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Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment


Fergus The Silent by Michael McCarthy, published by YouCaxton, has won the biennial creative writing prize awarded by the British and Irish Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, the body which represents teachers and scholars of environmental writing and eco-criticism.

The novel imagines the rediscovery of the great auk, the legendary extinct Atlantic seabird, on a remote Scottish island, and the actions of the man who stumbles upon the birds – but who then keeps his discovery secret for seventeen years, with ultimately disastrous consequences.

The great auk formerly bred in Scotland but is believed to have gone extinct in Iceland in 1844.

The book emerged at the head of a very strong shortlist, on which it was the only self-published work.  The result was announced at the ASLE conference in Liverpool on August 30th.

“This is a wonderful novel,” said the chair of the judges, Richard Kerridge, leader of the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

“It combines a passionate and complex and at times disastrously painful love story, with a story about species loss and extinction, of a particularly ingenious and exciting kind.  The plot structure and pace are superb. The joy, fear and greed arising for different characters from this astonishing find are beautifully worked into a moving, dramatic story.”

The author Michael McCarthy is a former Environment Correspondent of The Times and Environment Editor of The Independent, and an established writer on environmental themes. His book The Moth Snowstorm – Nature and Joy was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize in 2015.

However, he was unable to find a publisher for Fergus The Silent and in the end published the book himself. It is his first novel.

“We are particularly delighted to award the prize to a self-published novel,” Kerridge said. “It is surprising that a book of this quality by a distinguished author didn’t find a mainstream or trade publisher.”

“Serious realist fiction that engages with these problems still has to fight for its place.”

“I have a very good agent but he simply could not find anyone to take the book on,” McCarthy said. “He received a whole series of what he termed ‘rave rejections’ – as in, ‘we think this is great but it’s just not quite one for us.’ In the end I got fed up with it just being a file in my computer and published it independently.

“I am honoured that it has received the prize.”

Fergus The Silent is published by YouCaxton Publications, ISBN 978-1-914424-38-0. It is available on Amazon, price £12.99.

For more information:
Richard Kerridge,
Michael McCarthy,

Oxford Literary Festival

Oxford Literary Festival runs from 16-24 March, events include conversation with Will Hutton, Sharron Davies and Chris Patten among a long list of names. This year’s festival will have a new hub in Blackwell Hall, Weston Library, Broad Street

(Image: Oxford High Street, David Nicholls, Flickr)
Visit: Festival website 
Visit: Pocket guide

The Glasgow Wheelers

Excellent review of The Glasgow Wheelers in The Herald (Scotland):

“One such club that has played a significant part in Scottish sporting history is Glasgow Wheelers, a cycling club that’s produced more world-class athletes than many others could even dream of.

The history of the club has been documented in a fascinating and incredibly well-researched book called: ‘The Glasgow Wheelers; A Scottish Cycling History.’ This book such a vital read. And it’s not only worth reading for cycling enthusiasts, but also for people like me who are interested in Scottish sport but are entirely ignorant of the history of a club  (…)which has played such a massive part in the sporting success of this country over the past century.

Susan Egelstaff, The Herald, 20 August 2023


ASLE-UKI Book Prize Shortlist 2023

Michael McCarthy’s latest book, Fergus the Silent, published by YouCaxton in 2021, has been short-listed for the ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment) Book Prize, Best Work for Creative Writing. We’ll hear the results shortly.

George Orwell Daily Mail

Review of a revised biography of George Orwell by D.J. Taylor in the Daily Mail:

‘Taylor was already the acknowledged expert on George Orwell, thanks to his Whitbread Award-winning Orwell: The Life in 2003. Since then, he has discovered new letters written by Orwell and his first wife, Eileen, stashed away in various attics, hinting at previously unknown interludes, such as his possible extra-marital love affairs with his old flame Brenda Salkeld, to whom he continued to write passionately long after his marriage, and with the novelist Inez Holden — hence this New Life, 120 pages longer than the first one.’

Smoking Red
Wyndham Ward

Wyndham Ward spent fifty-eight years in aviation: twenty-three years in the RAF and thirty-five years in civil flying. From Boy Mechanic he progressed to fighter pilot on the famous Hawker Hunter, flew low-level high-speed Buccaneers with the RAF, and with the Fleet Air Arm from HMS Ark Royal he was selected for the Red Arrows Aerobatic Team of 1979, a team that was unique in flying the last of the Gnats and the first Hawks.

