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A Sip of Claret News - May 2024

Hello, dear Reader! Operation Ark by Pen Farthing has been fantastically reviewed by The Daily Beast, and Steve Sheppard has written an excellent blog on his writing process. In other news, EU and North America customers can now order from the Claret Press shop. Read on to find out more!

(ps. This is a condensed version of the May Newsletter sent to our mailing list.)


We gave Britt Collins, writing for The Daily Beast, an exclusive first look at Operation Ark. We had no idea what her reaction would be, and were simply thrilled when the article was posted online last week. It received well over 200,000 views and was kindly shared by Peter Egan and Ricky Gervais(!) – something we as a small indie publisher hadn't experienced before. 

Here's an extract from the article: As the situation in Kabul descended into a horror show after U.S. and NATO forces abandoned the country and the Taliban seized control, there were traumatic scenes of people stampeding the airport, some even clung onto moving planes and fell to their deaths in their desperation to leave the country. Farthing’s animal-rescue efforts amid the madness caused huge controversy in Britain as he was accused of valuing the lives of ‘pets over people’ and leaving Afghans at the mercy of the Taliban.

“It could’ve been a good news story from the chaos and destruction of those two weeks, but the ‘pets over people’ smear just escalated and stuck,” Farthing said, speaking over Zoom from his home in Exeter, where he’s back for a few days from his animal-rescue work in Ukraine. “If the U.S. and U.K. military couldn’t get people out, what could I have possibly done? We were totally in the lap of the gods.”

While the catastrophic Afghanistan evacuation was unraveling, Boris Johnson’s warring and scandal-ridden Conservative government was taking flak back home in the U.K., particularly as Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary at the time, refused to return from his $1,250-a-night Crete holiday to deal with the unfolding crisis. Farthing became the fall guy and a target for people’s frustrations and fury over the disastrous withdrawal of coalition forces after 20 years. He believes that Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Ministry of Defense officials who characterized his charity’s Operation Ark rescue mission as ‘prioritizing pets over people’ were just producing an obvious smokescreen for the government’s monumental failings...

The book, which has been seen by The Daily Beast, contains the emails and letters that set out exactly how the rescue really unfolded. It also includes the incredible stories of how U.S. servicemen stepped in to help save the animals’ lives and the extraordinary moment that a Taliban gunman inadvertently stopped them being caught in a deadly suicide bomb attack.

We may be a tad biased but, in our opinion, we think it's a fantastic article which is well worth the read. It can be found on The Daily Beast website here. We'll leave you with our favourite quote from the article, which sums up the book rather nicely:

Operation Ark, a compelling, vivid, and distressing account of what happened in those last days and a damning indictment of foreign policy failures and one of the greatest tragedies of our times.

Operation Ark is out 8th July 2024, and is currently available for pre-order via:

And all other good bookstores and major retailers in the UK/EU.


Confessions of an Accidental Pantser by Steve Sheppard

In our latest blog, Steve Sheppard, author of the Dawson and Lucy Series, discusses his writing process.

Let’s talk about pantsing. And before you rush to complain about any decline in the levels of moral turpitude in writing-related blogs, I’m not referring to nether garments.

I’m talking about making stuff up as you go along. Specifically, when writing books. I’ve discovered that I’ve become an accidental pantser.

You may not have heard the expression. I certainly hadn’t until 2018, several months after I’d managed to come up with the initial draft of my first comedy thriller, A Very Important Teapot.

I’d had a sort of epiphany in April 2017, literally on a flight back from Australia, when I decided just to write for the rest of that year and see what I came up with. On a wing and prayer, so to speak.

There are many ways to write a novel and there is no such thing as The Right Way. Of course you can spend months intricately plotting every word, inventing detailed back stories for every character, covering a wall with post-it notes or some sort of giant Venn diagram with arrows pointing every which way.

But you absolutely don’t have to.

You won’t find pantsing listed as a subject on any writing course. No course ever tells you to just wing it. Maybe they should: less time in the classroom and more time in the bar.

So how does one go about doing pantsing? With very little. Or that’s how I pantsed my way through A Very Important Teapot.

Location: Australia, because that’s where I’d just been. I’d been to a dusty little town called Yackandandah, and I thought, if I’m going to write a humorous novel (and I knew it would have to have humour in it) then you can’t go far wrong with a name like Yackandandah.

Main protagonist: They say, write what you know so my protagonist was a mildly fictionalised version of myself from some years earlier, out of work, sitting in a pub in Surrey.

Title: Something I’d heard years back had stuck in my mind. The teapot’s very important. At the time I was the only one who laughed. I refused to believe that I was the only person who finds that funny.

Plot: I sort of thought that spies had to be involved somewhere. No real reason.

Nine months later, I had a book. I’d managed to write a comedy thriller with a serious plot. Simply by making it up as I went along. And it had been fun. I particularly enjoyed the way characters took on lives of their own and then dictated to me what would happen next.

And as for that second book, Bored to Death in the Baltics? The same thing really. Admittedly, I already had Dawson and Lucy in place and I wanted to start with something big, so a bomb blast and Dawson being kidnapped came rapidly. And the location had to be as far away from Australia as possible. Latvia came to mind. Latvia became Estonia when I discovered which country owned the island of Saaremaa. So, chocks away, let’s see what occurs.

Book three, Poor Table Manners, was originally going to be about Gaddafi’s lost millions. And although these still get a passing mention, that idea went down a rabbit hole and never resurfaced. I had no initial thoughts about the story revolving around the build-up to a South African presidential election.

This is quite a scary way to write. I’m presently about 22,000 words into Dawson and Lucy #4 and whilst I know what is happening, I don’t yet know why. It’ll come to me.

After three successful books, I know the raison d’etre will suddenly appear, as if by magic.

Or by pantsing.

Steve Sheppard is the author of the comedy thriller Dawson and Lucy Series. Book 3, Poor Table Manners, was published last month and is available for order via all good bookstores and major retailers.


We're pleased to say that, at last, EU and North America customers can order print copies of our books directly from the Claret Press shop!

As always, we're deeply grateful for any purchase through our shop, as it means that we and our authors receive a greater proportion of the sale. It really does make a huge difference. 

(For any international customer outside of the EU, US or Canada, please contact us via


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