. The arcade is still there but is now part of a quieter, somewhat gentrified culture.


Back then, it was never quiet and would have been identified more with Jewry than gentry. Almost all of its tradesmen were Jews and quite a few were remarkably flamboyant. A lingerie salesman, for example, who peddled his wares at full volume to the passing shoppers and strollers, was proudly known as “Jack Panties”. Another trader attracted customers by singing and performing handstands.

Both were Jewish, as was the record-shop owner who pioneered new Jamaican music. This really took off in the early 1960s, a decade or so after the Empire Windrush immigration. By then, there was a sizeable demand for all things Caribbean — Pomeranski, too, has a Jamaican sub-plot.

The Caribbean influx helped my father turn his life around after his jewellery business collapsed. He bought himself a camera, knocked on doors and very quickly became the go-to photographer for Jamaican and other West Indian immigrants.

So well did this flourish that my dad became a fixture in the life of Brixton’s black community. Tellingly, when the Brixton riots flared in 1981, and the shops and houses along the street where his studio was situated were burnt and seriously damaged, the studio premises were left untouched.

The most eminent Brixton Jew I was aware of was the distinguished lawyer Victor, later Lord Mishcon. On Rosh Hashanahs, when the synagogue forecourt would be buzzing with teenagers in Yomtov suits and dresses, we would pause at the splendid sight of Victor Mishcon, solitary and upright as a Grenadier Guard, marching along Effra Road towards the shul that his father, Rabbi Arnold Mishcon, had founded in 1905. In my imagination, I can still see Victor in a top hat — though I can’t swear that he actually wore one.

But what was certainly very real was the enchantment experienced at the fabulous, Italianate, Astoria cinema, where my grandmother used to take my two cousins and me (making us change our seats every so often throughout the performance), and the Empress theatre, where hundreds of legendary variety stars played over the years.

It was at these two pleasure palaces where Brixton’s most imposing “noises, sounds and sweet airs” were to be had. But, of course, not all of the noises were wholesome. Plenty of villains have walked its streets — and indeed feature in the pages of Pomeranski.

Today, Brixton, with its ever-changing ethnic and demographic make-up, remains a dynamic location and is currently fashionable again. But little is recognisable from the mid-20th century. The Empress closed in 1957. The Astoria is now the Academy, a major rock music venue. Joe Lyons has gone.

The synagogue was in a conservation area and the building still stands, though its last services took place in the 1980s (one of its subsequent incarnations was as a school for clowns!). The kosher butcher has also long gone. The Jewish deli, too.

The Jews, too.

‘Pomeranski’, by Gerald Jacobs, is published this week by Quartet. Gerald Jacobs is the literary editor of the JC.

Buy the book now and enjoy reading it at your leisure.



An immigration judge writes ( a remarkable man )

Just to let you know that there’s a piece by James Hanratty up on Book
Brunch today:

OpinionBooks Wednesday, 06 May 2020

James Hanratty on why he has needed to bring his memoir up to date
“Why a revised edition now, four years after the first one?” is a legitimate question.

Before I deal with recent developments in immigration law and practice and the wider international and social context from which they derive, it may be helpful to describe the book. It is not yet another boring and self-important memoir from a pompous judge. It is intended to be entertaining, with anecdotes of my time in the Lord Chancellor’s Department in the House of Lords, as chief executive of the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, my 22 years in the Royal Naval Reserve at sea and afloat, my time in Hong Kong, where I was the legal adviser on the handover to China, and my 16 years as an immigration judge, when I was lucky to be voted by my colleagues to be the president of the Council of Immigration Judges for the UK, a sort of trade union rep for the judiciary.

As I recall in the book, I was the first judge to hold that a potential victim of FGM was entitled to refugee status here in the UK. I was proud, too, of a case involving a 17-year-old Jamaican girl who was about to be sent back to Jamaica, having been smuggled in aged 11. She had no realistic case in law. However, she was an impressive and intelligent girl. I told the Home Office barrister that I had been to Jamaica and could envisage the life she would lead there, all that education wasted. I asked him to seek instructions as to whether this case should proceed. He returned 30 minutes later to announce that the Home Office was conceding the appeal. Everyone in court, including the judge, burst into tears.

“In the last four years a harsh Home Office regime has been further complicated by ridiculously complex immigration rules and statutes”

That said, I was acutely aware that there were those seeking to play the system by deceit. The task was to identify who was telling the truth and who was lying. The consequences of getting it wrong could have been catastrophic.

I analyse the duties of a judge and the importance of careful preparation and courtesy. As Seneca observed, “Invective against a man in his trial is disgraceful.” I explain why we need immigrants as well as immigration control. I attempt to analyse the complex domestic and international law, and to discuss the plight of migrants and international politics, especially in the Middle East.

I also recall my mistakes, including one that compelled me to own up to Lord Chancellor Hailsham. He was, he told me later, impressed.

Owing to a poor briefing, I nearly ran a minesweeper aground at night off Portugal, only saved because I checked the position by radar. In his foreword, Lord (Peter) Hennessy is kind enough to describe me as having a vivid pen, and able to make the hidden wiring of Whitehall buzz. Another passage in the book concerns my time as chief executive of a mildly shambolic Royal Courts of Justice, when I worked over 80 hours a week to turn it round. I feel now I was one of Dominic Cummings’ “weirdos”, able to manage large organisations without the usual Civil Service qualification of a first in Greats from Oxford!

In the last four years a harsh Home Office regime has been further complicated by ridiculously complex immigration rules and statutes, sometimes utterly baffling and at others contradictory. Amendments to the rules sometimes came monthly, causing confusion to hard-pressed and underpaid lawyers and their clients. No wonder the Court of Appeal has complained about the “impenetrable law”. I give lurid examples in the book.

The Immigration Act 2016 provided for tough measures against illegal immigrants. Even a human rights appeal was barred if the Home Office certified that the appeal was “manifestly unfounded”. A tick box culture prevailed, with discretion limited. The Home Office officials, often junior and poorly trained, believed that if an applicant had no passport, that person must be illegal. Many immigration appeals are no longer allowed. Legal aid has been cut back so much that many appellants have no representative at all. It is so important in cases like these to be patient. I describe recent and sometimes contradictory cases in the higher courts.

This edition not only brings the sad Hong Kong situation to date but examines government proposals and practice in relation to Channel migrants, a points-based system, and even, as proposed in some quarters, an amnesty for illegal immigrants here.

I was appointed to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review. After a year doing extensive pro bono work, we published our report recently. There is a new chapter on the plight of these poorly treated and yet dignified people.

The book is personal too – I write about my family, serious sailing and travel. My time in Hong Kong was so helpful for a subsequent career as an immigration judge, and I recall the clever and intellectual Chinese people I worked with in Hong Kong and elsewhere, including the UN. Meeting and working with people like this is humbling, making one realise that not all we do in applying our law is actually the best way of working. I tried to be a good and fair judge.

This book is supposed to be both interesting and informative, but also thought-provoking and amusing. It is ideal reading in these turbulent and frightening times.

The revised edition of The Making of an Immigration judge is out from Quartet this Thursday, 7 May. Buy this book and find out for yourselves.