Huckster time again, by Dennis Hamley.

I suppose I should apologise, though I'm not going to, for continuing last month's acquisitive theme. However, in view of some comments recently made on this site I have to insist that I'm not being either trivial or narcissistic in expressing my feelings about my own writing and that of others in this time of extreme tension and fear. In common with all of us who contribute to this site, I have a strong social and political awareness, make my opinions known clearly on sites other than Authors Electric (though I have sometimes raised some of them within my blogs) and have a keen awareness of events which concern, frighten, outrage, sicken and revolt us. Other things being equal, however, I don't believe this specialist blogspot is the place to air them.

On Friday December 19th, the limited edition copies of Spirit of the Place were ready. We drove over to Berforts' depot at Eynsham and there they were, all those exciting cardboard boxes waiting on a pallet. One copy was taken out for me to approve of and I was filled with - what? Relief? Amazement? Pride? Fear because all those boxes have in the end to be empty and suddenly one hundred seemed an impossible number, an edition not quite so  'limited' as I thought it was? Besides, it's the first physical book under the Blank Page Press imprint. Though BPP hasn't started its formal operations yet, the reception given to Spirit of the Place might be significant to its future progress.

'Oh, stop it, man,' I can hear you muttering. 'It's only a book, for God's sake. Haven't you seen one before?'

Well, yes, I have. But this was a different feeling. It wasn't the unadulterated joy of the writer's first published book, mixed with the pride of having created it, surprise at having actually finished it and gratitude to the publisher for turning it out so nicely. It certainly wasn't the feelings given by the seventh, eighth, fifteenth books. Why didn't I do that scene better? I see what's wrong but it's too late now. What about that gross mistake on page 59, definitely the copy editor's fault and nothing to do with me? Why didn't they consult me before going through with that wretched cover? And it's not just the relief you get when you upload a book to Kindle and it comes out looking not too bad.

'It's only a book, for God's sake'

This feeling was very strong. I won't go all sentimental and say it was like my first-ever sight of one of my children. But there were faint similarities. I knew exactly what the book was going to look like. It wouldn't be perfect-bound with dodgy glue like some efforts of mine have been. I knew it would be a well-produced sewn hardback - yet I couldn't help a gasp of pleasure when I held the first copy, felt its firmness and weight, admired its distinctive appearance. Not so much a feeling of ownership as of proprietorship. Partly a sense of responsibility. 'I've brought you back into the world even though you would have probably been quite happy to stay in your former solitary, unvisited, undead state. What right had I to disturb you?' Then a sense of challenge. 'But now I've given you a new life in a new guise and in a new age. It's up to you to justify my faith in you.' And then a sort of distaste. 'I've got you at last but now but I have to get rid of you until my own copy is the only one left. You're only any use when you're gone from here. If you can't do your job you're better pulped. Making sure you're not pulped is down to me, so don't you forget it.'

Well, how am I going to do that? I had enough advance orders to make sure a fair chunk was gone before we left for NZ on the 28th, though their new owners probably wouldn't receive them until after Christmas. Then of course there had to be a pause until March because we aren't able to handle orders from so far away. However, anybody interested can contact me by email at with name and postal address. I'll send the orders off the moment we get back, with an invoice containing my home address and bank details so you can either send a cheque for £15.99 plus £4.00 postage and packing or pay by BACS. However, anybody living near enough can avoid the £4 postage: we'll sort out a way of making a one-to-one drop when the time comes. One possibility is mentioned below. Anyone living outside the UK can pay in their own currency after working out the latest exchange rate.

But there's more. In March there will be not so much a launch party, because it was launched by the sale of the first copy, but a gathering to mark the publication of this new edition. The venue is the Taurus Gallery, North Parade, Oxford.

This is a wonderful place. It always has a large range of paintings, sculptures and ceramics from many well-known contemporary artists but what makes it special is that it is the home gallery of Desmond Morris, famous as a writer and scientist from The Naked Ape through Manwatching, Womanwatching and Catwatching to The Artistic Ape, and as a painter the last living surrealist, friend of Miro and Dali and still prolific at 86. The walls of the Taurus are covered with his new work as well as a selection of his earlier paintings. (To give you an idea, paintings are from £1200 up to £16,000, drawings from £400. London prices double that.) To be able to have a launch in such a place makes me feel quite honoured as well as excited.

Copies of Spirit will be on sale - and everybody buying one there will be given an extra bookish bonus. Anyone turning up who's bought a copy already will get the bonus too. There will, of course, be wine, non-alcoholic drinks and rather better than mere nibbles.

The date and time? THURSDAY MARCH 12th, 6.30 - 8.00pm

So, put it in your diaries and BE THERE! But please let me know beforehand. Anybody who's bought a copy who wants to save the postage can pick it up at the launch: it will be put to one side and carefully reserved.


Lee said…
Dennis, I respect your opinion about discussing social and political matters on this blog, but I happen to disagree--at least under special circumstances. And recall that such issues have been raised here before--one recent admirable post about dementia comes immediately to mind. Altogether, I believe that writers have a particular responsibility towards fellow writers, journalists, and a free press.

And as I've said before, I feel there is a difference between expressing your (generic, not you specifically!) feelings about your own writing, and self-congratulation. However, this is the last I'll say on the issue. Dissent should always be welcome, but there's no need to keep repeating myself.
Lydia Bennet said…
Congratulations on the new book Dennis, hope the launch goes well - not sure I'll be in the Oxford area then but will come along if I am. Good luck with it all!
glitter noir said…
My best to you, too, Dennis on the launch. I know how important this book is to you and I look forward to the pleasure of getting my hard copy.
Kathleen Jones said…
Congratulations Dennis!! My copy has arrived and it is absolutely beautiful. Will email privately. Would love to come to the launch, but it is unfortunately one of my days at Lancaster. Hope it goes really well!!
julia jones said…
Free speech will always include disagreement and sometimes even offence - but let's be having it!
madwippitt said…
Good luck with the launch!
Nick Green said…
They look fantastic. Nice one.
Enid Richemont said…
What a beautiful book, Dennis (will email you off site). And the launch will be fantastic in a venue like that.
Wendy H. Jones said…
Congratulations on the new book
Dennis Hamley said…
Lee, I think I disagree with your main point but it's a good one to make nonetheless. To everyone-else - thanks, both for compliments on the book's production and for good wishes for the launch. I'd love to see as many of you there as can possibly make it.

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