Published: Jan 2023
Paperback: 316 pages
Price: £14.99
ISBN: 9781914424588
Available in UK on Amazon

and worldwide on
Book Depository
Smoking Red
by Wyndham Ward
The Red Arrows and more - a life on the wing

A life-long lover of aeroplanes, Wyndham Ward spent fifty-eight years in aviation: twenty-three years in the RAF and thirty-five years in civil flying. From Boy Mechanic he progressed to fighter pilot on the famous Hawker Hunter, flew low-level high-speed Buccaneers with the RAF, and with the Fleet Air Arm from HMS Ark Royal he was selected for the Red Arrows Aerobatic Team of 1979, a team that was unique in flying the last of the Gnats and the first Hawks.

This involved an extended tour of duty with the team displaying the Hawk internationally and mixing with celebrities of many types.

After a wonderful five years with the Red Arrows, Wyndham took to civilian aviation and joined Cathay Pacific, flying the Pacific Rim on B747’s and long range Airbus A340’s out of Hong Kong airport.

An invitation to join Oman Royal Flight followed and as a Royal Flight Captain he flew the Sultan, VVIP’s and Heads of State in his B747 SP’s.

Casting aside the glitz of royalty, he took up an appointment with Airbus Toulouse training pilots and this led to training business-jet pilots with CAE a world-wide Canadian training company and manufacturer of the latest synthetic flight simulators.

Now retired from UK CAA and US FAA qualified posts, he lives in rural Mid-Wales and taken to writing to encourage young men and women to fly whatever their circumstances and to enjoy aviation as much as he has.

Front cover photograph by Claire Hartley

Golf Croquet for Tournament Players
Ian Burridge

International croquet champion, Ian Burridge, reveals tactics from novice to championship level.

Published: Dec 2022
Paperback: 136 pages
Price: £18.00
ISBN: 9-781914-424571
UK Only: £18 (+£3 P&P)

Golf Croquet for Tournament Players
by Ian Burridge

Ian Burridge is an International golf croquet player and a previous winner of the English National Singles, English First Eight, Welsh Championship and New Zealand Doubles titles.

Golf Croquet for Tournament Players is a manual aimed at taking players through the development journey of a competitive player.

At every level of play sound decision making is a vital component in being successful and winning games. The book aims to ensure that the reader is armed with the necessary understanding to confidently make the right decision in whatever situation they face.

A series of Golden Rules set out the basics for those just beginning their journey, these are backed up with more detailed explanations as experience and understanding increases. Once the basics have been mastered the book advances into the more detailed elements of strategy that permeate the sport, as the standard of play increases, providing the reader with the insight they need to make the most of their own ability and to counteract their opponent’s


Raouf Allim

This is the book which will help you transition into comfortably playing in Golf Croquet tournaments, all the way up to A class. International player Ian Burridge has written a thorough and accomplished account of the tactics and strategy of the game. So sit comfortably, with your favourite beverage at hand, put your feet up, and get stuck in.

Players of all levels will benefit from the coverage of skill-sets and common tactical scenarios in the first two sections. Good players will find this a useful fine-tuning of ideas. Developing players will already be into study mode.

Following this the author offers his unique insights into the strategy of the game, on literally a hoop-by-hoop basis, and after this comes ‘Part 4: The Battle’. This is the meat of the book and these sections are not intended to be read in one sitting. Rather, they are a study guide to be returned to as your game develops. If you’ve ever been disturbed by how often you go two hoops down at the beginning of the game, or puzzled over how best to play hoop 5 against a strong hitter, then you will be dipping into those sections straight away!

The highlight for me was the masterly account of how to counteract the various game strategies - the power players, the positional gurus, the irritating (for me) mid-paced clearers, jawsers and hoopers etc, etc. There’s a lifetime of tournament knowledge in this section alone.

I once heard the author comment to an opponent after a game “I had all the luck and you still won.” Ian has a generous spirit, and this book is the true gift of his knowledge. Buy it.