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The Novella Nostalgia Collection: Book One

Novella Nostalgia is a selection of ten stories penned individually by a collection of critically acclaimed authors. The series is launching its first compilation book featuring novellas from B. J. Sandiford, R. M Cartmel, Oliver Richbell and the creator of the series, Tony Drury.

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Here, Tony reveals his literary odyssey on how it all started and what inspired him and his fellow director and publisher, Dave Lyons, to build City Fiction Limited into a leading UK publisher of novellas.

A Literary Journey
by Tony Drury

It was deep December, snowing and Annie was throwing an Italian rage.

Her main responsibility was, as manager of the newsagents, to sell me the Sunday newspapers. She was bubbly and fun, born in Bedfordshire and hopelessly fond of “mio marito” whose name was Luca. Their DNA was to row about everything. As she launched into their latest rumpus, she managed to knock over a box of DVDs. It fell to the floor and there lay a future experience. Annie said I could have ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ for two pounds.

That afternoon, as the snow piled high outside, I watched a mesmeric performance by Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, the eccentric and troubled Manhattan tenant who becomes involved with George Peppard. The scene when Holly sits on the fire escape strumming her guitar and singing ‘Moon River’ (with her lover watching) is cinematic magic. I watched the DVD three times in two days. The film is based on the novella of the same name by Truman Capote. I sourced and read it. “What is a novella?” I wondered. The answer is vague. The word comes from the Italian for ‘novel’ (thoughts of Annie). They seem to be between 7,500 and 40,000 words. They have no standard punctuation in that there are no chapters, just a continuous prose with a gap to indicate a change of date and/or scene.

At this time, I was writing crime novels featuring DCI Sarah Rudd, an award-winning policer officer. But Audrey Hepburn had seduced me and I pondered an updated version. ‘Lunch with Harry’, Dr Ella van Houten and a London and European setting, were created. I took it to my publicist mainly because she shoots from the hip. Her favourite word is “no”. We met at Waterstones in Piccadilly and, to my utter amazement, she suggested the idea had possibilities, but, she added, “you’ll need to write three to gain any credibility.” My publisher (we call him Publisher Dave) backed the idea and ‘Lunch with Harry’, was published.

The reviews were mixed and a gender factor entered into the equation. A number of men liked the brevity and a critic of mine read it on the way to Brussels and again on the way back: he loved it. However, several women readers wanted a novel rather than a novella, some suggesting that the characterisations were too shallow.

There followed ‘Twelve Troubled Jurors’ inspired by the Henry Fonda masterpiece, ’12 Angry Men’. This was well received and so I ploughed on with my favourite effort, ‘Forever on Thursdays’, capturing ‘Brief Encounter’. It bombed and I have never worked out why. By this time, I had met Oliver (Olly) Richbell, a lawyer and ambitious writer. He helped me with ‘Twelve Troubled Jurors’ and talked about the film ‘Valkyrie’. As I finished my fourth novella ‘The Man Who Hated’ (reflecting Michael Douglas’s masterpiece ‘Falling Down’), Olly met publisher Dave and ‘Gloriana’ was contracted.

This was an inspired political drama capturing the national stresses of Brexit. It has recently achieved a milestone never before seen within City Fiction in that it has passed fifty Amazon Reviews – and that is special. Olly has gone on to create a mesmeric character, Amanda Buckingham, who is a barrister and never loses a case! She first appears at the conclusion to ‘Twelve Troubled Jurors’ and now, in her own right, fights a rape case in ‘The Courageous Witness’, inspired by the Jodie Foster Oscar winning film, ‘The Accused’.

City Fiction also managed to attract three more authors. Candy Denman, who has written extensively for the BBC, has created ‘When Love Lies Bleeding’, a crime drama set in a flu pandemic San Francisco and echoing the iconic ‘The Third Man’. Dr Richard (Dick) Cartmel managed to turn ‘Casablanca’ into a futuristic love story set in North Wales and Billie-Jean Sandiford has brought to life DS Hollis whose complicated life dominates her crime drama, ‘Time of Death’.
I managed one more novella with ‘A Search for The Truth’ which captures the 1947 American film ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ which examined anti-Semitism in post-war USA. The updated version sees a university student writing a thesis on understanding the Jewish religion.

There are now ten novellas and the publisher has decided to produce ‘The Novella Nostalgia Collection: Book One’ which contains four titles of his choice.

This is perhaps the end of the first stage. Annie has left the newsagents and there were no more DVDs left to watch. On my last visit to the shop I met Luca who manged to start an argument with ‘La sua adorabile moglie’!

The Novella Nostalgia journey has been an amazing experience and the reviews received, especially of Olly’s, Candy’s, ‘Billie-Jean’s and Dr Dick’s novellas, have been encouraging.

There is perhaps further to go.

Available to buy on Amazon

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