Hobnob Press

Somerset ~ recent titles

Bruton in Selwood, by Bruton Museum

This book, fully colour illustrated, tells the fascinating story of Bruton, a small town in Somerset, and its environs from the earliest times to the present day. An important ecclesiastical centre since the seventh century, notable individuals in Bruton's history include Sir John Fitzjames, standard bearer serving three monarchs and a co-founder of Bruton's free grammar school, Stephan Batman, an eminent Tudor author and cleric, Sir Hugh Sexey, the town's great benefactor, and Gabriel Felling and Ernst Blensdorf, two of its most admired artist-craftsmen. R. D. Blackmore, author of Lorna Doone was schooled in Bruton and, for most of 1959, it was home to the great American novelist, John Steinbeck. The lives of ordinary folk raising families, working on the land and in the town's mills, are revealed in a host of parochial records and in the fabric of the buildings in which they lived and worked, prayed and played.

July 2021, xii+112pp, colour illustrated jacketed hardback, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-11-6


Fifty-Six Poems, by Pete Gage

Pete Gage has had a successful career in the music industry, as lead vocalist in various blues bands, in particular the Jet Harris Band, Dr Feelgood, and latterly with his own 5-piece blues band The Pete Gage Band. In addition to being a Frome-based musician, Pete is both an artist and a poet, meticulously creating hand-painted mandalas based on Tibetan designs, but with his own westernized style. He studied graphic design in the 1960s at St Martin's Art College, London, and incorporated this training into the creation of his pictures. Reproductions of much of his work accompany these poems. Throughout his life since his late-teens Pete has written poems and free-flowing prose. The 56 poems included here present a cross-section of his verse, often rhythmic, but equally often free. Some of his poems can be quite simple, whilst others can be very deep, such is the expanse of Pete's creative expression.

July 2021, 120pp, colour illustrated paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-12-3

A Surfeit of Magnificence: the Trials and Tribulations of Sir Thomas Champneys of Orchardleigh, by Mick Davis

Champneys was born in Frome in 1769 the last in a line of aristocrats who claimed origins back to William of Normandy. A series of bad judgements resulted in Thomas being born into a third generation of bankruptcy and despite marrying a very rich widow he was never able to extricate himself from this. He became involved in a serious legal disputes, was imprisoned for debt, undertook extravagant building projects and was rumoured to have engaged in homosexual relations which involved a court case for slander. In 1832 he stood in the local election which resulted in three days of rioting and the local militia firing on the crowd. He lost despite being popular with the working people who were not enfranchised. 

His debts became so large that his mansion, at Orchardleigh was raided by bailiffs on many occasions and the contents sent off to auction until eventually the estate was purchased by a relative and he was allowed to stay there with his wife until his death in 1839.

July 2021, viii+178pp, colour illustrated paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-06-2

The Witches of Selwood: Witchcraft Belief and Accusation in Seventeenth-Century Somerset, by Andrew Pickering 

The ancient forest of Selwood straddles the borders of Somerset and Wiltshire and terminates in the south where these counties meet Dorset. This book explores the connections between important theological texts written in the region, notably Richard Bernard's Guide to the Grand-Jury Men (1627) and Joseph Glanvill's Saducismus Triumphatus (1681), influential local families, and the extraordinary witchcraft accounts in the area. In particular it focuses on a little known case in the village of Beckington in 1689 and shows how this was not a late, isolated episode but an integral part of the wider Selwood Forest witchcraft story. By presenting a micro-history of a specific area, which was rife in witchcraft practices in the seventeenth century, the author makes a valuable contribution to early modern social history. Revised edition of a work first published in 2017.

April 2021, xxii+226pp, illustrated jacketed hardback, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-05-5

A West Country Homecoming, by John Payne

The author, a native of Bath (Somerset) and a lecturer, historian and biographer, explores the possibilities of writing history backwards from the present into the past. Like the author's own family, this book is firmly rooted in North Somerset, Bath and West Wiltshire. Part memoir, part family history, part social history, this book explores not just what we know but also the many silences and omissions which dot our own personal histories and those of our families and communities. Stories, some sad, some happy, some funny, come thick and fast throughout the pages and are illustrated with over one hundred photographs from family albums and a wide variety of other sources. Ten chapters observe the history of his extended family from various perspectives, including work, education, health, housing and religion.

October 2020, 220pp, colour ill, paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-93-8.

Days of Dark and Light, Recent Poems by David Thompson

Recent poems by Frome (Somerset) writer, who explains that during the period from early 2020 to mid-2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic dominated much of daily life, many elements of experience were limited by an array of restrictions. Without travel, or the opportunity for everyday encounters, imagination and memory became even more important. In his case, a return to writing, and particularly to poetry, was a means of escaping or transcending the collapse of normal life. At the same time, he wanted to explore a variety of poetic forms, some of them unfamiliar, that were stimulating to attempt and seemed to match latent images and feelings. Includes the poet's own illustrations. September 2021, 74pp, illustrated paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-16-1.

The Gorge, by Annette Burkitt

Historical novel set in Somerset and Dorset in the 10th century, sequel to the author's Flesh and Bones (2017). King Athelstan is dead. Long live the new king, Edmund, his half-brother. The cobbled-together nation of England must react to the challenges of the times: threats from Northumbria and Ireland, resentment from Mercia, pressure from a Church flexing its powerful Catholic muscles. Reformation is in the air. The House of Wessex is weakened by a cliff-top promise and suffers a shocking assassination. Was it intended or was it provoked? This story of Wessex in the mid-tenth century is set in the landscape of Shaftesbury, Frome, and Cheddar. Drawing on historical and archaeological sources, it attempts to put flesh on the bones of early medieval England, illuminating the pre-conquest period and revealing its chief protagonists. September 2021, 380pp, illustrated paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-18-5.

