Alexander Crombie – Appreciation

Alexander Crombie

The TSL fold has been enriched with Alexander Crombie joining, thanks to Henry Dawe who introduced us.
Alexander is a blind author – which adds an interesting dimension to publishing his work as he is unable to do the proof-reading or checking of layout that most of our authors undertake. This is in keeping with our partnership approach. Despite his inability to do this checking, Alexander remains a fully involved and engaged author.
Alexander’s background is fascinating – some of it used in his first novel, Become the Wind. Through this, he shares how non-seeing people would prefer to be treated by seeing people. His sense of adventure and participation in activities one would not imagine a blind person doing – such as ski-ing – has been borne out by correspondents with TSL over buying his books.
Alexander types his own books – the accuracy of his spelling is phenomenal, no doubt helped by technology, but dare I say that his work is far more accurate than many seeing authors?
In his other books, The Eye of the Clown and So Long Henry Bear, Alexander continues to tackle difficult subjects – facial injury requiring reconstructive surgery and life in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during WW2.
He has at least another book in the pipeline – I look forward to seeing what it’s about.


Cul de Sac – A memoir by Elsa Joubert

Cul de Sac – A memoir by Elsa Joubert

This is a memoir of being old. How it came to be in my collection I’m not sure – possibly due to someone I know having their name on the back cover… I read on initially curious as to why I’d bought the book some time ago but as I realised it had nothing to do with any of my interests, I continued due to her beautiful descriptions – even in translation from Afrikaans to English.

Elsa Joubert, a long-standing author who died aged 97 in 2020, had been given the idea by her son. He suggested she write about her recent experiences as she had on visiting other countries and places. Growing old is thus portrayed as a place, an experience where machines in hospitals take on lives of their own.

I’m not sure this is really a book that an older person wants to or should read – it depends on their take on life. I found it an honest, reflective account of someone who is comfortable with her lot and seeing the lighter side of what is potentially a very difficult stage in life. I’m sure having an idea of some of the places in and around Cape Town referred to in the book helped keep my engagement.

Having looked a little more at Elsa Joubert, I’m sure another book or two by her will soon be on my reading pile.



Maya – a name that resonates for numerous reasons.

1. It’s the name of one of our authors – Maya Alexandri whose book The Celebration Husband is a novel of pragmatism, endurance and adventure in Africa during the 1914-1918 war. For this, Maya researched the life of Karen Blixen on whose life the book is loosely based.

2. Did you ever come across Maya the bee? It was popular in South Africa in the early days of television there (tv was only introduced/allowed in 1976). I see it’s based on a 1912 German children’s story.

3. There’s Maya Angelou for inspiration

4. And it’s the middle name of a family member…

5.Underpinning all these names is its origin in South America where the Maya people had a settlement in what is today’s Mexico.

6. And as such, it’s a place which features in L Lee Kane’s book, Death is an Illusion.


Ilona Hawkins – Appreciation

Ilona Hawkins

Ilona is a South African author with a long-standing interest in space exploration. In her younger days she penned a series of stories around Craig Carter. In her later days, she decided to have them published. To date, four have seen the wider world. The hero is Craig Carter – we trace his decision to become a space explorer through to his emergence as an explorer extraordinaire. Moving between worlds, space and earth, the reader is caught up in the dilemmas Craig faces – betrayal of friends, personal glory, loyalty to country, family etc – what decisions will Craig make in each encounter?
It’s been fascinating watching, or reading, the different scenarios Craig faces and how the various threads continue to hold together – while not what I would call gripping reads, the Craig Carter series captures a genre of writing we little experience today (at least in my reading world). All credit to Ilona for taking us into other worlds, a strange yet familiar journey.


