Due to visit Uganda for the first time, I wanted to do some background reading. On Amazon I typed in the word “Uganda” and the great machine suggested a number of titles that I had not heard of. I did a little more googling on each title that looked possible and made a selection. I did not have particularly high hopes, which is why it was all the more wonderful to find I had accidentally ordered a masterpiece.
“The Ghosts of Eden” is a novel by Andrew J.H. Sharp. A doctor who obviously knows the country and its people extraordinarily well. It is a beautifully written, life-affirming, thought provoking story and if only it had fallen on Richard and Judy’s doorstep instead of mine Dr. Sharp would by now have a best-seller on his hands.
A little further googling found his website (www.theghostsofeden.com ) and I emailed him a fan letter while still only half way through the book.
His path to publication, it seems, is a classic one. Unable to get any agents interested he read an article about a new young publisher, Picnic Publishing. He sent the book directly to them and they accepted it.
This is the second time I have heard someone speaking highly of Picnic. They recently published “Empires Apart” by Brian Landers, an intriguing study of the historic parallels between the American and Russian empires, which has now been picked up in the US by Penguin. Brian had also been unable to get an agent to take him on and so went directly to Picnic.
I relay this story because it seems encouraging in a number of ways. Firstly it shows that it is possible to stumble upon something new and brilliant on Amazon in much the same way as one might once have hoped to in an old fashioned book shop. Secondly it shows that an enthusiastic reader can make contact with an author almost instantaneously and thirdly it demonstrates that there are young publishing companies out there that are actually reading the manuscripts sent to them and then publishing them for no other reason than they like them and want to share them with the world.
During the course of our emailing, Dr. Sharp heard that he had won the Waverton Good Read Award (http://www.wavertongoodread.org.uk) for best British debut novel of the previous twelve months. Probably not in Richard and Judy’s class when it comes to generating sales, I grant you, but another sign that there are always green shoots to be found if you hunt for long enough in the rubble.