Monthly Archives: April 2015

Fanny was my darling

In 1960 Penguin published Lady Chatterley’s Lover and was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act which had come into being in 1959. That act made it possible for publishers to escape conviction if they could show that a work was of literary merit.
I attended the trial and saw a string of witnesses attest to the literary value of the book.  I thought then and think now that it is over-written, over-blown and not quite the article. Still, it sold very well.
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Private Eye early days

The Guardian, in its Saturday Review (April 25), had a section called The Week iprivate eyen Books. Written by John Dugdale. It refers to Scotch on the Rocks by Douglas Hurd and Andrew Osmond. It says, ‘This thriller co-written by a future Home Secretary under Thatcher makes fascinating reading almost 45 years later, since it depicts a near-future election that produces a hung parliament, after which the Tony government has to negotiate with a surging SNP.’ And it may turn out to be a forecast of what will happen in the forthcoming election in Britain.
What fascinated me is the no-one has picked up on is the significance of the co-author of this book, the late Andrew Osmond.
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Running in the Spring

Yesterday it was the London marathon. Totally amazing. 38,000 runnerselitemens, three quarters of a million spectators. Eliud Kipchoge eased past another Kenyan, Wilson Kipsang, to win  in 2:04:42. Ethiopia’s Tigist Tufa won the women’s race in an 2:23:21. These times are astounding. It means they are consistently doing five minute miles. 26 times.
So this morning, very early (just after five local time) I eased my way along the sleeping streets of Storrington. I ran (shambled) my own mini-marathon.
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We know you’re awful

When I emigrated to Australia in 1967 I was 37. My move did not go unnSue Rhodesoticed and led to a modicum of unfavourable publicity in the Australian press. It mattered not. Australians like a larrikin. I decided that I would go into publishing as soon as I got there. We had taken a house in Gladesville in Sydney and I went right to it.
I formed Gareth Powell Associates and took offices. I decided I needed to publish a slightly shocking book to get everyone’s attention. I worked out a trio of titles which I roughed out and then went in search of an author. I needed a sexy, interviewable female journalist. I got a list of female journalists and their contact numbers. The first one bombed out. The second one was Sue Rhodes. I incorrectly wrote that I went to see her in her apartment where she was living with fellow journalists Matt White and Ludmilla Hansley. (Sue has since written to me that she did not live with either Matt or Lida — which is what she calls Ludmilla. She adds: ‘By the way. Lida lived next door and Matt lived in Double Bay.My roomie was Deanne Stubbs.”
I am delighted to set the record straight.
Sue Rhodes loved the idea of the book and I could see she was perfect for the part. She roughed out an an outline which I still have somewhere. It had in it great chapter headings like: ‘Iron my underpants ma, I’m doing a hambone tonight.’ Which is how I came to find out that in Australia a hambone was a drink induced male strip tease. Sue suggested that the title should be ‘Now You’ll Think I’m Awful’ which, it was suggested, was what Australian girls said after sex. She told me that my suggested title — ‘Fucking Matilda’ would never fly. She was right.
I produced the book at the Griffin Press in Adelaide which was, and still is, perhaps the foremost printery for books in Australia. I liked the way the book came together and I had high hopes.Rory_Calhoun_-_1961
Then I visited Griffin Press and heard two pressmen discussing the book. One said to the other: ‘Is she really like that or is she all talk?’ I immediately upped the print run.
The book was published and caused a small uproar. I was attacked in radio interviews, in newspapers.
Wonderful stuff.
Sue Rhodes appeared on television. One obnoxious interviewer pushed his questioning too far and Sue hurled a glass of water in his face. I could not ask for more.
And so it became a bestseller. Not the biggest bestseller in the history of Australia up to that time. But certainly in the top ten. Perhaps in the top five. (Yes, yes, the Macquarie Press did much better but that was after Sue Rhodes.)
Sue Rhodes was back in the news again when she married Rory Calhoun, a sort of minor Western star who appeared in a lot of movies. And had, as I later found out, a strong criminal record. Now Calhoun is dead and I can find no trace of Sue Rhodes. But she and I, in the 1960’s, made a little bit of Australian publishing history.

Publishers are not rotten

This is a bit late but still. In the Guardian last year appeared Everyone does not have a novel inside them. The author has a message which is basically ‘get real’ but comes out as ‘The British publishing industry is crying out for a high-profile hothead to disabuse thousands of needy, bumbling timewasters of the notion that nascent masterpieces stir within their loins.’ A bit purple prosy but I would not argue. The article says publishers should put more emphasis on authors they already have on the list and not be so preoccupied with getting the Next Biggest Thing. Tim Clare implies that publishers are failing authors.
I find this so much nonsense.
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Here we go again

I stopped writing Sorgai because I felt I was getting it wrong. I was trying to make it a compelling site to which lots of people would come. That was when I found out how far behind I had fallen in computer and Internet smarts. I had become a techno numpty. And, frankly, I have no intention of changing that.
I am not of the Twitter, Facebook, social networking push. There is a list of local networks on Wikipedia. As the Duke of Wellington is alleged to have said, this may not frighten the enemy but, by God, it frightens me.
Continue reading Here we go again