Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Dinner With Zippy

People complain about the corporatisation of modern publishing and at the London Book Fair smooth be-suited purveyors of digital wonders did seem to outnumber the traditional tweeds, bow ties and boxes of remaindered titles.

Stuart Wheatman of Tonto Books, however, shines like a beacon of hope for those who like their publishers to be mischievous and eccentric, happier following their own hunches and enthusiasms than attending sales and marketing meetings.

The estimable Wheatman has bought a couple of titles off me and so we arranged to meet for supper in the Earls Court Road after the show had closed its doors, along with his editor in chief, Jill Morris.

Flushed and panting, Wheatman exploded through the crowd of new arrivals waiting around the door a couple of minutes late, lugging what looked like a school trunk, which he dropped beside the table as he sank gratefully into his chair, struggling for breath.

‘It’s Zippy,’ he said, gesturing to the trunk. ‘From Rainbow. I’ve got to guard him for the night and get him back to Soho in the morning.’

Zippy’s alter-ego, puppeteer Ronnie le Drew, is doing a book with Stuart and he and Zippy had been making a personal appearance at the Fair.

This seems a good start towards Stuart’s professed ambition to build a list of ‘quirky left-field lives’ in the style of John Blake. The wisdom of this ambition was born out by the news from the Book Fair that John Blake himself would not be able to attend this year as he was ‘trapped on his yacht in Turkey’ by the volcanic dust crisis.

The following evening I was back in a crowded Earls Court pub with Stuart, who was sandwiched between one of my clients, the colourful rock and country impresario, Mervyn Conn, and one of the pub’s regulars, a mighty seven foot transvestite of African descent.

What a wonderful and varied world book publishing still is.


Tonto Books said...

Thanks, Andrew. Was great to meet up with you again. Linked to this on my blog. Cheers, Stu.

karen ball said...

What a wonderful story. I do love publishing for its great eccentricities.