Tuesday 15 March 2011

101 Books

Actually, 101 + 1 as of yesterday.

It's the number of books we have sent to the printers since the beginning of the year. Yes, it's not a typo – we've been quite busy this quarter.

I'm currently working on the first ever biography of AJ Cronin – and what a wonderful and revealing book it is! It focuses on Cronin's authorial ego and his relationship – stormy at times – with his British and American publishers. There are real gems in his letters and the few other documents he left behind (not much survives – strangely, as Cronin used to sell in the millions all over the world and set Hollywood on fire in the '30s).

But my real hero is Victor Gollancz, his UK publisher, who comes across as a smart, roguish, no-nonsense operator able to deal with Cronin's tantrums and requests in the most subtle and charming way. One bit had me laughing out loud:

Gollancz had no time for agents – Alan Davies writes – to him they were “parasitical nuisances put on earth to foment ingratitude among Gollancz authors”. He preferred to deal directly with authors, behind their agents’ backs if he could get away with it.


Another interesting bit is Cronin's scepticism about cheap paperback books, which were made available on a mass scale only after his early successes. Cronin kept liking a well-produced book, not agreeing to mass-market paperbacks until after the 1960s (over 30 years after his first book), principally because there was little money in them for him. Looking at the royalty rates he was getting (between 20 and 30% on hardback sales), you can understand why . . .

I doubt he'd have subscribed to eBooks.


  1. Congratulations on the prodigious book count. My favourite Cronin quote is, "The virtue of all achievement is victory over oneself. Those who know this can never know defeat." There speaks a man who has spent countless hours staring at a blank page.

  2. Yes, Cronin didn't like the business of writing – like many other authors (including Dostoevsky) he found it very tedious and he had to force himself into it. Apparently Cronin needed absolute silence and freezing rooms just to be able to concentrate. . .


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