Brian Cook – Appreciation

Brian Cook

Brian is one of the retired journalist contingent at TSL. He had previously self-published Home Ground but having little time to market the book, it came to TSL. After seeing the TSL version enter the world, Brian has left it to do its own thing. This is no different to many TSL authors.
Home Ground, set in 2008, seems to be a book you either appreciate or don’t. See the reviews on the TSL site for readers who struggled with the story. However, it’s one that appeals to me for the way the story develops, slowly to start, crossing cultural boundaries, both internationally and in-country between city and rural Yorkshire. Naturally, as the publisher, I recommend you take a chance and give it a read. I’ve not known a TSL book to cause such divided opinions. So, if you do take up the challenge – add your views to the review section to help future readers decide…


Words – what emotions do they conjure?

I missed which author said it, but his message was that when you sit down in front of your typewriter to write, you should not think, you need to feel. Thinking is done away from the machine. It’s good advice for some types of writing – in particular novels, but not all… Having said that, the essence holds for all writing – the words you choose are important and influence the reader. Talking to someone about a book in draft form recently, the question was asked – who’s the audience? WIll the language be accessible?

Here are some titles with words to conjure emotion…

They’re a Play on Words by Henry Dawe
Frivolous Verse and worse – Johannes Kerkhoven
Amazing Grace – Megan Carter
Underdressing – Roger Bray
Now What was I saying… – Kim Wedler

Ah, yes… while the words on covers might convey one message, individual words inside a book can also be image provoking as in The Glowing Blossoms that kept the roots alive – Amna Agib
And the gramatically incorrect – Shaka are Dead by John Samson – a book written in a colloquial South African English.


Labels: attract or avoid?

As a publisher, I don’t like to label our books, apart from what one needs to do for ISBN purposes. And for that, I use broad categories. My reason for not labelling a book is that many of our books at TSL cross genres and styles. Labels put them in boxes, narrowing the focus to one aspect or interpretation.

How do you feel about labels? Do they put you off reading certain books or authors? Or do they attract you to the book or author?

Most people I speak to are put off by labels. They find them divisive – whether on books or other marketing outputs. Concerns range from being inappropriately labelled or judged (e-readers have helped hugely in this regard as fellow commuters can’t tell what you’re reading) to receiving unwelcome attention, and feeling excluded.

For others, the label can signify acceptance and being part of a community.

Labels are useful for drawing attention to issues, events, topics, themes, etc. It’s a form of classification – a useful tool for targetting a specific audience. Pigeon-holing people or books can be restricting for some, whilst liberating for others.

Following an over-dinner conversation with an ex-colleague who is now a novelist (not published by TSL), I came to the realisation that even our imprints are a form of labelling. While I’m comfortable with the broad categories we use, I’d rather let readers decide using the cover image, title, blurb or what they know of the author whether or not they want to buy a particular book. Ignoring labels has led me to read richly and diversely. Later, the application of a label has often led me to a ‘really’ or ‘hadn’t seen that’, or ‘interesting interpretation’, thereby generating new thoughts and reflections on a text.

Where do you stand on the label spectrum?

Take a look at the TSL catalogue and let us know your thoughts.

PS: having literally just finished this piece, this popped into my inbox, more concerns about labels.

Image courtesy of


Sutherland Bell – appreciation

Sutherland Bell

Sutherland Bell is a collaboration between Sarah Bell and Nicola Sutherland.
Sarah wrote the story of The Green Man and The Raven’s Quest in poetry form, and Nicola illustrated it. Together we brought the book to publication.
It’s a book about looking after the world.
And this approach extended beyond the message of the book. Careful consideration was given to where and how the book would be available – it’s not on global distribution, and the few bookshops it’s available through are genuinely independent (not tied to one distributor) and doing things differently. There’s a growing trend where book buyers are starting to discern who they buy from and it was with this reader in mind that The Green Man and the Raven’s Quest was launched into the world. This meant the authors taking a risk – and for this I’m hugely grateful.
As with all TSL books, copies are available for purchase direct from the authors allowing them to reap the benefit of the hard work that goes into marketing and selling books.