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Autumn 2012



How far can you go with a ten-dollar bill? Join acclaimed journalist Steve Boggan on a strange and wondrous journey across America as he ‘passes the buck’

Follow the Money

A Journey to the Heart of America


l An intelligent and affectionate portrait of America in the style of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Tim Moore’s French Revolutions l A natural choice for summer reading and promotions l Huge

Armed with a ten-dollar bill and an insatiable curiosity to be led where it took him, journalist Steve Boggan booked a flight to America with the intention of spending the money and then following it for as long as he could while it changed hands. Pretty soon what began as a pipe dream morphed into an epic journey for thirty days and thirty nights; through six states, across 4,828 kilometres. Bolstered by a sense of humour (and a small – and increasingly grubby – set of clothes), this beautifully written debut charts Boggan’s experience – and adventures – following the money. As he cuts crops with farmers in Kansas, pursues a repossessions woman from Colorado, gets wasted (more than once) with a blues band in Arkansas and hangs out at a mansion owned by a famous quarterback in St Louis, Boggan enters the lives of ordinary people as they receive – and pass on – the bill. Add to that, the missionaries from Missouri, the Amish in Michigan, the banker from Chicago and the deer hunters from Detroit, and what emerges is a chaotic, affectionate and hilarious portrait of a modern-day American that tourists rarely get to see.

serial and radio potential

l A debut writer with a strong track record in investigative reportage for national press l A surprising portrait of an unfamiliar America

July World English 304pp 234 x 153mm Trade Paperback £12.99 978 1 908526 09 0 Travel Translation: MBA Agent/Serial: MBA/Union 22

STEVE BOGGAN was Chief Reporter for the Independent and co-founder of the newspaper’s investigations unit before moving into feature writing, which he now does for the Guardian, The Times and the Evening Standard. He lives in London and this is his first book.

EXTRACT: I left Route 36 at its junction with the 281 as the sun slipped beneath a glowing blanket of corn, flat as a piece of cardboard. It was 6.50 on the evening of the first of October. I had been driving due west from Kansas City for five hours and the turn north came as a relief. For a few moments, in the absence of glare the road seemed darker until ahead and to the right, I began to make out industrial shapes above the flatness. Great steel towers appeared to grow out of the crops, angular and jarringly out of place in an otherwise agricultural landscape. Through the gloom a water tower came into view, the kind you see in small towns all over America, with the word LEBANON painted across its girth. This was where I would begin to follow the money. I would travel alone and unpaid in the finest Corinthian tradition, propelled only by curiosity and itchy feet. Its serial number was IA74407937A and it was burning a hole in my pocket. I had marked it with little red squares in the top right-hand corner of each side so I could identify it easily, even though there is a long-running debate in the US over whether marking money is illegal and sticklers say that writing anything on a bill for whatever reason breaches Title 18 of the US Code, section 333, which deals with ‘Mutilation of National Bank Obligations’. I didn’t fancy six months in prison, but I needed to be able to identify the bill quickly if it was moving fast. I envisaged dark exchanges in bars and nightclubs, swift handovers in gas stations, shady deals for bags of crack under damp railway arches, ostentatious showers of notes from winners at the roulette table. I couldn’t stop the world at each exchange while I put on my reading glasses and checked that this note was indeed IA74407937A. People might think I was odd.




A provocative, witty and pugnacious riposte to our culture of ‘foodism’ and the celebrities who champion it

You Aren’t What You Eat



On a crisp autumn evening in a North London street, a rotisserie trailer is parked outside a garden flat, green fairy lights blinking on and off, warm chickens perfuming the air. A thirtyish hipster wanders out to where I’m standing with a friend on the pavement and drawls his unimpressed judgment of what is going on inside. ‘I think the arancinis are not quite spicy enough,’ he says, with an eaten-it-all-before air. ‘Could have more flavour, not really exotic.’ Right now I haven’t the faintest idea what arancinis are or even how to spell them, but I nod knowingly. ‘I thought the Korean burger was quite good,’ the hipster goes on, without much kimchi-fired enthusiasm, ‘but I think a lot of people don’t make their food with enough shebang…’ Twenty-five years ago, he could have been an indie-rock fan bemoaning the blandness of chart music. Now he’s a social-smoking, foodier-than-thou critic at a ‘Food Rave’. We are living in the Age of Food. Cookery programmes bloat the television schedules, cookbooks strain the bookshop tables, celebrity chefs hawk their own brands of weird mince pies (Heston Blumenthal) or bronze-moulded pasta (Jamie Oliver) in the supermarkets, and cooks in super-expensive restaurants from Chicago to Copenhagen are the subject of hagiographic profiles in serious magazines and newspapers. Food festivals (or, if you will, ‘Feastivals’) are the new rock festivals, featuring thrilling live stage performances of, er, cooking. Where will it all end? Is there any communication or entertainment or social format that has not yet been commandeered by the ravenous gastrimarge for his own ravenous purpose? Does our cultural ‘food madness’, as the New York Times columnist Frank Rich suggests, tip into ‘food psychosis’? Might it not, after all, be a good idea to worry more about what we put into our minds than what we put into our mouths?

