Born OTD in 1946, English writer and novelist, Jim Crace. Harvest tells the story of a remote English village as economic progress disrupts pastoral idyll following the Enclosure Act. The protagonist, Walter Thirsk, tells the story from his perspective, but in fact is rarely present when the events of the novel take place due to his injury that he sustains at the beginning of the novel. The story begins with the arrival of some strangers to the bounds of the village. Following the burning of the stables, a scapegoat is required as no-one wants to admit that one of their own was responsible. Hence a mob sets out in order to find evidence to blame these new arrivals. After a brief altercation with the three strangers, they are arrested by Master Kent and chained to the pillory for the week.

Throughout the novel the certainty of the land, the “busy, kindly, scented universe of crops and the unerring traces of … More

Born OTD in 1902, American author known for his realistic & imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour & keen social perception, John Steinbeck. He has been called “a giant of American letters,” & many of his works are considered classics of Western literature. Ethan Allen Hawley has lost the acquisitive spirit of his wealthy & enterprising forebears, a long line of proud New England sea captains & Pilgrims. Scarred by failure, Ethan works as a grocery clerk in a store his family once owned. But his wife is restless & his teenage children troubled & hungry for the material comforts he cannot provide.

Then a series of unusual events reignites Ethan’s ambition, and he is pitched on to a bold course, where all … More

Born OTD in 1932, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and author, Johnny Cash. In 1965, Cash and June Carter appeared on Pete Seeger’s TV show, Rainbow Quest, on which Cash explained his start as an activist for Native Americans. Johnny Cash used his stardom and economic status to bring awareness to the issues surrounding the Native American people. Cash sang songs about indigenous humanity in an effort to confront the U.S. government.

The graphic biography of the most famous country singer of all time – the Man in Black. Renowned graphic novelist … More

Born OTD in 1802, Victor Hugo. Hugo was at the forefront of the Romantic literary movement & many of his works have inspired music, both during his lifetime & after his death, including the musicals Notre-Dame de Paris & Les Misérables. He produced more than 4,000 drawings in his lifetime, & campaigned for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment. Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo’s views changed as the decades passed, & he became a passionate supporter of republicanism; his work touches upon most of the political & social issues & the artistic trends of his time. Hugo began planning a major novel about social misery & injustice as early as the 1830s, but a full 17 years were needed for Les Misérables to be realised and finally published in 1862.

Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put … More

First published OTD in 1906, Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’. Sinclair wrote the novel to portray the harsh conditions & exploited lives of immigrants in the United States in Chicago & similar industrialized cities. Perhaps his main goal in exposing the meat industry & working conditions was to advance socialism in the United States; however, most readers were more concerned with his exposure of health violations & unsanitary practices in the American meatpacking industry during the early 20th century, greatly contributing to a public outcry which led to reforms including the Meat Inspection Act. Sinclair famously said of the public reaction, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

The book depicts working class poverty, the lack of social supports, harsh and unpleasant living and working conditions, and a … More

Born OTD in 1933, American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and activist in the civil rights movement, Nina Simone. Simone’s bearing and stage presence earned her the title “High Priestess of Soul”. She was a piano player, singer and performer, “separately, and simultaneously.” As a composer and arranger, Simone moved from gospel to blues, jazz, and folk, and to numbers with European classical styling.

‘From her raging, handwritten letters to late-night phone calls with David Bowie, this biography gets up close and personal with … More

Born OTD n 1915, Trinidad-born journalist & activist, Claudia Jones. As a member of the Communist Party USA & a black national feminist, Jones identified with black women’s oppression, known as triple oppression. Her focus was on “an anti-imperialist coalition, managed by working-class leadership, fueled by the involvement of women.” However, Jones was often considered more radical than Marx because she did not believe that capitalism was the only oppressor contributing to sexism and racism.

An elected member of the National Committee of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), Jones also organised and spoke at events. … More

First published OTD in 1848, The Communist Manifesto. Published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth (2018), at a time of deep mistrust in The Establishment, The Communist Manifesto is both a timely reminder of the politics of hope and a thought-provoking guide to the most influential work of political theory ever published.

Much of what Marx and Engels’ proposed – a state education system, a progressive income tax, the nationalisation of banks … More

Born OTD in 1953, Kristy Marlana Wallace AKA Poison Ivy, guitarist, songwriter, arranger, producer, and occasional vocalist who co-founded the American psychobilly band The Cramps. Based upon work and materials compiled for the acclaimed and now much sought after 2007 Cramps biography. A Short History of Rock’n’Roll Psychosis, Journey To The Centre Of The Cramps goes far beyond being a revised and updated edition.

Completely overhauled, rewritten and vastly expanded, it now represents the definitive work on the group. In addition to unseen interview … More

Born OTD in 1944, Bob Andy. Bob Andy was one of the founding members of The Paragons, along with Tyrone Evans and Howard Barrett, with John Holt later joining briefly before being replaced by Vic Taylor. Andy left after Holt rejoined and worked for Studio One delivering records and songwriting before embarking on a solo career.

Bob Andy is, arguably, reggae’s first serious songwriter. In the 1960s, when top ska and rocksteady acts were into covering … More