Spotlight: Eye Books and Lightning Books
By Amy Tighe and Ella Davies
Established in 1996, Eye Books is an independent publisher founded with the goal of publishing books about extraordinary things happening to ordinary people. Throughout the sixteen years they have been operating, they have evidently achieved this aim, and in 2022, they won the Midlands regional heat in the Small Press of the Year category at the British Book Awards. In recent years, Eye Books has expanded its previous focus on stories with travel or geographical elements to include more general non-fiction.
Books Behind the Scenes
The backlist of Eye Books includes Frigid Women by Sue and Victoria Riches, a personal account of their trials in the Arctic as part of the first all-female expedition to the North Pole; the first books by adventurer Alastair Humphreys; and the bestselling official story of Trojan Records by Laurence Cane-Honeysett.
From An English Library Journey by John Bevis, tracking the author's mission to gain a membership card from every library authority in England, to the Long Melford Colouring Book by Simon Edge, dedicated to raising awareness of the glories of England’s medieval heritage now sorely in need of conservation, the diversity of books published by Eye Books is truly astounding.
One To Watch
An exciting upcoming release is Charging Around by Clive Wilkinson, a delightful memoir of his trip around the edges of England in an electric car with his wife. With a relentless curiosity for history and geography, Wilkinson interrogates the reality of life on England’s periphery and the effect of Brexit. This original and amusing read is coming out in April 2023.
A Limelight on Lightning Books
The fiction offerings from Eye Books’ sister imprint, Lightning Books, are eclectic and exciting. A standout for me is A Long Shadow by Caroline Kington. Set against the backdrop of the farming crisis at the turn of the 21st century, this rural noir explores the death of farmer Dan Maddicott, who left behind his young family and their debt-ridden farm.
I am equally interested in Kington’s other novels, such as The Summerstroke Trilogy. Set in a fictional West Country village, this series boasts pages of passion, power and politics, illustrating Kington’s ability to explore the world of farms in debt in both comedic and calamitous ways.
Published in 2020, Appius and Virginia by G.E. Trevelyan is the first of her books to be reissued since her death. She wrote eight seminal novels from 1932–1941, but her flat was hit by a German bomb during the Blitz and she died shortly afterwards. A lot of her books have been lost to the memory holes of literature, making this an extremely important reissue.
Appius and Virginia relays the fascinating story of Virginia Hutton, who decided to buy a baby orangutan and raise it as if it were a human child. The journey is not linear as their relationship shifts from that of a normal mother and her child to the cold and calculated route of a scientist and their subject, occasionally lurching to the dynamic between a teacher and their student. Exploring the ongoing conflict between nature and nurture and what we can do in opposition to what we should, this is a remarkably poignant tale about loneliness.
Coming out in March 2023, Conor Sneyd’s Future Fish follows Mark McGuire, who, after being sacked from his first-ever job in Dublin, enrols as a customer service assistant for Ireland’s second-biggest pet food brand, WellCat. Fearing he will die of boredom, relief comes in the form of the man of his dreams, conveniently working alongside him, as well as the looming threat of exorcists, alien-hunters and animal rights warriors, who are not convinced about the altruistic aims of Wellcat. A must-read for fans of David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs, this funny and freaky novel will appeal to anyone who has worked in customer service while dreaming of a little excitement.
Let Me Be Frank is the first collection of Sarah Laing’s extremely popular autobiographical comic series. In 2009, Laing began blogging her comics as a means to encapsulate the minutiae of her life before it evaporated, and she quickly gained a cult following. In the comics, she covers the ups and downs of parenting and the unholy trinity of mice, sex and clothes.