Congratulations to Dan Charnas for his recent win at the 2023 PEN America Literary Awards. Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm won the 2023 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.
Since 1963, the PEN America Literary Awards Program has honoured outstanding voices in fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, biography, children’s literature, translation, drama, and more.
The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography is awarded to a biography of exceptional literary, narrative, and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research.
The judges Manu Bhagavan and Silvana Paternostro said: ‘J Dilla was a hip hop producer who achieved renown for his shockingly original sound, which defied expectations in such dramatic ways as literally to transform our understanding of rhythm, of music itself. He got us to listen differently. In telling this story, Dan Charnas has accomplished something remarkable, channeling Dilla here to surprise and delight us in words, upending our preconceived notions of biography and calling on us to read differently. Dilla Time is well-researched, nuanced, and paints a vivid portrait of its subject, all hallmarks of top-quality non-fiction. But it takes a revolutionary turn when it blends together the life of Dilla, the story of a city, and the development of hip hop.
This is a book about a young Black man with a stutter who grew up in the grim and derelict Detroit of the 80s, the burning city forging the trailblazing icon he would become. As we come to see things from his perspective, we learn how to count music and tap and clap in new ways, all while Charnas simultaneously teaches us why Black people came to Detroit, and why there’s bebop in Motown and hip hop in New York.
In its staggered layout, Dilla Time produces a polyrhythmic beat of its own, where the words don’t simply sing, they stretch, warp, stomp right through the page. Charnas gets his readers to see, think, and hear at the same time. In this, Charnas has created perhaps the truest tribute to Dilla and his legacy: a work of funky artistic achievement.
At the same time, we have a most human portrait of J Dilla, an honor student who dropped out because the ROTC cap “fucked with his hair,” and who worked for a time building planes on an assembly line. There are cameos from music greats like George Clinton and Erykah Badu, who pass through as we breathe in bittersweet moments of solitude and inspiration and come to understand the relationship between mother and son, the hip hop star and women.
Dilla Time is a beautiful and daring rendering of a brilliant young man with all too human qualities and frailties, who died tragically young. We finish the book yearning to go to the many tributes his family, DJ friends, and fans are still organizing, 17 years after his premature death at age 32. We are left wanting to hear more of J Dilla, even as the music time he innovated echoes through the beats of today.’
See the full list of winners.
Find out more about the book.
This International Women’s Day we’re bringing your attention to just a few of the powerful, enigmatic, thoughtful, funny and thrilling reads we have the pleasure of publishing.
We’ll let the praise do the talking.
OTHER PEOPLE MANAGE BY ELLEN HAWLEY
‘Memorable for its examination of the themes of love, loss and family – and Marge’s voice, both no-nonsense and touching’ – Fanny Blake, Daily Mail
‘Rich in the pleasures of good storytelling … so intelligent about the essential raggedness of real lives’ – TLS
‘It is a novel written with exquisite attention to ordinary detail, elevating the everyday into something miraculous … the pages are packed with ordinary wisdom, the hard-won kind, the blistered-hand and aching-back kind, conveyed in a beautiful, spare poetic prose … a tender and beautiful addition to the literary canon, and a mirror for LGBT readers‘ – Joelle Taylor, Irish Times
STAY DAUGHTER BY YASMIN AZAD
‘Open-hearted, often amusing, always vivid and, above all, fascinating’ – Francesca Kay
‘An intriguing, surprising and endlessly fascinating glimpse into the lost and extraordinary lives of supposedly ordinary (and, to Western eyes, largely invisible) people’ – Robert Edric
‘Shows us the humour and heartbreak involved in the complexities and nuances of those born into a traditional world trying to negotiate modernity. It is a profound reflection on the dilemmas that Muslim women faced and are facing as orthodoxy and identity come up against freedom’ – Radhika Coomaraswamy
NEARLY ALL THE MEN IN LAGOS ARE MAD BY