Fed Up with Gastroculture

l Launching on ‘Super Thursday’ to compete with Christmas cookery bestsellers, such as Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson l A brilliant polemic in the style of Bad Science by Ben Goldacre and How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World by Francis Wheen

We have become obsessed by food: where it comes from, where to buy it, how to cook it and – most absurdly of all – how to eat it. Our television screens and newspapers are filled with celebrity chefs, latter-day priests whose authority and ambition range from the small scale (what we should have for supper) to largescale public schemes designed to improve communal eating habits. So, when did the basic human imperative to feed ourselves mutate into such a multitude of anxieties about provenance, ethics, health, lifestyle and class status? And since when did the likes of Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson gain the power to transform our kitchens and dining tables into places where we expect to be spiritually sustained? In this subtle, witty and erudite polemic, Steven Poole argues that we’re trying to fill more than just our bellies when we pick up our knives and forks, and we might be a lot happier if we realised that sometimes we should throw away the colour supplements and simply open a can of baked beans.

l National newspaper serialisation guaranteed l Early media interest in pitting Poole against food writers/celebrity chefs in the national press l Online campaign targeting gastrobloggers and tweeters to inflame debate

October World 208pp 176 x 125mm Hardback £12.99 978 1 908526 11 3 Current Affairs/Food All Rights: Union Books 24

STEVEN POOLE is the author of Trigger Happy and Unspeak. He has written extensively on books and culture for the Guardian and other publications, and has appeared at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, the Bath and Edinburgh Literary Festivals, the Rotterdam Film Festival and GameHotel, as well as on BBC television, BBC radio, NPR and ABC radio. He lives in London. 25


In its long history, the river Thames has frozen solid forty times. These are the stories of that frozen river


The Frozen Thames


The True Story of 28,000 Bath Toys Lost At Sea


l Received

exceptional press coverage in hardback l Widespread press and broadcast coverage

l Author

event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

NEW IN PAPERBACK When Donovan Hohn first heard of the mysterious loss of thousands of bath toys at sea, he figured he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to some beachcombers and read up on Arctic science and geography. ‘But questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away.’ Before long, Hohn’s accidental odyssey pulls him into the secret world of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors and the shadowy terrain of Chinese toy factories. Moby-Duck is a journey into the heart of the sea and an adventure through science, myth, the global economy and some of the worst weather imaginable. With each new discovery, Hohn learns of another loose thread, and with each successive chase he comes closer to understanding where his castaway quarry comes from and where it goes. In the grand tradition of Tony Horwitz and David Quammen, Moby-Duck is a compulsively readable narrative of whimsy and curiosity. ‘Masterful’ Financial Times ‘Exceptional’ The Times


‘A wonderfully wilful and picaresque adventure... highly readable and supremely entertaining’ Philip Hoare, author of Leviathan

l A brilliant example of creative non-fiction/atmospheric history in the style of Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd

And so opens this breathtaking and original work of forty vignettes based on events that actually took place each time the river froze between 1142 and 1895. In startling prose, acclaimed novelist Helen Humphreys deftly draws us into these intimate moments, transporting us through time. Whether it’s Queen Matilda trying to escape her besieged castle in a snowstorm, or lovers meeting on the frozen river during the Plague Years, or a humble farmer persuading his oxen that the ice is safe, Humphreys’ achingly beautiful prose acts like a photograph, recapturing the moment and etching it forever on our imagination. Stunningly designed and illustrated throughout with full-colour period art, The Frozen Thames is a genrebending work from one of our most respected writers.

l Beautifully written and illustrated with period art l Serial potential and review coverage l Sold over 40,000 copies in North America lA

critically acclaimed author

‘Extraordinary’ Metro

September UK 416pp 197 x 129mm B-format paperback £8.99 978 1 908526 02 1 US: Viking ANZ: Scribe Translation: Viking Agent/serial: Viking/Union 26

DONOVAN HOHN‘s work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Outside and the Best Creative Nonfiction. A former English teacher and previously senior editor of Harper’s, he is now features editor of American GQ. He lives in New York with his wife and sons. Moby-Duck is his first book.

November BC excluding Canada 192pp 150 x 130mm Hardback £12 978 1 908526 13 7 20pp integrated colour period art Illustrated History US: Bantam Canada: McClelland & Stewart Translation: McClelland & Stewart Agent/Serial: Aitken Alexander/ Union

HELEN HUMPHREYS is the author of four books of poetry and five novels, including Leaving Earth (which was a New York Times ‘Notable Book’) and, most recently, The Reinvention of Love. Born in Britain, she now lives in Kingston, Canada. 27

Union Books Catalogue Autumn 2012  

New titles by Union Books published in autumn 2012

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