Writing in the Deep South (and a visit to deep South Buckinghamshire)

Welcome to a new episode of We’d Like A Word featuring acclaimed and award-winning American writer Taylor Brown, joining us all the way from Georgia, and listener Jason Grubbs from Michigan. We discuss Taylor’s books, particularly his latest novel Pride of Eden, and also river monsters, the joy of cafes, how a sense of place can define your writing style and why you should never give your dog a new squeaky toy just before a podcast recording.

We also take a nostalgic last visit to the iconic but now sadly closed Cottage Bookshop in Penn where we speak to previous owner Alan Campbell and new owner Daniel Upwood. And, as if that wasn’t enough, we also have a special guest appearance by comedian and co-host of BBC R4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage, Robin Ince, to share some memories of the shop.

Robin Ince

The episode was recorded via a video sharing app during the current Coronavirus lockdown restrictions so the sound quality does vary at times (and we lose Stevyn on a couple of occasions).

Taylor Brown is a recipient of the Montana Prize in Fiction, and he’s been a finalist for the Press 53 Open Awards, Machigonne Fiction Contest, and Doris Betts Fiction Prize. He is the author of In the Season of Blood and Gold (Press 53, 2014), Fallen Land (St. Martin’s Macmillan, 2016), The River of Kings (St. Martin’s, 2017), Gods of Howl Mountain (St. Martin’s, 2018), and Pride of Eden (St. Martin’s, 2020). He lives in Savannah, Georgia, and is the founder and editor of BikeBound, a custom motorcycle blog.

The fake Altamaha-Ha

We were introduced to Taylor’s work by listener Jason Grubbs and figured that it might be nice to have him on the show too as it gave him a chance to put some questions to a writer he admires.

Paul, Alan Campbell, Daniel Upwood and Stevyn at the Cottage Bookshop in Penn

As mentioned above, we also visited (before the lockdown) a bookshop – as we do in most episodes – because we love them. However, this visit was tinged with some sadness as the Cottage Bookshop in Penn – a vast storehouse of second-hand books crammed into a tiny, gutted 19th century cottage – finally closed its doors in 2018 after being open since 1951. We were allowed a final rummage among the books – now being sold off to warehouses and collectors or being donated to charities – and reflect on what the place meant to us and to famous regular visitors such as the late Terry Pratchett and Robin Ince. Robin joins us by phone for a few reminiscences.

The Cottage Bookshop
The kitchen corner so beloved of Robin Ince was through the white stable door
Labyrinthine …
Deliciously chaotic …
The ‘secret’ attic room – now cleared – that Robin mentions … but, luckily, no vases.

We’d Like a Word is available from everywhere that good podcasts are found including iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Podcast Radio and our host, Anchor.

If you’d like to get in contact with us (like Jason did) we’re [email protected] or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter as @wedlikeaword

More in a fortnight!

Books mentioned in this episode (other than Taylor’s)

Being a Beast by Charles Foster

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant

Whale Nation by Heathcote Williams

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony, Graham Spence and Naomi Clark

Making The Elephant Man by Jonathan Sanger

The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin (the German soldiers living rough story mentioned by Taylor)


The Bitter Southerner – a Southern States writing initiative supported by Taylor

E Shaver Bookseller, Savannah, Georgia

The Booklady Bookstore, Savannah, Georgia

Goldsboro Books, London – specialising in signed first edition hardbacks

Lemuria Books Bookstore, Jackson, Mississippi – also specialising in signed first editions

Camilla’s Bookshop, Eastbourne, East Sussex (As a bonus, scroll down the website’s homepage and you’ll find a short post by Robin Ince talking about Camilla’s and The Cottage Bookshop in Penn!)