‘Captures the experience of navigating the strange and wondrous world of love and intimacy in Africa’s most enigmatic city … Kuku’s stories are delectable and fun, but they also reveal the ridiculousness of gender expectations and the sexual politics that assign men and women rigid roles in intimate relationships’ Guardian
‘Kuku’s provocative debut is a brilliant, witty, punchy account of the messiness of relationships’ – L’Oréal Blackett, Refinery29
‘Witty and utterly enjoyable! At the heart of every story is a juicy scandal waiting to unfold. This is definitely the best of Lagos situationships in three hundred pages’ – Sally Kenneth Dadzie, bestselling author of Stranger In Lagos
THE PARTNER TRACK BY HELEN WAN
‘Wan succeeds in exploring and fictionalizing the timely topics of sexism and racism in workplace politics in a fluent, thought-provoking, and compelling tale’ – Booklist
‘Smart, incisive, and fast-paced, The Partner Track is a sparklingly readable look at the inner workings of a Wall Street law firm – from the vantage point of a brainy, beautiful and self-doubting Asian-American associate’ – Susan Cain, New York Times bestselling author of Quiet
‘An engaging and suspenseful debut’ – The Wall Street Journal
THE EMPRESS BY GIGI GRIFFIS
‘A gem of a novel with a compelling feminist bent … a treat both for the head and the heart‘ – Vaishnavi Patel, New York Times bestselling author of KaiKeyi
‘Quite simply delightful … Gigi Griffis has given us two sisters so spunky and unconventional that we want to crawl into the pages to join them, and palace intrigue enough to keep us turning pages late into the night‘ – Meg Waite Clayton, international bestselling author of The Postmistress of Paris
‘A fresh, fast-paced take on a legendary woman … guaranteed to win Sisi new fans‘ – Evie Dunmore, USA Today bestselling author of Bringing Down the Duke
WOMEN IN WHITE COATS BY OLIVIA CAMPBELL
‘Resolute Elizabeth, self-effacing Lizzie, publicity wooing Sophia: these trailblazers were on a radical quest for nothing less than equality, and as well as the slog and loneliness, Campbell’s intensively researched book captures some of the thrill … paints a rounded picture of each woman’s loves and losses, showing how intimately their private lives shaped their professional’ – Hephzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday
‘The story of three Victorian women’s triumph over male prejudice in the medical profession … excellent research’ – Leyla Sanai, The Spectator
‘What it took for these women to achieve their dream of becoming registered doctors in the face of determined opposition from the male medical establishment will make you bang your head against a brick wall multiple times… But the women chipped away, in the face of the men’s tantrums which “knew no bounds”, as Olivia Campbell writes in her lively chronicle‘ – Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Daily Mail
HONOR BY THRITY UMRIGAR
‘A powerful, important, unforgettable book’ Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
‘Honor is a novel of profound depths-cultural, personal, romantic, spiritual. It’s also a story of tremendous grace, both in the understanding it shows its characters and in the ways they navigate a brutal but stunning life’ – Rebecca Makkai
‘Harrowing but important novel’ – Amit Roy, Eastern Eye
‘Powerful punch of a story’ – Good Housekeeping
THE CORPSE FLOWER BY ANNE METTE HANCOCK
‘Ingenious … It demands not to be ignored … Taut, menacing, and intensely thrilling, it never lets go’ – Geoffrey Wansall, The Daily Mail
‘Hancock writes with a razor-sharp pen, wittily and with originality. I simply adore her books’ – Katrine Engberg, #1 internationally bestselling author of The Tenant and The Butterfly House
‘Scandinavian noir at its noirest. It’s hard, maybe unthinkable, to imagine how Hancock will follow it up’ – Kirkus Reviews
We are celebrating big at Swift with another set of brilliant books selected as Books of the Year.
Suspect by the godfather of the legal thriller Scott Turow was selected as a Thriller of the Year in The Times/Sunday Times and a Book of the Year in the Daily Mail and Daily Express. John Dugdale says that Suspect ‘displays all of Turow’s usual strengths of smart prose and intricate plotting, but its main asset is Pinky, the young, autistic, bisexual investigator for Lucia’s defence team and the book’s irresistible narrator’ and Abi Silver praised Suspect as a ‘topical story of organised crime, revenge and corrupt cops … full of clever courtroom scenes, action and beautifully-drawn characters’. The Daily Mail confirms Suspect as ‘Turow’s finest novel since his breath-taking debut Presumed Innocent 35 years ago’ with ‘serpentine storytelling deliver[ing] a terrific finale’.