Struck Off, by John Killah

A gripping comic novel of our times. Set in a busy market town, it follows the dramatic story of Eaun Wright, a well-liked trial lawyer and partner in a local solicitors’ practice, as his business, marriage, and reputation are all unexpectedly and dramatically trashed within 24 hours and he embarks on an audacious plan for revenge and redemption. Set in the immediate future, Struck Off savagely dissects our crumbling criminal justice system as well as providing incisive reflection about what is actually now happening to traditional country life, invaded as it now is by city incomers bringing new money and new values. With a mix of prescient social relevance and witty dramatic fiction, Struck Off navigates a rapidly changing landscape involving gangsters and honest police officers, daffodil fairs and a Roman orgy, acid baths and a very dead badger, before a surprising international twist at the end of this fast-moving narrative – as well as lifting the lid on what the Honorary Secretary got up to in the hot tub. . .November 2021, 310pp, paperback, £10.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-15-4

Somerset ~ older titles

Dissenters: Conscience and Corruption in 17th-century Frome, a novel by Liz Hutchinson

In the 1660s English society experiences religious, social and industrial upheavals. Throughout the land, thousands of Puritan clergy are expelled from their churches and homes, dissenting congregations suffer repression by the magistrates and meet illegally. In Frome, Somerset, a family is impoverished and drawn into a smuggling gang. The changing times offer new opportunities – some less reputable than others – and violence is often the first response to those who enforce the law. The town’s flourishing woollen industry allows some to build fortunes, especially the more unscrupulous developers. But for others, the threat of poverty, starvation or the gallows is always present . . .

May 2020, 274pp, paperback, £10.95, ISBN 978-906978-83-9.

The Price of Bread, by Crysse Morrison

Frome-based novelist, poet and blogger Crysse Morrison takes us back fifty years to a world far-removed from the Somerset of her previous Hobnob title, the acclaimed Frome Unzipped. In her novel it’s the winter of 1970 and Northern Ireland is smouldering with the unresolved hostilities of its ancient sectarian tribes, with Belfast a hotbed for trouble. In the heart of the city, Lee and her partner and friends ignore sectarian labels, and Lee still trusts in her hippy mantra ‘all you need is love’ –  but the streets are increasingly dangerous, especially with two young children and more immediate challenges like how to beat the cold and the rising price of bread. When threats are scrawled on their back wall, and as sandbags and barricades block the streets, ‘love’ is becoming a precious and elusive commodity…

July 2020, 200pp, paperback, £8.95, ISBN 978-906978-85-3.

Frome Unzipped, from Prehistory to Post-Punk, by Crysse Morrison

Frome has not always been as highly admired as it is today. Developing initially in Selwood forest as a trading place, the settlement was soon renowned for vigorous resistance to rulers and controllers of every kind. Proclaiming against the catholic king in 1685, dissenting from state-organised church services, opposing mechanisation of its industry – the people of Frome have their own way of doing things. This independent spirit has in the 21st Century led to a spectacular renaissance in trade and creativity and even local organisation. Can it last? Will Frome take another step in a constitutionalised Frexit . . . ? Frome Unzipped offers the full background from an egalitarian perspective, in what author Crysse Morrison calls ‘a parkour ride’ through history: ‘a bit like street-theatre, with a narrative arc showing how we came to be the way we are today. Themes constantly re-emerge but the main one is the people.’ July 2018, 248 pages, colour illustrations, paperback, £12.50, ISBN 978-1-906978-55-6.

Flesh and Bones, of Frome Selwood and Wessex, by Annette Burkitt

It is the year 934. A winter court of King Athelstan of Wessex is being held at Frome in Somerset, a market town in the forest of Selwood. The church of St John the Baptist, the Saxon monastery founded by St Aldhelm and the nearby royal palace are the settings for the court’s continuing attempts to merge British and Saxon kingdoms into a single nation. In the relic room of the monastery a clerk, Nonna, delves into the deep past of the local landscape and the Britons of the former kingdom of Dumnonia. Britons and Saxons, Heaven and Hell, relics and reliquaries, jealousy and intrigue, fiction and fact are woven into a story of Wessex in the 10th century. Based upon original documentation, secondary sources and recent historical thought, Flesh builds a fictional story on a synthesis of the Bones of archaeology, history, folklore and place-name research. It aims to bridge the gap between the academic and the general reader, for whom the Dark Ages are still, sadly, just that. December 2017, 388 pages, with author’s illustrations, paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-50-1.

A Wessex Nativity: Celebrating Midwinter in Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire, compiled by John Chandler.

Every year it creeps up on us. We love it or hate it, but we cannot ignore it. Christmas and all its wintry associations – old customs, merry-making, feasting and worshipping – have inspired some of the finest, most intriguing, most memorable writing in the English language. And much of it emanates from the counties of Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire, the area that has come to be known as Wessex. For two decades John Chandler has been collecting Christmas poetry, fiction, folklore and traditions from all over Wessex – the odd and obscure alongside all the old favourites. And here it all is, a sumptuous Christmas banquet served up with all the trimmings, to delight anyone interested in the history of Wessex, or the history of our winter celebrations. November 2010, 229 x 152mm, 420 pages, illustrations, paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-22-8.

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