This is not the run of the mill Out and About article. No, hills were climbed, ebikes ridden or lochs canoed across in the writing of this article. Out and About can be about city life as well as life in the wilderness. It can be set in England as well as in our own dear Scotland. It can also be about finding a diamond in the least expected of places. I invite you to bear with me and read on.
Shopping is not really me
My latest foray out in the world at the start of 2024 found me way on downtown in Yorkshire.
Picture the scene. I’m on a visit to Harrogate with Maggie. Maggie’s a great believer in internet shopping. Personally, I’m not convinced that it will catch on. But hey ho, what do I know?
Maggie’s ordered some trousers and she’s determined to pick them up on our visit. This involves me being her bagman. All the blokes out there know what I’m talking about; running to keep up with a very determined woman, not really understanding what all the fuss is about and wondering where the next seat and cup of coffee’s coming from. At the appointed store on the High Street, we pass a lady sitting on the road selling the Big Issue. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m conflicted about this publication. I love their articles, there’s always some extremely interesting jobs advertised.
However, I hate the fact that we have an economic need for this publication but that’s another story.
£5 buys the latest edition. Back in the Airbnb, I start reading the paper (Issue 1597) as Maggie tries on her new jeans.
What grabs my eye
I’m drawn to the piece by Nathan Connolly in the Culture section; ‘Why we champion writers on the outside’. I personally admire disruptors and believe strongly that they help us update and modernise our institutions and our thinking. Disruptors stop us getting stuck in a rut. Bob Dylan (Disruptor supreme? Discuss, there’s a PhD in this) describes exquisitely what the disruptor role entails. He defines the role perfectly when, on his seminal breakup album Desire (circa 1975), he writes of Joey Gallo, New York mafioso,
Always on the outside of whatever side there was
When they asked him why it had to be that way
Well, he answered
This is not one of Dylan’s most popular pieces, dyed in the wool Dylan fans don’t like this one. Whatever your take is of the song, these few lines capture the role perfectly.
Nathan Connolly describes what it’s like to be an outsider in the publishing industry. He started a publishing business, Dead Ink Books, based in Liverpool, after struggling to find meaningful work in austerity Britain. He writes,
We were driven by a sense that a lot of the books that were on offer at the time didn’t excite us at all. The mainstream book business felt uninspired and safe. Based in the North [of England] we didn’t have much access to a publishing industry that was famously centred in London, and which felt that it had nothing to say to us or about us.
I had to get in touch. I wanted to know more about Dead Ink Books. This is a publishing house that is committed to developing new writers, building writers’ knowledge of the business side of their enterprise, helping them find their voice and developing their own readership. It’s a competitive industry, margins are extremely tight, and many go to the wall without a strict business plan and a willingness to take on that pub job for the sake of your dreams. Nathan Connolly has a plan to make it as an independent publisher. He is an entrepreneur, a disruptor in the true sense of the word.
A Glasgow connection
Dead Ink Books are not a Scottish outfit. I asked after new Scottish writers in the pipeline for us to read and enjoy. Alison Irvine is one of their rising stars. Alison was born in London to antipodean parents. She moved to Glasgow in 2005 and graduated with a distinction MLitt in Creative Writing in 2006 from Glasgow University. Alison’s first novel This Road is Red was shortlisted for the 2011Saltire First Book of the Year Award.
Her new novel Cat Step (published 2020) is a poignant reminder of the shear enormous struggle that is motherhood. Liz, a single Mum displaced from London to Lennoxtown with her five-year-old struggles to sell the home of her ex-husband’s gran. She leaves her sick daughter sleeping in her car outside the Lennoxtown Co-op. It was only for a few minutes. Come on, your parents too, we’ve all done it. Haven’t we? When she returns minutes later, there’s a crowd around her car, the police are involved, she has a social worker who is trying hard to contact her. Suddenly, she’s ‘the woman who left her baby in the car’. On such fleeting moments, lives change for ever.
Read this book. The themes are relevant to many more places in Scotland and beyond. I am confident that Alison Irvine is a writer we will hear more from in the future. You will not be able to put Cat Step down.
Dead Ink Books: The future
Dead Ink Books has come a long way since it’s start in 2011. It provides a platform for new writers and gives us readers access to voices that mainstream publishers may have missed or ignored. 2024 will be a busy year. We look forward to a collection of blue-collar stories from Navajo author Bojan Louis as well as debut novels from Adam S Leslie, Ania Card and Bruce Omar Yates. You have to admire Nathan Connolly, his vision and tenacity. I, for one, am looking forward to Maggie’s next shopping order on the internet, but don’t tell her I said that. Please…?