Tamar Adler‘s delicious read An Everlasting Meal was chosen as a Food Book of the Year in The Times/Sunday Times. A ‘neat little kitchen companion’ this ‘is more meditation on cooking and eating than instruction manual. Like Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, it’s a book to gorge on for its quiet, gentle and uplifting wisdom’.
‘Tech horror story’ You’ve Been Played by Adrian Hon was one of Prospect‘s Books of the Year.
Dilla Time by Dan Charnas was a Financial Times Best Book of 2022. Ludovic Hunter-Tilney says: ‘cut short in his prime by ill-health in 2006, J Dilla changed the course of time. The Detroit producer devised a new rhythm for hip-hop, mixing even and uneven patterns of beats to create an innovative time signature. Dan Charnas adeptly recounts his life, with musicology from Jeff Peretz’.
And our second music history book The Come Up by Jonathan Abrams was included in the Guardian‘s best music books of 2022 as an oral history ‘that deserve[s] to be considered definitive’. Alexis Petridis praised Abrams’ history as a ‘beautifully edited book [which] concentrates on hip-hop’s rise, perfectly capturing the excitement of its gathering momentum and regional spread, taking the time to dig deeper than the big names’.
Of Boys and Men by Richard Reeves ‘suggests practical, incremental reforms’ for helping boys falling behind and both The Economist and the Daily Mail have included this important read in their best books for 2022.
With a hint at exciting new fiction for 2023, Katherine Angel in the White Review included The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis in her yearly roundup: ‘the most hypnotic literary experience I had this year was listening to Bret Easton Ellis’s serialisation of his novel (or memoir?) in progress, The Shards. Whether the forthcoming book works as well as listening to Ellis drawlingly evoke the LA of his youth, while musing indirectly on sexual violence and trauma post-MeToo, I don’t know yet. But it is, as one might expect, bleak, disturbing, and gorgeous’.
In January 2023 Swift press will publish The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis, his first novel in thirteen years.
Bret will be visiting the UK in February 2023 and will speak at a major public event on Thursday 2 February in central London (details to be announced) and on Friday 3 February at the Sheldonian in Oxford. Get your tickets to see Bret Easton Ellis in Oxford.
We’re thrilled to be publishing bestselling author Bret Easton Ellis‘ first novel in thirteen years. The Shards tracks a group of privileged Los Angeles high school friends as a serial killer strikes across the city.
Ellis is the author of six novels, including Less Than Zero and American Psycho (both published by Pan Macmillan), a collection of essays and short of stories. His work has been translated into 32 languages, and he has sold 705,120 UK copies for £5.3m in the Nielsen BookScan era, which began in 1998.
Publisher Mark Richards said: ‘The Shards is everything you could hope for from a Bret Easton Ellis novel; in it, he takes the setting of Less Than Zero, the metafictional set-up of Lunar Park and the animating horror of American Psycho, and reworks them into something new and brilliant – a novel that is a coming-of-age masterpiece, channelling teenage desire and sexuality into a book that also reflects the changes that the culture has undergone in the past 40 years. It’s been a long time since his last novel, but The Shards is more than worth the wait. We at Swift are thrilled to be publishing it, and we look forward to it reaching his legions of existing fans, as well as many new ones.’
If anyone’s told you lately that the novel is dead, they haven’t been taking the pulse of LGBTQ fiction, which is not only alive but keeping some of the most isolated members of the community alive by offering them a connection. It brings them the news.
The cost of isolation is painfully visible in Patrick Gale’s novel Mother’s Boy, about the poet Charles Causley, who was born in 1917 and lived most of his life in Launceston, Cornwall. It isn’t helpful to talk about whether Causeley was or wasn’t gay, Gale has said. The category wasn’t available to him. As Gale presents him, he sees himself an outsider, fully at home nowhere – a man without community.
When my partner first came out, in those isolating years before Stonewall, the novels she found were pulp fiction, with seedy covers, seedy titles, and for the most part seedy writing. Ask Lord Google about them and he’ll lead you to the likes of Women in the Shadows, Women’s Barracks, Strange Sisters… Oh, hell, I could go on, and it’s hard not to make fun of them, but the news they carried was hard to find back then and it mattered. Not many other channels carried it, and I owe them some respect, even if it’s not unmixed.
