In a climate of cuts and the continued growth of social media, the presence of Smash & Grab Books, which specialises in urban literature, is a welcomed surprise.
Launched quietly in 2009 by two young entrepreneurial north-west Londoners, the small independent publisher promotes edgy, inner city, working class writers – often ignored by the mainstream. Stephen Roach, Smash & Grab’s co-founder, explains the vision and talks role models, class and women writers with Joy Francis
If you were with a potential investor and they asked you to describe Smash & Grab Books in 30 seconds, what would you say?
We are a small press company specialising in popular and urban literature print (PULP). Although the word “urban” is portrayed by the media as being mainly linked to black music, our interpretation is inner city and working class. We are trying to bring exposure to writers who reflect this background as we feel their stories aren’t reflected in current literature and aren’t being given the necessary exposure in Britain.
Which writers influence you?
I started with Donald Goines, an African-American crime and thriller writer. He depicted an impoverished part of America, which fascinated me. After a while I wanted books that reflected what was happening here, so I read Courttia Newland’s Scholar and Society Within. His books highlight what we are trying to do with Smash & Grab. He was ahead of his time.
You launched the brand in 2009 and published your first book Lynch’s Road by D.D. Armstrong. How did that happen?
We got the manuscript in 2008 through a mutual friend. He had been raving about it. I read the first three chapters and was blown away by it being a book within a book and its depiction of west London. We knew it needed to be out there and that there was an untapped audience to reach, so we set up Smash & Grab Books.
What was your target press run with the first book?
We started as a small press – 250 to 500 books. If we can get some exposure for an author and their literature, which attracts interest from one of the big publishers, we will hand over the publishing rights and the book and get the author a deal. We see it as a chance to put urban literature on the map and will help up and coming writers. Long term, we would like to establish ourselves firmly with a bigger press run and a significant roster of writers, but this will take time.
What are your plans for 2012?
This is a big year for us. We are looking to expand the team. Lynch’s Road will be published as an ebook. The sequel to Lynch’s Road, (Catch me if I fall), will be published in the autumn. We are speaking to a few writers. One has a story where the main character is a criminal who converts to Islam.
So what about women? It all sounds very male?
No we want women too [laughs]. It isn’t just about men. We do have to go out and publicise Smash & Grab more to women. The characters in our books include single mothers and hard working women. There seems to be more female readers than writers in our particular genre.
We have Dreda Say Mitchell and Martina Cole. They write urban working class thrillers and crime books.
We want to find these types of women authors. We know they are out there. From our connections with creative writing courses, we have seen them. It is also about selling what we are doing and our aims. Essentially we want to get new talented writers onto our roster
Read an extract from D.D. Armstrong’s Lynch’s Road
The following extract is from ‘D.D. Armstrong’s first book ‘Lynch’s Road.’ This hard-boiled novel tells the connecting stories of three people from different walks of life, all reading the same gripping autobiography of Gilyan Gates, a west London drug dealer. As Gilyan’s story unravels in a powerful and often dangerous series of events, the three characters are provided with a number of frightening reality checks and wake up calls driving this enthralling tale. Masterfully written, Lynch’s Road takes readers from the luxurious backdrop of London’s middle class and media execs to the grimy crime-ridden streets, only a stones throw away.
The traffic was light as Claire hastily made her way to her 1 semi-detached house in Chiswick. Immediately kicking off her shoes she made her way straight up the stairs and into the bathroom. Lighting the aromatherapy candles ‘feng-shui’d’ around the mint green suite, Claire ran the taps and poured a healthy portion of bath salts into the kidney shaped tub. It was time for relaxing. Fiddling with her Bang and Olfusen sound system she selected a CD and strip-teased to the sounds of Prince. Throwing her clothes into a pile on the bedroom floor, she grabbed a towel and her silk robe. Testing the scented water Claire smiled and hurried to retrieve her handbag. She pulled out the book Marcel had given her. Tying her hair in a bundle Claire slipped out of her robe and climbed into the tub. Slowly she submerged her body beneath the warm bubbles. Claire hadn’t a clue why Marcel had chosen to give her the autobiography of a drug dealer, but with an open mind she began to read.
THE JOURNEY OF A SLAVE
By Gilyan Gates
CHAPTER 1: CROSSROADS
The Journey of a Slave.
They say that life is a constant journey from the moment of birth, to your final breath,but have you ever asked yourself what is this journey?, and where exactly is it taking you? Are there any tour guides, maps, crossroads, trains, planes or automobiles that will make the journey any easier? Perhaps you asked, who else is on this journey and do we choose our companions upon the way? Is this journey what I really want, and ultimately will I be happy when the journey is over? Of course you have, because you are only human. But what and where are the answers to assist you on this mystical and often mythical journey. Some may tell you it lies in religion, but with so many contradicting, conflicting and all too often confusing religions, with hierarchies, dogmas, sacred scrolls, scriptures, and new age 2 life energy answers, how do you make the right choice?
There are those who will say that it is buried in the histories past. But if history is quoted “doomed to always repeat itself” where, oh where does that leave the likes of you and me? You see, there are some questions that you can’t answer, and I try to say this without being patronising. It’s like when a child asks a question, for example “Why is the sky blue daddy?” and you reply because God made it that way (that’s if you are amongst those who have chosen a specific religion to guide your journey). Now, the child with all their innocence and zest for life continues “…but why did he choose blue, Daddy? Why not red or green?” In reality no matter what you tell your child at this point to supplement their newly found thirst for knowledge, will be irrelevant, because just like that child you don’t know the answer. So what do you do when looking for answers? – Me? I deal with the questions that I can answer.