May 11, 2015

FAO Claire Armitstead

Dear Claire,

Duncan McLaren's book about Evelyn Waugh has been made Book of the Week in the
Mail (Roger Lewis) and has gained positive reviews in the Independent (Marcus FIeld) and the Telegraph (MIranda Seymour). The Literary Review (Philip Eade) is particularly appreciative.

Duncan has asked me to write to you because the
Saturday Guardian is the only paper that he reads. He has a trunk full of "Reviews".  Hundreds of "Writers' Rooms" as well as "My Hero"s. "The Week in Books"? More like eight years in books. Not a week goes by without him reading about half of the copy. He reminds me that back in 2007, Joanna Briscoe reviewed his book on Enid Blyton, Looking For Enid. Now that was a puzzled review, but I feel Duncan has matured into the biographical/autobiographical task he's set himself.

You were sent a proof. The book itself is available now and is very lovely, complete with previously unpublished historic photos. Would you welcome a copy?

Best wishes,

Sebastian Ryder

Harbour Books
Publishing is not about books.  It is about writers.

May 23, 2015

FAO Claire Armitstead

Dear Claire,

Since 1945, this has been my favourite book:


But as of May 21, 2015, this is my preferred reading:


Bears who write for the
Telegraph, Mail, Independent and Literary Review all like the book a lot, with no dissenting growls so far. But I most value the opinion of those who write in the Guardian.

Today was somewhat spoiled when I picked up the Review only to discover my partner had written in a patch of white space on your cover '
No Evelyn! review in here - Kate'.

That's Kate smoking a fag on the cover of
Evelyn!. Though of course it's also She-Evelyn annoying the hell out of He-Evelyn in 1929.

Isn't it? Let me take a closer look:


Anyway, I just wanted you to know that the
Guardian's book pages matter to me. If the reverse proves not to be true then you will find me a sadder bear than the one who writes to you today.

Very best wishes

(pronounced: Al-o-ish-us)

Harbour Books
Publishing is not about books. Or writers. It is about bears.

June 5, 2015

FAO Claire Armitstead

Dear Claire,

I see from
this that you've recently been appointed books editor for the Guardian, the Observer and the website guardian.co.uk in other words you now have a hugely influential position.

I see also that you went to boarding school and read English at Oxford. I would have thought that might have endeared you to Evelyn Waugh. Perhaps it did. However, it's also revealed in the above-mentioned article that you get sent 400 books a week, and of those about 35 get reviewed. That's not very good odds. Especially when your own book (my book) is published by a small concern.

Let's face it, a substantial proportion of the books published by Bloomsbury, Harper Collins and Random House will be reviewed. I'm sure their publicists will be in your ear and in your Inbox all the time (in the nicest possible way, of course). And everything by authors who have established a name for themselves will be reviewed, which is as it should be. Leaving slim pickings for the rest of us.

But another way to look at this is as follows. The books' editors of the
Mail and the Telegraph will be receiving more or less the same 400 books as you do. And the fact is that the Telegraph gave more space to Evelyn! than any other book in the week it was reviewed. And the Mail went one step further and made things official - Evelyn! was pronounced its 'Book of the Week'.

With that perspective established, I believe I can move on.

Best wishes,



Yes, I've been able to draw a line under that correspondence.

It's now time I wrote to a few literary festivals. Though when I say 'I', I surely mean Sebastian or Aloysius. But which of these voices should I employ for this particular charm offensive?

Recently, Aloysius wrote to various branches of Waterstone's trying to entice them to stock
Evelyn! The manager at Waterstones in Amsterdam wrote back saying: 'I think this is the best promotional e-mail I have ever seen.'

Could he have been joking? Aloysius tried the same kind of thing with a widely read blogger, who replied: 'Thanks for the most thoughtful and elegant promotional email I've ever received.'

Over to you then, Alo. Please don't blow it. I want to speak to real people out there. I really do.

Next up: a
book signing.