I came out after Stonewall and the first lesbian novel I read was Isabel Miller’s Patience and Sarah. Even though by then an entire lesbian community was within easy reach, it still brought me the news that I wasn’t alone. It’s true that I already knew that, but it was news all the same. It spoke directly to my (overcharged and still isolated) emotions. It’s the only book I ever remember hugging.
In Terry Wolverton’s introduction to Hers3, her 1999 anthology of lesbian fiction, she writes about asking a friend, ‘What do you want to hear about the state of lesbian fiction today?’
‘Just that people are still writing it,’ her friend answers.
They still are – we still are – and these days readers can find a range that stretches from literary novels to genre fiction, from stories that keep a tight focus on relationships to those that take a wide-angle look at how we live in the world. It’s that wide-angle look that draws me most strongly.
Emma Donoghue’s riveting The Pull of the Stars, for example, turns to same-sex attraction only in the final pages, and with the lightest touch, closing a circle that by then is crying out to be closed. But her characters engage with the full range of their world – the flu epidemic, the stifling hand of the Church in Ireland, the demands of nursing at a time when medicine had so little to offer.
Naomi Alderman’s Disobedience takes us into the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where people who are attracted to the wrong sex hide the knowledge from themselves as best they can and where the question How are we to live? is answered by rule and law and tradition, not by individual desire and choice.
In both books, attraction is powerful but it doesn’t drive the story. The characters; lives are made up of multiple layers, and their stories speak to the LGBTQ community but also to the rest of the world. These are our stories, and we need them, but they are also your stories, whoever you are. We are all human.
Ellen Hawley is the author of Other People Manage out now.
Jessie Greengrass‘s unforgettable novel The High House has made the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction 2022 shortlist.
Each year, the Orwell Prize independent panels award prizes to the writing and reporting which best meets the spirit of George Orwell’s own ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’.
View the full list of finalists.
Winners will be announced Thursday 14th July 2022.
Jessie Greengrass has received widespread acclaim for her novel The High House and we are thrilled to see it celebrated on The Royal Society of Literature’s Encore Award 2022 shortlist.
An annual Award of £10,000 celebrating outstanding achievements in second novels, the Encore Award fills a niche in the catalogue of literary prizes. This year’s judges are Sian Cain, Nikesh Shukla and Paul Muldoon and the five shortlisted novels are: The High House by Jessie Greengrass (Swift Press), Maxwell’s Demon by Steven Hall (Canongate), The Giant Dark by Sarvat Hasin (Little Brown), Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford (Scribner) and Asylum Road by Olivia Sudjic (Bloomsbury).
The judges commented on The High House: ‘Set in a flooded England in the near-future, this is a novel that confronts our collective failure to act in the face of the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever seen: the climate crisis. But with such bleak subject matter, Greengrass shows how moments of joy and love can still be found despite such terror, in this understatedly powerful novel.’
Jessie claimed: ‘I am absolutely delighted to be on the shortlist for this year’s Encore Award. Writing a second novel has felt like a very different, and in many ways a much harder task than writing the first, and comes with a much greater awareness of all the very many things it’s possible to get wrong, so to have this recognition is a joy – and a great spur as well to keep on working on a third!’
Winners announced Thursday 24th May.
Read the full press release.
We were thrilled to win the Nick Robinson Newcomer of the Year Award at the 2022 Independent Publishers Guild Awards and are looking forward to commemorating our second birthday in June with our first accolade in hand.
Congratulations to our fellow shortlisted publishers Confer & Karnac and Renard Press and to all the winners on the night.
See the full list of winners.
We are so pleased to have Jessie Greengrass‘s novel The High House on the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards 2022 shortlist in the Fiction, with a sense of place category.
Congratulations to all the authors and publishers celebrated. View the full shortlist.
The award winners will be announced on Thursday 3rd March 2022.
You can buy the book at Waterstones, Foyles, Bookshop.org or your local bookshop. The High House is available in paperback this March.