This is a commercial and I make no apologies for it. My friend John Simmons has written and published a beautiful book.
It’s called The angel of the stories. It’s about a young woman called Julia who lives in a small Spanish town – whitewashed, cradled by wooded hills (not so very different, in fact, from Aracena where we take a group of Dark Angels students every year). Julia yearns to become a writer and as her craft starts to blossom so too do the buds on her shoulders. Soon they flower into wings that take her on journeys into the lives of her fellow townsfolk, whose foibles and passions and longings she chronicles with great tenderness.
Technically speaking, The angel of the stories is magical realism. To me it’s purely magical. The writing is simple and limpid. The storytelling has a quiet but mythical quality. Then there are the illustrations …
The book has 21 colour plates taken from paintings by the artist Anita Klein. She and John collaborated over the writing of the book; in fact, her Italian Angels series was part of the inspiration for it. Now she has created a series of original paintings around the character of Julia. What a delectable angel Julia makes: dreamy and pensive, innocent yet knowing, voluptuous and sexy, she is charming as only Beryl Cook-meets-Modigliani could be.
And then there’s the book itself. This is book-making as craftsmanship, and the craftsman’s hand is that of designer David Carroll. It’s cloth bound and comes in a cloth-covered slip case. It has a gold silk ribbon for a bookmark. The typography is lovingly chosen, as is the paper onto which the colour plates have been hand pasted with consummate care.
The angel of the stories is, in fact, a labour of love from first thought to final credit, from cover illustration to endpapers. Even the colophon of John’s newly fledged publishing company, called – wait for it – Dark Angels Press, is a plump little ‘d’ sheltering beneath the ‘a’ of an outspread angel’s wing.
This is the ultimate reproach to the Kindle. Writing, typesetting, design, binding, illustration, all work in harmony to create an object that has value beyond the sum of its parts. In the age of electronic publishing, thank God for The angel of the stories. May it be but the first of many from the Dark Angels Press.